THE FIRST DAY OF THE SACRED MONTH DURING THE GOSPEL AGE

There are many references to  ancient Israel's observance of  the first day of  each sacred month; moreover, references in both the Old and New Testaments show that the New Moon is a day  to worship God. However,  the manner in which the elect of God  during the Gospel  age should observe this day is not totally clear because we have no record  of  how the early church observed this day. In  order  to determine how to observe the New Moon, it is necessary to answer  a  few questions  about what God expects of his people today.

IS THE DAY OF THE NEW MOON HOLY TIME?

One  of the first questions to answer concerning the day  of  the New Moon is whether or not it is permissible to work and carry on one's  normal  work  or  business during the first  day  of  each sacred month.

Although the historical and scriptural evidence does not indicate that a person must abstain from their daily routine on this  day as  is  commanded for the Sabbath and the annual  festival  days, there  are two references that seem to say that the day is  holy time.  Therefore,  these references should be reviewed  and  explained before reaching a conclusion about the sanctity of  the first day of each sacred month.

Nehemiah 10:28-29; 31 KJV

During  the  days of Nehemiah, certain people made an oath  to  be loyal  to  their fellow tribesmen and to be faithful  in  keeping their agreement with God:

"And  the  rest  of the people, the priests,  the  Levites, the  porters,  the singers, the Nethinims [temple Servants],  and all they  that  had  separated  themselves from  the  people of  the lands . . . They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and  entered into a  curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which  was given by Moses the  servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of  the Lord our Lord, and his judgments  and  his statutes;" (vs.28-29).

"And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on  the Sabbath  day  to sell, that we would not buy it of  them  on  the Sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt" (v31).

It  is important to note that the observance of the first day  of the month is not mentioned in their vow to honor the Sabbath  and the  annual  festivals by obeying God's  instructions  concerning work or selling and buying  during these observances. This omission seems to indicate that the first day  of the month was not considered holy time.

Amos 8:4-5 KJV

In  the Book of Amos, there is one scripture, which seems  to indicate  that, at one time in history, the first day of a  sacred month  might have been honored in the same way as the Sabbath:

"Hear  this,  O you that swallow up the needy, even to  make  the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that   we   may  sell corn?  and the Sabbath, that we may   set forth  wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel  great,  and falsifying the balances by deceit?" (vs.4-5 KJV).

The intent of this scripture is clearly an admonition against  an improper  attitude and the violation of the law  concerning the performance of  work on the New Moon and the  Sabbath. However, does this scripture constitute an instruction or command not to do work on the New Moon?

There are no clear instructions or commands in the Bible that prohibit work or business on the first day of the month. This is unlike the Sabbath and the annual festivals for which there are many clear biblical references to such a prohibition. Therefore,  the new  moon spoken of in Amos 8:4-5 must be the new moon that occurs on the Feast of Trumpets, which is a holy convocation and a  day  on which no normal work or business may be performed.

There  is a clear  distinction between the annual  observances  and  the  first day of the month. The Sabbath is  a   distinct  and separate day that was created for humanity  (Mk.2:27). It is  holy time (Ex.16:23) that can  be  profaned  (Ezk.22:26; 23:38; Matt.12:5-8). The Passover and annual festivals are  holy  convocations; therefore, they are holy time (Lev.23). The  New   Moons  are neither holy time nor holy convocations; however, they   are  commanded   to be observed with a worshipful attitude of  respect  and reverence toward God.

The New Moon and the Colossians

There is only one reference in the New Testament about the observance  of the first day of the month. This reference puts the New Moon observance in the context of normal worship of God by his children:

"Let  no  man  therefore judge you in meat, or in  drink,  or  in respect  of  a holy day, or of the New Moon, or of  the  Sabbath days;  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is  of Christ" (Col.2:16-17 KJV).

Notice that the annual festivals, the New Moon, and the  Sabbaths are all mentioned together as having the same importance.  Therefore, if  it is necessary to observe  one  of them, it  is necessary to observe all of them.

