Sermon: Faith and the Calendar (Part Five): Summary
Wrapping up the Calendar Issue
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 11-Mar-00; 92 minutes
To begin this sermon, which I believe will be the final one on the calendar, I will briefly summarize what I believe to be the main points in each one of the four previous sermons. Then I am going to conclude with a potpourri of thoughts regarding the calendar.
I want to thank all of those who responded to my request during the Feast of Tabernacles for your help in resolving this issue. At the time I felt uneasy because some things in regard to the calendar just were not clicking. I felt that there was something missing in my thinking. Some of you even fasted for answers, and I appreciate very much the sacrifices that you made.
I want you to understand that I do not feel uneasy anymore. I feel very confident that the prayers have been answered in a way that is consistent with the Bible and this way of life. I also want to say that the issue did not come clear all in one flash of inspiration. It came in pieces—a little bit here and a little bit there.
At the time that I made the request, I could see my governmental responsibility clearly, but other things were not so clear. I could see that my responsibility, as is given in I Timothy 6:20, was that I was to guard what was given to me by an apostle, but as a teacher I felt that I had a greater responsibility to understand a bit more about the why so that I could teach it to others.
I said at the time I made that announcement that I saw some flaws in the calendar, but as God responded to your fasting and your prayers, I began to see much more clearly the spiritual issues that are involved in the calendar. I came to see that what I thought were flaws were in reality nothing more than perceptions of flaws. In other words, the flaws that I thought that I saw were more apparent than they were real, largely because God and His nature and His character were essentially being left out of my consideration regarding the calendar.
If God accepted that calendar for one-thousand plus years, can it really be flawed? Think about that. I came to see that it was God Himself, as well as my faith, that was on trial here. I came to see that in a very practical situation it was God's sovereignty, His providence, and His faithfulness that are the spiritual issues.
Would God's nature allow Him to fail to provide His children with an instrument absolutely essential to properly worshipping Him and being in His image? Could He possibly fail in that, and then suddenly, at the very end of days, after apparently having His back turned or been asleep for 1600 or 2000 years—long after the calendar would have any use at all to all of those people who came in between the first-century church and the end-time church—that He suddenly awoke and gave His people a new calendar? And I said to myself, as I began to think about the ramifications of this, "Come on, John! How could you be so thick? We have the calendar that God wants."
The first sermon I titled the defining issues—the claims, as made by some, that neither Herbert Armstrong, nor those who advised him on the calendar, really understood. This is sheer nonsense and is nothing more than the ego saying that we are better because we are the younger generation. It is saying that we are constantly evolving, that we are getting better and better all the time. "Now," they were saying, "we have the calendar." But I wonder if these people ever thought: Noah had the calendar. Abraham had the calendar. David had the calendar. Moses had the calendar. And suddenly at the end time we discover that we have need of a calendar?
In all of these calendar proposals, there is a none-too-subtle rejection of Herbert Armstrong, as well as the unspoken rejection of Jesus Christ and the Father. Herbert Armstrong is called "ignorant." He is called "uninspired." He is called "not guided."
I want to show you something in God's Word. Some of you are familiar with this. We going to begin in Luke 10. This ought to be something that all of us can relate to. What I am going to show you here is that rejecting what HWA taught cannot be done without also running the risk of rejecting Jesus Christ and God as well.
Luke 10:16 "He who hears you [meaning the apostles] hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."
Now while you are considering that for just a little bit, because that has awesome ramifications, turn to John 13. This is something that Jesus said to His disciples His last night before He was crucified. He repeats, not verbatim, but in a slightly different way what He said there in Luke 10.
John 13:20 "Most assuredly, I say to you, "he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me."
This is slightly different wording, but the same portentous statement. We are walking in a dangerous area.
Turn now to Matthew 10. If you remember what is in chapter 10 of Matthew, you will know that He was giving instructions to the disciples regarding their responsibilities of going out and proclaiming the gospel.
Matthew 10:11-13 "Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you."
He is telling His apostles to only stay at places in which they are accepted. If the people who are going to be putting them up are rejecting what they are saying—"Get out of there fast. Only stay with those who are accepting it."
Matthew 10:14-15 "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city!"
Those who reject His apostles—those who are sent—are putting themselves in a very dangerous position. Drop down to verse 19. This is a more critical situation, but it is going to have a bit of portent a little bit later on in the sermon.
Matthew 10:19-20 "But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."
Let us add one more series of verses.
Matthew 12:31-32 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."
It is dangerous business to reject the messenger who has the Spirit of God working in him, because in terms of that message, that message is inspired by God, and is seen by Him as a rejection of Himself.
Now whether Herbert Armstrong understood the technicalities of the calendar is relatively unimportant. Herbert Armstrong understood what the Bible says and does not say, and believed strongly that the Bible gave him no authority to change the calendar, and that is where the strength of his teaching lies. He was inspired in regard to himself for the message, and the calendar is part of that message. It is absolutely essential to it.
