The Postponements: Addressing the Issues
Dale D. Carmean and Jack M. Lane
What Is A New Moon?
We now move from what has been the easy part for many people, to what has been the hard part for many people. Once someone has determined to stop following the Hebrew calendar and note each new moon as the beginning of each month (the easy part), the next question to face is: What exactly is a new moon (the hard part)?
USING THE CONJUNCTION
The actual conjunction is one moment of time when the earth, moon, and sun come into alignment, at approximately the mid-point of the dark moon phase. The conjunction takes place at a precise moment all over the earth. It is computed, and the day can be identified in an almanac. There is no question or uncertainty as to when the moment of conjunction occurs.
Many people use the conjunction of the earth, moon, and sun to define the new moon. There are few difficulties found in using the conjunction. It is fairly simple to predict, and finding the date and time of the conjunction from any reputable agricultural almanac is a simple matter. The day a conjunction occurs becomes the day the new month begins. In the case of Abib 1, the day the conjunction occurs is New Years Day.
Since we live our daily lives according to the Gregorian calendar, the only new moons we need to know for certain are the first and the seventh, for the months Abib and Tishri. By noting which conjunction occurs nearest the spring equinox, one can determine which new moon begins Abib. Six months later, the conjunction of the seventh month aligns us with the fall Holy Days. We wouldn't even need to concern ourselves with the need for a 13th month. It's all automatic!
USING THE CRESCENT
Many people use the observable crescent (the first visible portion of the moon following the molad) as the new moon. When the first visible crescent is spotted, that day is the first day of the month. (This may be one, two, or even three days following the conjunction.) When the first visible crescent following the spring equinox is seen, that's New Years Day. Again, the first and seventh new moons are the important ones for Holy Day observers, and the 13th month is automatic, without our need to calculate the need for one.
Is the observable crescent the new moon? According to common usage today in all scientific and educational arenas, and on all wall calendars and other documents showing the phases of the moon, the new moon is understood to be the dark moon, during the conjunction, when the moon cannot be seen. The visible moon is referred to as a young moon. In the numerous charts published today showing the phases of the moon, the new moon is always the dark moon.
Anciently, however, the crescent was used to establish the beginning of each month. History records this as the most often utilized system, and for this reason crescent observers consider this system to be the correct system to use.
There are difficulties inherent in observing the visible crescent. The moon first becomes visible at different times in different places, depending on longitude and latitude, or even at different altitudes at the same longitude and latitude. So sightings, even in the Holy Land, can be widely varied. Weather conditions can affect sightings of the visible crescent, as well.
The Sanhedrin felt the need to establish rules to follow (additional man-made rules) for those times when weather prevented the official spotters from seeing the moon. One rule was that, if weather conditions did not allow observation of the crescent when it was expected, the new month would be declared anyway, based on the calculated time.
The time when the first faint crescent can be seen may vary from 15 to 48 hours following the conjunction -- sometimes even longer. Because of the different angles of the moon to the earth at various times of the year, weather conditions, when moonrise and moonset occur, etc., it is difficult to predict by visual observation with any accuracy. However, the calculations had already been done, and the observation of the crescent was merely to verify the day which the members of the Sanhedrin were anticipating the crescent to arrive.
Since the moon may become visible at different times in different countries, the International Date Line becomes significant. If the new moon is declared on one day in this hemisphere, but that happens to be the next day on the other side of the planet, this can create additional problems, i.e., observing the new moon or the Holy Days on the same date around the world. Some have advocated going by Jerusalem sightings, calibrating the world’s observance to that date, and have actually stationed observers in Jerusalem for that purpose.
When the International Date Line becomes an issue, it would be a simple matter to observe new moons and Holy Days from Jerusalem time, so as to coordinate worshippers in all nations around the world. However, there are some who would prefer to observe the new moon in their local time zone, and base the time for the Holy Days on that, without regard for when the Holy Days are scheduled in Jerusalem. We'll discuss this more a little later.
