THE VISIBLE BODY SPEAKING FORTH THE INVISIBLE CONTENT
Although all the countries in the world use the Gregorian calendar, that is, the so-called solar calendar, those who study calendars acknowledge that the lunar calendar is more compatible with the seasons of the year. For example, spring begins during the first month of the lunar calendar; it can be said that the beginning of the lunar calendar marks the beginning of a year. This beginning, like all the visible and physical things created by God in the universe, has spiritual significance. Behind everything that is visible and physical, there is something that is invisible and spiritual. For example, every person has a body, but the purpose of our body is to contain the human life. The body is tangible and visible, but the life within the body is intangible and invisible. Although there are both visible and invisible aspects of man, the reality of a man is determined by what is invisible. When a person dies, his spirit and soul depart, but his visible body remains. Nevertheless, everyone knows that a person is no longer with us when he dies, even though his body remains. The reality of a man does not depend on what is visible and tangible but on what is invisible and intangible.
Similarly, all the systems in the universe have outward forms and inward contents; the forms are visible, whereas the contents are invisible. The outward, visible forms speak of the inward, invisible contents. In the universe some of the systems include the sun and the moon, and other systems relate to time. There are three hundred and sixty-five days in a year, thirty days in a month, and twenty-four hours in a day. Many people know that these systems of time are related to astronomy, and they even speak of how the times and seasons affect living things in creation. However, if we ask the ones who knew these things to speak of how the inward and invisible matters relate to these systems, they will be perplexed because they can see only the outward forms. They cannot comprehend the operation of the inward contents.
By studying the Word of God, in the first chapter of Genesis we can see that God created light-bearers, including the sun and the moon, for signs, for seasons, and for days and years (v. 14). At the end of the Bible, Revelation 21:23 says, “The city has no need of the sun or of the moon that they should shine in it, for the glory of God illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Neither the sun nor the moon will be needed in the New Jerusalem, because God will be the light, and the Lamb will be the lamp. Hence, there will be no need for the shining of the sun or of the moon. This indicates that days, months, and years, as well as seasons, are depictions of things that pertain to God. The sun and the moon are mere symbols, outward forms, but the inner reality is Christ. Even before we come to the end of the Bible, there is a word of promise concerning Christ at the end of the Old Testament, which says, “Unto you…will the Sun of righteousness arise” (Mal. 4:2). Since there is a sun in the heavens, we need to ask why there would be a need for the appearing of another sun. Those who know God will be able to answer that the sun in the heavens is an outward form that serves as a symbol of the invisible Sun, which is Christ. Christ is the light of the people in the world (John 1:4). People can truly touch light only when they touch Christ. Therefore, days, months, years, and seasons are symbols that have a mysterious content, which is Christ Himself.
DAYS, MONTHS, AND YEARS BEING OPPORTUNITIES PREPARED BY GOD
Why did God order the universe according to days, months, and years? Scientists tell us that the existence and growth of living things, whether plants or animals, are regulated by the cycles of days, months, and years. God has ordained days, months, and years for the existence and growth of living things. Anyone who has ever lived on a farm is aware of the fact that the time for planting and sowing is in the spring of every year. If the planting and sowing of seed are not accomplished during the spring, a farmer will say, “Let us wait until next year to plant our seed.” If the time span of the universe consisted of one long day, there would be only one opportunity for life to exist and grow. Thus, if there were existence and growth during this period of time, there would be existence and growth, but if there were a failure to exist and grow, there would not be another opportunity for life to exist and grow. Thankfully, God has prepared and ordained numerous opportunities in the universe, not just one opportunity. If we experience a failure during one year, there will be another year. If our work is not successful this year, we can start again next year.
This is true not only in matters related to living things; it is true even in matters related to business, education, and a career. If we have not done well in our business this year, we can start again in the coming year. If we fail an exam this year, we do not have to be discouraged, because we can study more and take another exam next year. If we experience some failure in our career this year, we should not worry, because a new year is coming. We would not have much hope if the time frame of the universe consisted of one long year. Then those who failed in business or failed a college exam would not have another chance. Thankfully, this is not our situation, because there is always an opportunity next year, and if we are not discouraged, we can take advantage of the coming opportunity. The opportunity for a new beginning is related to God’s good pleasure.
