THE CHOICE FOR 2024:
REPEAT OR RENEW?
PART 3: THE MANAH AND THE ALIYAH
Another year has flashed past! Another year is on us! Don’t you find that the older you get the faster time seems to go. “Tempus Fugit” or “time flies”. In fact it is the cry of just about all retirees that “I don’t know how I ever found time to go to work!”
The danger that many of us face is a meaningless succession – or repeat – of meaningless days. We drift through a life that gets faster-and-faster with no idea what we should be doing or what our purpose is. Instead we work and play and watch TV and try to forget about the fact that our life appears to have no meaning.
One of my naughtiest habits is to look through the windows of not-drawn-the-curtains houses on my way home during the evening. Even as early as 5 pm it is normal – in fact it is seen in the majority of such houses – to see people silently sitting in the living room totally absorbed in what is on the television – be it children’s TV or some soap-opera. I get the sense of people just allowing their lives to drift along. Sounds terrible judgemental…but there you have it.
One of the most well-known of Pink Floyd’s songs is simply called “Time” and tells of the descent into madness of their famous lead singer who felt that time was passing by and he was getting nowhere.
Jonathan Cahn on Day 5 of his “Book of Mysteries” says:
“We’ve spoken of the year before you,” said the teacher. “Today we will speak of the days before you. What will the days yet to come bring to your life?”
“How could I know that?” I replied. “I don’t really have a say in the matter.”
“But what if you did?”
“It is written, ‘Teach us to number our days.’ What does that mean?”
“That our days are limited, and so it’s wise to number them.”
“That’s correct,” he said. “And it’s the meaning of the Scripture. But in the original language is a secret. And this secret can change your life, the days of your life. In the Hebrew it says, “Teach us to manah our days.’ The same word, Manah, appears in the Book of Jonah where it is written that God manahs a fish, a worm, and a wind.”
“Then manah must mean more than number.”
“It does. It means to prepare and to appoint. So you must not only number your days, you must learn to prepare your days, to appoint your days.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that you’re not just to watch and wait passively to see what your days will bring. You’re to prepare them.”
“How can I prepare my days before they happen?”
“How did the first days happen in the beginning? They didn’t just happen. Before they existed, God prepared them. He appointed them. He purposed them. So if you’re a child of God, you must do likewise.”
“Praying for days that don’t yet exist?”
“Prayer isn’t only for what is, but for what is not yet.”
“But I can’t determine what will happen.”
“It doesn’t matter what happens. You appoint your days in God to bring what is good. You consecrate them for the purposes of God. And then you use your days to accomplish those purposes. Don’t let your days determine your life. Let your life determine your days. And don’t just let your days go by. Prepare them, that they might become vessels of blessing and life. Appoint your days.”
Psalm 90 and verse 12 asks this of God:
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.
The context of this verse is that our days are numbered and all of us are moving from the day of our birth in one direction only – and that is towards the day of our death. What this verse is saying is not “count” our days, but “make our days count!” This is what the wise person does. The wise person looks at the days that have already gone past and learns from them. The wise person looks at the days ahead and makes them matter.
But can we make our time, our days, be what we want them to be? So much is way beyond our control. I was told the story – which many of you know – of the relative of one of our families who went to London after a terrible year (over which she had no control at all) to watch a play. But she tripped on the escalator on the London Underground and broke her hip. Her day was not what she had planned it to be. She was in hospital for ages and now is not yet fit to go out. Other family and friends are affected in that she needs looking after. No! You cannot know what might happen in an instant that you have no control over. You cannot control your days!
But what we can do – what we should do – in this New Year is to daily commit our days to God, to dedicate our every moment to living for God and walking with His Spirit.
Does this meant that 24 hours of the day should be “serving” Him? Well…YES…if you clearly understand what that means. It does NOT mean standing on the street corners grabbing everyone who walks by and telling them that they need Jesus 24:7. It means that ALL we do should be dedicated to Him. It means getting a good night’s sleep so that we are rested for Him. It means eating a good diet so that we are healthy for Him. It means going out for a walk or a run so that we are fit for Him. It means watching a bit (just a bit) of TV so that we are relaxed for Him. And then it means praying to Him, worshipping Him, speaking about Him, working for Him.
I do not know what the day holds, but I know who holds the day. And so I will “number” my days. I will present them to Him every morning and thank Him for them every evening. I will “manah” my days: I will prepare myself for each new day; I will appoint each day as a day in which I am going to live for Jesus. This is going to be my conscious effort…
…now, here’s “the rub”. I want 2024 to be the “Shannah” – the year of “change” and not the year of “repeat”. I want to move with the Spirit – the “Ruach” so that I do the right thing in the right way this year. But I have my part to play – because all we do is in “partnership” with God.
So what should my attitude be? It should be that of another Hebrew word for this New Year – “Aliyah”.
Let me explain…
A year and a half ago I was in Tenerife with my very dear friends. On a blazingly hot day, after looking at it longingly out of my apartment window for many a day, Mark and I decided to climb the mountain that dominated the region. And so we set out…without any water!. What a climb it was! It was hard work as we got hotter and hotter. We often went the wrong way and had to back-track or take a chance. At the summit I was shattered and thirsty. But, BOY! How it was worth it! The views from the top were superb! It was so peaceful. I just wanted to stay here. We met a guy who had just run up the mountain (horror!) who offered us water to drink. Well, we had to come back down (a cool beer was calling to us!) – but the way down was far harder and we slipped and scratched ourselves and Mark, more than once, slid down on his bottom.
In Hebrew, the ascent to the top of a mountain is called “Aliyah”. It means the “going up”. Jerusalem was the city of David where all Jews would go in order to worship God in the Temple. Jerusalem and the Temple was situated on a mountain top. So to go there was to “make Aliyah”. The going to the Promised Land was called “making Aliyah – the upward journey”. Moses made the Aliyah when he went up Mount Sinai to meet with God and receive the 10 Commandments (Exodus 19: 20). The Israelites spoke of making the Aliyah in their yearly journeys to Jerusalem (eg Psalm 121). In the time of Jesus the disciples made the Aliyah with Jesus (mark 10: 32). In the modern age, the return to Israel was called – and still is called – making the Aliyah.
The Aliyah is a spiritual journey to God. Our life is to be the Aliyah. It is to be an upward journey to God. Heaven is always seen as “up”. Like our walk up the mountain in Tenerife our life journey will be hard if we seek to move closer and closer to God. But just like I went with Mark, you are not alone on this journey. Let us go with each other. And just like I went with Mark, you are not alone on this journey. Remember the Ruach – walk in and with the Holy Spirit. We forgot to take water and the journey was very hard because of this. Just like the Spirit is seen as oil and fire and wind, so He is seen as water – make sure the Spirit is with you on the Aliyah of life. At the end of your life you will reach the top – you will finally see all things clearly. You will be satisfied. You will drink of the rivers of living water. Don’t come back down. It is harder to come back into the world. You will slip and will be injured spiritually.
What should our attitude be as we enter 2024? Let it be a time of “Shanah” – a time of renew and not of repeat. And let us “manah” our days. And let us be willing to work hard and make the “Aliyah”. And through it all, let us walk with the “Ruach”. This is going to be a good year!