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Topic: The New Year

Significance of a New Year

by Darrel Cline

At least everyone knows what a New Year's Resolution is. Most of us are a bit jaded by the collapsed expectations of past years, but we do know what it means to make a resolution. And, since the turn of the year is upon us, I would like to make an observation or two about the significance of the beginning of a New Year.

The Bible has an interesting reference to a New Year in it. According to Exodus 12:2, when God delivered Israel from Egypt, He commanded Moses to make the month in which that deliverance occurred the "first month of the year". John Reiser, missionary to Taiwan, told me just the other day that in Taiwan, the calendar measures time from the ascension of the latest dynasty. So, on their calendar, it is not 1992. Rather, it is the year 81 -- because the most recent dynastic change occurred in 1911 (by our calendar). This fact, plus the reference in Exodus, shows that people, as well as God, think of measuring time from significant events. In fact, our Christian calendar measures time in B.C. and A.D. in respect to the supposed year of the birth of Christ. The Roman calendar measured time from the founding of Rome. The Jewish calendar measured time from their understanding of when the world was created.

But what has this to do with God's command in Exodus to make the month of the Exodus the first month of the year? This: that God wanted those He rescued to realize that He was giving them another opportunity to experience life with a clean slate. He made this impression upon them by changing their calendar. Thus, the deliverance meant a new beginning, just like the turn of the year marks off a new beginning for us.

Interestingly, for Israelites in the second millennium B.C. who were very knowledgable about the significance of the stars in their courses, this change was very significant. Their year had always begun in the sign of Libra, which was highly significant in that it referred to the philosophy that life was what you make it--i.e. what you experienced was the consequence of what you did. But, God told Moses to change the calendar to make the month that corresponded to Aries the beginning of the year. The significance here is that Aries, the Ram, was a reference to the sacrificed lamb of the Passover. This meant life was no longer to be seen as a result of your labor, but as a gift from God through the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. Then, much later, Jesus was identified as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.

Thus, the New Year can remind us that God has a method of giving us a clean slate to begin anew. Jesus came to clear the slate and give us new life. This New Year ought to begin that way. Have you received the forgiveness Jesus offers? There are only two ways to live: under the philosophy that life is what you make it; or under the biblical truth that life is God's gracious gift that actually begins with forgiveness. Which way do you live?

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This is article #014.
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