The Apple Of God's Eye

December 30, 2009

The Plain Truth About New Year's Eve!

askmatthewpotter.com

How did the celebration of New Year’s Eve begin? Why is the beginning of a year placed in the middle of a dead winter? And where did the many customs surrounding it originate?

Most people carelessly assume that celebrating New Year’s Eve is a Christian custom.  But did the practice of “waiting the old year out” really come from the Bible?  Is January 1 the true beginning of a new year? Who has the authority to determine when a new year begins?

New Year’s is one of the oldest and most universal of all pagan traditions! The custom of celebrating it has remained essentially unchanged for 4,000 years! “There is scarcely a people, ancient or modern, savage or civilized,” writes Theodor H. Gaster, in his definitive book “New Year”, “which has not observed it … in one form or another. Yet no other festival has been celebrated on so many different dates or in so many seemingly different ways.”

In ancient Babylon, New Year’s festivals were closely bound to the pagan feast called “Christmas” today. When and how did New Year’s celebrations originate? Who began the custom? (more…)

November 4, 2009

Proving God's Calendar Correct!

JEWISH-CALENDARThe Scriptures are the standard against which any arguement for a Christian should stand or fall. Without such a standard to compare with, any attempt to prove a thing becomes futile, subject to misinterpretation.

Think for a moment! How would you prove that a rug you bought was 9 by 12 feet? You would need a ruler, a standard to measure by. How would you know the ruler to be correct? The final word on the matter would come from the Bureau of Standards in Washington which keeps masters on hand for every weight or measurement.

Now how will you check the new moons? Are you certain the first day of the month is in the correct place or should it be a day or two earlier? Where is the master, the standard to go by?

Here is the answer! What advantage did Paul have being a Jew? “Unto them [the Jews] were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1,2). Oracles are communications from God. These must be our final authority in the problem with regard to new moon dates. The question now arises, where is the oracle which will solve the problem of new moon dates? Is the Jewish calendar such an oracle?

Who gave the Jewish people their calendar? Suppose you found it to be the same person who preached for 3 1/2 years, chose 12 disciples to be apostles and then gave His life on the cross, to be resurrected three days later. Would you be willing to hear Him?

Notice Stephen’s testimony to the High Priest concerning Moses and Christ, “This is he [Moses], that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel [or messenger — Christ] which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us” (Acts 7:38).

How to Prove It

Now consider this: The One who became Jesus Christ spoke to Moses and Aaron (not to the entire congregation) saying, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” These two men were to instruct the people to use this Sacred Calendar.

GOD gave the Calendar. Man is to use it. Is man to stand in judgment of God as to whether this divine communication, this oracle, is proper or not? Hardly.

The knowledge of the inner working of the Calendar was retained by God’s appointed physical priesthood until the year 360 A.D. In that year the Jewish leaders published the information for all to know, so the broken and scattered Jewish nation (and Christians as well) would be able to continue the observance of God’s Feast Days in accordance to the new moons as calculated from Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was always the point from which the new moons were observed and sanctified. It was the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, that determined when the new moon was apparent. And it was their responsibility to notify the Jewish communities of the beginning of the months.

However, by 360 A.D. when oppression and persecution threatened the continued existence of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders took an extraordinary step to allow the scattered Jews to keep the new moons, festivals and Holy Days always at the same time. They then made public the system of calendar computations that hitherto had been an apparently guarded secret of the priesthood.

Thus, all Jews (and Christians) throughout the world could know when the new moon would occur according to Jerusalem time and consequently they could celebrate the same day all over the earth in unity.

It should be obvious now how to prove all things. Check them against the Oracles of God. What are these Oracles preserved by God through the Jewish people? Three: The Scriptures, The Sabbath, and The Calendar.

It was God’s prerogative to give these communications and commands. It was God’s responsibility to see that they were preserved down to our time. It was God’s judgment that a stiff-necked, rebellious, unchanging Jewish people should be given the assignment to preserve His Calendar, His Sabbath, His Scripture. With God behind them you may be sure that they carried out this task.

Do the Jews Obey?

The matter of whether the Jews have obeyed these Scriptures, rested on this Sabbath, kept the correct days in the correct manner on this Calendar, is an entirely different question.

There is no need to follow the Jews in their rebellion. Stephen continues, “Our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt.” In rejecting Moses, they rejected Christ whom he represented.

If you reject Moses today, if you reject the Oracles given through Moses, you also reject the One who sent him. The overwhelming majority of those of you who read this had ancestors who did reject Moses and Christ as their leaders and were condemned to die in the wilderness.