I applaud him for his honesty with the Scriptures, his humility before them, and his faithfulness and unwillingness to presume that he could just move ahead and make changes on the basis of the pressures that were being brought against him. These people creating these calendars have not proved themselves to be either apostles or prophets.
Herbert Armstrong, seeing the big picture rather than a single isolated doctrine, rightly decided that God had assigned the caretaking of the Scriptures and the calendar to the Jews. And indeed, many scriptures bear out that God assigned the tribe of Judah as being the lawgivers, meaning the civil administrators of Israel.
Turn to Romans 3 where we have turned to a number of times during these four sermons, and look at verses 3 through 4 again.
Romans 3:1-3 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?
Regarding that word faith, if you have a modern Bible translation, they will say faithfulness. Let me read that again.
Romans 3:3 For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?
Romans 3:4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written, "That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged."
Herbert Armstrong understood that the defining issue in this whole subject is not any faithlessness one might perceive he finds in the Jews, but rather our faith in the faithfulness of God. It is whether we trust Him in His oversight as the Sovereign Creator and His providence in caring for His own children.
One thing I want you to consider here (I will not go into it at this time), but God nowhere says the Jews created the calendar. You cannot find that in the Bible. They are no more responsible for the creation of the calendar than they are for the creation of the Old Testament. They are simply the caretakers of what was given to them. Now faith is always the issue for God's children, because "the just shall live by faith," and "without faith it is impossible to please Him."
This God (of whom Jesus said) has every hair of our head numbered and He also said (and consider this in terms of the whole earth), "Not one sparrow can fall apart from God knowing it." (That is what it means.) Can you honestly think that this God who has such a great mind and such awesome powers would somehow fail to supply His own children with a calendar? Do we think that He somehow cannot oversee the Jews' caretaking of it?
Do you think that this God, who so loves His children, would fail to provide them with something by which they could respond to Him in service and in worship, to do it honestly and without sin, and then suddenly, two thousand years of church existence later, He suddenly realizes that He neglected giving His children a calendar, and then begins to reveal it to someone? That is a gross accusation of negligence against Him, and it completely and grievously violates His own Word in I Timothy 5 where He charges His own children:
I Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Well, does God say, "Do this," to His children, to His disciples, and then He does not do it Himself? In today's world, such a neglectful parent would be found guilty in court of child endangerment and of child abuse for deliberately or neglectfully leading his children into sin for two thousand years.
I want you to consider this with what I am going to say. Do you understand that if God has not given His church the calendar that He wants them to use, then He is none-too-subtly telling us that it does not matter to Him when we keep His holy days—everyone is free to do as he pleases—because then they have no God-approved way of determining the passage of time? For Him to do that is chaos and confusion, and His own Word says that God is not the author of confusion.
This also means then that the weekly Sabbath means nothing, because it too is attached to the very same calendar as the holy days. Are you aware that one of the arguments of Protestantism against keeping of the Sabbath is that the Sabbath has been lost, and therefore any day is acceptable to God?
Those of you who may have been persuaded by any of these new calendars ought to be demanding of the creators of those calendars absolute proof that down through the centuries following the death of the apostles, that the church of God rejected outright the Calculated Hebrew Calendar in favor of one that they designed themselves. Give us the proof.
The second sermon in this calendar series I titled, "Faith, the Calendar, and Anomalies," and it dealt briefly with conscience issues regarding faith and the calendar. Now that conscience issues are created in regard to living by faith is not at all unusual. This is because human nature is confronted with the truth of God, and it goes against what human nature and its vanity desires to do.
I used in that sermon the example of Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. And then we went into how the Bible shows that he resolved this anomaly by processing. Hebrews 11:17-19 says that "he accounted," and I showed you that this word means that "he added it all up." He processed what he understood about God, His nature, His character, His power to resurrect, and the promises. The promises were going to be fulfilled through Isaac, Abraham's only son. His trust of God overrode his fears, and God, in great satisfaction, provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice.
That sermon showed that we can do as Abraham did by knowing God, and by understanding the invariable patterns by which He always reveals Himself using. These patterns are revealed so that we might be able to live by faith because He never changes. He is absolutely trustworthy.
Go now to Jeremiah 7:25, because I used this scripture in that sermon, and what I want you to see here is God's pattern regarding the teaching of His children.
Jeremiah 7:25-26 "Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day [By the time that Jeremiah came along, this was something around 700+ years that they had been in the land.], I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers."
God always supplies the teachers needed. Were there teachers between the apostles and the present to teach God's truth regarding the calendar? Yes, there were. Would God fail to correct them? No, He would not fail. So where are the records of periods of previous eras that the church of God used the calendar that they designed themselves in their rejection of the Calculated Hebrew Calendar?