Let’s examine some of the words with which we will need to be familiar in this study.
The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, by Arthur Spier, is the actual book containing the calculated Hebrew calendar. Spier says, "Since biblical times, the months and years of the Jewish calendar have been established by the cycles of the moon and the sun. The traditional law prescribes that the months shall follow closely the course of the moon, from its molad (birth, conjunction) to the next new moon."
Spier defines the molad as the conjunction of the moon, or its birth. When a conjunction occurs, it’s not visible. The visible crescent is actually called the young moon. Even though the Jews discuss sighting the observable crescent, the actual intent for setting the calendar and predicting the crescent is to calculate the conjunction of the new moon based on the mean time!
In the Hebrew scriptures, "new moon" and "month" are frequently translated from the same word. The Hebrew word used for a new moon, chodesh, is never associated with seeing anything -- such as light, the phases of the moon, or especially a crescent. The word hodes or chodesh (Strong's #2320) occurs 270 times in The New Englishman's Hebrew Concordance, or 283 times in The NIV Exhaustive Concordance. The word is only used for "new moon" or for a numbered month.
On the other hand, the word primarily used for a visible moon is the Hebrew word yrh, yerach, or yereach. These words occur 44 times in scripture (Strong’s # 3391, 3393, and 3394). This is the word used when referring to a visible moon, or the motion of the moon, or when the moon would become another color. If yereach is used in reference to a month, it refers to a period of time, rather than the new moon (for example, 2 Kings 15:13: "...he reigned in Samaria for one month [yereach]", or to a named month (for example, 1 Kings 6:38: "In the eleventh year in the month [yereach] of Bul, the eighth month [chodesh]...").
Sometimes the word lebana is used, but this word actually means "white," "white lady," or "white one."
There is another Hebrew word we need to consider: the word for "crescent." It is saharon, or in the plural, saharonim (Strong's #7720). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament translates this word (TWOT #2239a) as "moon, or crescent," without reference to jewelry. The word would primarily refer to the celestial body. James Strong, however, apparently believed the meaning was more in line with "a round pendant, for the neck," as in something that simulates or resembles a crescent moon.
This word does not occur in scripture in reference to a new moon. If God had wanted Israel to look for the crescent to determine the new moon, and if He was going to command them to do so, this is probably the word He would have used. But He didn’t! The nations around Israel were already worshipping the moon, especially the horns of the moon (the saharon), and God had already told Israel the nations’ practices were detestable to Him!
In the scriptures, God does not inspire the writers to use the word saharon in association with the literal moon as seen in the sky, but rather with pagan idols or symbols that the Midianite kings and their camels had around their necks, and amulets worn by the women of the apostatized Israel. If God had wanted us to look for a crescent in the sky, this word would have been used in an astronomical context. However, we don't see this taking place.
Let’s look at the three times scripture uses the word saharon. The first two are in Judges chapter 8. Reading from the Literal Translation of the Bible: "And Zebah and Zalmunna said, You rise up and fall on us, for as the man, so is his might. And Gideon rose up and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the moon crescents [saharon] which were on the necks of their camels. ... And the weight of the rings of gold which he asked was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold, apart from the ornaments [saharon, crescents], and the pendants, and the purple clothing that was on the kings of Midian; also apart from the necklaces that were on the necks of their camels. And Gideon made an ephod of it, and put it in his city, even Ophrah. And all Israel went whoring after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his house" (Judges 8:21, 26-27).
Although the word saharon is loosely translated in KJV and NIV as "ornaments," in the NRSV it is better translated as "crescents." The Amplified Bible translates verse 21 as "the [crescent-shaped] ornaments," and verse 26 as "the crescents."
As a side note we see that, after Gideon made an ephod out of these gold crescent ornaments, the people worshipped the ephod. How quickly and easily the people began to worship images! God didn't want His people to look to anything but Him. He knew what would happen. Conjunctionists might suggest this is why He had made the new moon invisible!