In God’s arrangement we have opportunities not only from one year to the next but also from one month to the next. Merchants must make both yearly and monthly statements. They reconcile their accounts at the end of each year and at the end of each month. If business has not been good, there is always the hope that next year it will be better. Furthermore, God gives us opportunities not only year after year and month after month but also day after day. It is truly wonderful that we have a new opportunity every twenty-four hours. If we do not do well today, we can start again tomorrow. If we fail today, we can rest for a night and have a new opportunity in the morning. Days, months, and years are truly meaningful. Most living things grow day by day, month by month, and year by year. Human beings are no exception to this rule.
All these outward matters speak of spiritual matters. God is our sun and our light-bearer. We depend on Him for our existence and for our growth in life. He is constantly presenting us with opportunities to grow. Being defeated in a certain matter does not mean that we will have no further opportunities to overcome. According to the changing of days, months, and years, God gives us new opportunities every day, every month, and every year.
EVERY DAY, MONTH, AND YEAR BEING A NEW BEGINNING
In our spiritual life we have spiritual days, months, and years. In the Old Testament God charged the children of Israel to keep the passover before leaving Egypt. This was a great beginning. He wanted them to consider the month of Abib, the first month, to be the beginning of months, the first of the months of the year (Exo. 12:1-2; 34:18). The Israelites kept the passover as a new beginning; it was not a small beginning but a great beginning. Because of this beginning, they were able to serve God according to an order of worship in the tabernacle. The book of Numbers also speaks of “the beginnings of your months,” which refers to times set according to new moons (10:10; 28:11). A new moon is a lesser beginning. The beginning of a year is a great beginning, whereas the beginning of a month is a lesser beginning. God also required the Israelites to worship daily in the morning and at night (Lev. 6:9, 12). The beginning of a day is a small beginning. The days, months, and years of the Israelites were full of spiritual significance. When we are saved, we experience the reality of the passover, which is a great and new beginning. Thereafter, God desires that we have a new beginning every month and even a new beginning every day.
When I was saved by the Lord’s grace, I truly experienced the Feast of the Passover. At that time I had an earnest desire to pursue the Lord, read the Word, preach the gospel, and offer material things. However, as men, we are weak, and even though I had such a desire, I was not successful in practice. Instead, I failed frequently. As I look back at my life during those years, I feel as though I was short in reading the Word, poor in prayer, loose in preaching the gospel, and unfaithful in material offerings. Many times it seemed as if I had reached the end of a month marked by a waning and even a disappearing moon. Yet, amazingly, at these very moments a new spiritual moon would arrive. I was able to let the previous experiences pass and begin again as if it were the first day of a new month. From the first day of this new moon, my reading of the Word was fresh, my prayer was enjoyable, and my zeal for preaching the gospel was stirred up again. I was in the enjoyment of the shining of a new spiritual moon. This shining would last for several weeks, as if my experience, like the moon, were rising to the full. However, a full moon does not last very long; it was not uncommon to lose this sense of fullness in my spiritual pursuit. Consequently, at a certain point and often for no apparent reason, I would not feel like getting out of bed. I also would lose my desire to read the Bible, my strength for prayer, and my interest in preaching the gospel. This was the waning of my spiritual moon. After eight or ten days in this condition, it would seem as if the moon had disappeared completely. Rather than light, I had a sense only of darkness. Even in the midst of this discouragement, however, there would be the coming of a new moon. Then, once again, I would feel like getting up in the morning, reading the Bible, praying, and preaching the gospel. I believe that we all have had such experiences related to a spiritual new moon.
In addition to the experience of a new month, we also have experiences of a new day. For example, we may hear a message on the Lord’s Day encouraging us to rise up early in the morning to draw near to the Lord, to read His Word, and to fellowship with Him. After hearing such a message, we may be touched throughout the day and look forward to the coming of the next morning. Consequently, we will rise up early the next day in order to have morning watch and to draw near to the Lord. As a result of this morning watch, we enjoy an overcoming life the whole day without a failure. With such an encouraging experience, we again rise up early the next morning to have fresh prayer and sweet fellowship with the Lord. Even though we may experience no failure in the morning, a little carelessness may cause us to lose our temper in a small way in the afternoon. Because of this little failure, we will be somewhat depressed and discouraged when we return home. Nevertheless, after resting at night, we can have a new beginning when we rise up in the morning. We can pray to the Lord and fellowship with Him so that the brightness of His shining may rise up in us once again. This is the experience of a new day.