When I gave that sermon, I did not only use this scripture. I used a whole series of scriptures just laid out in one book—the book of Jeremiah where God repeats this charge time after time. It was almost like He was scratching His head. "What more can I do? I sent teachers to them, rising early every day and preaching late into the night, and they would not listen." This is the same God who is alive today, and the church is His children. Do you think that He would fail to supply His children with the right kind of teachers with the truth to give to them? And that truth includes the calendar.
Are you beginning to see what I mean, that this is a gross accusation against God? And in that case, I took that principle right up into the New Testament—all the way up to the book of Jude—where it says to "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints."
When we were in the book of Jeremiah, I showed you how He said there, "Go back to the ancient paths." In other words, "Go back to what has been revealed in the past so that you can see the truth, and repent if you have drifted from what I gave in the past." He can always be depended upon because He never changes. What has been revealed in the past includes the calendar.
Toward the end of that sermon I also briefly covered a much neglected fact that the church does not exist in a vacuum. It is still largely operating within biblical Israel and that we do have a measure of responsibility to that government.
The third sermon I titled "Faith, Hope, and the Worship of God." This sermon focused on the fact that our hope of eternal life rests on the grace of God and our living by faith in what God has said. The key word here is "said." What God said, or has said, is not limited to what is written.
Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.
Do not let this Hebrew word prophets throw you. A prophet, in the biblical sense, is simply one who speaks for another. In other words, one is putting the words in another's mouth. If God uses a person to communicate something important to His people, that person is a prophet whether he is formally ordained or not. As an example there is Bezalel and Aholiab. These are the two men who were the supervisors for the building of the ancient tabernacle. There is absolutely no indication at all that they were ordained as prophets, but God used them. He inspired them. He spoke to them, and then they carried the message to all the artisans who were working under them. And thus, being the intermediaries that God used, they became prophets. They were speaking for God.
You might recall again at the Feast that I suggested studying how the Bible uses God's voice and its synonyms like speak, tongue, mouth, words, declare, or shows, and that this can be very helpful. I suggested this because God speaks not only directly, but also indirectly through prophets and prophetesses, and also by inspiration of any that He uses, and also He speaks by implication, and He also speaks by any thing.
You may have heard people of evangelical Protestant persuasion say something like, "The Lord moved my heart." This may sound somewhat syrupy to us, and we may be suspicious about whether He actually moved them, but the principle is clearly true and biblical. God does speak to people's hearts and it is not written.
Let us look at Ezra 1:1.
Ezra 1:1-2 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah.
God spoke to a pagan king. Now did He do it by a dream? Did He do it by a vision? I do not know.
There is much that God has said that does not appear as written. God both spoke and gave vision to Moses regarding the ancient tabernacle, but those complete plans are not written, nor are the plans that God gave David for the Temple that David prepared for and that Solomon actually built. Not all communications are in the Bible, nor are the communications regarding the calendar.
God speaks through vision, dream, and events such as miracles and history through which nothing directly may be spoken. He speaks loudly through example and inner compulsion, which is just another way of saying that God inspires people, and again through which nothing actually may be verbally uttered. But somehow or other it comes into their mind even though nothing is said into their ear.
Those of you who remember, Dean Blackwell used to say, "God is whispering in his ear" (he meant Herbert Armstrong). But that is what Dean meant. God does inspire.
You will recall what I said back there in Matthew 10:20, that God was going to inspire those that He was sending out, that it would be the Spirit of God speaking through them, inspiring them regarding the witness that they were to give to their persecutors. Did the people hear God's voice? Only in the sense that they heard it through the person that He was using.
Did the messengers who were doing the speaking actually hear God's voice? Probably not. Things just came out of them, and they were a willing instrument for the delivery of the message.
Look at Psalm 19. This is kind of interesting. Rex Ulmer was leading music today, and he chose that we sing Psalm 19. I thought, "That's nice and appropriate." He did not know that. Look at verse 1.
Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them has He set a tabernacle for the sun.
And on it goes. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." This is God speaking through His creation, instructing, guiding by inference through the creation. He is speaking through a thing—inanimate. It is interesting that in this particular case it also leads to a consideration of time since the sun and the moon are involved, and thus a calendar is somewhat within the framework of its instruction here in Psalm 19. It is also very interesting that the psalm leads directly to a consideration of law.
The major illustration in the third sermon concerned Cain and Abel's offerings. We know only by inference within the context there in Genesis 4 what God must have said, because none of His instruction is directly given to us. But we see the principle involved. Abel obeyed what God said. Cain did not, and was rejected.
This can lead us to a weighty conclusion that man's works (and we might say here including a different calendar, even if it is done with pleasing God in mind as a major consideration and is prepared with great thought and care), are meaningless unless it conforms to what God said. Now in regard to the Scripture and the calendar, what has God said? (We are going to see more proof as we go along here.) He said that His sayings are committed to the Jews, and not all of His sayings brethren, are written directly in His Word.
