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.
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.
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.
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