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Courage For The New Year!

Deuteronomy 33: 24-25

Today, we venture down the untrodden path of a new year.
Before us lies the unknown, the unfamiliar, the unexpected, and the unpredictable.

There are new frontiers to explore, new problems to solve, new enemies to face,
and new temptations to conquer.
Joshua, the successor of Moses counseled his nation, "Ye have not past this way heretofore."
(Joshua 3: 4)

Charles Dickens could have been depicting the headlines of today when he vividly described
the eve of the French Revolution as "the best of times" and "the worst of times."

Most of us would agree with Samuel Miller's observation:
"We are in a new world, and so deep in it we cannot get out of it.
There is no turning back
."

Courage for the journey that Israel had to travel must have concerned Moses deeply
in delivering his farewell address.
How could he fortify Israel for the conquest of Canaan?

Some word of encouragement must be spoken to the fainthearted.
Only a sure word from the Lord could counteract the pessimistic report of the ten spies.
Moses exhorted each tribe to be bold in the face of enemy opposition.
It was in some ways his last will and testament.

To one tribe, Moses seemed to have a special exhortation.
Speaking to Asher, he said, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass;
and as thy days, so shall thy strength be
."

Armed with this positive faith in the power of God, they would not fail; indeed, they could not fail.
The same God who parted the waters of the Jordan at floodtide and demolished the walls of Jericho
reigns in His glory today.

God does not remove the difficulties of life!

The primrose path of life has never been promised to Christians.
It is a misconception to think that faith offers an immunity to hardship.

Asher was one of the 12 tribes belonging to the chosen nation.
Still, they had to fortify themselves for difficult days.
The battles of Canaan would be real. (And they are today!)

For the faithful servant, there is no ivory tower of security.
Even the righteous must endure the ordeal of fire.
In some assignments there is no escape from the crucible.
Certain victories, which are essential to the spread of the gospel can only be won through sacrifice.

Life is not all sweetness.
Even chocolate cake is made with bitter chocolate and sour milk.
But when you sample it -- it is delicious.
There is much in life that is bitter, but God promises Romans 8: 28.

God does not conceal the difficulties of life!

As expressed in the familiar adage, "To be forewarned is to be forearmed."

Moses made no effort to rally the spirit of the Israelites with a shallow optimism.
This might seem kind on the surface, but it would actually be cruel.

Both the eagle and the ostrich must endure the storm.
Whether true or false, the ostrich has gained the reputation of burying his head in the sand.
In this way, he seeks to escape the inevitable.
But we cannot bury our heads in the sand.

What about the eagle?
Oftentimes, when he senses the storm is coming, he flies directly into the path
and battles against the tempest.

We follow the determined Lord Jesus, who set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem,
the storm center of His life.
Man is the idle dreamer who fashions a world of make believe.
But Jesus lives in the world of reality, and performs a beneficial ministry on real people.

Another implication of the text is that Asher will face sudden attack.
Some translations of our text bring out a significant insight.

The imagery may not be of a soldier who must march in shoes of iron or brass.
It can be translated: "Thy bands shall be iron and brass."
A probable suggestion in the text is of a mighty fortress, defending the tribe from sudden invasion.
While this interpretation does not minimize the coming conflict, it does offer a measure of security.

For the tribe of Asher, such assurance would acquire added importance.
The inheritance of Asher was the northern extremity of the Promised Land.

They would be most vulnerable to attack.
Before the enemy could penetrate inland, they must overrun the border state.
With a swift stroke the adversary would launch a major offensive against this tribe,
so they must ever be vigilant.
Located on the frontier, they became a citadel of defense for the interior states.

Our Lord does not believe in diluting the truth, either in calling out followers or in instructing His disciples.

We may not appreciate such a straightforward approach.
We may prefer to win disciples with glowing attractions.
Such discipleship will not last.

Jesus understood human motivation far better than any psychologist.

There is a certain appeal in the cross of sacrifice.
As it is contrary to Christ to offer the crown without the cross, it is only partial truth to offer
the cross without the crown.

God does not ignore the difficulties of life!

The benediction of Moses on the tribe of Asher included a promise, not just a prediction.
Think of the magnitude of assurance in the words: "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
This is the promise of providential strength.
There is something better than a lighter load for our pilgrimage through this new year.

One of the great preachers of the 19th century said that he prayed not for a lighter load,
but for a stronger back.

Paul did not survive the excruciating abuses of his enemies through physical fitness,
but through faith.
His motto was, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)

From God we receive providential strength.
This promise from God given by Moses includes a day-by-day provision or proportionment strength.
Every day in Canaan would not be the same. But every blessing that God gives will be appropriate for the need.

There are times when the gift given is not appropriate.
For instance, a wealthy man sent an expensive French poodle as a gift to a starving family.
During World War II, an American general in combat received rations
when he desperately needed ammunition.

There is no confusion in God's supply lines.

Do you have the courage to live for Christ in the new year?
God says that the resources will be adequate to see you through.
Step out on faith, and win the victory.

"No matter how the storms may rage
Upon the sea of life,
No matter how the waves may beat,
No matter what the strife,
The Lord is just the same today
As when He walked the sea,
And He can conquer every storm
That life may send to thee.
"

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com