Let us go back to Jeremiah 7. I used this a number of times I think in two different sermons, and I used it because it expresses a principle. Again another one of those patterns.
Jeremiah 7:22-23 "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what commanded I them, saying, 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.'"
I think what He is directly referring to there is in Exodus 19 in the proposal for the covenant, where He said in verse 5, "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine."
Brethren, this is always His command. I do not believe that He ever directly states "Obey what is written." Maybe change that to "Obey what I have written." We are on more solid ground there. It is always what He has said, and the reason for that is that it is much broader. It is more general than what is written, and includes things like what we saw there in Psalm 19. Again, a simple reminder, that in regard to the calendar, a simple directive is given—Romans 3:1-4.
This issue is always going to be a faith issue. We are never going to find every last jot and tittle regarding the calendar in the Bible, but what we do have are tons of examples of God's faithfulness regarding His oversight as Sovereign Ruler of His providence for caring for His children. He provides. He did not leave His church having a calendar to chance so that it would just have to somehow or another fend for itself, or leave them with a faulty calendar that He could not accept for two thousand years. These thoughts are not only ridiculous to contemplate, they are downright accusative of Him, because it presents a God who cannot be trusted, a God who relies on whimsy, and whenever He feels like it, He does something.
The fourth sermon I titled "Faith, Government, and the Calendar." The essence of this message is that God is the author of human government, including the government of Israel which still exists as a nation right down to this day, and also church government. The Bible reveals that the Christian has a measure of responsibility, being subject to all of them.
I made no attempt in that sermon to specifically define that subjectivity except to say that every doctrine given in the Bible and intended for Christian use, was either put there by a prophet or an apostle, and that neither of those offices is available to us at this present time. I mentioned that far too many are failing to look at the changing of doctrine within its overall, its greater scope of the outworking of God's plan, going all the way back to Abel and Enoch and Noah and Shem and Abraham and all of his descendants. This outworking of God's plan and His purpose involves thousands of years and billions of people and God Himself managing the movement of all things to the conclusion that He wants.
Go now to the New Testament in Hebrews 8.
Hebrews 8:7-8 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them [the people], he said, "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah."
The Bible specifically states that the covenant is made with Israel and Judah, not the church. The covenant is made with the church as a remnant within Israel. In Romans 9 through 11, Paul describes the church as a subset, a remnant, within the nations of Israel, and it is Israel's basic calendar that the church uses. You might like to connect this thought with Revelation 7 and the 144,000, which is twelve thousand from where? From each of the tribes of Israel, except for Dan. Israel's calendar is the Calculated Hebrew Calendar—the same one that the church is using, and has used. Maybe I should say always used.
Now instead, people look at this as a single doctrine very narrowly, apparently never stopping to consider what effect this change has on the whole of the matter. You cannot change a doctrine of the magnitude of the calendar without that change impacting on what has already occurred, what God has already shown, and what God has prophesied will occur. To change this doctrine at the last moment, as it were, is to call Him into account for what He has permitted or directed to precede us. In addition to that, none of us—even in the ministry—is given the authority to make a change of this magnitude.
If we make a change in the calendar now, it destroys the prophetic significance of dates already given in the Bible, some of which Darryl has been giving in his sermons as he goes through those Minor Prophets, and especially since he has been in Haggai and in Zechariah.
Expanding our understanding of a previously-given doctrine is one thing, and it is required of us as part of growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, but the wholesale scrapping of a major, absolutely essential doctrine and replacing it with another is something altogether different.
I earlier said that I also wanted to give you a potpourri of items regarding the calendar for your consideration as we begin to close off this issue. Turn to a very familiar scripture in Amos 3.
Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
This actually has to do with, "Can two meet at an appointed time and place?" It actually has a calendar within the thought, because in order to do that there has to be certain thoughts regarding a calendar. In order for a calendar to be of great help to a culture or to an institution like the church, it must be consistent, and it must be predictable so that plans can be made.
Perhaps a calendar's main purpose is to keep everybody unified in regard to the passage of time, and organized in the use of time. It is the consistency factor which rules out a visually-sighted new moon. A visually-sighted moon may work reasonably well in a small geographical area the size of New Jersey. (That incidentally is how large the land of Palestine was.) But when the unity of a worldwide operation becomes an organization's concern, visual observation must be scrapped and replaced completely with calculation. The evidence of history proves that visual observation becomes the primary ingredient in a recipe for confusion and division.
I have an interesting little article here that came I believe out of Zion's Fire magazine (no connection to the church of God). It came from a publication of a Messianic Jewish organization that is headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina. It is entitled, "A New Attempt To Standardize Muslim Calendar Fails Again."