In spiritual matters we all experience new days, new months, and new years. The beginning of the approaching lunar year should not point us only toward a new day or a new month but to the beginning of a new spiritual year. We should have more than a new day or a new month; we should also have the experience of a new year. Regrettably, many Christians celebrate a new calendar year every year, but they never enter into a new spiritual year. Many Christians have been saved five, ten, or even twenty years, and at the end of a year they buy food and new clothes, put their houses in order, and close their business in preparation for the new year. While they celebrate the new year, they do not prepare themselves for a new year spiritually. Thus, there is no proper ending, no new preparation, and hence, no new beginning.
KEEPING A SPIRITUAL NEW YEAR BEFORE GOD
At the end of the year some saints not only enter into a new calendar year but also into a new spiritual beginning. At the end of the year and at the beginning of a new year, they go before God to review and settle their condition before God from the passing year. Just as a businessman settles his account at the end of the year, we should review our spiritual account before God. If we balance only our outward account but not our inward account, we will enter into a new calendar year but not into a new spiritual year.
I hope that from this year forward every saint will have a proper spiritual conclusion to a passing year and a proper beginning of a new spiritual year. Not only should we have a conclusion related to outward matters, such as our career, our education, and our domestic affairs, but even more, we should have a conclusion in regard to spiritual matters. At the end of a year we need to go before God and settle the accounts related to our spiritual condition. We need to consider before the Lord how we have spent our time and the things in which we failed and in which we overcame. We need to consider the areas in which we responded to the Lord’s demands and in which we rejected the Lord’s will. We need to bring our spiritual condition before the Lord in order to settle accounts and have a proper clearance so that we can have a new beginning.
THE CHANGING OF DAYS, MONTHS, AND YEARS DEPENDING ON LIGHT-BEARERS
There are two very important principles concerning days, months, and years. The first principle involves their relationship to light-bearers, and the second principle involves their relationship to death and resurrection. In regard to the first principle, days, months, and years are related to light-bearers, that is, to the sun and the moon. A day consists of the time that it takes for the earth to rotate on its own axis, whereas a year consists of the time that it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun. Every twenty-four hours the earth rotates on its axis, and during this time there is one appearing of the sun. Furthermore, every three hundred sixty-five days the earth revolves around the sun in the solar system. A day involves a small revolution, but a year involves a great revolution. Both the changing of a day and the changing of a year are in relation to the sun. The changing of a month is related to the revolution of the moon around the earth. Both the sun and the moon are light-bearers. Every changing of days, months, and years is related to light-bearers. Because there are light-bearers, there are days, months, and years.
Every change in our spiritual experience involves light, whether it is a great change like a new year, a lesser change like a month, or a small change like a day. Whenever we encounter light, there is a change. When we met God, who is light (1 John 1:5), there was a change. When we met Christ, who is God and who is light (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46), there was a change. God in Christ is our light-bearer. Without the sun, there are no days or years, and without the moon, there are no months. Likewise, if a person does not encounter God in Christ, there will be no spiritual change, either great or small. Every change in our spiritual condition depends upon meeting God.
In order to have a new spiritual year, we need to specifically seek God’s face and meet Him. We should bring our condition, past and present, to Him and place it before Him in the light of His face in order to receive His shining. He is facing us, waiting for us, and open to us. We should not think that we are the ones who are seeking God; actually, He is seeking us and waiting for us. Rather than being closed, we should open ourselves to Him. We should not treat our days in a loose manner. When we approach a new calendar year, we should come to God and open ourselves to His light concerning not only the state of our earthly affairs but also the condition of our spiritual life. We need to spend some time in the presence of God, presenting our past and present condition to Him and allowing Him to shine on us. As the Spirit, He will come to us, and with His Spirit there will be light shining on the items that we place before Him. When we encounter God in Christ as the Spirit coming to us as light, we will have a new beginning. When we encounter light, we will also encounter God as the light-bearer. These encounters bring in changes that are like the changes associated with days, months, and years. If we want to have changes, from small changes to great changes, we must meet God.