The real reason now becomes apparent why it is so hard for us to turn our hearts and minds to the true way that God has given to us. We have inherited this same stiff-necked rebellious nature.

Questions Answered

Doesn’t the faint crescent of the new moon become visible at an earlier time to the observer in California than to an observer in Jerusalem?

Yes, it does and for a number of reasons.

Mainly that the day travels from east to west across the globe. A day starts on the eastern coast of China or Australia (or even earlier with the islands just to the west of the International Date Line). It requires 24 hours to make a complete circuit arriving once more at the International Date Line. The moment of sunset thus travels westward across the earth. It would occur in Jerusalem 10 hours earlier than in California, which is 10,000 miles farther west.

This 10 hour difference would allow the moon to move 5 degrees eastward through the background of stars away from the sun’s position. The crescent of the new moon could thus be seen one day earlier by California observers about 40 per cent of the time. What are God’s instructions? If the people of Jerusalem, where God’s permanent headquarters are to be, cannot see this crescent of the moon following sunset, then the entire world east and west of that city must delay beginning the month till the following sunset.

This is the ordinance as it was given by God. We are not free to begin earlier because of the way we see it.

Another 6 hour difference as to the date for the new moon is introduced by the practice of delaying the ending of a day till midnight. Your almanac and Roman calendar “new moon” dates follow this pagan practice. This factor alone would shift the date of the new moon one day earlier 25 per cent of the time. Yet this pagan source is the one that many of you have used to check God’s Sacred Calendar. Isn’t it time we shift our allegiance to God’s Oracles and away from the customs and terminology of the heathen?

Still another factor makes this crescent of the new moon visible earlier in California. Just as the path of an eclipse of the sun moves from west to east across the earth so the moment at which the crescent would become visible (if the observer’s time were just after sunset) also moves from west to east across the globe and for the same reason. Up to 6 1/2 hours are required for this moment to cross the earth.

Thus while the day comes to us from the east, the month (or the moment the month might begin) sweeps across the earth from the west. It is natural for the western observer to want to begin his month too early. But it is God’s calendar and His month based on that calendar that we ought to follow.

A Difference in Latitude

Another question: Does one’s latitude also make a difference in his ability to see this crescent of the new moon in the west just after the sun goes down?

Yes, this also affects the problem on all except two days of the year, the day of the spring equinox (March 21) and of the autumnal equinox (September 23).

On these two days the sunset line runs straight north and south on the surface of the earth from south pole to the north. Latitude thus makes no difference in sunset time on these two days. Sunset would be six o’clock (sun time) for everyone. (The fact that standard time is commonly used for an entire time belt and is based on mean solar time would mean that the time shown by our clocks might vary up to 50 minutes and in certain localities over an hour from sun time.)

During the summer months the sunset line curves toward the northeast with a portion of the north Polar region in continual sunlight. During the winter months the sunset line curves toward the northwest with a portion of the north polar region in darkness 24 hours a day. (These statements are for the northern hemisphere only. The conditions are reversed south of the equator.)

The moment at which an observer at any point on the earth might see the crescent of a new moon and want to begin his month varies widely. Even the factor of whether the moon is north or south of the ecliptic, slightly affects the ability of the observer to see the crescent, especially in the extreme latitudes.

Conjunction or Crescent

A third question: Is the new moon noted on the Roman calendar or in an almanac or astronomy book the same term as the new moon on God’s Sacred Calendar? Not at all. The term “new moon” from these secular sources refers to the conjunction (or molad) of the sun and moon rather than the visible crescent which could first be seen about six hours later.

The astronomer’s “new moon” is the moment an eclipse of the sun might occur. (The moon is usually above or below the sun rather than in front of it. Thus eclipses do not occur at each of these “new moons”.) But remember that this conjunction occurs at least 6 hours before any observer anywhere can see the new moon crescent with his eyes.

God’s new moon on the other hand is the beginning day of a month, a day that begins at sunset at least 6 hours after this conjunction. Both the conjunction and sunset must be calculated for the Jerusalem area not for our local area. Then the first day of the new month moves west across the earth.

Delay for Preparation

A fourth question: Isn’t the first day of God’s Sacred Calendar sometimes delayed for special reasons?

