Greetings of grace and peace to you today, April 1, at the start of Israel’s biblical new year! In Exodus 12:1-2, God sets apart the month of Nisan, corresponding usually to April, as the first month of the year for His covenant people. As we’ve shared in the past, the autumn holiday commonly celebrated as the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, is actually known in Scripture as the Day of Blasting or Yom Teruah (Leviticus 23:23). Biblically, it is not associated with a new year. It is more of a summons to prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, occurring ten days later.
Long ago, Yom Teruah came to be observed as the new year by nonMessianic rabbinic tradition. The tradition has been widely adopted by Gentile believers seeking to recoup the Hebraic roots of Christianity according to nonMessianic rabbinic interpretation and practice.
A more biblically based practice would probably mark the new year on the first day of Nisan. A new year observation on Nisan 1 could serve as a launch to Passover, as a time to prepare with thanksgiving for the upcoming feast on Nisan 14, followed by Messiah’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. A new year celebration of this nature could rightly connect the new year with new life in the New Covenant.
Let us continue to prayerfully seek God’s heart and mind in aligning with His calendar as expressed in His Word. In the process, let us remember that love is the greatest and most enduring expression of His Word, manifesting in grace toward brothers and sisters as we build each other up in the most holy faith. Meanwhile, happy new year to you!
Preparing for Passover: Circumcision of Heart
As we draw closer to the end of this age and beginning of the next, it seems that prophetic parallels between the Israelites’ exodus and events of our day increasingly sharpen into focus. This year, what might we learn from the story of our ancient forebears’ deliverance from evil? How might we prepare, as they did, for the upcoming Passover?
According to Scripture, Passover is inextricably linked to the holy covenant of circumcision. What might this often overlooked tie-in suggest for New Covenant believers?
Consider that the first command God gives to Abraham’s descendants is circumcision. “It will be a sign [or token] of the covenant between Me and you.” (Genesis 17:11) Circumcision is the outward, physical sign of an inward, spiritual transaction in which there is an exchange of life. God gives Himself (His life) to us and we give ourselves (our lives) to Him. Taking place eight days after birth, the ceremonial rite signals a new beginning, eight being the number in Scripture representing new beginnings.
Interestingly, God allowed only the circumcised to engage in the feast of Passover: “When an alien dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.” (Exodus 12:48) Only those redeemed by God’s covenant promise could partake of the holy elements of the annual meal commemorating and renewing that covenant promise. A similar view is taken regarding holy Communion, instituted at Passover and identified with the Blood and Body of Yeshua.
Now consider that during circumcision, blood is shed on the part of the one entering into covenant with God. Blood (shed from lambs) also marked the covenant deliverance of God’s people at Passover. As you know, the Blood of the Lamb of God achieved forgiveness of sins in the power of the New Covenant.
The life of a soul is in its blood (Leviticus 17:11). Blood covenants representing the exchange of life have been in use for millennia. They were practiced in ancient Egypt in Abraham’s time, as was circumcision. Apparently, God chose modes of interaction with Abraham which the patriarch would understand. Perhaps there is more to the shedding of blood at circumcision, comparable to the laying down and exchange of life, that in the 21st century we do not fully comprehend (See for example, Genesis 4:10, Hebrews 12:24, 1 Corinthians 11:24-27)
A certain Passover-related circumcision story in Exodus 4:24-26, with reference to blood, has long puzzled both Christian and Jewish Bible scholars. The brief account is inserted rather oddly into the saga of Moses’ confrontations with the Egyptian pharaoh. Either Moses or Moses’ son is approached by God and is about to be killed. But Moses’ wife intervenes and circumcises him (either Moses or the son). As a result the man (or boy) lives. The event serves to underscore the tie-in of circumcision with Passover.
A related occurrence takes place in Joshua 5:2-10. At the beginning of the month of Nisan, Joshua leads the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. There God tells His people their first order of business is to conduct a nationwide circumcision. As a result, “the reproach of Egypt” is “rolled away” from Israel. Just days later the people celebrate Passover.
The implications of circumcision for New Covenant believers at the season of Passover are probably obvious by now. For “In Him [Messiah] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Messiah, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through faith…” (Colossians 2:11-12)
When Paul speaks here and elsewhere of New Covenant circumcision, he builds upon the teaching of Tenach (the Old Testament) that the rolling away of man’s outer flesh was always intended to signify the rolling away of his inner “fleshly” self (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4, 31:33). He teaches that physical circumcision is not necessary for right relationship with God under the New Covenant. Circumcision of heart is what counts.
At this biblical new year, we can thank and praise God for sustaining us to this season. We can prepare our hearts for the new year through prayerful re-consecration to Him and His purposes. In anticipation of Passover, we who are privileged partakers of the New Covenant can re-circumcise our hearts by ever deepening surrender to His Spirit and love-driven obedience to His Word. This could involve fasting and daily partaking of Communion. Then we can celebrate the feast, partaking of its elements with holy joy at what God has done in the past for us, what He is doing now in our day, and what He is certain to do in the future – because He is God!