This discussion took place Jan. 2, 2010 in Wascana Fellowship.
This was the year that I resolved not to make resolutions… only to realize that I had already blown it.
The start of a year is a good time to look back over the previous year – or even a whole life up to that point. The tradition of starting new habits or making life changes at the start of a year probably goes way back to the beginning of history.
The use of the sun and moon to determine time measurements goes back a long way, as one might gather from the account of Genesis 1:14, where God seems to be suggesting this use for the “newly-created” sun, moon and stars. Many ancient calendar systems, including the Babylonian/Jewish, Mayan and Asian calendars use the moon to literally mark off “months.” According to Rabbinic tradition, the world was created on the Jewish New Year, the first day of the month now called Tishri (in mid-autumn). Now that’s a New Year’s resolution!
The Bible often symbolically emphasizes new beginnings by giving them a beginning at the start of a year. For instance, the beginning of a new world is symbolized by Noah taking the covering off the ark on the first day of the first month when he saw the ground was dry (Gen. 8:13). This is an ancient literary device used to emphasize new beginnings. (They did not actually leave the ark for a while afterward.)
Other examples of this include Hezekiah’s rebuilding of the Temple in the first month of the first year of his reign (2 Chronicles 29:1-3 and 29:17) and Ezra’s departure from Babylon to bring knowledge of the Law of God back to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:1-10, especially verse 9).
Sometimes the point seems to be stretched in order to make the beginning into a new year. For instance, God was going to do something really amazing and special for the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt. He was going to bring about the birth of a nation from the captivity of the mighty nation of Egypt. In order to emphasize the world-changing nature of this event, God tells Moses to change the calendar so that the month of the first Passover (the seventh month, in early spring) would now become the first month of the year (Ex. 12:??). From then on, Passover season would bring to mind freedom from slavery and the birth of their nation in the mind of every descendant of Israel.
Even by the time of the New Testament, the theme of new beginnings is still of interest to God and His people. For instance, notice what Jesus says in his inaugural Messianic address in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Notice that Jesus is proclaiming the “year of the Lord.” The passage he is quoting from Isaiah refers to a proclamation that was supposed to be made to proclaim freedom from all debt during the Old Covenant Year of Jubilee in ancient Israel. That proclamation was intended to be a fresh start for families that had needed to sell their family’s land to pay off creditors. The land reverted back to them in the Jubilee year and the family got to start fresh with their inheritance.
The “year of the Lord” symbolizes the fresh start of the believer in Jesus Christ, who erases the record of sin of our whole lifetime and gives us an entirely new lease on life. Consider the message of these passages in terms of the idea of a fresh or new beginning:
John 3:3-16, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be “born again” to see the Kingdom of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17, where the Apostle Paul says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Have there ever been times in your life when you wish you could start all over again? Jesus Christ offers a fresh start between human beings and their Maker. A start from a fresh relationship with God, offering freedom from the worry that God is angry at you and out to strike you down. (Of course, you still have to deal with the people you have offended and wronged along the way. This would be a good time to try to make things right with them, too, so that they don’t. 🙂 )
So, does the new beginning end here? Not necessarily. John the Prophet (who may or may not have been the Apostle of the same name) writes of a time yet to come, when all wrongs are righted, and judgment is rendered, and universal peace covers the earth. Of this time, he writes, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea [Note: in ancient times, the sea symbolized the evil forces of chaos and destruction]. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming out down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
As you hopefully see by now, new beginnings are a theme that runs through the entire Bible. If the Almighty plans to start the universe (or at least our world) over from scratch, it makes sense for Him to have made us new as well.
How else would we fit in?