Tag Archives: New Year

An Old New Year, Part 2

 

The Book of Exodus in many ways lays the foundation for the nation of Israel and much of the remaineder of the Old Testament as God reveals His plan of redemption that culminates in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  The Israelite exodus from Egypt typifies the believer’s exodus from bondage and slavery to sin.  The former was marked by the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn, from which a household may be delivered if it followed the Lord’s instructions and spread the blood of a spotless lamb over the lintels of the doorway, likewise typifying the deliverance that would come by way of the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

This Passover event is inaugurated in Exodus 12.  In reading this passage, I was again struck by a detail that has so often been overlooked.  At the opening of the chapter where God outlines the instructions for instituting the Lord’s Passover, we see the following,

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.” Exodus 12:1-6

Notice the time period given by the Lord:

“It shall be the first month of the year for you.”

As in An Old New Year Part 1, we again have a significant time marker.  While in that post the New Year was slightly ambiguous and general, here we see a more narrow date given, namely the establishment of the Jewish calendar commensurate with the Exodus from Egypt.

Later in chapter 13 verse 4 we read, “Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out.”  Abib (called Nissan now) is the first month on the Jewish calendar, equivalent to the March/April time frame of the Gregorian calendar.

So is this date significant?  What is God trying to communicate by tying this New Year to the Exodus and subsequently the celebration of Passover?

As in the New Year given to Noah, which signified a new creation or the beginning of a new humanity, if you will, this date memorializing the inauguration of the nation of Israel follows suit.  As Noah functioned as another Adam, again in a typological sense, Israel appears on the scene as another Adam (Exodus 4:22-23). Like the first Adam, the nation of Israel will be placed in the garden of God, given covenant obligations, and like Adam will fail (Hosea 6), anticipating once again the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will in every way fulfill the promises of God and succeed where those who preceded Him failed.

This brief meditation on one verse read in a yearly reading plan demonstrates how valuable all of God’s Word is, even those things that on the surface seem insignificant.  It also shows that we needn’t feel like we can only profit from familiar passages that “tell us what to do”.  There is profit everywhere, on every page, in every verse, to be had, if we only slow down and listen to what the Word of God is saying.

An Old New Year

 

As I began my Bible reading plan for this year, I came across a passage that I had read multiple times before and one that most people are familiar with as well, the story of Noah’s Flood (Why don’t we call it God’s Flood?).  The historical account of the global flood begins in Genesis 6 with an observation made by God:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:5-8

We arrive at Noah, whose birth brought eager expectations (Gen. 5:28-29) in the next verse (9) and read of God’s command for him to build an ark.  Recounting the familiar details of this passage, we see the ark’s dimensions given to Noah, the promise of the global flood to destroy all flesh, the promise of a covenant, the two by two requirement, clean vs. unclean animals (ever thought about this one?), and the promise of rain for forty days and forty nights.  As we know, the rains did come though Noah and his family along with all the animals were safe inside the ark.

In Genesis 7:11 we see a summary statement of the initiation of the flood, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” followed by several additional summary verses of the event (remember Moses is writing the record of this about a 1500 years after the fact).

As chapter 7 continues, we are given details of the expansiveness and depth of the flood along with the duration, 150 days.  This last statement is expounded upon in Chapter 8 of Genesis and leads me to an interesting observation that I had not seen before.

13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.” Genesis 8:13

Did you catch that?

The 601st year (presumably of Noah’s life), in the first month, the first day of the month the flood ended and dry ground appeared.

Now I know there are many people who know far more about calendars, dating, etc. than I do, but my initial observation from this passage is that it is talking about New Years day and I think it is a significant detail.  Moses, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is very specific about the days and time in the flood account.  It’s no accident or mere coincidence that the flood ended at the introduction of the New Year.  It is a precise date 1) To show the historicity of the flood and 2) To symbolize the introduction of a new creation.  In this way, Noah acts as a type of Adam (Be fruitful and Multiply – Gen. 9:1,7) in a post-flood Eden.

Barnes’ Notes offer the following commentary on this passage:

“Noah delays apparently another month, and, on the first day of the new year, ventures to remove the covering of the ark and look around. The date of the complete drying of the land is then given. The interval from the entrance to the exit consists of the following periods:

Rain continued 40 days; Waters prevailed 150 days; Waters subside 99 days; Noah delays 40 days; Sending of the raven and the dove 20 days; Another month 29 days; Interval until the 27th of the 2nd month 57 days; Sum-total of days 365 days

Hence, it appears that the interval was a lunar year of three hundred and fifty-six days nearly, and ten days; that is, as nearly as possible, a solar year. This passage is important on account of the divisions of time which it brings out at this early epoch. The week of seven days is plainly intimated. The lunar month and year are evidently known. It is remarkable that the ten additional days bring up the lunar year in whole numbers to the solar. It seems a tacit agreement with the real order of nature. According to the Hebrew text, the deluge commenced in the 1656th year of the race of man. According to all texts it occurred in the time of Noah, the ninth in descent from Adam.”