An attempt to standardize the Muslim lunar calendar crashed when several Muslim countries reported sighting a crescent which other countries insisted was nowhere on the horizon. [Remember they are visually sighting here.] Saudi Arabia, and at least eleven other countries, announced that their earth-bound observers had sighted the new-born crescent, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and ushering the four-day Eid al Fitr feast holiday. Egypt, which started using astronomical calculations in recent years to define the beginning and end of lunar months, said that it had to rescind a recent declaration by its religious leaders that they would be committed to lunar sightings reported in any country which shares part of the night hours with them. It is impossible for the crescent to have been seen in many of the countries which reported seeing it.
Hang onto that. This is what I mean when I say that a visually-sighted moon becomes the main ingredient for confusion.
Fred Coulter—whose name many of you will recognize—in his work on the calendar gives a very interesting anecdote regarding this same thing. He reported this occurred I believe in 1995. This is recent.
Eight trained observers went on mountains in California. One group went to one mountain, the other group went to the other mountain. I remember the name of the one mountain. It was Mount Davis. One of the mountains was 3,500 feet high. The other mountain was 3,000 feet high. These are all trained observers. They knew exactly where in the sky to look for the moon. What happened was that one group saw the moon, the other group did not. Eight miles apart—that is all the farther that they were separated.
What I am getting at here is that visual observation is not as easy as some make it out to be. The Jews report in their writings that whenever anybody said that they had sighted the moon that they asked very specific questions in order to see whether the sighting of the moon agreed with the calculations that they had already made, and that they only used the visual sighting as a backup to prove that their calculations were correct.
What some people think is a new moon is actually usually two to three days old already. This is the very reason why the Jews published the rules for the calendar in the fourth century. The Jews in various nations were dividing in arguments over when the new moon occurred. They were visually sighting it, and so those in Yugoslavia were getting into fights with those who were in Bulgaria, and those in Bulgaria were getting into arguments with those who were in Germany, and on and on, and they were dividing. A calendar must have precise rules if it is going to be consistent and if it is going to be predictable.
Now we come to why I have been emphasizing several times that the rules for the calendar that the church has been consistently using are not in the Bible. They are not in there. I have also said a couple of times that there might be a dozen or a hundred different models (to give an exaggeration for emphasis) that one might use to construct a lunar-solar calendar, but who makes the rules is the critical factor in this issue.
Now what if God is the author of the rules, but they are not written in the Bible? Think about that. Again, God does not say that the Jews are the authors. They are the caretakers of what God has assigned. That is abundantly clear. Regardless of whether the Jews were its original source is a moot point. They are the caretakers. Now whoever the original source is, you would think that they would be God's people and that they would turn to the Bible, turn to the Scriptures for guidance. Now they undoubtedly did, but the Scriptures say very little directly.
Are you aware that virtually all you know about the calendar rules is from inference from Scripture. Inference. That is different from something directly written. This is the major reason why various calendars are different from each other and why this issue is so divisive. Everybody is reaching somewhat different conclusions from the same Scriptures that do not give a direction directly. They are only given generally.
Each calendar creator puts different emphasis on different scriptures.
Psalm 104:19 He appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows its going down.
"He appointed the moon for seasons." Are you aware that the Bible never precisely defines seasons? It does not say that the seasons are defined by solstices and equinoxes. If you would look up the word "season" in an English dictionary, you would find that it means, "a fitting or appropriate time."
Let me show you the way the Bible uses the word season. It uses the word season the same way as we use the word season around Christmas time. Now we do not say it this way, but the world does, and I am giving this illustration so that you will understand. When you hear somebody say, "the Christmas season," do you only think of December the 25th, or do you think of a period of time that may lead up to Christmas a month or more in length? The Christmas season actually begins shortly after Thanksgiving ends, and businessmen are making it earlier and earlier. The Christmas season does not stop at December the 25th. It extends beyond that and goes at least up to New Year's Day.
That is the way the Bible uses the word "season." If the Bible says to keep the feast in its season, is it pinpointing a specific day, or is it pinpointing a general time of the year? Now you know, because of the way the dates keep jumping around on the calendar, that it is not pinpointing a specific day. It is pinpointing a time of the year that may be a month or so in length. Right? That is right!
The Bible uses a phrase like turning of the year. What, pray tell, does that mean? Does it mean a specific date in Tishri, or does it mean a general time in Tishri? Incidentally, it does not even say it has to be in Tishri.
The Bible does not say when the sun is over the equator. The Bible does not say when the sun is over the Tropic of Cancer. The Bible does not say when the sun is over the Tropic of Capricorn. It does not say September the 21st or December the 21st or March the 21st or June the 21st. Everything is given in generalities. You need precise rules to make a calendar that is going to be consistent and predictable. They are not given in the Bible, but I am afraid that people are making others think they are given in the Bible.
The Bible does not say specifically that one should use either the first faint crescent or a dark moon. It does not say that you cannot use a full moon, that is, at the beginning of the month. It does not spell it out that way. There is at least one calendar that originated within the church of God that uses the full moon as the beginning of the month.
