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Celebrating The New Moon

Starting at the Feast of Tabernacles in 1992, and periodically through June 2003, I have given a sermon on the Holy Calendar, the calendar as specified in the Bible. In it I showed the errors of the Jewish calendar in use today and the way we can obtain the calendar from scripture. Since that time, as you know, others have adopted the Biblical calendar for scheduling Holy Days.

In Colossians 2:16 and 17, Paul writes:

Col 2:16-17 (KJV) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath <days>: {17} Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body of Christ. [The word "is" isn't in the original.]

What does Paul mean by the statement, "in respect of the new moon"?

Today I want to talk to you about the observance of the new moon.

First let's talk about Col 2:17. The scripture I read was from the KJV which says " which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ". In other words, (verse 16) don't worry about the criticisms or judgements of others who disagree with you about keeping the holydays, the new moons, or the Sabbath days. (Verse 17) Let the body of Christ (i.e. the Church) judge these things. The term "a shadow of things to come" means an adumbration or a shadowy outline or suggestion of things to come in the future.

Now, if you are using a New International or New American Standard or another "new" version, verse 17 is going to say something quite different:

Col 2:17 (NIV) These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Col 2:17 (NASB) things which are a <mere> shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Obviously neither of these agree with the KJV.

Which is right? Let's look at the Greek. Direct translation from the Greek text reads:

Let not therefore anyone judge you in eating and in drinking or in respect of a feast or of a new moon or of Sabbaths, which things are a shadow of things coming, but the body of Christ.

I have become aware that the "new" versions are not always accurate, although they read well. That is, they are easy to understand but they are not always totally accurate when compared with the oldest available Greek text - which is less than 600 years old. I have come to the conclusion that the KJV is probably the most accurate version out there, although it has translation errors as well. If you want proof of this, research Mat 26:17 and its parallel gospels. The other versions might be better used as a help in understanding the more archaic language of the KJV but where a difference in meaning occurs, you need to check it out. Apparently the "new" versions are influenced by the beliefs of the translators just as the earlier version's translations were.

If you want to "prove all things," per Acts 17:11, research the meaning of "shadow", skee'-ah in the Greek, number 4639 in the Strong's Concordance and of "things to come", mel'-lo in the Greek, number 3195 in Strong's. You will find that the KJV comes closest to the dictionary or lexicon definition of these words.

Anyway, back to the point: What does Paul mean by "in respect of the new moon"?

Colossians 2:16, which we just read, is the only place in the New Testament where the words "new moon" are used, so let's check the Old Testament to see if God commands its observance.

Num 10:10 (NASB) "Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first <days> of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am the LORD your God."

The KJV and the NIV use the words "they shall be a memorial" instead of "they shall be as a reminder." A memorial or reminder of what?

Gen 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Gen 1:14 (NIV) And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,
(Num 28:11 NASB) 'Then at the beginning of each of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD; two bulls and one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect,

verse 14 (NIV) With each bull there is to be a drink offering of half a hin of wine; with the ram, a third of a hin ; and with each lamb, a quarter of a hin. This is the monthly burnt offering to be made at each new moon during the year.

It is my opinion that the observance of the new moon is to be a memorial of God's creation of the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, planets and stars) and, what's more significant, the consequent establishment of His calendar for all mankind. The observance of the New Moon keeps God's people in remembrance of His true calendar and its High Days, month by month.

The next question to ask is whether the Bible gives us examples of people observing the New Moon Festival. We know that Paul mentioned its keeping in Col 2:16 so we can assume it was being kept by gentiles in Colosee [Ca-las'-ee]. What about the Old Testament? Let's look at some Old Testament examples of people observing it:

(1 Sam 20:5 NKJV) And David said to Jonathan, "Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening.

When is the third day at evening? It is the evening after the day after tomorrow. It should be noted that they could not see the new moon during this period. They had to be calculating the event.

(Verse 18 NKJV) Then Jonathan said to David, "Tomorrow is the New Moon; and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty.
(Verse 24 NASB) So David hid in the field; and when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food.

So here we see that both King David and King Saul kept the New Moon Festival by having a special meal. Again, we see that they knew exactly on which day it occurred.

(2 Ki 4:22-23 NASB) Then she called to her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and return." {23} And he said, "Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.". . . .

These scriptures show us that the New Moon was to be kept by having access to the man of God. Who was the man of God? Had to be the priest or a prophet. Why go to the man of God? I can only assume he was to teach from God's Word and lead the people in prayer. So the New Moon Festival is also an opportunity to study and learn from God's Word as well as additional prayer. It is a day of worship, though not usually a Sabbath.