The third mention of saharon in the scriptures is in Isaiah 3: "’For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen; because their tongue and their deeds toward Jehovah are to rebel against the eyes of His glory. The look of their faces answers against them; they have declared their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have dealt evil to themselves. O My people, your rulers cause you to go astray, and they swallow the way of your paths. And Jehovah says, because the daughters of Zion are proud, and walk with stretched out necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and make a tinkling with their feet; therefore Jehovah will make the crown of the daughter of Zion scabby; and Jehovah will lay their secret parts bare. In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of the ankle-bracelets, and the head-bands, and the crescents [saharon], the pendants, and the bracelets, and the veils; the headdresses, and the leg ornaments, and the sashes, and the houses of the soul, and the amulets; the rings and nose jewels ..." (Isaiah 3:8-9, 12, 16-18, LTB).
All these items that the women of Israel were wearing, that God was threatening to take away, have to do with idolatry.The practice of wearing on the person a small symbolic object as a charm or protection against evil was common throughout the ancient Near East. Such amulets were usually in the form of small ornaments, gems, stones, seals, beads, plaques or emblems, sometimes inscribed with an incantation of prayer. The Hebrews were unique in condemning their use and Is. 3:18-23 gives a list of such trinkets worn by women. ... In common with the condemnation of those who employed charms (as Is. 3:3, RSV), the bronze serpent made by Moses was destroyed as soon as it became an object of superstitious reverence in itself (2 Ki. 18:4).As you can see, in all three places where God uses the word saharon (crescent), He doesn’t show any pleasure with its association with His people.
Archaeological evidence reveals the common use of ornaments in the shape of the sun disk or inverted moon crescent, a symbol of the goddess Ishtar-Astarte, worn by women or animals to increase their fertility (Jdg. 8:21). (New Bible Dictionary, Article "Amulets," p.34)
THE NATIONS OBSERVED THE CRESCENT
The nations around Israel worshipped the crescent moon. That doesn’t make the crescent "evil," of and by itself, but God specifically told Israel not to adopt the pagan religious practices of the nations around them. (See, for example, Jeremiah 10:2-3). We believe, however, based on scripture and history, that this is exactly what they did.
Note these scriptures containing God’s explicit commands:
"According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances" (Leviticus 18:2).
"You shall therefore keep all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them, that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nations which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them" (Leviticus 20:22-23).
From the standpoint of a student of the calendar, we must realize that the Egyptians and Babylonians from the area around Ur, during the time of Abraham, had a very high level of astronomical technology. And the fact that the scriptures refer to chodesh, rather than crescents, and to new moons rather than to a calendar, indicates that Israel used the conjunction as the new moon, and the new moon as the beginning of months, until they apostatized, beginning in the period of the Judges.
Recall that most of the time, 60% of the time, the Feast of Trumpets on the Hebrew calendar is not on the new moon of the seventh month, not because of error in calculation or problems in sighting the visible crescent, but because of the implementation of the postponement rules.
It was the combination of wrong attitude and wrong practices that God hated about Israel’s sacrifices, new moons, sabbaths, convocations, and festivals which were contrary to the law of God. See Isaiah 1:10-15. Notice that God says He hated "your [Israel’s] new moons," not "My new moons," and also for the various other observances which were theirs, and not His.
Although there is no clear scriptural reference as to how God would prefer His people to identify a new moon, there is historical evidence that observing the visible crescent was Israel's practice. History also shows that Israel used precise calculation to determine when the conjunction would occur that would precede the observable crescent. The conjunction was used along with the visible crescent in new moon calculations.
Where did this knowledge of calculation of astronomy come from? Did they possess it in Egypt, or even before? There is historical evidence that Ur of Abraham’s day possessed such astronomical technology.