Although it is not stated, it is implied that the Colossian church  was treating the first day of a new month as a festive occasion and a worshipful observance before God in much the same manner as they were treating the annual festivals and the Sabbath.

Under  the agreement with ancient Israel, there were  clearly  two distinct  and   separate ways in which the Israelite's observed the first day of  the  new month. Not only was there the temple offering and sacrificial observance but also the people's observance outside of the temple:

1. During the temple offering and sacrificial  observance,  the offerings  and sacrifices were performed  by  the  priesthood upon the altar of God.

2. During the  individual and/or collective observance  by  the people, a commemorative meal and a meeting were observed. An example of the meal can be seen in the account of King Saul and David (1.Sam.20:1-27). An example of a meeting can be found in the account of Elisha and  the Shunammite woman (2.Kgs.4:18-23).

The Teaching of Paul

Paul's  letter to the Colossians is assumed to have been  written about 10 years before the destruction of the temple at  Jerusalem   in  70 A.D. Therefore, the Jews of that time  would   have been observing  the  first day of the month  as  taught  by  the  Pharisees and Sadducees of Jerusalem.

Paul does not tell us how the Colossians were observing the first day   of   each  sacred month. However, because  Paul  had  been  a  Pharisee  who was well  versed  in the law, he would have taught them the   current   custom concerning its observance as well as its meaning under the new agreement with the  elect of God.

Written For Today

It is important to remember that the Bible was primarily  written for those whom God has called to salvation. Through studying the Bible,  we can  learn  from the experience and teaching of others and gain valuable knowledge, understanding, and inspiration to help us in our daily walk with God:

"Every scripture is from God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be perfect, fully finished for every good work" (2.Tim.3:16-17 Para.).  See also Eph.6:10-17; Heb.4:12.

"Now all these things happened to them for examples: and they are written  for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world  are come" (1.Cor.10:11 KJV). See also Psa.19:7; Pro.1:1-7; Dan.12:9-12.

Know The Will of God

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming  the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be  you not  unwise,  but  understanding what the will of  the Lord  is" (Eph.5:15-17 KJV). See Col.1:7-10.

From  the facts listed below, it should be obvious that  the  observance  of the first day of a sacred month (the New  Moon)  is clearly  the  will of God for those he has  called  to  salvation during this age.

1. The  scriptures show that it was the will of God   that  the  Israelites   observe  the first day of the month  with  a   formal worship  service at the tabernacle, and later at the   temple.  See Num.10:10; 2.Chron.2:4.

2. The Prophecies show that formal worship services on the  first day of each  sacred month will again  be  required  after  the  return of Christ (Isa.66:23; Ezk.46:3).

3. There is a record of commemorative meals being eaten on the New Moon during  the time of King Saul and David. There is also a record of fellowship on the New Moon as shown by Elisha and the Shunammite woman meeting together on the New Moon.

4. It was the practice of the Colossian church to observe the New Moon along with the Sabbath and the annual festivals as a part of their normal worship of God (Col.2:16).

The Temple Service

For  those under the first agreement with national  Israel,  there was  a requirement to offer sacrifices and to participate in  the temple service on the New Moon.

We  know that Peace (Fellowship) Offerings  could be  offered  on the  first day of the sacred month by the general  population  of Israel  to  show gratitude to God  for  his  bounteous blessings and mercies.

The Peace Offering was also symbolic of God, man,  and  the high priest eating and fellow-shipping together as a  family  and it pictured  a family or communal feast in which friends and  neighbors together with God to have fellowship  (Lev.3:1-17).

However, this cannot be done today because the temple was destroyed in  70 A.D.. Without the temple and the priesthood,  neither  converted Jew nor Gentile can legally observe any law that requires the  temple and the priesthood for  its practice. Even  if  there were a temple, only those who lived close to it could  participate in its worship system,  if the priesthood would even allow their participation.

The Commemorative Meal

There are several things that were done in ancient Israel  on the first day of each sacred month that give us a clue as to  its importance and how we should observe it.

