The New Year
Exodus 12:1-2 (1) And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, (2) This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. These words were uttered at the time when God was completing His awful judgments on Egypt, the oppressive enemy of natural Israel, whose deliverance was imminent. One last terrible plague would come upon Egypt which would finally facilitate Israel's release: the death of the firstborn in Egypt (EXO 11:4-8; EXO 12:29-36). In preparation for this, and for a future memorial of it, God told Israel to take a lamb on the tenth day of the month, then kill it on the fourteenth day of the month and apply its blood to the door of the home wherein they ate a simple meal (EXO 12:3-11), “...it is the LORD'S passover.” On the very night when Israel's enemies were to be destroyed and Israel would be delivered, (and this feast was to be kept in perpetuity), the message was “That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses...” (EXO 12:27). Interestingly, the lapse between the taking of the lamb on the tenth day and its blood being applied on the fourteenth day is a close parallel of the lapse of time from when Christ the Lamb of God (JOH 1:29) was taken (MAT 26:50) and His shed blood applied on our behalf in heaven the day after His resurrection when He ascended to the Father (JOH 20:1-18) after being entombed “...three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (MAT 12:40). Israel's deliverance from Egypt was often called their redemption (DEU 13:5; DEU 15:15; DEU 21:8; HOS 7:13, etc.). By God's decree (EXO 12:1-2), the new calendar for Israel had a beginning that accorded with their redemption. Inasmuch as Moses was very important to Israel (being their leader, deliverer and mediator of God's covenant with them, GAL 3:19), God could have tied the new beginning of time to his birth or some other significant “Moses moment.” But God rather marked the beginning of the new era and calendar from the redemption which He would accomplish. For many centuries, the re-boot of history's timeline has (ostensibly) been measured from the conception or birth of spiritual Israel's Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, in both the old Julian calendar and its upgrade, the Gregorian calendar (which is now the virtually de facto civil calendar of the whole world), the dividing point of time has long been designated BC (Before Christ) and Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord) in reference to His incarnation. In view of God's dealings with Israel (above) I wonder if it would have been better to make the dividing point of history's timeline the death of Jesus Christ, not His birth. It was by His death that Christ the Lamb of God redeemed us with His blood (GAL 3:13; EPH 1:7). It was by His death, burial and resurrection that He destroyed our spiritual enemies and delivered “...them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (HEB 2:14-15), taking away our sins by which the powers of darkness had a claim on us, and so “...having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (COL 2:13-15). Was natural Israel's redemption their deliverance by the destruction of their enemies? Spiritual Israel's is greater: by Christ's destruction of the works of the devil, we are delivered from the penalty of sin (death and eternal fire), the power of sin through grace now and the presence of sin at Christ's return. Israel's redemption was the new starting point of time for them. Their beginning of months was also their passover, and that passover lamb's death foreshadowed “...Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1CO 5:7), our redemption. Israel was told to “...Remember this day...” (EXO 13:3-4), the day of redemption. As Christ and His apostles make clear, the prophecies, types and shadows of the O.T. concerning Jesus Christ focus more upon His death, not His birth. Nowhere are we told to set aside a special time to remember His birth with a ceremony or feast but we are certainly told to do so as touching His death (1CO 11:23-25), and “Therefore let us keep the feast...” (1CO 5:8), not a gay feast around His supposed birth like the Feast of St. Nick or the Feast of St. Stephen (the observance of which in Wales included the bleeding of livestock and the beating of late-risers and female servants), but a simple feast in which believers rejoice with trembling that they have a part in the broken body and shed blood of their Savior: redemption. In a passage which speaks not of Christ's birth but of His ministry, Paul had an interesting focus concerning the timeline of history: “But when the FULNESS OF THE TIME was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To REDEEM them that were under the law...” (GAL 4:4-5). Perhaps the fulness of time should have been considered as having apexed not at Bethlehem but at Calvary, and so associated with redemption. Folded into the prophecy of ISA 63:1-5 is the great victory of Jesus Christ over Satan for us. Here, the conqueror's garments are stained with blood as the victorious Christ's vesture is stained with blood (REV 19:13). Here he treads the winepress alone, there being no one else to help or uphold, as Christ in His death “...by himself purged our sins” (HEB 1:3 c/w 1PE 2:24). In the midst of this prophecy, He says, “...the YEAR of my redeemed is come” (ISA 63:4). It's almost as if time itself should be identified with redemption. Matthew Henry here observed, “There was a year fixed for the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, and God kept time to a day (EXO 12:41); so there was for their release out of Babylon (DAN 9:2); so there was for Christ's coming to destroy the works of the devil...” And, the time of the final victory at Christ's return (as envisioned in REV 19:1-21) is a specific day, known only to the Father (MAR 13:31-32). God is very good at making and keeping a schedule. While I am in a wondering mode, I wonder why Western Civilization which was so strongly influenced by Christianity settled for a calendar in which the first six months are named after old Roman gods and goddesses when the lunar cycle was made by the true God (GEN 1:14-19) Who despises even the names of false gods (EXO 23:13; DEU 12:3). The next two months are named after Roman Caesars, and the last four (September to December) are the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months of Romulus, the mythological founder of Rome. It is interesting as to how much influence old Rome still wields in one way or the other. I would like to think that if I had been in a position to call the shots for developing a calendar which the whole world would end up using, I would not have defaulted to naming months after Roman idols, dictators or myths. I think I would have divided time by the death of Christ to identify with redemption, rather than by the birth of Christ (B.C. & A.D.). I might have even made the time of the vernal equinox (roughly equated with Christ's death) the first month on the calendar. Instead of naming the first month January, after Janus, a two-faced idol-god, I might have named it Jesusuary after the true God Who "...is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (HEB 13:8) and “...with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (JAM 1:17). Then I might have even named the rest of the months after eleven apostles (skip Judasuary). After all, I might have reasoned, even the foundations of the heavenly city's wall bear the apostles' names (REV 21:14), so why not do likewise with the months? Of course, human nature being what it is, there would have likely arisen petty squabbles amongst Christians as to which month was the best month, and factions would no doubt have developed, some saying, “I am of Peteruary,” others saying “But I am of Johnuary,” etc. Then again, maybe these speculations belong in an Ossuary. So, Happy New Year.