At the start of each new year, we hear a lot about so-called New Year’s “resolutions,” in which people decide to abandon bad habits, adopt new practices, or reform their approach to life. Unfortunately, these personal pledges do not tend to last for long, and failure on this front can lead to discouragement. This year, instead of making a short-lived pact, it is more useful to focus on the biblical promises of God’s reappearance and continued presence with each passing year.

In Genesis, the Lord meets with Abraham and says, “I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time in the next year (בשנה האחרת; ba’shanah ha’aheret)” (Gen 17:21). Later, God asks, “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you” (Gen 18:14; cf. 18:10). The Hebrew word for “time” in these verses is מועד (moed)—which has a range of meanings including “set time,” “season,” or “festival”—and is the same term that Genesis had used to describe the reason for God’s appointment of the sun and moon: “Let them be for signs, and for seasons (ולמועדים; u’lemoadim), and for days and years” (Gen 1:14). The echo of creation in God’s words to Abraham and Sarah underscores that the divine promise and presence is as reliable as the cycle of days, months, and years.  

From a Jewish perspective, part of the reason for knowing the “seasons” or “times” that God established at creation was for the sake of following the festival calendar, which marked the sureness of God’s providence over Israel throughout each year. Leviticus, for instance, introduces the “feasts” (the same word that means “times” or “seasons”; מועדים [moadim]) by linking them to specific annual periods: “These are the feasts of the Lord (מועדי יהוה)—holy convocations—which you shall proclaim at their times (במועדם)” (Lev 23:4). For the ancient Israelites (as much as for practicing Jews today), these calendrical reminders of God’s presence and promises are renewed at the same appointed times each year. Israel’s Scriptures attest to the ongoing reestablishment of divine blessings, not only “in the next year,” but in the year after next, and the year after that. Thus, rather than focusing on human resolutions in this new year, Bible readers can trust in God’s sure pledge of continued covenant faithfulness this year and in all the years to come.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

8 COMMENTS

    • Thanks, Thandu. Originally, the feasts marked changes in seasons (e.g., springtime, harvest time, etc.); hence, they were kept annually in accordance with these changes. From a theological perspective, God asks Israel to "remember" the divine acts on their behalf, so engaging in ritual festivals each year ensures this continuing remembrance.
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
  1. Thank you professor Schaser for this short but fantastic article by which you managed to convey a first idea why the various seasons with their festivities were so important in ancient Israel. However this subject is so interesting that it could be a new course on its own!
    • Thank you for studying with us, George. Yes, the festivals could warrant an entire course. Perhaps that would be a topic for our next faculty meeting. We will keep you updated.

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