|THE NEW YEAR OF GOD
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 26, 1999
Well, here we are - the last Sunday of 1999 - there are only approximately 5 days - 12 hours - and 13 minutes until the year 2000.
This New Years is a little different - somehow more important - with the year 2000 looming ahead. This year the question is more important. How will we celebrate the coming of the new year?
Many people will be glued to their T.V. sets or computer monitors as worldwide celebrations will be broadcast on television and the web. Many people will join huge parties and celebrations.
In New York City there’ll be a 24 hour celebration centered in Times Square. The climax will be that 500 pound aluminum ball slowly dropping 77 feet down a flag pole - hitting the bottom at exactly 12:00 p.m. - midnight.
Los Angeles is advertising the biggest party on earth - covering 4,000 acres of land - with 5 of the largest stages every built for a single event - a party that will last 24 hours a day - for 3 days.
San Francisco was planning to have 7 story tall martini glass on the front of the St. Francis Hotel. At the stroke of midnight a 10 foot inflatable olive was going to slide down a swizzle stick into the martini.
They decided to pass on the martini because Glide Memorial Church is having an interfaith - cross cultural celebration - in Union Square - complete with the Glide Memorial Choir and flamingo dancers. Somehow they thought there would be a conflict.
As Christians - there ought to be something more meaningful for us - something more lasting - less trivial - this new years than watching Dick Clark and partying all night. What does God say about celebrating a new year? What does God tell us is important to focus on?
I invite you to turn with me to Numbers 29:1-6 as we look at what God says is important to focus on at new years. Numbers 29 comes in a section of Scripture that focuses on when various sacrifices were to be offered - the timing of these sacrifices. Specifically - in Numbers 29 - God talks about the sacrifices to be offered at the beginning of a new year.
Numbers 29:1-6: “Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall also have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets.”
Lets stop there for a minute. Notice that He says, “in the seventh month.”
Its important for us to understand that the Hebrew people are using two different calendars. One calendar was God’s calendar which is used to calculate the timing of the religious festivals - the feasts - and sacrifices. The other calendar was a civil calendar - which was the official calendar of the government - of business - used for official record keeping.
Both calendars have 12 months - they just start at different times. God’s calendar begins in our month of March or April. The civil calendar begins in our September or October. If that’s confusing - just remember this - 7 to 1. The seventh month of God’s calendar corresponds to the first month of the civil calendar.
So when Numbers 29:1 says, “Now in the seventh month” - God’s calendar - we’re also talking about the first month of the civil year. “Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month - on new years - God says - this is how you’re to celebrate.
The point is that God is not bound by our limitations of past - present - and future. God created time. He uses time according to His purposes. God has taken His calendar - His timing of events and matched them up with man’s new year. Its not a coincidence - an accident. God has a purpose in this. He’s making a point. God says, this is how you are to celebrate - this is what is really important to focus on.
Verse 1: “Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall also have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work - stop working and come together for a special - holy - gathering - It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets” - a ram's horn - called a shofar - is blown - calling the people together.
Verse 2 - this is what you are to do: “And you shall offer a burnt offering as a soothing aroma to the Lord: one bull, one ram, and seven male lambs one year old without defect; also their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil, three-tenths of a measure for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs. And offer one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you, besides the burnt offering of the new moon, and its grain offering, and the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, and their libations, according to their ordinance, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord.”
Sacrifice is at the heart of worship. Its crucial to our faith and our relationship with God.
When someone came to the tabernacle - where all these sacrifices were offered - he would come with an animal - to be put on the altar for sacrifice. The animal was payment - an offering of atonement before God - for the sins of the individual. The animal was put on the altar - and the worshipper would put his hand on the head of the animal - an act of identification - a way of showing the transfer of sin from the individual to the animal - a reminder, that the man would have died if the animal had not taken his place.
Then the animal was killed it - skinned - and chopped up. If it was a sin offering - the blood was smeared on the altar and other parts of the tabernacle - showing all of what is effected by sin - our relationship with God - and everything that surrounds us. Then - if it was a burnt offering - the whole animal was completely burned - showing the total annihilation that we deserve because of our sin.
Imagine what this must have been like - a gross - smelly - bloody mess. For each person - one bull - one ram - seven male lambs. An impressive reminder of the cost of our sin.
