AT THE creation of our world God pronounced His divine purpose for the heavenly bodies. He ordained the sun, moon, and stars to mark the seasons—the days, months, and years—and also to serve the world as signs. Each arrangement of Creation was to bless mankind; in God's plan that was "good" (Gen.l: 14-18).
In the course of time God spoke to Moses and Aaron, ancient Israel's spiritual leaders, instructing them regarding a change in the beginning of the year. At this time the Feast of the Passover was instituted. God said, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." God was leading His people out of Egypt, a heathen monarchy that had attempted to thwart the power of God. He was ready to pour out His wrath in the form of dreadful plagues in order to save His people from the Egyptians, but in His great mercy He planned a way of escape for His people. Israel had suffered greatly under Egyptian authoritarianism, but more tragic still was the fact that the children of Israel had lost their conception of pure worship.
Now Jehovah was establishing a new order of things and giving explicit commands regarding the Passover, which was to memorialize their exit from Egypt. Israel must learn the depth of Jehovah's plan regarding their salvation. The pressures of Pharaoh's program of hard labor and the stunted thinking of the slaves made it necessary for God to make His instructions very simple. The new feast was to be more than a victory holiday. The Passover would foreshadow things to come. As a result of God's revelation Israel began a new way of life, establishing at God's command a new calendar to mark the beginning of the new year.
The Slaying of the Lamb
The high point of the Passover feast was the slaying of a lamb "without blemish." In every Israelitish home the father had the responsibility of leading his family to God. This was an act of faith in which the entire household responded in obedience to divine instruction. After their departure from Egypt, the Passover became a yearly "ordinance" until type met antitype at the appearing of the Messiah, "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
The Passover had great significance in the ritualism of the Hebrew people. On the eve of the original Passover the blood of the slain lamb was sprinkled on the side posts and upper doorpost of each Israelit-ish dwelling. At the time the angel of death was nearing with swift destruction—slaying the first-born in each household that had neglected or spurned the dictates of Jehovah.
The Lord Jehovah had commanded Moses and Aaron regarding the eating of the Passover lamb. "They shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs" (Ex. 12:8). Addressing each Israelite, He continued His instruction: ". .. with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's passover. . . . And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not . . . destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:11-13). Then, instituting a change for the beginning of their year, God pronounced, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you" (Ex. 12:2).
The New Year feast and the Passover became associated religious events in the same month. But ancient Israel's celebration of the New Year was in marked contrast with the keeping of heathen holidays! Holy days and holidays have always been sadly confused. One is intended for solemn reflection on man's shortcomings toward God; the other is associated with debauchery and frivolity and a forgetting of God! The former inspires separation from the world; the latter encourages participation in the excesses and evils of the world. God's people have been asked to come out from among them!
The apostle Paul, in his leadership in the early Christian church, stresses the fact that God's true Israel is a blood-bought and blood-washed people. Paul then contrasted the genuine experience patterned after Christ with the sinful ways of the Christian's worldly associates. Observe how Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, combines his instruction with the Passover lamb. How direct is his instruction to purge out the old leaven, representing idolatry, malice, and wickedness; the new "lump" is then aptly associated with the Christian principles of sincerity and truth.
Pilgrims and Strangers
At the time of the original Passover the Israelites were a nomadic people, carrying the wanderer's staff in their flight from Egypt. Modern Israelites also are pilgrims and strangers in this world, seeking the promised Canaan. They lift their vision heavenward, frequently tasting the symbolic "bitter herbs" of the Passover meal. The Lamb of God is their constant attraction; saving earth's lost, their Christlike mission. They find joy in their simplicity of mind and heart, gladly sacrificing time and means to further the interests of the kingdom.
While the New Year season is timely, may our ministers and church leaders throughout the world guide their flocks into a deeper religious experience. The sands of time are running swiftly into eternity, and the conviction of every herald of Bible truth should be to make the waiting year rich in soul winning. In the following psalm Moses brings to us a sobering New Year's message.
Lord, Thou has been our dwelling place in all generations. From everlasting to everlasting Thou art
God. A thousand years in Thy sight are as
We spend our years as a tale that is told—
Yet is their strength labor and sorrow.
Teach us to number our days, apply our
hearts unto wisdom.
Satisfy us early with Thy mercy, that we
may rejoice all our days.
Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants,
Thy glory unto their children; and let the
Of the Lord be upon us, the work of our
Yea, establish Thou it.
—Psalm 90. Adapted.
To all our fellow workers, a blessed New Year!