(1 Chr 23:30-31 NASB) And they (the Levites) are to stand every morning to thank and to praise the LORD, and likewise at evening, {31} and to offer all burnt offerings to the LORD, on the sabbaths, the new moons and the fixed festivals in the number set by the ordinance concerning them, continually before the LORD.
(2 Chr 2:4 NKJV) Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel.
(2 Chr 8:12-13 NASB) Then Solomon offered burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the LORD which he had built before the porch; {13} and did so according to the daily rule, offering them up according to the commandment of Moses, for the sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual feasts-- the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths.
(2 Chr 31:3 NKJV) The king also appointed a portion of his possessions for the burnt offerings: for the morning and evening burnt offerings, the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the set feasts, as it is written in the Law of the LORD. [In Numbers 10:10 and 28:11]
(Ezra 3:5 NKJV) Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD.

We can see that the Israelites observed the New Moon after they returned from Babylon as well as before.

(Neh 10:32-33 NKJV) Also we made ordinances for ourselves, to exact from ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: {33} for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts; for the holy things, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.

Some churches ask for 10% of everyone's second tithe for Feast expenses. A third of an old shekel in today's money is only about 80 cents.

Psa 81:3 (NASB) Blow the trumpet at the new moon, At the full moon, on our feast day.

This verse is talking about the feast days occurring on the first day of the month (e.g. Feast of Trumpets - a new moon) and fifteenth day of the month (e.g. first day of Unleavened Bread and first day of Feast of Tabernacles - a full moon) as well as the New Moon Festival.

Isa 1:13-14 (NASB) "Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. {14} "I hate your new moon <festivals> and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing <them>.

What is this? Have we found the loose brick? Is God here telling us that we should not observe His New Moons, Sabbaths and Feast days? Do we no longer need to give offerings? No, God is talking about mixing a show of religion with iniquity. The people wanted to appear religious but at the same time continue to live a sinful life. Read verses 10 thru 14 and you will see that God is rejecting this show of religion from a people who lived in lawlessness. [Shades of Islam] Does this apply to any people or churches you know? Does it apply to any of us?

It is apparent that the new moon was observed in Old Testament times.

Let's look now at scriptures which apply to our day and the future, including God's Kingdom:

Isa 66:22-23 (NASB) "For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD, "So your offspring and your name will endure. {23} "And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD.
Ezek 45:17 (NIV) It will be the duty of the prince to provide the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths--at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel. He will provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.

I am not certain who the "prince" is. It could be Christ, or David, or the head of State. Strongs concordance shows it as H5387. naw-see'; from H5375; an exalted one, i.e. a king or sheik; also a rising mist:--captain, chief, cloud, governor, prince, ruler.

(Ezek 46:1 NKJV) 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "The gateway of the inner court that faces toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened, and on the day of the New Moon it shall be opened.
(Verse 3 NKJV) "Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway before the LORD on the Sabbaths and the New Moons.
(Verse 6 NKJV) "On the day of the New Moon it shall be a young bull without blemish, six lambs, and a ram; they shall be without blemish.

These scriptures in Ezek 46 have a multiple significance. They describe the New Moon and Sabbath observance but they also mention a very important gate at the Temple - the east gate. What is so important about the east gate? Let's turn to:

(Ezek 43:4 NKJV) And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east.

Today the east gate is blocked up. It was blocked by the Muslims centuries ago. I can assure you the east gate, a double gate now called the Golden Gate, will not be blocked when our Messiah returns to His temple from the Mount of Olives which lies directly to the east across the narrow Kidron Valley. It will be an exciting event of the last days when we see this gate unblocked, for all the blocks in the world will not keep Him out. We may not be able to specify the day and the hour, but events like this will certainly confirm when the return of our Messiah occurs. We need to be watching and preparing.

(Hosea 2:11 NKJV) I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths; All her appointed feasts.

Hosea is here describing the trials of Israel. The time frame is uncertain. It could very well be dual. In other words, it occurred in Israel's past and could conceivably happen during the coming trials of Israel.

(Amos 8:4-6 NKJV) Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail, {5} Saying: "When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, Falsifying the scales by deceit, {6} That we may buy the poor for silver, And the needy for a pair of sandals; Even sell the bad wheat?"

Amos is here describing the conditions of a greedy, cheating Israelite which loves the law but is far from fair with those with whom they deal. It describes the same hypocritical society as we read about in Isa 1:13-14. Some think this is stating that buying and selling should be avoided on the New Moon day but that is not what these verses are about.

Now I want to read to you a statement from a Jewish calendar article in order to show you that the New Moon is still observed by more conservative branches of Judaism today:

"Judaism is based on a lunar calendar. Each month begins with the appearance of a new moon. The first of each new month is an occasion for special prayers and celebration. It is called Rosh Chodesh (the head of the month) and is observed for one or two days. When there are two days of Rosh Chodesh, the first day is the last day of the preceding month. Rosh Chodesh is announced in the synagogue on the preceding Sabbath with a special Prayer for the New Month."

