Moses, Deuteronomy, and New Year’s Eve

Who better to invite to a New Year’s Eve party than . . . Moses!

If you are like me, when another new year approaches you find yourself dividing your thoughts between the old and the new, the past and the future. It’s exciting to anticipate the new year that lies ahead with its renewed opportunities to make good on resolutions; to see new visions or experience old dreams come true; to look forward to important personal or family milestones. Yet at the same time, it is haunting to look back on another whole year of life and experiences that are now only memories—both fond and sad. We wonder if we’ve made the most of the year gone by. How could the time have gone so quickly? What will the new year bring?

And this is where Moses fits in. Because perhaps more than anyone, Moses was faced with the dilemma of having to look ahead and look back—both at the same time. Recall that at the end of his life, God took him to the top of Mount Nebo. From there he could see “the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea . . .” (Deut. 34:1-2). Before Moses’ death, he was promised he would see the future, the land his people would enter. But before taking that final journey up the mountain, God gave him the chance to address the people one last time. Imagine the situation that put him in! With so much to look back on, and even more to see ahead, how could Moses possibly sum it all up in one message?

Looking back on his life, Moses knew that for 40 years, whenever there had been a need, God had responded. When direction was needed—there came the cloud and the pillar of fire. When food was needed—quail and manna. When drought threatened—water from a rock. When impenetrable barriers faced God’s people—the sea parted. But now the knowledge that God had been there in the past had to be framed within the reality of facing a new future, crossing into a new land, and dealing with the uncertainty of what might be around the next corner. Just what might this new chapter in the life of God’s people hold?

So what was Moses’ final message to them? What last thought did he leave with them after all they had been through? Whether looking back or ahead, the message was the same: the certainty and the comfort of God’s presence. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).

That’s why I think Moses would be a great addition to a New Year’s Eve party. As we look back at the year gone by and ahead to the new year, Moses reminds us that one constant remains. He leaves us with the assurance of God’s presence—so clearly evident in our past and so certain to be there in all the seasons ahead. This is the God who led his people out of Egypt into the promised land and who continues to care for us. God is the refuge whose everlasting arms are underneath us, whatever the circumstances might be.

About the Author

Burton VanderLaan is a retired physician and a member of Brookside Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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