A fascinating detail in the midst of a familiar Bible passage.  That is why reading and re-reading the Bible year after year is so beneficial.  We will never mine the depths of revelation that God has provided in His Holy Word.

So how did you spend your New Year’s? Noah spent his resting in the promises of God, rejoicing in the faithfulness of God, and anticipating the unfolding of a new creation.

In a sense, that old new year anticipated the second coming of Christ and the unfolding of The New Creation, when Christ establishes His earthly kingdom.  Every New Year that we celebrate should be one  filled with hope that this may be the year that the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ when he returns.

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

How to Fail at your New Year’s Bible Reading Plan

 

Repost from Jan. 2, 2013

This time of year many people will begin a Bible reading plan of some sort, some choosing predefined plans, others planning simply to start with Genesis and read straight through.  I can’t count how many times I began reading through the Bible at the beginning of the year only to fail time and time again.  It can then lead to frustration, feelings of failure, or generally putting the Bible back on the shelf for months, or until the next “New Year’s” reading plan.

Before looking at a few ways or reasons why failure so often occurs, I’d like to offer an encouragement to every Christian to read through the Bible at some point.  To neglect this is to say that all of God’s Word is unimportant.  Fundamentally it’s a failure to take God’s Word as a whole, seriously.   Another reason I want to encourage you to read through the Bible is for witnessing.  I remember a couple of years ago a man wandered into the back of a church I was teaching at and began asking me questions about the Bible.  Admittedly, he was intoxicated and may have been looking for someone to argue with over the Bible.  I began pointing him to Christ and sharing the Gospel with him, despite his claim to be a Christian, though with highly suspect views on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The questions he asked were standard really, “If God is good, why do bad things happen?” and “How could God order Moses [Joshua] to kill ‘innocent’ women and children?”  But then, he asked if I had ever read through the Bible.  Reluctantly, I admitted that I hadn’t.  Now bear in mind, I had probably read through the New Testament a couple of times and probably at some point collectively through 85-90% of the Old Testament , yet I really couldn’t point to a specific time with certainty that I had read through the Bible completely.

Here I was, a teacher of God’s Word and I was being convicted by an intoxicated, seemingly unchristian man.  It cut straight to my heart and I immediately realized that to go on not having read the Bible through was completely unsatisfactory and largely sinful.  A friend and I began reading the Bible using a 3-month plan he had created.  1 newborn baby and 3 extra months later and I had read through the Bible completely.  You do not have to read through the Bible in 3 or 6 months, or even a year, but you really should read through it.  God in His sovereignty has put all 66 books there for our good and we should rightly, humbly, and passionately read what He has for us.  Now on to some common reasons for failure to help you avoid getting frustrated and shelving your Bible for another year.

1.Reading “In Order” (or failure to plan properly) – This is perhaps the biggest (surface) reason I’ve experienced and observed reading plan failure in the lives of others who start off the year gung-ho to read through the entire Bible.  Let me first say that it is certainly ok to read the Bible straight through from cover to cover, however, there is no written rule that says the Bible must be read from Genesis to Revelation in the 66-book order that most Bible’s have.

It may even be a misconception that you have to read it straight through (side note: you should always read individual books straight through in your plan, for context and consistency).  Yes there is a logical reason why the Bible has been arranged the way it has  (let’s not discount God’s providence here either), but the Bible is not arranged chronologically, so you shouldn’t feel as though you can’t skip around.  What I’ve seen and experienced is that enthusiasm and desire to “stay on track” with reading plans can largely carry someone through Genesis, especially since most Christians are familiar with the stories.  I’d say the latter part of Genesis is where frustration starts to show, but determination likely kicks in and most people finish Genesis and proceed into Exodus.  Riding on the “high” of finishing 1 book of the Bible can carry some people through Exodus, but the large majority then collapse and fail in Leviticus, probably around the beginning to middle of February.

An alternative to reading straight through and getting bogged down in the Torah (Law; First 5 books in the Bible) is to alternate Old Testament books with New Testament books or to read a couple chapters out of both, each day, until you’ve finished the particular book.  I’ll provide some links to plans below that have various alternatives to reading straight through, but for now for those who simply must read straight through, let me suggest the NKJV, The MacArthur Daily Bible, Paperback: Read Through the Bible in One Year, with Notes from John MacArthur  Generally speaking, this yearly plan keeps you on track with 2-3 Old Testament chapters (Beginning in Genesis), a section of a Psalm, verses from Proverbs, and a 2-3 chapters from the New Testament (Beginning in Matthew) each day and probably will take you 15-20 minutes.  It’s doable and you don’t feel like your sinking in what may seem like mundane, unimportant details of the first 5 books of the Old Testament.  This brings us to #2.