Yes. One reason for delaying the beginning of a month is to prevent the day of Atonement (Annual Sabbath) from falling on a Friday which is a preparation day. Another is to prevent any of the autumn annual festivals from falling on a Sunday. All feasts which follow Pentecost represent the SECOND PART of God’s Plan. They must not fall on Sunday which would represent the FIRST part of God’s Plan which began 1300 years ago.

Timed for the Future

A final question: Don’t the Jews themselves admit that the computation of the length of the month and length of the year upon which this Sacred Calendar is based are not quite in perfect accord with the present day figures provided by the very exacting measurements of our modern astronomers?

Yes, this is true. It would be more surprising if it were not true. There are slow accumulative changes in the length of the month and year over centuries of time.

This minute variation which makes 13 Sacred Years slightly longer than 19 astronomical years is a very important clue to chronology. But that subject is too long for this article! This variation, however, does not affect the mathematical calculation of new moons.

Is it unusual that the One who planned the Sacred Calendar should be one step ahead of both the astronomers of the time of Moses and the present twentieth century? With a perfect understanding of the movements of the heavens as well as the needs of man, God looked forward over a six thousand year period and prepared a Calendar that would keep in harmony with the heavens throughout the entire time.

It was this system that was restored to the children of Israel as they were being freed from bondage and it is this system that is preserved for us today by God through the Jewish people.

No need exists for any change or alteration in the Sacred Calendar prior to Christ’s return and we look for no such change from the Jewish people. The published dates of the Jews and of our Sacred Calendar which cover the entire twentieth century are absolutely correct.

 

Source: Good News, October 1957

April 4, 2009

What Was The Hour Of Christ's Crucifixion?

This can be confusing because of the different methods of reckoning time used by the Jews and by the Romans during that period of history. But, there is no real problem once we have the key.

The Jews began the numbering of the 12 hours of night from sunset; the 12 hours of day were numbered from sunrise. The Romans began their count from midnight and again from noon, the way we commonly do today. Of the four gospel accounts, only the book of John uses the Roman reckoning.

In modern terms, Jesus was crucified about 9 a.m. To the Romans this was nine hours from midnight. To the Jews it was three hours from sunrise, hence it is called the “third hour” in Mark 15:25. Darkness covered the land at about 12 noon (to the Romans, 12 hours from midnight; to the Jews, six hours from sunrise, Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44; Matt. 27:45) The darkness lasted until 3 p.m. (three hours from noon in Roman reckoning; nine hours from sunrise to the Jews).

John 19:14 also mentions the “sixth hour.” This is the Roman reckoning and here refers to the time around sunrise. This, of course, was about three hours before the crucifixion. So, there is no contradiction. Each gospel account adds to the others when we understand how they were written. Please see Isaiah 28:9-13.

April 1, 2009

How Leaven Pictures Sin — An Important Reminder

The apostles were jolted! First, the sound of a violent windstorm filled the house where they were meeting. Then, almost before they had time to think, glowing flames of fire began leaping upon them. God’s Holy Spirit had entered them, and the power of that Spirit was far greater than the forces of nature they had witnessed.

To their amazement, they could now speak words they had not spoken before. Quickly the news spread — here were men who could speak many languages. Thousands speaking different languages eagerly gathered to hear the apostles. What they heard shocked them. Many were deeply convicted by their guilt in the death of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

A mighty urge to do something stirred within them, and they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” The reply echoed loud and clear: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Those early Christian converts began something that God’s true Church still practices — baptism for the forgiveness of sin. But how, exactly, should a true Christian deal with sin, both before and after baptism? This question brings us to our subject, the Days of Unleavened Bread.

To understand this Festival and its meaning and application to our lives, let’s go back in history. These days are commanded Because of famine, the descendants of the patriarch Israel ended up in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. There they became slaves (Ex. 1:8-11). Through a series of miracles, God finally released the Israelites from bondage. Among the miracles was the death of the Egyptian firstborn. To protect their own firstborn, the Israelites were required to begin keeping the Festival called Passover (Ex. 12:3-14). For Christians today, this Festival pictures our acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.

Just after the Passover, God instituted another festival — the Days of Unleavened Bread (D.U.B.). This seven-day festival pictured the release of Israel from Egypt (verses 15-17). The D.U.B. were held yearly during Abib, which is the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This month corresponds to the time of the Roman calendar months of March and April.

Both the 15th and 21st of Abib, the first and last days of the Feast, are “holy convocations” — days of rest and worship (Lev. 23:6-8). These days are still kept by true Christians today, and will also be kept after Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (Ezek. 43:2, 7, 45:21). This year (2009) they fall on April 9 and 15.