THE PRINCIPLE OF DAYS, MONTHS, AND YEARS BEING DEATH AND RESURRECTION
I know of some brothers and sisters who have always fasted and prayed through the night at the end of a year, especially on New Year’s Eve. They go before God, bringing their life and work and their spiritual condition from the previous year to Him, praying about item after item in order to receive God’s enlightenment. When they encounter His shining concerning their shortages, failures, weaknesses, and mistakes, they confess them before God and receive His forgiveness and cleansing. With the exposure of their defects and deficiency, they also pray to be supplied and filled with God. Through this, they receive fresh grace, fresh enlightenment, fresh power, and fresh promises from God. Thus, they have a new beginning before God. Their past is terminated, and there is a new beginning for their future. This illustrates the second principle related to days, months, and years, which is the principle of death and resurrection. The ending of a day and the beginning of a new day illustrate death and resurrection. Likewise, the ending of a month and a year and the beginning of a new month and a new year illustrate death and resurrection. The ending and the beginning of days, months, and years signify death and resurrection.
The course of our spiritual journey involves a continuing experience of death and resurrection. An ending and a beginning always are followed by another ending and another beginning. These endings and beginnings correspond to Paul’s word in Philippians 3:13, which says, “Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before.” Forgetting the things which are behind refers to an ending, and stretching forward to the things which are before refers to a new beginning.
On the first day of a new year we should realize that the previous year is behind us and that a new year, a new beginning, is before us. The former things have passed away, and all things should be new. In the light of the Lord, our former weaknesses, failures, and mistakes will come to an end, and we need not bring them with us. With a new year we can have a new beginning, a good beginning, starting in resurrection. The meaning of the changing of days, months, and years is related to encountering God as light and to experiencing death and resurrection. We need to meet God, and we need an ending and a new beginning. We should not remain in our old experiences, whether good or bad, because both the good and the bad have been terminated so that we can begin anew.
THE CHANGING OF DAYS, MONTHS, AND YEARS DEPENDING ON GOD HIMSELF
Every change within us, whether it is associated with days, months, or years, depends on God. God is light, and even death and resurrection are of God. Whenever we meet God, we meet light; when we meet God, we touch both death and resurrection. Whenever we meet God, we are in the presence of light; when we meet God, we enter into death and resurrection so that there is an ending and a new beginning.
God’s work in the universe is a work of renewing. He wants to end the old things and begin something new. When His work is accomplished, He will be able to declare that all things are truly new (2 Cor. 5:17). The proper celebration of a new year is to have a new beginning. We need to go before God and touch His presence. When we touch God and meet God, we will enter into a new year and have a new beginning.
SEPARATED FROM THE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
Meeting God in this way is not the same as the New Year celebrations of worldly people. People in the world celebrate the arrival of a new year outwardly, but they do not experience a new spiritual beginning. Their noisy way of celebration can be likened to the celebration of the children of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai, who were sitting down to eat and drink and rising up to play. Their sitting down to eat and drink and rising up to play were related to idolatry (Exo. 32:4-6; 1 Cor. 10:7). Worldly people today celebrate the new year by sitting down to eat and drink and by rising up to play. When those who belong to God spend time to meet God at the beginning of a new year, their meeting with God is not a time for celebration. Rather, it is a time of sorrow, weeping, and fasting. When we see the desolation of our personal situation, the failures related to the church’s condition, the need for salvation in many sinners, the shortage in function of many saints, the lack of accomplishment related to the Lord’s will, and the frustration of God’s plan, we will be full of sorrow and repentance.
Ezra 7:9 speaks of the first day of the first month, saying, “On the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylon.” Ezra left Babylon, a place of degradation, on the first day of the first month; this is very meaningful. According to 8:21, Ezra proclaimed a fast for all the Israelites who intended to return to the Holy Land so “that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a straight way for ourselves and for our little ones and for all our possessions.” All the Israelites who left Babylon, a place of degradation and captivity, needed to fast on the first day of the first month in order to grieve, confess, regret, and repent before God, asking Him for His grace and mercy.
If, by God’s mercy, we meet God and are enlightened by Him at the beginning of a new calendar year, we will mourn and weep instead of celebrate. We will fast instead of feasting and grieve instead of rejoicing. We will weep and grieve, and we will pray and petition. Then we truly will have a new beginning of a new spiritual year. May the Lord be merciful and gracious to us to bring us into a new spiritual year, year after year. May we go before Him and ask Him to give us a new beginning. May we be under His enlightenment and receive His mercy. Such a seeking will bring us into victory and deliver us from the worldliness and celebrations associated with a new calendar year. (God’s Need and God’s Goal, Ch. 4)