God's agreement with ancient Israel required the Israelites to offer two bulls, seven lambs, one ram, and one goat on the  first day of each new sacred month. Of these offerings, ten were fellowship offerings (See Num.28:11-15).  Because these were Fellowship Offerings,  the priesthood was  to eat portions of these offerings; thereby, they would literally eat  from the Lord's table.

From  what  is recorded, it seems that it was  a  custom  for people to gather together and eat a communal meal on this day. God instructed the Israelites to rejoice on the first day  of  the  month, the Sabbath, and the annual  festivals  (Num.10:10). Therefore, it seems appropriate to view the New Moon as a happy occasion and eat a fine meal and enjoy the company of other Christians on this day.

Although there is no mention of a commemorative meal being  eaten on  the New Moon in the New Testament, there is an allusion to this event in a statement Paul makes as he speaks of eating things sacrificed to idols:

1.Corinthians 10:18-21 KJV

"Behold  Israel  after the flesh: are not they which eat  of  the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is  anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to  idols is anything?  But I say, that the things which the  Gentiles  sacrifice,  they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would  not that you should have fellowship with devils" (vs.18-20).

Paul  is  speaking of the priesthood who ate of  the  sacrifices; however, he is also assigning this same eating of the  sacrifices to the nation of Israel as an extension of the eating done by the priesthood. Although this is not absolute proof that he is speaking of the customary meal that was eaten by the Israelites on the first  day of each sacred month, what he says next does  seem  to indicate that this is what he means:

"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: you cannot  be  partakers of the Lord's table, and of  the  table  of devils" (v21).

Partaking of the Lord's table is associated with the commemorative meal eaten by God, the priesthood, and the people on the New Moon. In this case,  Paul refers to a commemorative  meal which the Corinthians were partaking of as spiritual Israel.

Worship on The New Moon

Because  there are a number of ways that a person can fulfill one's  responsibility   to worship on the first day of a  sacred   month  and  enhance  one's relationship with God the  Father  and  Jesus Christ, the  benefit  derived from  worship  is  directly proportional  to the amount of effort expended and  the  attitude  with which one performs this observance.

Each of the observances  that are to be practiced by the elect of God  is  an opportunity to fellowship with the Father and  Jesus Christ  and enhance  one's  relationship with  them.  Therefore, the obvious  question is how to perform this observance on the first  day of each month?

Because of the circumstances  of this age of the church and  the worship  relationship  between  God and those called  to  be  his children,  the  first day of each sacred month can   be  observed individually or collectively.

Individual Observance

One  way  to make this day  special is to make one's  meals  more festive  on this day than on other days  of the month.  This  was done on a regular basis during the  days of King Saul and David.

Another  way is to set aside some extra time to commune with  God through prayer, meditation, or Bible study. The first day of each sacred  month  would  be an excellent time to  reflect  upon  the greatness  of God's  creation, his love, his mercy,  his compassion,  and his plan of  salvation for humanity.

Assemble Together

A good way to observe the first day of each sacred month is to get together with other Christians for a meal,  teaching service,  Bible study, or fellowship.

Although  a formal assembly for the purpose of observing the  New Moon is highly desirable and can be very beneficial,  it is  obviously  neither possible nor convenient for everyone to  do  in this age of the church. However, anything people can do in a large group can normally be done in a small group.  And a small group has the advantage  of  being    less stressful to organize and participate in.

SUMMARY

When  it  comes to making decisions about the observance  of  the first day of each sacred month, there are four major facts to consider:

1. Under the agreement with ancient Israel, God required  the first  day of each sacred month  to be observed  with  special sacrifices and rejoicing.

2. The day of the New Moon cannot be observed in this age exactly as it was in ancient Israel.

3. After the return of Christ, the first day of each sacred month will be observed with the worship of God and sacrifices under the new temple system.

4. The early New Testament Church did observe the first  day  of each sacred month as noted by the apostle Paul.

However  one  decides  to observe the first day  of  each  sacred month (e.g., alone or in a small or large group) one should keep in mind the reasons that this day is important to the  Father, Jesus Christ, and humanity.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w15