New beginnings are upon us with the upcoming advent of another year. We like to begin fresh, leaving behind what wasn’t so grand. If only the new year was like being born again. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Then the slate would be totally wiped clean just like our sins were washed away when we are born again, but alas our past year remains with us.
What if the God of creation came to us and said we could ask for anything? What would we ask for—the past erased, new job, riches, power, fame? Solomon asked for wisdom, but what would we ask for? Our request reflects our heart focus. In Genesis 15:1-3, God spoke to Abram in a vision and told him that He was Abram’s protector and reward. “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.” Abraham’s response indicated that rewards mattered little without children. Abraham was looking for a real heritage. “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalms 127:3).
Abraham could have asked for great riches, but instead he wanted a heritage. His focus was on those who would follow after him—his children. Yet, Sarai was barren, and so the one who would inherit his possessions would have been Eliezer, his servant. To Abraham, godly seed was the earthly desire of his heart. I wonder how many today would choose children over riches.
Now let’s compare Abraham to another man from Scripture. As godly as Hezekiah was, he wasn’t too concerned about a righteous heritage but rather the things of this life. Soon after Hezekiah had been sick unto death, the king of Babylon sent emissaries and a present to Hezekiah which appeared to be a “get well” token. The Lord healed Hezekiah prior to their arrival. Hezekiah, honored with the visit, took them on a tour of the palace and his treasuries. In his pride, he wanted to impress them with his wealth and possibly win favor with the pagan, Babylonian king.
Hezekiah had just been healed from a fatal illness by the Lord, and all he cared to do was impress these men with his wealth. In reality, everything he had was from the Lord, but there is no record of him proclaiming the goodness of God or His mercy in healing him. There is no record of taking them to the temple of his mighty God Who healed him and the One Who was responsible for all that Hezekiah had. Hezekiah was proud, and his focus was on material things.
We are given a confirming view into Hezekiah’s heart by the dialog that took place between him and Isaiah. Isaiah came to Hezekiah after the emissaries left to return to Babylon and asked him what they had seen. Hezekiah answered, “All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them” (2 Kings 20:15b). Hezekiah revealed the treasures of his heart. He showed them what he was most proud of and delighted in.
As a rebuke to his pride, Isaiah pronounced the Lord’s chastening on Hezekiah. “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 20:17-18). What a consequence! God is saying that all the treasure Hezekiah delighted in would be taken, and his sons would be carried away to Babylon as slaves.
We can assume Hezekiah’s reaction to this bad news would be similar to a father who loves his children. In grief, he would cry out for mercy from the Lord. He would beg the Lord through repentant tears to reconsider. It had already worked once when Hezekiah had wept before God for healing from his illness, so why not cry out in repentance again?
The fact was, Hezekiah was satisfied with the judgment. Hezekiah had repented earlier when God’s consequence had meant his personal suffering and death, but since these consequences would come after he died to his children, he was accepting of it. Even more than that, his response was, “Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19). His proud focus was on himself, and he had no concern for his children as evidenced by the extreme wickedness of his son Manasseh.
Where are our hearts? What do we delight in? What consumes our attention and our time? Abraham was such a wonderful example to us of a godly father. As much as he loved Isaac and wanted descendants, he was determined to put God first, obeying Him, even if it meant sacrificing Isaac to his Lord. The love of Abraham’s life was Isaac and having descendants; earthly treasure was less important.
Abraham’s greatest treasure was his God, and next were his descendants. He had a heavenly focus. He wasn’t like Hezekiah, who is noted as a good king, but was concerned with his own pleasure, circumstances, and wealth. Abraham knew this earthly journey was a short one compared to eternity, and he was looking toward a heavenly wealth. Next, to our relationship with the Lord, those we touch for Jesus are the only things we take with us to heaven. If we will surrender our lives to the Lord as the One Who is our reward, He will use our lives in ways we can’t even fathom.
One way to avoid regrets this year is to trust God with our new year. He won’t make mistakes with our lives. “. . . no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalms 84:11). God told Abraham that He was Abraham’s shield and reward. Amen. Is He our shield and reward as well?