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A New Year – Jay Swisher

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New Year’s Day is the first day of a new calendar. In some cultures it’s the day when everyone celebrates their birthdays no matter when they were born in the year. (That would make it easy for a husband to remember his wife’s birthday, but it also gives no excuse for forgetting. They would still need to remember their wedding anniversary.)

We make a big deal about that one day and celebrate. But what are we actually celebrating? It would be premature to celebrate a year when we have no idea what it will bring? How many of us would have celebrated 2020 on New Year’s Day if we had known what that year would bring? In some cases, like 2020, we celebrate when the year is over.

New Year’s Day is just one day. It’s only 1/365th of most years. Why make a big deal about it?

Once New Year’s Day is past, we start our new membership at the gym. We still have a “few” pounds to deal with after the Thanksgiving and Christmas Feasts. (Yes, we call them “holidays,” but the ancient Hebrews had the right idea when they called their “holidays” “feasts.”) We plan to go to the gym five days a week. We quickly realize five days is too much work, too tiring, and makes for sore muscles, so we scale it back to three days a week. It becomes zero days a week very quickly. The workout-at-the-gym resolution only lasts a couple weeks. Two weeks is only about 1/26th of the year. Why make a big deal about it?

The Bible has a much better perspective.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! [Psalm 105:4, ESV]

“Continually” means all 365 days of each year and all 24 hours of each day, including New Year’s Day. It’s more impressive if we think of it as 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds of each day. That’s what “continually” means; it doesn’t end. A good synonym is “unceasingly.” This represents quite a contrast with emphasizing one day or a couple weeks.

Did you notice that the word, “seek,” is in the verse twice? The repetition in most modern translations obscures the fact that the Hebrew uses two different words. The NIV and the Jewish Publication Society translation (JPS) distinguish the two with “look to” and “seek” (NIV) and “turn to” and “seek” (JPS).

The second “seek” (Hebrew baqash) is the simpler word as far as meaning goes. It means simply seek or look for.

The first “seek” (Hebrew darash), however, is more nuanced in its meaning. Depending on the context and the understanding of the translator, it can be translated seek, inquire about, care about, worship (when God is the object), be intent on something, seek a word [from the Lord], and more. There’s a greater intensity with this word.

The two objects of this kind of seeking, what we are to seek so intensely, are the Lord and His strength. Therefore, worship or be intent on would be good translation options. Even if we seek the Lord and His strength continuously and intensely, both the Lord and His strength are incomprehensible. We will never comprehend their depths. Yet as we seek to grasp something about them, we gain understanding and increasing desire to continue seeking. We cannot exhaust this kind of seeking.

May this new year be one in which we truly seek the Lord and His strength in all the fullness of what that means. If we do, it will be a blessed year in spite of any bad things that may happen. Oh, yes: Happy New Year from your brother, Jay Swisher


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