Mathematical calculations require precise measurements. We know God does things on time. Moses was educated in the house of Pharaoh, where the conjunctions may already have been calculated. Wouldn’t it make sense, if God told Moses anything at all about calendars, that He would tell Moses to begin the month (or new moon) with a phase of the moon that is precise? The conjunction is precise. The crescent is not precise at all. (Neither is the full moon, which some are now observing and calling the new moon!)
The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar also states, "A special committee of the Sanhedrin, with its president as chairman, had the mandate to regulate and balance the solar with the lunar years. This so-called calendar council (sod haibbur) calculated the beginnings of the seasons (tekufoth) on the basis of astronomical figures which had been handed down as a tradition of old."
It is noteworthy that the Sanhedrin knew, "on the basis of astronomical figures," when each "molad (birth, conjunction)" was to occur, because it was being calculated. The Hebrew calendar identifies the molad as the conjunction!
Quoting again from The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, page 217: "Nowadays the day, hour and parts of each molad are announced before the proclamation of the new month in the Sabbath morning service preceding the week of the new moon. This custom keeps alive the memory of the time when the Sanhedrin sanctified the months on the basis of observation. It calls our attention to the fact that today we determine our new moon and holidays according to the decision of Hillel’s Beth Din."
Even today, the rabbis announce the upcoming molad on the Sabbath before the crescent appears. How do they know what day the crescent should appear, if it isn’t determined until it is actually seen? The answer is: The molad is calculated, and they can determine when to expect the visible crescent based on the date of the molad! It is interesting to see that the conjunction and the visible crescent are both used to determine the new moon.
We also see in this quote that the Hebrew calendar in use today stems from Hillel II’s Beth Din, which was published in about 359 A.D.. From that time, the calendar continued to evolve until it reached its present form sometime in the 10th century A.D. Today neither the conjunction nor the crescent play a major role in determining when a new month or new year begins. Today, the dehioth, the rules of postponement, play a far greater role.
ANCIENT MOON WORSHIPPERS
This section examines the part moon worship played in the religion of non-Israelitish nations in ancient times, and how God forbade the Israelites from taking up the practices of the nations. We are not suggesting that crescent observers are worshipping the moon. However, an understanding of how the moon and the crescent fit into history can be helpful when trying to understand various aspects of lunar calculation and observation.
Ancient Israel was warned not to adopt the customs of the nations around them. Did they? What historical indicators do we have?[At] Excavations at Mari, modern Tel Hariri, in S.E. Syria ... more than 22,000 inscribed clay tablets provide important information for the background of the Patriarchal Age [before Israel was a nation]. The texts provide a detailed insight into daily life, especially in the 300-room (15-acre) royal palace with its various archives recording not merely interstate affairs but the detail of imports of wine, honey, oil, wool, ice and commodities. Other notes detail the issues from the palace stores both for the royal hospitality and for the ritual feasts which were part of the worship of dead ancestors. The pantheon at Mari included the sun (Saps), moon (Sin, Yerah) [the visible horns of the moon], the storm-god (Adad) as well as the goddess Ishtar, ‘Attar, the god Dagan (Dagon), Ba’al, ‘El, Rasap (the underworld god) and many others (including Lim, "the thousand gods"). All these could have been known to Terah (Jos. 24:2). (New Bible Dictionary, Article "Mari," p.736-7)These were the same gods Abram, his father Terah, and his nephew Lot may have been very familiar with, gods which were worshipped in Ur and Haran. God told Abram to come out from that environment, to a better way and place God would show him.
Notice what Joshua said, several generations later, to the young nation of Israel: "Joshua said to all the people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: "Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshipped other gods." ... Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River...’" (Joshua 24:2, 14).
Ur and Haran were actually the major centers for worship of Sin, the god of the horns of the crescent moon. There can be no doubt that this is one of the gods that the Eternal is referring to in the above scriptures.