The Bible does not give the rules of intercalation. That is when you stick a whole month in, and the year becomes thirteen months long instead of twelve. It does not say when you do that. Do you know when it used to be done? It used to be done whenever the green leaves of barley were not green. I am not kidding you. It used to be done if they had hard rains and a real wet winter and it destroyed all the bridges and people could not travel to the feast in Jerusalem, they postponed for a whole month. They used to postpone for an entire month if the ovens that the ladies used to bake their bread in were destroyed by the rains. They used to postpone whenever the pigeons that were used in the sacrifices were not fully fledged.
You see, those rules are not in the Bible.
The Bible says directly here in Exodus 12 that Abib is supposed to be the first month of the year. Did you ever stop to think of some of the implications from that statement in its wider context? Since there is no other instruction given, it strongly implies that even before the Israelites came out of Egypt they already had a calendar God approved of. In Egypt. Whatever it was, God approved it. Did He put His holy days on an Egyptian calendar? I think not, brethren.
The Israelite calendar, we know from history, was different from the Egyptian, because the Egyptians used a solar calendar exclusively. So what was God doing here? He was appointing the month Abib (the month of green ears of barley) as the first month of a religious year on an already existing calendar for religious purposes only, and nowhere does He say that the first month cannot be calculated from the new moon of the seventh month. People are taking generalities, and then for their purposes, stretching them into absolutes.
Another one is it nowhere says that all these things regarding the calendar should be determined from Jerusalem. So some church of God calendar-creators take advantage of this, and they use the Greenwich mean line, or the International Date Line, as the one from which they are timing things for their calendar.
People want to use the green ears of barley issue, but God nowhere says where in Israel the green ears are to be determined from. Now if you think this makes no difference, I want you to consider the fact, that depending upon the kind of weather that Israel experienced during the winter, the green ears of barley might be ready for harvesting (and of course the Wave Sheaf offering), in Jericho forty-five to sixty days before they would be ready in Dan. Where is the precision that is needed for a calendar? These things are very inconsistent.
How can somebody prepare on a worldwide basis? And what, pray tell, does the green ears of barley ripening in Jerusalem have to do with a Christian living in Norway in the sixteenth century AD when he cannot watch television, cannot get things on the radio, he cannot pick up the phone and call Jerusalem and get the latest dope on how the green ears are doing? The church existed then, brethren. Remember that the gates of the grave have not prevailed against the church. Once God started it through Jesus Christ, it has already existed.
What I am telling you is that there may have been Christians in Norway in the sixteenth century who had no communication with Jerusalem at all. This is not something that is far out. If they did not have any communication, and all they had to go by was the Bible—and the green ears of barley might not be ready in Norway until June sometime, and then he kept the Passover and Unleavened Bread— how were they able to do this if God has not already given them a calendar?
There are so many specific rules missing from the Bible it is incredible! Somebody was given by God the authority to establish those things in the past. It had to be in the past in order for His church to be provided for.
As I said in another sermon, God did not choose to clutter up His Word with all the precise rules needed to have a consistent and predictable calendar, because those things have already been taken care of by God to spare us all these divisive arguments. The Jews are its caretaker, and He oversees their caretaking.
I have already said in another sermon that the Bible has no rules regarding postponements, either for or against. I will tell you frankly that I have almost come to despise that word. All they are, are calendrical reconciliations, justifications, adjustments—things that are absolutely necessary to make the chart on the wall reasonably accurate with what has already happened in the heavens. They are absolutely necessary adjustments, and especially so when a nation or an institution is hoping to keep people united in regard to the tracking and use of time on a worldwide basis.
I have used the words "reasonably close" because as I quoted to you from a couple of astronomers, getting it perfect is impossible. This is because of what God has done in the heavens, and there is no way anybody has ever found to do it perfectly because small amounts of time are always left over in their calculations, and the chart on the wall is limited by the fact that it must always operate within the parameters of whole days. You never saw a day on the calendar that said "a half day" or "a three-quarter day." Those leftover parts of time—pieces of time—keep adding up because the heavens keep right on rolling along regardless of men's calculations, and the adjustments, the postponements, have to be made on the Hebrew Calendar just as surely as February the 29th has to be added every four years to the Gregorian Calendar.
Incidentally, I just read this past week that the Gregorian Calendar is not perfect either. This will really worry you, but three thousand years from now another day is going to have to be added to the calendar. I am not kidding you. They are already planning on it. This is because, even though leap year day is added on February 29 every four years, it does not satisfy what is going on in the heavens. The heavens keep right on rolling, and there are minutes left over, and they have to be accounted for eventually. They are going to add up—actually seconds in this case—and they are going to have to be accounted for, and it is going to come to about somewhere between 4000 and 5000 AD, and another day is going to have to be added.
