Leviticus 23:23-25 Making A Spiritual Transition to the New Year
We are about to enter the new year of 2016. I once read of an Italian custom that as midnight on New Year’s Eve approaches, the streets are clear. There is no traffic; there are no pedestrians; even the policemen take cover. Then, at the stroke of 12, the windows of the houses fly open. To the sound of laughter, music and fireworks, each member of the family pitches out old crockery, detested ornaments, hated furniture and a whole catalogue of personal possessions which remind them of something in the past year they are determined to wipe out of their minds.1
“The Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you are to have a day of complete rest, commemoration, and joyful shouting —a sacred assembly. You must not do any daily work, but you must present a fire offering to the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:23–25, HCSB)
The seventh month in the worship cycle was also the first month in the civil calendar (Tishri), thus the Feast of Trumpets also marked the New Year—and came to be called Rosh Hashanah. To this day Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year celebration and occurs during September/October of our calendar.2
Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration, which begins on the first day of Tishri as the Feast of Trumpets.
““Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.” (Leviticus 23:24, ESV)
Tishri is the first month of the Jewish civil year, but the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year.
Rosh Hashanah has its origin in the beginning of the economic year in the ancient Near East, marking the start of the agricultural cycle. In its theological interpretation, the day is said to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the believed realization of humanity’s role in God’s world.3
The purpose was to “wipe the slate clean” for the new year, and to commit to follow God more passionately than the previous year.
Today, people make New Year resolutions to try to improve themselves in the coming year. Perhaps it is losing weight, or accepting a new challenge, or trying something new. The key word is “try.” The fact is that many people make resolutions, but they are unable to fulfill them. As a result, they feel guilty about what was left unaccomplished.
Perhaps we should look at the New Year as a time to celebrate God’s goodness, commemorate what God has done in our lives, and to rest in the knowledge by His grace. Perhaps we should resolve to move forward in the new year by enjoying God and being satisfied in Him. Let Him make the changes that we so desire, without the stress and guilt that comes from trying and failing our resolutions.4
DEVELOPING MY SATISFACTION IN GOD
Reflect on the past:
1. Rest and reflect on my past (Leviticus 23:24)
““…you are to have a day of complete rest…” (Leviticus 23:24, HCSB)
As I rest and reflect on my past, I think about what has happened. On this particular day, the people would reflect all day about what God has done in their lives. For some, it may be to ask for forgiveness.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” (Hebrews 4:15–16, HCSB)
We can approach God and ask for help. We can reflect on our past, think about what we have done wrong, and ask God to forgive us. One might ask: Why do that? Because God wants us to keep our present relationship slate clean. God has saved us for eternity through Jesus Christ. He did that one time. But we need to come to God on a regular basis and pray to Him. We don’t have to do this out of obligation, but out of our love desire to seek God and ask for help.
PRAYER: Let’s take time right now to reflect on the past year and ask for forgiveness and seek God’s rest.
2. Commemorate what God has done in my life (Leviticus 23:24)
““…you are to have a…commemoration…” (Leviticus 23:24, HCSB)
Let’s take a moment and reflect on what God has done in my life. Perhaps you would like to share this. You can send a text. I will also give you a minute if you would like to stand and share something.
3. Celebrate God’s goodness (Leviticus 23:24)
““…you are to have a…and joyful shouting —a sacred assembly.” (Leviticus 23:24, HCSB)
I think we need take some time to celebrate God’s goodness. We can do that singing a song. I want us to take a moment and sing a few songs from the hymnal.
Standing on the Promises
Prepare for the future:
4. Move Forward (Leviticus 23:25)
“You must not do any daily work…”” (Leviticus 23:25, HCSB)The reason that God told Moses to tell the people to not do any work on this day was for one reason: reflection. God wanted people to take time and reflect upon the new year.
“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14, HCSB)
How are you going to move forward in the New Year? Some people make resolutions. Others set goals. Whatever you choose to do, you need to take some time and ask God what He wants you to do this year.
Maybe it is to get out of debt.
Maybe it is to spend more time with your family.
Maybe it is to make a stronger commitment to the church, to begin attending a Sunday School group, or to grow through a discipleship process. We will begin a study on the book of Revelation this evening. Perhaps you want to get deeper into the Word.
Whatever you choose, you need to consider the idea of moving forward.
5. Enjoy God by Being Satisfied in Him (Leviticus 23:25)
“…but you must present a fire offering to the Lord.”” (Leviticus 23:25, HCSB)
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1, HCSB)
In choosing to moving forward, you want to shift your thinking from an obligation to an opportunity. What I mean by that is to consider enjoying God by being satisfied in Him. You may look at this verse in Leviticus 23:25 and think that presenting a fire offering to the Lord was a duty. But I tell you that it was a form of delighting in God.
The Feast of Trumpet, which started on Rosh Hashanah, was on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish religious year. It was in the fall, and it came before the tenth day which was Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur was the Day of Atonement. This was the day that a priest let go a scapegoat and sacrificed another for the sins of himself and the people. So the new year anticipated the new cleansing, which happened in Jesus Christ. The third festival was the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles. On this day, the Jews would make a hut and sit under it. The idea is that since the sins have been cleansed and washed away, I can rest and enjoy God’s presence.
For the Jews, they look forward to the Messiah. For us as Christians, we already have the Messiah. So we don’t have to spend time worrying about the eternal consequences of sin. We can learn to rest in God’s assurance of salvation. That is a day-to-day process. It is something we can learn to do this year. Learn to let go and let God.
You can only learn to let go and let God once you have built a relationship with Him. God is pleased with our relationship, not our sacrifice. He wants to know me so that He can work through me. The only way He can best do that is by getting to know me, and by me getting to know God. The best way that can happen is if I read His Word. But I should read His word with a view of enjoying getting to know God – like reading a letter, an email, a text, or a Facebook post from a dear friend.
When I read a post from a friend, I reflect on the relationship we have. I might think about a memory. I might also laugh a little when I realize what that person wrote. When it is an emotional post, I might cry with them. I might offer up a word in response. I might wish them well. I emotionally invest myself in the email, texts, or posts that I read. I should strive to do the same with reading the Bible.
Many of you will make the commitment to read through the Bible in 2016. May I suggest something for your Bible reading plan for the year? Make the effort a joy, and not a struggle. What do I mean? Many time, like New Years resolutions, we attempt to digest too much of the Bible at one time. We strive to read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and we struggle to get through the reading. We fail to continue reading once we hit Leviticus, or 1 Chronicles, or even the Minor Prophets. How do you deal with that?
Challenge yourself, but don’t hurt yourself. Making Bible reading a goal, but not a burden. Make reading the Word of God about knowing God, and not about a marathon reading race to finish.
I challenge you to make a spiritual transition to the New Year. Learn to let go and let God. Learn to enjoy Him and be satisfied by Him. It is a challenge, but it is one in which you will reap eternal benefits.
1 Bill Dudley, Facebook Post, 30 December 2015, 6:24am, accessed on https://www.facebook.com/bill.dudley.50/posts/10208664697514014.
2 Gary W. Demarest and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Leviticus, vol. 3, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1990), 232–233.
4 Jim Erwin, “A New Years Resolution to Enjoy God and Find Satisfaction in Him,” Personal Reflections, 3 October 2013, accessed on http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2013/10/03/a-new-years-resolution-to-enjoy-god-and-find-satisfaction-in-him/.