There are very few nations and cultures and religious groups that have a real new beginning, every year. Jews that observe tradition have a true new beginning every year.
No, I am not talking about New Year, nor Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish traditional new year. I am talking about starting over reading the Bible in public in every synagogue!
On the last day of the feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles), all around the world in every Jewish (or Messianic Jewish) synagogue, we read the last chapters of the book of Deuteronomy and roll the scroll back to the beginning and read the first chapter of Genesis.
This Shabbat we return to read the portion of Genesis in the Torah, and Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10, and the Gospel of John 1:1-15.
This practice we can find in the New Testament several times. Yeshua comes to his hometown Nazareth and He is honored by the community to read from the prophets from Isaiah chapter 61:
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” – Luke 4:16 [NKJV]
This honor is given to respected members of the community and usually to someone who has a birthday on that week. The apostles recommend for our non-Jewish brothers in the community to go to the synagogues every Shabbat in order to hear “Moses being read”:
“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” – Acts 15:21 [NKJV]
People didn’t have bibles in their pockets or on their phones like today. Even a part of the Bible, like the five books of Moses, the Torah, was rare to have, even in normal synagogues. We read about the apostle Paul who traveled through Asia Minor and Greece, and every Shabbat went to a synagogue, and often was invited to read from the Torah and to preach.
This phenomenon is totally ignored by most Christians. One of the most serious problems with my Christian brothers and sisters is that they are not being taught by their churches to ask intelligent questions from the scriptures.
Intelligent and difficult questions from the Bible are not encouraged. How is it that the apostle Paul, for whom it didn’t take long after arriving in a town to go on Shabbat to the local synagogue, immediately get invited to read from the Torah and to preach?
If Paul were a typical 20th Century Christian, a stranger in town, and he walked into the local synagogue wearing a small golden cross on his chest, and having the smell of bacon from his breakfast, do you think that those Jews would invite him to come up and read from the Torah and to teach?
And after the reading of the Law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying,
“Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” – Acts 13:15 [NKJV]
We find a specially interesting story in Acts 17:10-15,
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.” – Acts 17:10–15 [NKJV]
This Shabbat we are going to start again reading from Genesis. The most important and foundational text of the whole Bible is Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning Elohim (God) created the Heavens and the Earth!”
In Hebrew this verse has seven words! I don’t think that the Bible starts with seven words accidentally and these seven words are the most important word of God in the whole Bible.
Just think about it! In the Hebrew Bible the phrase: “God of Israel” appears 203 times.
This God, who has chosen Abraham and his seed to be the instrument that will eradicate idolatry from the world, that will spread the knowledge of God to the ends of the Earth, they will teach mankind to love one another, to respect the blind, and deaf, just the same as the powerful and rich – it is the God who created the heavens and the Earth!
Here some of the implications that Genesis chapter 1:1 teaches and confirms:
- This world was created by a God that is a spirit and truth. He has no image, nor does He need temples and monuments and statues to represent Him.
- Everything in our world, from the smallest to the greatest, was created and exists because the Creator designed it and planned it and wanted it and needed to have it exist in His world.
- The Creator created not only our small planet Earth, but our whole universe (solar system). This means that our God is much much bigger than we, small humans, can even imagine! The creation of our world and of us, as human beings, children of Adam and Eve, are created of one blood!
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings…” – Acts 17:26 [NKJV]
There is no end to the importance of this text for our world. If Christians would have believed this word of the Holy Spirit – there would have been no racism, no anti-Semitism, no abuse of one race against another, and above all, our life in this world would be so much more pleasant and brotherly.
- If God didn’t create our world and everything in it, there must be another creator, or our world, and we ourselves, are nothing more than a cosmic accident. If we are only a cosmic accident, all morality, civility, justice, right and wrong, civil rights, become totally irrelevant! We are worse than a jungle. The jungle has rules and principles, and even the animal kingdom has respect and wisdom among the animals.
Genesis 1:1 is the most important and foundational text in the whole Bible! The most important thing that this text teaches us is that God is not a part of nature like all the idolaters hold, but above and outside of nature!
Just like any creator or artist the artist made the picture. He is the owner and creator of the picture, but he is outside of the picture, although His signature and finger prints are on His creation.
The entire Bible would be totally meaningless without Genesis 1:1, and even until now it is the most difficult verse to really understand and digest. Keep meditating on this verse it will help you pass this life with faith and special strength. Start reading your Bible from Genesis 1:1 all the way to the end.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.