The Gift of Goodbye

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January 1, 2018. This date marks the beginning of an interesting few months. Christmas has come and gone (rather quickly for many of us). For most of us, we’ve had some time off from work, and have put some thought into how we will make 2018 different. We might resolve to lose some weight by eating better or working out more. We might resolve to read more books, spend more time with family, watch less television, pray more, and on and on. We put a lot of significance on the first day of the year. However, like most birthdays, not much is really different after the passing of another year. Not much has changed since yesterday (December 31), has it? Sure, we might struggle in writing 2018 instead of 2017, but as far as the majority of our lives are concerned, we have simply started another new day.

What is it about the new year that makes us as a people so excited? While we may not be able to answer that question for everyone, it’s hard to ignore the common theme that runs through all New Year’s resolutions and celebrations: change. Change, though received differently depending on the person, is an expected part of life. The New Year serves as a collective marker of change, and we think about how we will approach change in the days leading up to the new year. And while there is nothing inherently different inside of us as we enter into the New Year, we know there are areas of our lives in which we’d like to improve. What we need is a guide in helping us to improve, and this leads us to our passage for today.

Deuteronomy 31:1-6

1 When Moses had finished giving these instructions to all the people of Israel, 2 he said, “I am now 120 years old, and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan River.’ 3 But the Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy the nations living there, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua will lead you across the river, just as the Lord promised.

4 “The Lord will destroy the nations living in the land, just as he destroyed Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites. 5 The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. 6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

The Israelites, led by Moses, had been through a long season of life. After escaping enslavement under Pharaoh, they traveled in the wilderness.  They not only struggled with the natural results of spending a significant amount of time traveling in the wilderness, they also dealt with many other problems, including and especially the discipline of God for allowing their hearts to wander from him and worship other things. Moses had been their guardian and guide, and on several occasions, he mediated between them and God and spared them more intense punishment for their wrongdoing. At this point in the text, they are about to enter into the promised land, but not without opposition. The people of the land were powerful, big, and intimidating. And now, Moses instructs them that he will not be leading them into this scary endeavor; instead, it will be God who leads them through Joshua.

Those of us who who are familiar with the story know that Joshua was a capable military leader who did lead the Israelites through a successful – albeit bloody – campaign into the promised land. However, if we try to put ourselves in the place of the Israelites at this moment and understand that they are now about to enter into this intimidating land without their leader, it had to have been a disappointing and frightening announcement.

We can find several applications in this story, and this past weekend, Ben Snyder touched on one of them. He encouraged us to remember that we should never underestimate the potential in letting go. Who knows how things would’ve turned out had God allowed Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land? We can’t be sure of the result, but what we do know, is that God had a very good reason for this decision, and it led to the successful campaign into Canaan. The Israelites – and Moses – had to let go of the relationship they had for decades. In order to accomplish their purpose – of entering the promised land and eventually establishing the nation of Israel – they had to let go and trust that God would lead them.

Ben then added that the gift that goodbye gives is the opportunity for a new hello. God knew the Israelites needed Joshua’s leadership to successfully conquer the promised land, and the Israelites experienced what a goodbye  – to Moses – might lead to: a hello to their new leader Joshua.

What does this mean for us? How can we use the example of the transition from Moses to Joshua? We can start by allowing ourselves to let go of certain things (relationships, opportunities, habits, jobs, etc.) so we can say hello to other things. On a ground level, this could be something as simple as limiting your time on social media every day (goodbye) and replacing that time with some time in scripture (hello). It could mean limiting some of the time you spend watching television (goodbye) and replacing that time with fun activities with your loved ones (hello). The problem is that so often, we do underestimate the potential in our goodbye because we don’t see the dividends it could pay! The New Year, though just another year on the calendar, gives us the opportunity to evaluate the areas of potential growth.

 

Questions:
In what areas of your life would you like to see improvement (spiritual, financial, relational, physical, etc.)?

How can you start to say “goodbye” to certain things in order to improve in one or more of those areas?

Next Steps:
Spend the next week praying about the different areas of your life in which you might like to see improvement and ask God how he can help direct your goodbyes and hellos.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for your word and its example in my life. I know that even over several thousands of years, it still has very real implications for my life now. Thank you for the example set by Moses, Joshua, and the Israelites in saying goodbye. Help me to grow closer to you by saying goodbye to certain things and hello to others. I desperately need your guidance in this endeavor. I ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people, for Christian Apologetics, and for the Cleveland Indians. He is married with two young children.


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