You may be wondering why I am wishing you a Happy New Year in mid September. Well, according to the Hebrew calendar, sundown of September 4 through sundown of September 6 is the marking of a new year, or what the Jewish people call Rosh Hashanah. Significantly enough, Rosh Hashanah is not only observed on the 1st two days of the Hebrew calendar, but also is said to mark the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.
So what is the importance of Rosh Hashanah and what does it mean for us as Christians? I want to cover five points which can be taken away from Rosh Hashanah, which I believe have great spiritual significance which we can gleam from.
- The first point is reconciliation. During the time leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish people seek to be reconciled with anyone they may have wronged during the previous year. Doesn’t this remind you of the words from Jesus in Matthew 5:23-24 (NASB), “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” This is a great reminder to us, that it is not all about us forgiving those who sin against us, but searching our hearts to know if there is anyone we have wronged that we need to seek reconciliation with.
- The second point is that of awakening. Each morning during Rosh Hashanah, a shofar, or a ram’s horn, (as found in providing a ram for Abraham as the provision of sacrifice), is blown as a reminder to awaken the soul to the importance of repentance. If there is one thing that we need in our hearts today as believers, it is an awakening of our souls. Let us allow the Holy Spirit awaken us in remembering the provision our Father made for us in sending His only son Jesus, as the only one found worthy to make provision for our sins. Let us also be awakened to a renewed sense of purpose, to what God would have each of us do to in the work of the Gospel.
- The third point, which proceeds the second point is that of repentance. Rosh Hashanah marks Ten Days of Repentance. This is when God records the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class. The righteous are recorded to live, the intermediate are given 10 days to repent and become righteous, and the wicked are blotted out forever. The Jewish method of repentance includes three parts: repentance, prayer, and charity. Unfortunately today in the Christian church, the word repentance seems to be a lost, yet incredibly important word. The scripture tells us in 1 John 1:8-9 (NASB) ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ As Christians, our forgiveness is found in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ which was shred for the remission of our sins, however, we must always keep a pure heart before the Lord by evaluating our actions, and turning from, and confessing our sins before our Father. The Jewish people also dealt with sin by “tashlikh”, which literally means, “casting off”. This practice would involve going to a large body of water, reciting a prayer, and casting ones sins into the water. Let us take this time to examine our hearts and actions and if there are areas of sin which need to be confessed, and cast off, let us do it whole-heartedly.
- The fourth, point is that of remembrance. Rosh Hashanah is considered to be a Day of Remembrance, in which the Jewish people would meet in the synagogue, remember God’s faithfulness to His chosen people, and pray for Israel, as well as Jewish people around the world. Let us take this time to remember God’s faithfulness, not only to our spiritual heritage throughout scripture, but also in our own personal lives. Let us also remember what the scripture instructs us to do in Psalm 122:6 (NASB), which says, ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.”‘
- The fifth, and final point is that of newness. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a new and fresh year. The traditional dinner eaten, and the foods served, signify the blessings pronounced over the New Year. Of the various foods served, apples and honey are most significant of pronouncing blessings for a sweet year. I am reminded of the newness that is given to us as believers in 2 Cor. 5:17 (NLT), which says, ‘This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ Let us take this time to embrace the new life, and sweet blessings provided freely to us through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Regardless of what yesterday held for you, release the past, and embrace newness of life!
May each of us allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate in our hearts the valuable spiritual significance found during this Jewish New Year holiday, Rosh Hashanah. And as the Jewish people would say, “Shanah Tovah”, or “Have a good year”!