9 February 2021
“On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the Lord by fire. ”Leviticus 23:22
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar is known as “Tishri”, and it is month of the Jewish New Year. This falls approximately on the ninth month of the solar calendar. On the New Year day, Rosh Hashanah, Jewish families will gather back home to have a meal. They like to eat apples dipped in honey before the meal. This symbolizes the start of a sweet new year ahead. After lighting the candle, the father will say the following prayer of blessing: “May it be your will O Lord that it will be a good and sweet New Year”.
The New Year has great spiritual significance to the Jews. It comprises of three significant festivals, the Rosh Hashanah, the Yom Kipper and Sukkot. The Jews spend their New Year in Sabbath, repentance and fellowship with God and men.
1. Begin a new year with Sabbath
They do no work and will go to the synagogue to sing hymns, pray, read the bible and present an offering to the Lord. Shofars will be blown at the synagogue on the New Year day. They believe that the sound of the shofar will awaken the souls of men to repentance. It is also a reminder to the Jews of the Lord’s faithfulness and His everlasting covenant with their patriarch Abraham. They also believe that the sound of the shofar can confound Satan as he tried to accuse them in the presence of God.
2. Begin a new year with Repentance
It is amazing that the Jews begin their new year by reflecting and repenting for their sins for a consecutive ten-day period. They will seek reconciliation and restitution for their wrongdoings towards one another in the past one year. If they sinned against God, they would pray earnestly for forgiveness. All these have to be done before the tenth day of the month on which they have to observe the most important festival of the year – the Day of Atonement, the Yom Kipper.
When the Temple was still around, the high priest of the year would enter the Holy of the Holies and sprinkled the blood of the lamb onto the ark. By this the sin of the people would be forgiven. Jews today will spend almost the whole day in the synagogue proclaiming God’s kingship and judgment, as well as repenting and seeking His forgiveness.
3. Begin a new year with fellowship with God and men
Right after the Day of Atonement, each family will be busy setting up booths on their balcony or courtyard in preparation for the Feast of Tabernacles, the Sukkot.
“In the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present offering made to the Lord by fire.”Leviticus 23:34-36
The whole family will spend the next seven days staying in the booths. The Feast of Tabernacles is to commemorate the Lord’s saving grace in the wilderness. On that day, people will bring peace offerings, sacrifices and grain offerings to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They will also share with the poor by giving them presents. Sukkot is a festival of greatest joy as the Jews believe that their sins have been forgiven and they have been cleansed white as snow after the Day of Atonement.
Therefore while they greet each other on New Year day, “May your name be inscribed in the book of life!”. After the Day of Atonement. they will greet each other with: “May your name be sealed in the book of life!”
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”2 Corinthians 5:17
Dear brothers and sisters, let the Lunar New Year be a constant reminder of our new beginning in Christ through His death on the cross. Contemplate Christ and be filled with thanksgivings as we prepare to enter another year of pilgrimage on earth. In the midst of busy preparations for the Lunar New Year and its festivities, let us not forget to join the assembly of worshipping saints on the third day. Be thankful that despite the situation of COVID-19, we can still worship the LORD, in person and online and can still bring our thanksgiving offerings and gifts to the Lord on the close of the festival.
That is not all. We thank God that we are still able to receive the foreign students to some of our households to join their family reunion dinner. Even though we cannot have the traditional CNY Gospel Cultural programme to reach out to our relatives and friends, we can visit our relatives, friends and brethren during the festive period with our feet fitted with peace and love that come from the Gospel of Jesus Christ (remember to observe the COVID-19 safety measures).
Let us keep the good tradition of giving each other our hearty blessings on this joyous season. But do not follow the secular way by wishing each other to be prosperous and increase in wealth. These are not true blessings; they are passing away with the sinking world. We have compiled a list of beautiful words and phrases from the Bible that are apt for our New Year greetings. For example, “be as strong as a mountain” or “be abounding with the favour of the Lord”. Many of them are also promises of God for His people. You may find it on the church’s website.
We also encourage every household in Truth Baptist Church to gather before the Lord Jesus and have a CNY family worship service during the CNY weekends. Thank Him for the perfect salvation and perfect providence. Thank Him for the reunion, the food, the shelter and the forgiveness of sin. Exalt Him and enjoy the true and lasting rest we have found in Him. There is a family worship material specially designed for this purpose on the church’s website.
Let us elevate the Lunar New Year to a higher spiritual level as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus more closely in the year anew. Let the Lunar New Year season be one that is spiritually meaningful and God-pleasing festival for God’s holy children!