Quoting another source:The moon is named as an object of idolatrous worship in Jb. 31:26, and archaeology has shown that it was deified in ancient W Asia from early Sumerian to Islamic times. In Mesopotamia the Sumerian god Nanna, named Sin by the Akkadions, was worshipped in particular at Ur, where he was the chief god of the city, and also in the city of Harran in Syria, which had close religious links with Ur. The Ugaritic texts have shown that there a moon deity was worshipped under the name yrh. On monuments the god is represented by the symbol of a crescent moon (Amulets). At Hazor in Palestine a small Canaanite shrine of the late Bronze Age was discovered which contained a basalt stela depicting two hands lifted as if in prayer to a crescent moon, perhaps indicating that the shrine was dedicated to the moon god. (New Bible Dictionary, Article "Moon," p. 793)When God talks about the worshipping of the moon, that word is yerach or yereach, all forms of yrh, which means the visible moon.
WHY NOT OBSERVE THE CRESCENT?
The new moon was determined by visual sightings throughout much of Israel's history. Although the conjunction can be calculated to the minute, attempting to establish the new moon by visible sightings often causes disagreement as to when the visible sighting took place.
Why would God instruct Israel to look for something in the heavens that the nations around them were worshipping? He said the practices of the nations were detestable to Him (Deuteronomy 12:31).
There are several scriptures where God told Israel He did not want them taking up the practices of the heathens around them. For example, see Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 9, 12, 15-19, 23-24; 12:1-4, 29-32; 18:9-13.
God gave Israel a way to worship Him that was different from the nations around them. See Deuteronomy 17:2-7; 2 Kings 23:4-7, 10-15; Job 31:23-28; Jeremiah 10:1-3.
After Gideon, Israel apostatized, doing things that were even worse than the nations around them (Judges 2:10 - 3:7). Over and over, they would go away from God. Our approach should be different. We need to be faithful to God and obey Him only (Jeremiah 7:21-26).
ANCIENT ISRAEL OBSERVED THE CRESCENTS
Yet, history shows that the early Israelites, and later on the Jews, did indeed observe the visible crescent of the moon to identify the beginning of months. We believe, however, that they left what God instructed them and adopted that practice from the pagan nations around them, abandoning their earliest practice of observing the dark moon.
Notice some of the trinities of gods of ancient Assyria: "Besides this great triad [of Anu, Bel and Ea], there was another consisting of the moon god Sin, the sun god Shamash, ... and Ishtar, the goddess of the crescent moon, and the queen of the stars .... These gods are invoked at times severally in phrases which seem to raise each in turn to a position of supremacy over the others" (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Article "Assyria," sec. 4, religion, p.102).
Did Israel succumb to the practices of the nations around them?
The worship of the moon was extensively practiced by the nations of the East and under a variety of aspects. Ur in lower Mesopotamia, Abraham's birthplace, was an important center of the worship of Sin, the moon-god, as well as Haran in Upper Mesopotamia whither Abram and Terah emigrated (Cf. Joshua 24:2). In Egypt the moon was honored under the form of Isis, and was one of only two deities which commanded the reverence of all the Egyptians. In Syria it was represented by that one of the Ashtaroth surnamed "Karnaim," from the horns of the crescent moon by which she was distinguished. There are indications of a very early introduction into the countries adjacent to Palestine of a species of worship distinct from any that we have hitherto noticed, viz., of the direct homage of the heavenly bodies -- sun, moon, and stars -- which is the characteristic of Sabianism. The first notice we have of this is in Job 31:26, 27, and it is observable that the warning of Moses (Deut. 4:19) is directed against this nature-worship rather than against the form of moon-worship which the Israelites must have witnessed in Egypt. At a later period, however, the worship of the moon in its grosser form of idol-worship was introduced from Syria, probably through Aramaic influence.And from another source:
In 2 Kings 23:5 we read that Josiah put down those "that burnt incense to Baal, to the sun, and the moon," etc. Manasseh appears to have been the great patron of this form of idolatry, for "he worshipped all the hosts of heaven" (2 Kings 21:3,5). From his reign down to the captivity it continued to prevail among the Jews, with the exception of a brief period under Josiah. Jeremiah has several references to it (7:18; 8:2; 44:17). In one of these references the prophet gives us a little insight into the manner of worship accorded to the moon: "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven" (7:18). These cakes were probably intended as gifts, in acknowledgment of a supposed influence exercised by the moon on the affairs of the world, or, more specially, on the products of the soil. (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Article "Moon." p. 757)Professor Ferris J. Stephens has kindly called my attention to a number of instances that seem to typify the manner of recording new-crescent observation in Assyrian times. In one of such instances, a person named Nabua, presumably a royal astronomer, reports to his king as follows: "On the 29th day, we kept watch (but the god) Sin we did not see." In another instance, the same Nabua reports thus: "A watch we did keep on the 29th day; (the god) Sin we did see." In still another instance, one "Istar-nadin-aplu, decadal chief of scribes, of Arabela," submits the following report: "On the 29th day, we kept watch (but) because of the presence of clouds (the god) Sin we saw not." It need hardly be said that in all instances "the god Sin" refers to the (new) [crescent] moon. (The Code of Maimonides, Introduction, p. xvii, footnote #39)Moses strictly forbade the adoption of these practices into Israel: "Therefore you shall carefully watch over your souls, for you have not seen any likeness [i.e., an image that could be worshipped] in the day Jehovah spoke to you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire, and that you deal corruptly, and make for yourselves a graven image, a likeness of any figure ... and that you not lift up your eyes towards the heavens and shall see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the host of the heavens, and you be drawn away and worship them, and serve them; which Jehovah your God has allotted to all the peoples under all the heavens" (Deuteronomy 4:15-16, 19, Literal Translation of the Bible).
God Himself would be telling Israel to violate some of His own commandments if He instructed them to look for the horns of the moon (i.e., the moon god Sin) as the beginning of their months, as the nations around them were doing. Commandments which might be compromised include at least the first, second, third, ninth and tenth.
Wouldn’t it seem rather inconsistent of God to instruct Israel not to do as the nations around them did, knowing their practices were detestable to Him, and tell the Israelites not to make any kind of image, including the moon -- but then tell them to look for the moon god Sin to begin their months?
Indeed, God stressed that Israel should insulate itself from the religious practices of the nations.
"Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God. The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:28-32).
God instructs us by the most righteous man recorded in the Old Testament scriptures, "If I ever looked on the sun in splendor or the moon moving in her glory, and was led astray in my secret heart and raised my hand in homage [to worship these heavenly bodies]; this would have been an offense before the law, for I should have been unfaithful to God on high" (Job 31:26-28).
This is exactly what Israel did. God knew His people could be led astray easily, and they were, as stated above, and in Jeremiah 7:18, etc.. It is difficult for humans to keep in mind the invisible things of God, while at the same time not giving too much heed to the very visible universe around us. It became a small step for the ancients to begin by using the heavenly bodies as time keepers, as God intended (Genesis 1:15), but then give themselves over to worshipping the heavenly host.
JERUSALEM USED AS A WORLD STANDARD
Earlier we mentioned the concept of using Jerusalem time as a world standard for the new moon. The conjunctions, like the equinoxes and solstices, occur at one moment in time, the same moment no matter where someone is in the world. But we are all in different time zones, and even different days, when the conjunctions and equinoxes occur! This creates problems in observing times and seasons from one area of earth to another. How do we get around that situation? Do we each observe what day the conjunction or equinox occurs according to the time of sunset in our local time zone? Or would it be prefereable to standardize the entire world to one practice?
The problem is compounded if we follow the visible crescent. The crescent becomes visible at different times, even on different days, depending on where the observer is on the earth.
When either the conjunction or the first visible crescent occur, and it is one date in one part of the earth and a different date somewhere else, there are two options: (1) Go with the local calendar date when the conjunction occurred, or the local time of observing the crescent, which means that some churches would be observing the same Holy Day, but perhaps a day or two later than other churches; or (2) standardize observance of the new moon according to one central location, so the date would be the same for every time zone around the planet. Jerusalem is the logical choice for this centralized location, and using Jerusalem for this purpose seems to be supported by scripture.