2.Not Understanding what you Read – Those seemingly mundane and unimportant details of the Old Testament (even New Testament, i.e. genealogies) are actually extremely important details in revealing the character of God and ultimately point forward to His Son Jesus Christ.  So it is that the deeper reason behind the failure of point #1 is that most of us do not understand what we are reading.  Pride is largely to blame here, because the trap of, “I can read the Bible on my own without outside help” largely ignores all of the teachers whom God has given sound biblical wisdom to, both now and throughout Church history, to help us read better and become more knowledgeable about God’s Word.  3 sources can really help here: 1) A good study Bible. 2) A whole-bible commentary 3) Old Testament and New Testament Introductions.

Listen, if we are going to take the Bible seriously, it takes effort and prayer to understand His Word and God will reward those who diligently seek Him.  A good study Bible, like the ESV Study Bible, ESV MacArthur Study Bible, Personal Size, or Reformation Study Bible (2016) NKJV, Crimson Hardcover, to name a few, will help your understanding, not only of individual verses (I would caution against leaning too much on these to start with), but even better they will help by providing background into the book of the Bible, i.e. the author, audience, time period, reason for writing, interpretation difficulties, history, etc.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of knowing the context of what you are reading.  A whole-bible commentary, such as Matthew Henry’s Commentary One Volume, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition, or The MacArthur Bible Commentary, can help supplement your study Bible and provide additional notes and helps on particularly difficult verses.

Finally, a largely overlooked resource is Bible Introductions.  Some of these can be overly technical, but others are straightforward and provide an invaluable amount of depth into the context of the Bible.  Usually, you’ll find these grouped into Old Testament Introductions and New Testament Introductions.  A few to take a look at would be Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) by Bill T. Arnold, The Old Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content by Peter Craigie, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Second Edition by Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the New Testament by Carson and Moo, The New Testament: Its Background and Message by Lea and Black, Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament by J. Julius Scott.  Now lack of understanding what we read can no longer be an excuse.  The resources are there to help you.

3.Overwhelmed by volume – Cover to cover reading and lack of understanding aside, the Bible by volume and depth is a lot to chew on.  It’s all too easy to look at the 66 books, 1,189 chapters, over 31,000 verses and become overwhelmed.  Even more overwhelming if you have one of those massive coffee table Bibles that sit 5+ inches in thickness.  But volume cannot be your excuse, so you will need a plan that offers enough reading that it doesn’t take 5 years of drudgery to complete, but also doesn’t try to make you drink from a firehouse of volume each day.  3-6 chapters a day will probably suit most people early on, but that will likely grow as a desire and hunger for God’s Word develops.

4.Creating a Burden – For years I avoided “cover to cover” reading plans because they seemed to become a self-imposed burden.  Don’t let this be your excuse.  Granted, it is easily to fall into the trap of “having to read” in order to check a little box each day and that is the wrong motivation.  But it is equally wrong to look for easy ways for quitting or avoiding a plan.  In the end, don’t let your reading plan become a legalistic burden and be your motivation for reading.  Christ should be your motivation and a desire to know God more deeply should fuel you.  Not a little chart that says, “I completed my reading on this day.”  Missing a day will invariably happen, but don’t let it create a schedule burden for you in which you now have to read 3 days worth in order to get caught back up on the schedule.  This makes you a slave to the schedule and it may even be legalistic in trying to finish neatly in a year (or other timeframe).  Becoming burdened by the schedule will also take your joy away from wanting to read God’s Word.  Finally, it can lead to reason #3, which then creates too much reading to understand at one time (#2).  More important than “obeying” a schedule is that you are obedient to God in reading and hungering after His Word.

5.Reading Alone – Accountability is generally a good idea and reading the Bible together with a friend or family member not only will help you stay on track, but it will put you in a position to discuss what you’re reading with someone else.  This way, if you miss a couple of days rather than being discouraged and quit, your friend can help point you toward the reason you began reading in the first place (to know God and His Word and through that to become more like Christ through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit).

These aren’t hard and fast rules, just observations from my own experience, but maybe they will at least serve to help encourage you toward completing the Bible reading plan that you start.  If you hadn’t planned to start a reading plan, start today.  Just because it’s January 2, doesn’t mean that you can’t begin the New Year with a reading plan.  If you think it has to begin January 1, then you’ve largely missed the point and have become obedient to a schedule (see #4 again).  In the end, reading through the Bible takes hard work, diligence, and perseverance.  For those reasons, you should bookend your reading times with prayer for understanding and faithfulness to continue.  After a month or two, by God’s grace, daily reading should become a necessary part of your everyday life.

Potential Reading Plans (I would encourage looking at several, praying about it, and even modifying one to meet your needs/schedule):

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

Many of the same can be found here, but it also has a helpful chart and overview of biblical history:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/12/27/reading-the-bible-in-2013/