From the very creation of the world, God set in motion His times, cycles and seasons. In the Bible I am using as I write these words, there are nearly 1,166 pages. Surprisingly, there are more than 800 verses in that Bible in which God declares He is concerned with times, seasons and cycles. That’s almost one verse for every page!
We see this in His majestic creation narrative found in the opening paragraphs of the book of Genesis: “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be signs to indicate seasons, and days, and years. Let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.’ And it was so” (Gen. 1:14-15).
It is here that we get our first glimpse of day and night, of the seasons and years and the lights in the heavens. When I first read these verses, I understood them to be a description of the beginning of all we see in the sky. But over time, as I read these verses again and again, greater insight into their deeper meaning began to emerge.
These words were given to us to introduce the times and seasons by which God rules the world He created for mankind. Suddenly I understood that God isn’t giving us astronomical information to enhance our stargazing; God is giving us a powerful revelation of how the heavenly bodies define His holy seasons and festivals and reveal His glory, if we will observe them.
In the original Hebrew, the Bible does not just say that the sun, moon and stars will be for “signs”—at least not in the simple sense that this English word conveys. Instead, the original Hebrew says that the sun, moon and stars are to mark “religious festivals” or “sacred times.” They are tokens or signs of God’s covenants and His sovereign, benevolent care for His people.
The Hebrew word behind this truth is mo’edim (moh-eh-DEEM). Usually it is translated “festivals,” but mo’edim means “a set or appointed time” or “appointed place, appointed meeting.” It indicates to “signify” or “act as a sign.”
God has a sacred calendar, and He wants us to use it as He has commanded in Scripture because there is revelation in keeping the calendar of God. When we keep the calendar of God, we will receive His truths, experience His presence and be able to serve His purposes.
God’s Sacred Calendar
Most of us have lived our whole lives according to a solar calendar that is 365 days long. To understand God’s sacred calendar, we must first realize that His calendar is based on a lunar (moon) cycle, not on a solar (sun) cycle. If you’ll begin calling the calendar you use the Babylonian calendar, it will help you remember that this calendar is far removed from the one God originally intended. After all, the Babylonian calendar influenced the Gregorian calendar we use today.
Let’s begin this journey of discovery and revelation together by looking at the differences between the lunar and solar calendars. Our solar calendar begins on Jan. 1, ends on Dec. 31, and is divided into four seasons. It is made up of 12 months of approximately 30 days.
God’s calendar uses months that are much different from those to which we have become accustomed. Because the moon changes every night, it marks the progress of time much more efficiently, and is far better for building a calendar upon than the sun.
Additionally, the beginning, end and seasons of God’s year do not correspond to the beginning, end and seasons of the solar year. The beginning of God’s year is not Jan. 1, the birthday of His Son is not Dec. 25, and Resurrection Day is not Easter.
The following chart lists the months of the lunar calendar along with their approximate times in the Gregorian or solar calendar.
- Nisan: March-April
- Iyar—called Ziv in 1 Kings 6:1, 37: April-May
- Sivan: May-June
- Tammuz: June-July
- Av: July-August
- Elul: August-September
- Tishrei—called Ethanim in 1 Kings 8:2: September-October
- Cheshvan—called Bul in 1 Kings 6:38: October-November
- Kislev: November-December
- Tevet: December-January
- Shevat: January-February
- Adar I: February-March
- Adar Beit: leap years
God’s calendar is designed for the sake of worship and divine encounters. It is defined by His appointed feasts and His declared, sacred seasons that He calls us to celebrate. Think of God’s calendar much like a sacred alarm clock that reminds us to arise and remember His great deeds, to celebrate His abundant goodness and to worship Him for His glorious acts yet to come.
This truth is the key to understanding the whole of the Bible, particularly the meaning of the life of Jesus Christ on earth. When we come to understand the earthly life of Jesus in light of these festivals, the truth of who He is explodes into our lives. There is so much revelation waiting for us in the calendar of God.
Intimacy With God
Am I trying to drag us back under the law by urging that we know and celebrate the sacred seasons of God? Absolutely, positively, unequivocally not!
My goal is revelation and celebration, not legalism. My desire is for us to obey God and to see Him in the greater revelation that is available through His mo’edim—His signs and festivals. My deeper ambition is intimacy with God.
Understanding God’s times and seasons is like a husband gaining insight into his wife so he can more fully love her, care for her and protect her. This is exactly what God desires for us in our relationship with Him. He desires for us to draw closer to Him and learn to walk in His ways. This is His primary ambition. We have a choice: focus only on the rules and the requirements, or look deeper and perceive the “language” of God through the law and the revelation of the One who gave the requirements.
Everything that God has designed for us is an invitation to intimacy with Him. Take, for instance, the kosher laws. Observing kosher is a hallmark of Jewish identity, yet some would look at kosher laws and see only “do not taste; do not touch”—the arcane requirements and regulations of a restrictive God to force obedience with judgment and condemnation. Nothing could be further from God’s heart.
The deeper truth of kosher laws may well be that in the smallest and most mundane matters of life—something as simple as eating—we welcome God and acknowledge Him as the sustainer of life. For the Jews, life is a sacred endeavor, and holiness is an appropriate response to even the most ordinary of everyday activities. By observing kosher, Jewish people illustrate that we are not animals to eat what we please, when we please and how we please.
Through kosher laws, Jewish children learn patience, order, obedience, thankfulness, discipline, manners and a revelation of God as provider and sustainer of their sustenance. While there is a physical benefit of kosher laws, they serve as a call to pause, reflect and acknowledge God.
Again, I am not advocating that we come back under the law. Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. My heart’s desire is that, by God’s grace, we can recover the New Covenant purpose of much of God’s Old Covenant requirements because that’s what those of us who are in Christ are meant to do.
As one of the early church fathers said, “In the Old Testament, the New Testament is concealed; in the New Testament, the Old Testament is revealed.” My heart’s prayer is for us to receive the fullest revelation of God our Father through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s thrilling to unlock these truths and understand God’s divine purpose for our lives in the calendar He has ordained for us to observe.