A New Year provides the opportunity for a fresh start and a rededication to being “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). It’s like God is giving us a new beginning with the New Year – similar to what the prophet, Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:22-26, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness . . . The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”
Every morning, God provides a new day with a new beginning; and every year God provides a new year with a fresh start to be transformed by “the renewing of our minds.” Such transformation is possible when God’s people commit to God’s Word and way. Commitment to God’s Word and way is more than ambition, however – it is to be recast in God’s image and become the people and the church He plans for us to be. Any New Year’s resolution should include such a commitment by God’s people.
Studying the Bible books Ezra and Nehemiah provide an important account of Israel returning to Jerusalem from captivity to rebuild the Temple, the city walls, and return to a right relationship with God.
An examination of these Old Testament narratives reveals God’s Word through the priest, Ezra, and God’s way through the rebuilding process as led by Nehemiah and Zerubbabel as they focus Israel on God’s faithfulness and the people’s courage to obey God in spite of strong opposition from within their own ranks and from fierce regional enemies who attempt to disrupt a successful return.
Through Ezra and Nehemiah, God calls us to submit to His spiritual authority through a renewed obedience to His Word, a recommitment to prayer, and a re-devotion to His work. Their stories provide today’s church some valuable lessons in faithful obedience, leadership management, and spiritual motivation – God’s way.
Ezra and Nehemiah were then – as they are today – an encouragement to the people of God (the Church) to magnify Him in worship as our first priority; to emphasize the need for God’s Word as our only authoritative rule for living; and to be concerned about the work God’s people provide to the community around us. God is just as intimately involved in our lives as He was with Ezra and Nehemiah. And like these men of God, we may
experience the gracious hand of God as He enables empowers, and encourages us to do the impossible and the unexpected as every living believer is being built into a living Temple where the Holy Spirit dwells
(1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Peter 2:4-6).