Somehow, many people seem to imagine that the 1st January is a magical day that erases all the historical events that one would love to forget, and brings a hope of a new beginning or at least better things to come. I guess, that is also what “new year’s resolutions” are all about.
It isn’t hard to imagine then that a majority of the world’s population are hoping that 2021 is going to be a far better year than 2020 – Covid-19 free, destructive bushfire free (a big issue in Australia, the USA, etc), more stable politics, improvement in international relationships, warfare free, poverty free, and the list is endless. 2020, for many people worldwide is a year to forget and the thought of a new beginning is very appealing.
In Psalm 78 we have learnt lots about both the character and failings (forgetfulness, ungratefulness and idol worship) of the people of Israel over a few generations, and, in contrast, about the character of Israel’s God, just, holy and yet full of grace to a people so undeserving of his love and care.
As this psalm draws to a close, there is a surprising new twist to the story, in fact it talks of a new beginning! Although no surprise to God, we discover that in His agenda, firstly, a new group amongst God’s people, the tribe of Judah (v. 68a) appear. Secondly, a new central place of worship and power, Mount Zion (v. 68b) – which was formerly a stronghold under enemy control, later re-named Jerusalem. Thirdly, David, called here his [God’s] servant (v.70). Concerning all of these, the key word used is “chosen”!
The psalmist explains:
67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 He built his sanctuary like the heights,
like the earth that he established forever.
70 He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheep pens;
71 from tending the sheep he brought him
to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
of Israel his inheritance.
72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skilful hands he led them.
“…it is God’s sovereignty of choice which comes to the fore. Despite the fame of Joseph, and the central position and power of his son Ephraim, God’s choice was Judah, a tribe which had won no glory in the days of the judges. Within Judah He chose Mount Zion…and to captureit and reign there He took [David] a shepherd from the flock…The emphasis is not on man’s deserts but on God’s ‘own purpose and…grace’ (2 Tim. 1:9)…If Israel’s record is her shame, God’s persistent goodness emerges as her hope (and ours) for the unfinished story.” (# 29)
As we continue to read the story of the Israelites as recorded in the Old Testament and then move into the New testament, we realize that, as far as God’s choices are concerned, the history moves seamlessly from David to One called the “Son of David”.
Matthew begins his Gospel with a genealogy which reads:
This is the genealogyof Jesus the Messiahthe son of David. (Matthew 1:1)
And later, on what we call Palm Sunday:
The crowds that went ahead of [Jesus] and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matt. 21:9)
Luke tells of the angelic visitor to Mary, who was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1: 29-33)
But, not only was he called the son of David, but the term shepherd is also used of him, as it was of David. John records Jesus’ words:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
The new beginning spoken of by the psalmist had repercussions way beyond what he could ever have imagined!
In fact, God’s choice involved Jesus as is recorded in Luke’s Gospel on a day when Jesus went up into a mountain with his disciples and we read that a cloud appeared and covered them, and they [the disciples] were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:34-35)
But this subject of God’s choice continues to also include us, who have decided to follow Jesus, as is recorded by Peter:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 1:9)
Thank you, Father, for this wonderful new beginning which is now ours in our relationship with Jesus. Thank you that we are chosen to be your people for an eternal purpose. Enable us to declare your praises everyday of our lives. Amen.