Leaven symbolizes sin During this Festival, all leaven and leavened foods are to be put out of the home and off the property (Ex. 12:15, 13:7). This includes yeast, baking soda, baking powder — all leavening agents, substances that produce fermentation and cause dough to rise.

The products of leaven are bread, cake, some crackers, certain cookies and some prepared cereals and pies. A few candies and other foods also use leavening agents. Of course, there is nothing sinful about these products themselves. Removing them from our homes is merely a symbolic enactment of removing sin from our lives.

Instead of eating these leavened foods, replace them with unleavened products (Ex. 12:15, 19-20, Lev. 23:6). These include matzos, hardtack and a number of flatbreads. But beware: Some foods that are sold as “kosher for Passover” contain leavening agents. If you are in doubt about whether a product is leavened, check the list of ingredients on the wrapper. If you are still unsure, ask someone experienced or don’t eat it. Remember: “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Whenever you eat bread during these days, it should be unleavened.

Far beyond the physical uses of leaven are the significant spiritual meanings. After being jeered at and tempted by the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus said to His own disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6). The disciples didn’t know what He meant. Do you? The disciples thought Jesus was talking about physical bread, but He wasn’t. He was talking about the doctrine of the religious authorities, which led people into sin (Matt. 16:11-12, 23:13).

By way of analogy, this leaven of false doctrine has spread through the whole world as a tool of Satan’s deception (Rev. 12:9)! The apostle Paul also used leaven as a symbol for sin. A certain Church member was committing a serious sin and making no progress toward repentance. Paul said this person was like a little leaven that would affect the whole lump — other Church members — with his sinful way of life. The person was put out of the Church. Since Paul wrote to the brethren during the Days of Unleavened Bread, they would have already put out the physical leavening from their homes. Now he encouraged them to put out the leaven of malice and wickedness — sin. He told them to eat the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth — righteousness (I Cor. 5:1-8).

Sin versus righteousness

When you consider the nature of both leavened and unleavened bread, you can see several spiritual comparisons with sin and righteousness. Let’s notice them:

  • Living in sin is easy; being righteous is hard. Because of its soft texture, leavened bread is easier to eat than unleavened bread. Likewise, going the way of sin is easier than living righteously (Matt. 7:13-14). Obeying God is difficult even for a Christian, because you still have a carnal nature that wants to sin (Rom. 7:14-25). 
  • Sin exalts the self, righteousness builds humility. Leaven puffs bread up. The same is true of sin. It puffs up the sinner — his desire is to exalt himself rather than allow God to rule him (Ps. 10:3). When you choose to live God’s righteous way of life, you abase selfish desires. 
  • Sin’s pleasures are temporary; the benefits of righteousness endure. Leavened bread left out soon becomes hard and moldy. Unleavened bread lasts much longer. Spiritually, the pleasures of sin soon pass away (Job 20:12-16). The end result is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Righteousness, in contrast, brings both temporal and eternal blessings (Deut. 28:1-13, Ps. 15). 
  • Sin spreads easily; righteousness is built slowly. It doesn’t take long for leaven to spread throughout a loaf of bread. This is the way sin is — it spreads rapidly (Gal. 5:9), whereas building right character takes a lifetime. 
  • Sin is based on deceit; truth is the basis for righteousness. What you see is not what you get with a loaf of leavened bread. Air pockets give the impression that there’s more in the loaf than there really is. Sin also appears to be something it isn’t, deceiving the sinner into thinking he is getting something worthwhile when he is only earning the death penalty (Heb. 3:13). With righteousness there is no deceit, only truth (Ps. 119:151, 172).
  • Sin is more prevalent than righteousness. Most people prefer leavened bread because they find its tastes more desirable. Is it really better? Not necessarily — just more common. People are accustomed to it. Spiritually, the same is true. Most people prefer to live in sin. But you must reject sin, and choose to live a righteous life (Deut. 30:19).
  • Sin builds a false image; righteousness builds true character. As you have seen, leavened bread gives a false impression. So does the sinner. He may appear impressive on the outside, but is he? Read Matthew 23:27. True character is based on much more than outward appearance. It involves righteous living based on obedience to God’s Word (I John 2:5). Grow in righteousness 

What God is showing us through the analogy of leaven and sin, particularly at this time of the Days of Unleavened Bread, is clear: He wants you to escape the clutches of sin and lead a righteous life. But how can you eliminate sin and grow in righteousness? The following “three Rs” — recognize, resist and repent — can help.