So it is with the Calculated Hebrew Calendar, because we are using the moon rather than the sun, and because the moon is erratic compared to the sun, the time adds up more quickly, and so postponements have to be put in more quickly.
Here comes the key question. If you were given the opportunity to put that day in, where would you put it? If you had to decide, where would you put it? Now being a sincere Christian, would you not want to put it where you thought it was most appropriate, where it might be proper or fitting to put it? There are two things I am going to come to here.
What if your fellow church member though had a different idea from you, because what he saw in looking at the year was that it would be more appropriate if it were put here rather than over here? And yet to him it feels appropriate that he put it here rather than the place that you wanted it to go. Do you see what I am getting at here? You might have three or four hundred different people, maybe three thousand different people, looking at the calendar, and there might be 354 or 365-1/4 or 384 different places that you could stick a postponement in.
The issue, brethren, has already been decided by God. He gave that authority to somebody else to stick them where they thought it would be most appropriate. Well, where did they decide to stick it? Right around the first of Tishri. Right? There is a reason why they chose to do it there. In fact there are two reasons why they chose to do it there.
One of the things that I want to get at here, the second point I want to make on this is that there is a matter of hypocrisy here on the part of those who are creating their own calendars. They make much of the fact that the Encyclopedia Judaica says that the Jews placed the postponements where they felt them to be most "convenient."
They make much use of the word "convenient," interpreting it to mean, "easy," because the postponements have been placed on a calendar in such a matter as to provide a preparation day before each holy day or weekly Sabbath. In other words they did not want there to be two Sabbaths to fall back to back one right after the other as in a Friday/Saturday combination or a Saturday/Sunday combination.
Now there are two reasons why it was decided to place the postponements where they presently are. One is this: that normally most of the year the first faint crescent of the new moon will take place the day following the actual conjunction. The actual conjunction takes place when the moon is completely covered by the earth's shadow, and it is not visible. It is sometimes called a "dark" moon because it cannot be seen. Normally the first faint crescent can be seen roughly about sixteen, seventeen, eighteen hours after the actual conjunction. The earliest one that has ever been sighted, as long as men have been keeping records, is about fourteen and one-half hours after the actual conjunction. So what normally occurs is that the month begins on the day following the new moon.
There is an anomaly here, and that is because the moon is not regular in its orbits. It does not go around the earth in a circle. It does two things. It goes around the earth in an ellipse. It is closer and farther. It has got an oval-shaped circuit around the earth. When it is closer, it is moving faster. When it goes out into space a little bit farther, it slows down. And then the earth's gravitation pulls it back, and it speeds up. That is occurring. Not only that, it is corkscrewing around the earth. If you would look at the earth and just pretend it was straight up and down, you would know then that the moon is going up and down and up and down, corkscrewing around, and every time that it is doing that it is never quite in the same place all the time.
Now here is what happens. In the springtime is when most of the short appearances of the first faint crescent take place, but as it moves towards the fall, the first faint crescent gets farther and farther in time away from the actual conjunction. If you think this does not make any difference, every once in a while the moon's first faint crescent will not appear until sixty hours after the actual conjunction. This always takes place in the fall.
Reason number one that it was decided to put the postponements at the beginning of Tishri is that this is the time when the moon is usually farthest away from the earth, and the appearance of the first faint crescent takes the longest amount of time to show up. It seems to me like there is wisdom there. Incidentally, that was a completely astronomical decision.
The second reason has biblical thought behind it, and that is because of Exodus 16 and the preparation day. They chose to put those postponements in such a position to make sure that there was a preparation day before a holy day or a weekly Sabbath, and they accomplished that through the use of the postponements.
The hypocrisy that I mentioned occurs whenever the calendar creators accuse the Jews of adding things to the Bible by inserting the postponements while they do exactly the same thing in the creation of their own calendars by inserting things like the International Date Line, the changing of the cycle of intercalation using a dark moon, or a whole host of other adjustments which they have the chutzpah to claim came out of the Bible. They did not come out of the Bible anymore than the placement of the postponements.
Now it seems to me, from this observer's point of view, that the placement of the postponements is a merciful act, that these people were not thinking of making things easy. Look up the word "convenient" in the dictionary and you will find that the word "convenient" is one of those words like "suffer," which used to mean "permit." Now we say "pain." The old King James says "conversation." It used to mean "conduct." Now it means "talk between two people." The word "perfection" used to mean "completion." Now it means "without flaw." In like manner, the word "convenient" has changed. Look it up, and they will tell you in a dictionary that the word "convenient" means, "fitting, right, appropriate, proper." Not "easy." That is a late usage of the word, because when something is fitting, it makes it easy.
I challenge you to think about this. People accuse the Jews of doing this. Do the Jews in the Bible have the reputation, especially the Pharisees, of making things easy? No they do not. They laid heavy burdens on men according to our Savior's own testimony. They did not make things easier. They seemed to make them harder. Maybe people are accusing the wrong people. This is why I said earlier maybe we ought to think that God is the Author of this calendar.