Here are some scriptures that show that God has chosen Jerusalem in the past, present and the future:
"...and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen. ... but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. ... And to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there" (1 Kings 11:13, 32, 36).
"Again proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: "My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; The LORD will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem"’" (Zechariah 1:17). Bullinger has a footnote in the Companion Bible at Zechariah 2:12 in reference to the word "again": "again = yet; as in 1:17. Not make a new choice, but demonstrate again His old choice in actual experience."
Other scriptures which indicate Jerusalem would be a logical central location include 2 Chronicles 6:5-6, 34, 38; 7:12, 16; Nehemiah 1:9; Psalm 132:13-14; Zechariah. 3:2.
These scriptures show that God expects His people to look to Jerusalem, "for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3), for He has placed His name there perpetually, and He will dwell there forever!
THE FULL MOON DOES NOT PROVE THE CALENDAR
Some pastors have pointed out that the first day of Unleavened Bread and the first day of the Feast are on the fifteenth day of the lunar month. These men take great pride in insisting that they have always seen a full moon on those days; that somehow "proves" the Hebrew calendar is correct.
As mentioned earlier, some months are longer than others. We must not assume that the full moon will be at its midpoint exactly 15 days following the new moon. For instance, the full harvest moon in the autumn, when we go to the Feast, may last up to three days in fullness. Also, during the day before and the day after, the moon may appear to be full. Attempting to gauge the monthly cycle by observing the full moon can be inaccurate, and is not a biblically legitimate method of determining months.
The length of months can vary, not only from month to month or season to season, but the same month can vary in length from year to year! That’s why it is improper to use a pre-conceived calendar with each month being assigned 29 or 30 days. This is why it is appropriate to go by the conjunction dates and/or the observed crescent.
SHOULD WE RELY ON MEN?
Some are quick to say, "God gave the Jews authority over the calendar." There is, however, no scripture that gives any human or group of humans authority over a Christian’s conscience in worshipping God.
"Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. ... Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them -- the LORD, who remains faithful forever" (Psalm 146:3, 5-6).
The apostles were ordered by the high priest and the Sanhedrin to cease preaching in the name of Christ. "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," they said (Acts 5:28). How did the apostles respond to their authority? "We must obey God rather than men!" (v. 29) God’s authority always takes precedence over man’s authority.
God gave clear instructions what Israel was to do if a false prophet or wicked men were to arise to try to lead "the people of their town astray, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ (gods you have not known)" (Deuteronomy 13:13). God commands the people, "Then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly" (v.14). And why does He do this? "The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him" (verses 3-4). We must obey God, not the Jews, not a corporation, and not men! Only God and His word!
What, then, if someone teaches, "There is wisdom in the postponements, because we need a preparation day before the Holy Days," or "The crescent moon is the new moon." What did we just read that God said He was doing to us? Testing us! Where are the answers to this test, or any other test? "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20, KJV).
Jesus said, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such ones that worship Him. God is a spirit, and the ones worshipping Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24, LTB).
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth" (John 17:16-17, NIV).
Does it appear from these scriptures that God wants us to follow a man or a group of men that have some secret knowledge, supposedly from God? Or should we rather pursue truth through God’s Word and His Spirit?
How can we find out the answers to the tests that God is giving us, if the test and the answers are kept secret? We have seen how He has commanded His people not to revere anything else before Him, or in His place.
Didn’t the apostle Paul say something about this? "Be imitators of me, as I also of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1, LTB). Even at that, the standard is to imitate God, not men!
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this applies to every man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with all that is hidden, whether it is good, or whether it is evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, LTB).
He will judge us by a standard we can continually look into: "But if you keep the royal law found in scripture .... Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom" (James 2:8, 12, NIV). That’s what we will be judged by, not by some "secrets" we cannot verify!
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