Next there was a grain offering - fine flour with oil - symbolic of the essential necessities of life. Wine was poured on the ground next to the altar. All of this a dramatic picture of one’s entire life given to God.
This went on for 10 days - 10 days of repentance - 10 days being continually reminded of our tenuous position before God. Finally - on the 10th day of the first month of the year came “Yom Kippur” - the Day of Atonement. (29:7-11) The priest took the blood of a bull and a goat and sprinkled them on the Mercy Seat - this seat in the center of the Ark of the Covenant - in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle. All of this symbolic of the people’s faith that God would forgive their sins.
Practically - what does all this sacrifice mean for us today? Turn forward with me to Hebrews 9. We want to see how all of this works out in Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 9:11-14: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation - not physical - but spiritual - and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood - poured out on the cross for us - entered the holy place - the Holy of Holies - the place of the Mercy Seat - entered the holy place once for all - for us - having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
The Old Testament sacrificial system was like taking a shower with a raincoat on. The outside gets washed but the stuff that really needs cleaning never gets touched. The priests and people would have to repeat their sacrifice over and over again - day after day - year after year - always faithfully praying that God would forgive their sins.
Jesus offered Himself once - our sacrificial lamb - and that settled our sin account before God for eternity. When we claim Jesus as our sacrificial lamb - God cleans us on the inside - He forgives our sins and places the Holy Spirit within us - sealing us - for eternity with Him.
This is what’s important for us to focus on as we celebrate the coming new year. God - by His grace - has given us salvation poured out through the blood of Jesus Christ!
This is a long way from Dick Clark - and a giant inflatable olive dropping into a martini glass.
There are three suggestions I’d like to share - three things we can do to focus on what’s really important this new year.
First - MEDITATE ON WHO JESUS IS IN YOUR LIFE.
A few years back the musical group Alabama had song - the chorus went like this:
I’m in a hurry to get things done.It seems like that these days are full of - rush - worry - the tyranny of “what must be done” - celebration without meaning.
In Numbers 29 - God says to stop work - just stop - and focus on our relationship with Him. In Jesus, God has given us so much more than all of the emptiness we see around us.
We could go from Genesis through Revelation and list all the ways in which our lives are different because of Jesus Christ. One brief example. Paul writes - in Ephesians chapter 1 - that in Jesus, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (1:3); that we are chosen by God, so that in Jesus, God accepts us with all of our faults and struggles and inadequacies (1:4); because of Jesus we are the sons of God (1:5); through Jesus God has given us salvation and not His wrath (1:6); God has forgiven our sins (1:7); He lavishes on us His wisdom and insight (1:8); He has given us a rich eternal inheritance (1:14); because of Jesus we now have the ability to grow deep in our relationship with God (1:17); and we can experience God’s power and strength (1:19).
Next Sunday - on the first Sunday of the new year - we’re going to be sharing communion together - celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have a great opportunity - between now and then - to think through what our life in Jesus really means.
Second suggestion - PRAYER
Numbers 29 focuses on being right before God - the renewing of our relationship with God. We need to do business with God.
Is Jesus - who gave Himself as your sacrifice - really your Savior? Have you come to the moment in your life when you’ve agreed with Him - that you are in sin - and need Him as your Savior - have you surrendered your life to Him? If you’ve never come to that moment - you need to speak to God in prayer and take care of this unfinished business.
For many - this week is a time to renew our commitment to our relationship with Jesus. In our celebrations this week - may we be in prayer - prayers of confession - prayers of dedication and commitment - prayers of thanksgiving - prayers which ask for the blood of Jesus to cover every area of our lives - to purify us and make us useful for His service.
Third suggestion - SHARE
In Numbers 29 - when the priest blew the trumpets - they called God’s people together for a “holy convocation” - a coming together for a special - holy - purpose - to focus together on their relationship with God. During the holidays - the “holy days” - we have many opportunities to come together with family and friends.
I’ve been thinking about the impression all of this new years hoopla will leave on my children. What will they remember and pass on to my grandchildren. That they stayed up late? That there were fireworks?
Or will they remember what’s really important? Mom and Dad sharing about Jesus - His place and work in their lives - time we spent together as family in prayer and reading the Bible.The passing of another year is a great opportunity to think about what is really important in life. May we take advantage of that opportunity and focus on what God says is important to celebrate.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960,1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.