If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord…. (Isaiah 58:13,14)
In America, we celebrate the New Year on January 1. In India, different days throughout the year are celebrated in India’s different regions. Chinese New Year is the Spring Festival, following the lunar (moon) calendar. The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah, meaning the “head of the year” and is celebrated in early autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The Bible calls this day Yom Teruah, literally “day of shouting or trumpet blasting.” It’s mentioned in Leviticus 23:23–25 and in Exodus 12:1,2. The LORD said, “This is now the first month of your year.”
God Did Something New in the Exodus
The Lord changed the calendar to celebrate that He was doing something new. For 400 years, the Hebrews were enslaved and mistreated in Egypt.1 God (the Father, Son, and Spirit) saw the misery of the Jews and heard them crying out because of the cruelty they suffered. So the Lord announced that He was coming down to rescue them and to bring them into a good and spacious land.2
African American slaves sang about the Exodus this way: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land; Let my people go. Oppressed so hard they could not stand; Let my people go. Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land. Tell old Pharaoh, let my people go.” The slaves asked God to rescue them just as as He did for the Jews.
The Exodus was such a monumental change for the Hebrew people, such a new beginning, the Lord commemorated it by changing the calendar.
The Lord Did Something New in Jesus’ Resurrection
When God’s set time had fully come, He sent His Son, to be born of a Mary, to redeem Christ’s followers and to adopt us as His sons and daughters.3 This was a better Exodus! Jesus saves a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, not just Jewish people.4 Christ saves us from guilt and darkness and the grave, not just from Egypt. Jesus saves us by His sinless life, His crucifixion and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His eternal alive-ness, His presence, work, and prayers for us, and His certain bodily return for us. Christ’s resurrection is the pivot point on which human history depends. Jesus the center-point of history and He can’t be erased. Everything before Christ moves forward toward God’s appointed Savior and Mediator. Everything after Jesus rests and depends upon Him. Christ’s resurrection is the key and central thing, the hinge on which all our confidence hangs and turns. Jesus life, death, and resurrection are the first, last, and dominating events in history, so God changed the calendar again.
From creation’s beginning until Christ’s resurrection, God made the seventh day (Saturday) the Sabbath, for holy resting, acts of mercy, and public and private worship.5 From Jesus’ resurrection until the world’s end, the first day of the week (Sunday) is the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day.6 Christians don’t celebrate Christ’s resurrection only on Easter Sunday. We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection every Sunday, all year long. Joseph Addison said that keeping Sunday special, worshiping and serving Jesus, clears away the rust of the whole week.
Another Change: The Lord Gives New Birth
Because we are born sinners and God’s enemies, we must be born again to be His sons and daughters. Becoming a Christian is not making a new start in life, it is receiving new life from God to start again with. Jesus said, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”7 Peter heralded, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through Christ’s resurrection from the dead….”8
Jesus’ resurrection is a once for all event in history that empowers Him to give new birth to men, women, girls, and boys every day up until He returns to judge every human being who has ever lived. I won’t expand much on the new birth now, but simply remind us that when we are born again God gives us Jesus (as our new Lord and Master); Justification (a new record with God); Adoption (a new family with the Holy Trinity and His Church); Sanctification (a new way of life and new power to live it); Faith and repentance (new ways of dealing with God as our Father); Good works (new ways of loving, grateful, obedient living); Preservation (a new guarantee that God will finish what He starts in us); Assurance (new confidence in God through Jesus); and Glorification (a new eternal destiny with Christ). No wonder Paul announced, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”9
Daily Renewal: New Mercies and New Compassions Every Day
God is not done doing new things. Because of Jesus’ once for all resurrection for His people and because of the Holy Spirit’s once for all new birth in every true Christian, God keeps on giving us new forgiveness and new help to get up from our failures and follow Christ again. Remember the true story of Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ followers and closest friends. Peter had been born again and brought to faith in Christ.10 Peter had already made big sacrifices to follow Jesus and Peter’s ministry was blessed with God’s success.11 But in a critical moment, Peter denied three times that He ever knew Jesus.12 Peter’s cowardly denial made him feel guilty, like a spiritual disaster, and he cried with a troubled heart.13
Peter failed, like we all can. We all stumble and sin and offend God in many ways.14 But our failures never diminish Christ’s mercy. Jeremiah wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”15
Paul put it this way—The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with Christ, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him [permanently], He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for Jesus cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
Jesus warns us about permanently turning away from Him. But the last part says that even when we seem too weak to have any faith left, Christ remains faithful to us and will help us, for He cannot disown people who are part of His family. The Lord will always carry out His promises to us. Praise Him!
C. S. Lewis remarks: No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time and coming back to Christ, beginning again to follow Him. We shall be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home (Heaven). But the baths are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the cupboard. The only fatal thing is to give it up following Christ. It is when we notice the dirt of our own remaining sins that Jesus is most present in us. It is the very sign of His presence.16 Jesus promises all His followers, “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”17
A new calendar for Israel; a new day of worship based on Christ’s resurrection; a new birth to make us Jesus’ followers. Now we may return to Christ every Lord’s Day (Sunday) and every day and ask Him to give us new mercies, new grace, new peace, and new joys.
O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
Notes (various translations used): 1 Gen 15:13; Acts 7:6,7. 2 Exodus 3:7-9. 3 Gal 4:4,5. 4 Rev 5:9;7:9. 5 Gen 2:2,3; Luke 23:56. 6 John 20:19-29; Acts chapter 2; 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1,2. 7 John 3:3. 8 1 Peter 1:3. 9 2 Cor 5:17. 10 Matt 16:16-18. 11 Mark 10:28-30. 12 Luke 22:57,58,60. 13 Luke 22:62. 14 James 3:2. 15 Lamentations 3:22,23. 16 adapted from Letter to Mary Neylan (January 20, 1942). 17 Jer 31:25.