As we start our New Year, I would like to thank you all for supporting Truth Immutable with your regular visits. It has been a joy to explore the Word with You. These are the words on my heart for you, a blessing for the months ahead for you and your family:
The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
It’s fitting that we look at the concept of ‘new year’ from God’s persepective, especially since it’s essentially a man-made concept and varies so widely across the globe. The Bible says this:
Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (Exodus 12:1-2)
The concept of ‘new year’ is one central to every society, community, or religion. Although it is celebrated with a different rituals and traditions, and while the focus or relevance is often from varying perspectives, it remains a central motif of human life. Some old pagan religions set spring, with it’s imagery of burgeoning life after the death implied in winter, as the start of the new year, a fairly logical reasoning but one which obviously has limitations. with two mirrored hemispheres, we would have two opposite starting points. Over time, man has formulated some new year compromises that remove some of the confusion, and the widely accepted calendar date of January 1st, originating of course from the Roman calendar, is as ‘universal’ as it gets, at least when it comes to counting years across the continents.
The New Year concept is God revealing His fundamental princple of restoration.
Interestingly enough, the Old Testament Jews essentially had four new years’ days, each one corresponding with a specific aspect of life. The isn’t time to dig into each of these with any degree of detail, but if you’re interested, is a rewarding and enlightening study. Briefly, these are:
15th of Shvat, aka Tu B’Shvat, usually between January and February, and known as the New Year of Trees. The purpose was counting the age of trees to fulfill the Torah requirement that fruit could not be eaten from trees less than three years old.
1st of Elul, usually in late summer (August). The New Year for Animal Tithes determined the date the animal tithes to the priests commenced. A good comparison would be our fiscal new year.
1st of Tishrei, aka Rosh Hashanah, is the Jewish New Year with which we are most familiar. It usually falls in September, and is the date the Jewish calendar year changes.Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah celebrated the creation of the world, and was used as the basis for calculating some of the different tithes as well as determining the beginning of Sabbatical or Jubilee years when the land was to be left fallow.
1st of Nisan, usually late spring (April), is the New Year to which today’s verse relates. This was the New Year used to calculate the reigns of Israel’s kings and counting the order of the Jewish Holidays. What is enormously significant is that it relates directly to the Passover, which makes it the New Year defined by the Exodus. In Nisan, God’s people essentially celebrated the new life free from slavery. It is as if God instructed them to calculate, or reckon, their lives from the point of their salvation, reminding them of what they had come out of and what they had moved into.
How appropriate it is that Christ died during the Passover celebrations. The parallel with this passage and the concept of new life in Christ through His death and resurrection is obvious and powerful. The crucifixion effectively signified anew year of a new life for people made new under a new covenant. God never, ever does anything that is not absolutely, perfectly, aligned with His nature and His Word.
One common New Year motif is that of past and future, the putting away of the old and putting on of the new. In the western world, we focus on ‘resolutions,’ many of which last longer than even a few days. The idea, of course, is that it’s a kind of ‘do over.’ We have the opportunity to start the year on the right foot, to make necessary improvements, to plan to achieve the things we want, and to adjust our priorities if need be.
The focus of all the Jewish New Years was essentially on God and on keeping His commands. Feasts, sacrifices, and tithes were all directed towards God and required to be counted up to according to the various New Year dates. But what is important is that they all involved worship. They were completely God focused, and implied thanksgiving and reflection. They required the Jews to step back and adjust their attitudes towards God and their neighbours, to make restitution, seek forgiveness, and recognise their shortcomings in the light of God’s Word.
These principles apply to believers irrespective of which day we celebrate a New Year. In fact, this kind of reflection is appropriate for our daily quiet time. The Passover parallel is integral to our life in Christ. The day we we set free, the day we were born again, signified the start of a new life. This is not to say we should adopt a religious mindset that marks our new birth with various religious rituals and traditions. What is important is that we are born again, and that being saved is both once and for all and ongoing. We are continually being saved. The Passover relevance of the Blood of the Lamb is eternally powerful and effective in our lives, and we should daily rejoice, not once a year.
Our new life is reckoned once and for all and on a daily basis. As we search and judge ourselves, as we confess, repent, and seek forgiveness on a daily basis, the old falls away and the new takes its place. It’s ongoing, it’s powerful, and it’s supernatural, the work of the Holy Spirit within us. But it is also good, especially when the world around us is immersed in revelry and ungodly celebration, to draw aside and reflect on the year behind. Thanksgiving is the bridge between old and new. In recalling and giving thanks for what God has done for us in the past, our faith is enabled to believe and give thanks for what we know He will do in the future.
The whole concept of New Year is founded on God’s principle of restoration. Even creation manifests this in spring with burgeoning life and new growth. Even in creation, He draws the obvious imagery that we need to prune and remove dead growth in order to make space for the new and good. As Christians we do this through honest reflection. Recognising our mistakes and weaknesses is good. It makes space for God to work in us to effect transformation. New Year is the time for thanksgiving and surrender.
We have the truth of the cross to enable and empower us, and to remind us to forget the past and focus on the new things that spring forth. Christ did not only die. He rose from the dead. What a perfect example. The New Year is the restoration principle of God revealed. The purpose of death is to make way for life.
How great You are, Lord, and how wise and perfect are Your ways. At the start of this New Year, we draw near in faith, thanksgiving, and surrender. Speak to us now, reveal those things that should be set aside, those that require forgiveness, and those which require commitment. Our new life is always and only in You. Give us the grace to keep You always in the centre, and grant as Your vision for the year that lies ahead.