  • Recognize sin. Can you recognize sin? Many cannot. Why? Most people overlook God’s simple, clear definition for sin: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4, Authorized Version). 

Discerning sin is a matter of applying God’s law. At the basis of God’s law are the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17, Deut. 5:6-21). Do you know what the Ten Commandments are? If not, how can you possibly expect to overcome and put sin — spiritual leaven — out of your life? God’s laws are real, working forces that guarantee good results when you are in harmony with them. They were given to be lived and acted upon, not ignored or outrightly rejected!

Beyond the basic commandments, God requires obedience to biblical principles referring to one’s conduct. While some things are not written in the form of a direct command, the underlying principle or spirit of the law is nonetheless just as binding (Matt. 5:17-48, Rom. 13:9)!

Under this category fall aspects of God’s civil laws and statements made by His apostles and patriarchs. Examine yourself, as II Corinthians 13:5 commands, and see how God’s laws expose the “leaven” in your character. Are you REALLY putting God first in EVERYTHING? Are you humbly submitting to His authority? Can you admit when you’re wrong?

  • Resist sin. We have already seen through the analogy of leaven that sin spreads quickly and easily. Therefore you must resist temptation before it turns into sin (Jas. 1:13-15). 

Doing this requires self-control — actively resisting wrong thoughts and replacing them with right thoughts (II Cor.10:4-5): In struggling against sin you may reach a point when you grow so battle weary that darts of self-pity and injustice pierce you. At such times it’s easy to think you’ve done all you can. Don’t be fooled. You can do more (Heb.12:4).

Throughout the Bible we see the number 7 used as a symbol of completeness (Gen. 2:2, Josh. 6:16, Rev. 16:17). In relationship to the Days of Unleavened Bread, the number 7 pictures the complete elimination of sin. You should earnestly strive to eliminate sin from your life (II Tim. 2:19).

  • Repent of sin. Even when you recognize sin and resist it, you will still find yourself falling into sin (I John 1:8). When this happens, what should you do? Strive not to sin, but when you do, seek God’s forgiveness. Upon real repentance — abandoning the wrong way and beginning to live the right way — God promises to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

Some would say not to try so hard — to just rely on grace. But what does God say? “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Will you overcome all sins all at once? Absolutely not! Some sins are so deeply and habitually rooted that they may take years to totally overcome. Don’t use that as an excuse to continue, but don’t dismay either. Ask yourself, Am I sinning as often as I once did? Does this sin have as much control over me as it once did? If the answer is no, you’re growing — making progress.

Today the world is in misery because of sin. Yet humanity rejects the very Festival — the Days of Unleavened Bread — that pictures the process that would lead them out of their sins. What about you? Are you going to keep these special days as God has instructed His people to? Will you be learning the many important lessons that the Days of Unleavened Bread are meant to teach you’? If you do work at ridding your life of sin, you will be greatly blessed, now and in the future as a member of God’s Family: “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death” (Prov. 12:28).

 

Source:  The Good News, March 1984, By George M. Kackos

February 28, 2009

What Is A 19 Year Time Cycle?

A brief comparison of the Gregorian and the Hebrew calendars will help us understand the 19 year time cycle. The calendar commonly used today is of Roman origin. It is based on the solar year. That is, it contains about 365 1/4 days. And though the word “month” means “moon,” the months are not governed by its phases. They are of arbitrary beginning and length.

On the other hand, the Hebrew calendar is based on both the sun and the moon. The length of the year differs significantly, and the months are directly related to the phases of the moon. In the Hebrew calendar, 12 lunar months result in a year that has about 354 days (about 11 days shorter than a solar year). Such common years, as they are called, are regularly balanced by leap years, which contain 13 months each. Leap years are about 384 days in length (about 19 days longer than a solar year). Notice how these lunar months are related to the solar year.

Every 19 solar years the moon revolves around the earth 235 times. In other words, 235 lunar months equals about 19 solar years. This remarkable astronomical relationship makes it possible to combine 12 common Hebrew years (of 12 months each) and 7 leap years (of 13 months each) together every 19 years. This means that the solar (Roman) calendar and the lunisolar (Hebrew) calendar very nearly coincide as the sun, moon and earth return to their approximate position of alignment with each other every 19 years.

Nineteen-year patterns can also be seen in history. For example, ancient Israel spent 38 (19 x 2) extra years wandering in the wilderness (Deut. 2:14; Num. 14:33-34).

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