“You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.” – Psalm 65:11
I love what Hermann Venema, the 18th Century Dutch Theologian, says about this Psalm:
The year 2021 was tough for many. We endured the loss of friends and family members to sickness, political strife in every arena, upending chaos following November’s elections, the passing of notable figures, the devastating crisis in Afghanistan, continuing race and injustice issues, tensions in the Middle East between Ukraine and Russia, and devastating tornados across the South and Midwest. It has been a hard season. While we may look back to rightfully and necessarily mourn certain losses, it is important to quickly look forward again. Because “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Heb. 10:39). I want to encourage us to move forward now because God has crowned this new year with a bounty we will only know if choose to believe Him for it.
Beloved, from the passage above, it seems that the Lord delights in setting a wreath on the year, crowning it with His goodness. It is there that He causes the tracks of His wagon—the clouds—to bring forth rain to drip on our lives, making the toughest paths ready for plowing and sowing. And why? Because it’s time to work. It’s time to build again. It’s time to sow, and there is no time to waste. God knew that apart from Him crowning the year with His favor, there would be no plowing, no sowing, and no harvest—only striving. There would be no building, no passion, no zeal for His divine purposes.
Years ago, at the beginning of the Jewish new year, a man named Nehemiah was confronted with the sorrow of Jerusalem’s broken walls, but knowing God’s hand was on him birthed in him the desire to build again, to see the restoration of the house of the Lord—and this amidst the disaster before and behind him. Isn’t this what usually happens? The year God intends to build, sorrow is knocking on the door. But sorrow provokes the building. Let’s take a deeper look.
In 444 B.C., Nehemiah was serving in the winter palace as King Artaxerxes’s cupbearer. At the start of the new year his brother brought the report of the peril of Jerusalem—that its walls were torn down and its gates burned. At the report, Nehemiah said, “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4). But He didn’t stay there. Six months passed between his prayer and the rebuilding because it took him two months to travel to Jerusalem before he could begin. As Nehemiah traveled, it was the king’s signature that gave him a pass in all the provinces and territories that were foreign to him. He also received a military escort from the king. When he arrived, he faced immediate opposition. We too may be sure, as we break into this new year, that no matter how foreign the territory is to us, our rite of passage is the favor and authority of our King and our escort is the Lord of Hosts, the God of angel armies. We will have opposition, but we do not have to be afraid.
In chapter 2, verses 10 and 19, we see that as soon as Nehemiah began to build, he faced opposition. When his adversaries saw that Nehemiah sought “the welfare of the people” they were very displeased. Immediately they began disparaging him with words of derision, mockery, contempt, and playful jabbing. Satan wants nothing more than to preoccupy us with the perils of yesteryear and our personal plights today. Satan doesn’t want us to seek the welfare of others, he would rather have us distracted with our problems.
Nehemiah’s response was “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem” (Ne 2:20). Nehemiah was right—the enemy had no right to the city of His God, but they (the Israelites) did because the King had granted it.
Jesus reminded us of this when he said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn 14:18) and “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you” (Lk 10:19). For we are blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” and “highly favored in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:3,6).
Beloved, just as Nehemiah had access everywhere he went because the King granted it, we too have the same access to see the purposes and plans of God prevail in this new year. When we put our hand to the plow, it is the favorable bounty of God coming down from his chariot in the heavens that allows us to press on and prevail amidst the perils in our cities, families, jobs, governments, and culture. When the devil comes in with disparaging words, mockery, and attack, all we have to do is remind him he has no right or place over the city we are working in. The King never promised Satan, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses” (Josh 1:3). That promise is for us. If we are following in the footsteps of our God, the place He has given us belongs to us, not the enemy, no matter how loud he shouts.
Whenever the devil comes against the very territory we are occupying, we can be sure he does not want us there. I have said it often—When God takes us to a new level, there is a new devil. Kris Valloton says it like this, “The dogs of doom stand at the doors of destiny.” It was the destiny, or destination, of God’s presence and favor that the enemy stood against with mockery, jeering, and derision of every kind in Nehemiah’s day, but those who had the hand of the Lord on their lives prevailed. They did not shirk their duty in the face of oppression—they rose and they conquered. Forward ever, backward never, Beloved.
This is the year that the Lord has crowned with His bounty, and we are choosing to believe it no matter what may come against, because we are here, occupying this family unit, this city, and this culture, seeking the welfare of the people here just as Nehemiah did in Jerusalem. We are ambassadors of our King, and He has said that this year is crowned with a bounty, dripping with goodness. Sarah and I are believing this with you, as, with all our might, we step into and anticipate a wonderful year. Happy New Year, Beloved.
 Kris Vallotton, Heavy Rain: How to Flood Your World with God’s Transforming Power, (Baker Publishing Group, 2016), p. 127.