His own word in Matthew 12:1-8 says one of the reasons Jesus gave for allowing His disciples to go through the field and pick the corn (as it says there in the King James) is, "If you had known what this means," you would understand, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'" on the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is not a day of privation. The Sabbath is a day of feasting! People say, "Well, we can go without eating when we have two Sabbaths together." They are not getting the point. It is a feast. It is a festival. It is a happy time. It is not a time of privation. That is God's intent on the day. The people who created this calendar, they saw it. "We want to make sure that our ladies have the opportunity to enjoy the feast too."
Think back before there were refrigerators and things of that nature. Think back to keeping the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. No refrigerators, no motels, no restaurants, no automobiles, no grocery stores to go to, no electric ranges. Every meal had to be prepared from scratch. Any woman in her right mind—any man who loves his wife would say, "Honey, I want us to have a day to prepare so that you can enjoy the Sabbaths along with me." It is an act of mercy to put those days in there.
I have here a booklet called The Original Calendar For Our Day. The reason I want to quote out of it is because I want give the man an "A" for honesty, because he recognizes that these rules that people are making calendars from are not in the Bible. Yet the interesting thing is that he goes right ahead and does it anyway.
Quotes from The Original Calendar For Our Day:
Judaism tries to follow the above Scriptures which imply that Passover [Nisan 15 to them] must not fall before the spring equinox. (p. 5)
"Scriptures seems to imply. . ." The rule is not in there. "Precise" is the key word here.
. . . which God strongly implies that the Passover must be kept at the first opportunity after the spring equinox. (p. 5)
It never says that. The Bible nowhere says that. That is a private, personal conclusion based upon implication. But I am not saying that these things are entirely wrong. What I am saying to you to clarify things is that the rules are not there.
Centuries of testing refined the calculations to what the Jewish calendar is today. The use of the crescent moon to determine the new month is not mentioned in the Bible. (p. 8)
That is quite an admission.
One problem comes from the fact that some of the rules of the Molad [when the moon is reborn] are not in the way that God told us to do it, and it is technically inconsistent with astronomy. (p. 9)
God nowhere said anything about this. How can he make that claim? Well, he does it. What these people are doing is presuming that it is possible to create a perfect calendar. This is impossible without the heavens being made perfect themselves.
Heading: The first day of the month is based on the date of conjunction at Jerusalem.
The question boils down to whether we are to have a single calendar shared by everyone around the earth, or two different calendars, one day apart, which are determined by the local date of conjunction. The following arguments and observations are provided to support the use of a single-conjunction date. (p. 14)
Why does he have to consider the use of a single-conjunction place and date? The reason is because the rule for covering this is nowhere given in the Bible.
The determination of which month is Abib is one of the most contested points of determining a calendar which complies with the Bible's instruction and guidance. (p. 18)
Then he gives five different views that need to be considered for when Abib is. Why does he have to do this? Because it is not given directly in the Bible. You see, the responsibility for that, the authority for that, has been given us by God many, many centuries ago. He goes on:
The Bible doesn't tells us specifically how we are to determine Abib, but we have been given certain guidelines so that we can better determine it. Here is a list of four known guidelines. (p. 18)
On page 22 he reaches his conclusion:
Until a better method of determining the month of Abib is found, we feel that the Jewish calendar-method of observing Passover at the first opportunity after the spring equinox (Concept No. 1) seems most appropriate. (p. 22)
"Seems." Well, so much for that.
These people are creating their own calendars in face of the fact that the church of God has been using the Calculated Hebrew Calendar since who knows when. All the way back into the dim ages of history. The people of Israel have been using basically the same calendar.
No calendar, including the Calculated Hebrew Calendar, comes completely from the Bible. There are simply not enough precise rules stated in the Scriptures for anyone to make that claim.
There is no authority given in the Bible for anyone to change what we have been given. Instead the instruction to the ministry is to guard what we have been given. The authority to set the basic calendar has either been given in the past by God Himself, or God Himself is the Author and He set the basic rules. It is my own opinion that this calendar came from God because He would not leave something so essential up to the mere chance and meanderings of men's minds. It is too important.
The fruit of the Calculated Hebrew Calendar is that unity has been produced through it with both the church of God and the Jews using it. Anybody changing from that calendar has produced some measure of disunity and has been rendered ineffective spiritually in terms of helping the whole church.
To the best of my knowledge, there has no historical record ever been found that any era of the church of God rejected the Calculated Hebrew Calendar for one of their own devising.
The defining issue is our faith in the faithfulness of God to provide His church with a calendar and for Him to oversee its preservation. It is unthinkable that His nature would fail to do so, and thus, to attempt to change the calendar given us represents a gross accusation against Him.