The question might be asked: Why doesn't Leviticus 23 include the observance of New Moons in as much as it includes the weekly Sabbath and the holy days? The answer is that Leviticus 23 is a list of Sabbath and holy days and most new moon days are not Sabbaths or holy days. Numbers 28 and 29 also provides a complete list of holy days and Sabbaths.

Using the date of this writing to explain, the next new moon is on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012. So now let's address the question of how we are to determine what day the new moon should be celebrated. As many of you are aware, this question is addressed in our calendar booklet. In the booklet the question is asked, does the month start on the local date of the conjunction of the sun and moon or does it start on the date of the conjunction at Jerusalem.

Perhaps some do not fully understand the problem. Let me explain. The conjunction can occur over any longitude around the earth. Moving east from that point of conjunction we will eventually arrive at sunset. East of that sunset is the next Biblical day. The question then arises: Is the first day of the month established as the day in your local area when the conjunction occurs, or do we use the day the conjunction occurs at some other place on earth, such as Greenwich or Jerusalem? Why does it matter? It matters because the day of conjunction establishes the first day of the month and we can not have two different first days of the same month on one calendar. The following arguments are provided as to why the Jerusalem date of conjunction was chosen, not the local date:

1. The Jewish calendar specifies double holy days to be sure Jews are observing the correct day wherever the participant lives. Interestingly (or maybe the word is mercifully), the Jewish calendar does NOT establish a double day for Atonement. Atonement is kept on the Jerusalem date only.

2. When Messiah returns to set up his Kingdom, it will be headquartered in Jerusalem. It seems reasonable to assume that Jerusalem time will be the standard for assigning holy festivals. Let's read a few scriptures which support this argument.

Ezek 43:7 (KJV) And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, <neither> they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcasses of their kings in their high places.
2 Chr 33:4 (KJV) Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.
Isa 2:3 (KJV) And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (An Israeli song has been written from the words of this verse.)
Jer 3:17 (KJV) At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
Zec 8:3 (KJV) Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
Isa 65:16-19 (KJV) That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes. {17} For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. {18} But be ye glad and rejoice for ever <in that> which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. {19} And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.

3. The use of two different days can result in a difference of a week when Pentecost is impacted or a month when the spring equinox is impacted. How would supporters of local time justify a difference of a week, or even worse, a month from Jerusalem time?

4. The harvest theme of the holy days is based on the growing season in the Middle East and was disclosed by God to mankind in the Middle East.

The scriptures we just read make it very clear that God's Kingdom will be headquartered in Jerusalem but how do they relate to whether we use local time or Jerusalem time to determine the first day of the month? Knowing that Jerusalem has been and will be the center of God's world government and the area from where His holy days are oriented, let me give you a couple of other points to consider: When Christ returns, where will the people of the world, especially the leaders, go to worship the King and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles? Will they use local time or Jerusalem time or will they just shift calendars like pages in a book?

(Zec 14:16 NKJV) And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

When Christ comes to the earth and more specifically to Jerusalem, will He be on local time or Jerusalem time - or will He too shift calendars like pages in a book when His saints rise to meet Him? If He returns on a holyday, e.g. Trumpets, will he have to return a day early to satisfy those in parts of the world who are keeping their calendar on local time? Or will those on local time assume He is a false Christ because he isn't there on the right day? Will those on local time be content with keeping their time while Christ keeps his?

In Matthew 24 we read a description of the visibility of Christ's return:

Mat 24:27 (NIV) For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Is Matthew telling us here that people living in a different day to the west of Jerusalem will be able to see Christ as he arrives in Jerusalem? Does this justify keeping a different calendar? I think not. I think this implies that God's people will be drawn to him even though they live in a different day to the west of Jerusalem.

I'm sure I haven't covered all aspects of this question. I know there will continue to be those who feel strongly about keeping the first day of the month by local time. Nevertheless, I feel the above arguments swing the balance to the side of beginning each month on the day of the conjunction as seen from Jerusalem.

Now some will ask, "Why don't we use Jerusalem for the weekly Sabbath too?" The beginning of the weekly Sabbath is determined locally because it affects only the starting time of a single day in the local area. There wouldn't be much sense in starting Sabbath at 10 AM Friday in Chicago because it's sunset in Jerusalem.

I think we have justified the observance of the New Moon; an observation which includes extra prayer, extra Bible Study, meditation and a commemorative meal. If possible it should also be observed with a short worship service. In the early days of the Worldwide Church of God, the New Moon festival was kept in Pasadena. Sometime in the '50s, the observance was dropped and a Friday night Bible Study was substituted. The new WCG position on New Moon observance was that it was optional. I have no idea what their position is today. They have made so many doctrinal changes. But I hope I have convinced you the day should be observed on the first day of every month as determined by the new moon date in Jerusalem.

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell
February 25, 2012
Copyright 2012, Wayne Bedwell

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