The new moon of two and a half days ago introduced the first day of the first month of the Scriptural calendar. The fixed date for Pesach is the 14th day of the first month, which will fall on Wednesday 12 April 2017, with Thursday 13 April being the First Day of Unleavened Bread and Wednesday 19 April the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. The Jewish calendar has all of these important days one day earlier, but that is not based upon the visual sighting of the new moon in Jerusalem. Quite significantly, in this week’s Torah portion covering Exodus 38:21 – 40:38, it is mentioned very clearly that the tabernacle was erected on the first day of the first month, in the second year of the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness (Ex 40:2; 40:17).
Is it a coincidence that in the exact same week when we come together and celebrate the first day of the first month, we also read about the tabernacle being erected on the first day of the first month in the Torah Portion of that week? This has never happened recently, as far as I could determine (surely not in 2016, 2015 or 2014). When we came together on new moon’s eve two and a half days ago we focused on some of the verses in the book of Isaiah where the Hebrew word for “first” (“rishon”) is being used. In a number of those verses we heard that Yahweh told his people that He was the First and the Last (Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12). It is precisely because he is the First that He can give meaning and purpose to us who find ourselves only a few days beyond the first day of the first month of the year.
Let us forget about the first of January for a moment. That is not the first day of the year according to Yahweh’s reckoning. And what is more, it is not the Day that should be remembered or celebrated. We should not even make a big fuss about the correct, Scriptural New Year’s Day. According to Scriptures, the first day of the first month is no different from the first day of the second month or the first day of the third month. It is not set aside as a Shabbat or a special Feast Day like Pesach or Shavuot or Yom Teruah. Why not? Because our focus should not be on the DAY but on the ONE who is the First and the Last. Our focus should not be on the first day of the year but on the first things that Yahweh had taught us in his Word, the first message that we had heard, the first promises that Yahweh had made and the first kind of faithfulness that had been displayed by our forerunners in belief – people like Avraham, Yitschak and Yaákov. We should be less concerned about performing certain rituals on the first day of the year, than about the possibility that we may have left our first love like the believers we read about in the first of the seven letters in the book of Revelation.
When it comes to that which is first, or those who wish to be first, or what we need to know about winning in life, nothing is more relevant than some of the teachings of Y’shua the Messiah. Among other things He taught his disciples that many who are first shall be last, and many who are last shall be first (Matt 19:30) and that those who wish to be first, should be prepared to be a servant among everyone else (Matt 20:27). One can only wonder what would happen if more people would live according to this principle in our world today. Surely we will see more true winners and less disgraceful losers. Especially in the area of leadership. How desperately do we not need leaders today who are prepared to listen to the teachings of Messiah and apply those principles in their style of leadership? How refreshing will it not be if even just a handful of true leaders may arise today in our beloved country, leaders who have declared their allegiance to Yahweh and have not left their first love, leaders who openly confess that Yahweh is the First and the Last and leaders who, like Y’shua of Nazareth, are prepared to give up first place in order to be true servants of the people under their authority.
When we get to the first day of the first month of each new year, the question comes to mind: What is the point of returning back to the first and call it the “first” when we did the same thing a year ago and also called it the “first”? And every other year before that … What is the point of repeating the cycle and coming back to the first, year after year, as long as we live? We may offer many answers to this question but one possible answer would be: To teach us that certain things do not change. Change is not wrong in itself. Some people are suffering from a disease called “Resistance to change” and that may prove to be the one factor denying them the opportunity to change their lives for the good. But Scriptures clearly teach that Yahweh does not change. His words and his Torah and his criteria for right and wrong do not change. His character and his desires and his promises never change. When Solomon, the wisest man ever, undertook a study of everything that happens on earth, he came to the conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun. He was not talking about new babies or new cars or new adventures of new technology. He was talking about the pattern that Yahweh had laid down for this world. He was talking about the constant and the persistent nature of the plans and the design of the Almighty. We may run after everything that is new and exciting and extraordinary in this world. But we cannot escape this all-important truth: Yahweh never changes and his words never falter or grow old. We need to be reminded of this fact, at least once every week (on the Shabbat), at least once every month (at the beginning of each new month) and at least once every year (at the beginning of the year and, additionally, within the cycle of the Scriptural feasts).
Having returned back to the first month of the year, this present period (which is also the period of 14 days before the great feast of Pesach), is a great time to once again focus on the things that are called “first” in Scriptures and, especially, on the One that is called the First and the Last in Scriptures. As a matter of fact, Y’shua, who lived and died in this world 2000 years ago, is sometimes also called the First and the Last, but most certainly not in the same sense as Yahweh, the ultimate First of everyone, everything and every little detail of the entire creation. In the book of Colossians it is clearly written that Y’shua is first in another sense as his Father. He is the first-born from the dead and FOR THIS REASON (or: ON ACCOUNT OF THIS FACT) He became the One who is first in all (Col 1:18).
There is no better time, however, than this time of the year to ask ourselves this question: Where am I today with regards to the love and the dedication that I may have had before? Is it perhaps true that I have left my first love? Or that I may have lost some of the enthusiasm and fascination over some of those wonderful truths that I had once discovered. Like the truth of the Shabbat and the Father’s Name and the wonder of the feasts and the integrity of Torah? Not forgetting the other equally important truths of Yahweh’s Word. Where am I today with regards to the answer Y’shua gave to someone asking Him about the first commandment of all? His answer was plainly and simply: You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your mind. Now that we have returned back to the first month and the things that are called FIRST in Scriptures, the question is quite simply: Is Yahweh the First for me and can it be seen in my life that I love Him with all my heart and all my being and all my mind?
In the first letter of Yahuchanan (John) it is clearly stated that we can only love Elohim because He had loved us first (1 John 4:19). The fact that Scriptures revolve around a cycle of time (and the repetition of days and events within a certain time frame) is a wonderful mechanism that the Creator invented so that we may never forget the things that happened before or previously or FIRST. Let us never forget that Yahweh loved us, even before we reached out to Him. Let us never forget that He took us by the hand when everything was dark and hopeless around us. Let us never forget that He flooded us with his blessings when we deserved nothing. And let us never forget that He brought us out of our own Egypt and that He gave his own firstborn Son to save us from eternal death. As we approach Pesach this year, we have so much reason for gratefulness and celebration!