The beginning and ending of each year is a rather momentous time for mankind. It is celebrated with festivities the world over. We consider the year a significant marker of time, and remember important events by the year in which they occur. The church also recognizes each new year’s connection to Christ by holding worship services, referring to it as ‘the year of our Lord,’ and assigning it a date “AD” that denotes the years that have passed since Jesus’ first coming. Yet how often do we consider the biblical importance of this prominent, universal, and regular unit of time?
The significance of the year is derived from its origins. The year is not of human origins. Nor is it an arbitrary unit of time. And certainly it is not determined, as is commonly supposed, by a random explosion resulting in some chance position and velocity of earth in relationship to the sun. Certainly the year is due to our relationship to the sun. Geographically, it is the time the sun takes in its course through heaven to return to its original position, and astronomically, the time it takes earth to journey around the sun.
But the year has divine origins, and the precise unit of time it measures is deliberate. In His wisdom, the eternal I AM determined to have all of human history measured by the year. And so fundamental is it, God created special creatures assigned the task of maintaining each year of time. Not clocks or calendars, but stars. For in the beginning God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven…for seasons, for days, and for years” ().
The biblical significance of the year is that it represents the universal constancy and regularity of human life, both good and evil, and yet its dependence, finiteness, and brevity in relationship to God. To everything in each year there is a season, and a time to every purpose; there is not only a time to be born, but also a time to die (). Although each year is new, yet it is of old time—essentially the same journey we regularly make around the sun, dependent upon Him for life until our years be ended ( ). And this constant regularity is a gift of God that allows us rightly “to consider the days of old, the years of ancient times” ( ).
Significantly, the Eternal One Himself records our history in years. Although this record includes many things, two are notable. First, the birth and death of His covenant people. Significant it is that after informing us that God created the year, Scripture’s next reference is to tell us Adam lived 130 years, begat Seth, lived 800 more years and died (). So also He records by year every birth and death of the covenant line before the Flood, and every covenant patriarch up to Jacob (interestingly, the last is son Joseph, not Judah, from whom Christ comes). How different if God had simply begun His story as so many fairy tales with “once upon a time,” or saying only Methuselah “lived a long time” or forgetting when Abraham was born. God remembers we are dust, and our lives are precious in His sight ( ; ).
A second striking feature is that God records the years His children suffer affliction. Over 16 times Scripture mentions the 40 years of wilderness wandering wherein God was grieved but still patiently cared for His people (). Repeatedly we are told of the 430 years of Israel’s bondage ( ), the years under foreign invaders ( ), years of famine ( ) and years of captivity ( ). Although we are told only the approximate age Jesus begins His ministry and length of it, God records in detail the years many suffered affliction before rescue by His grace—a widow of 84 years, a daughter dead at 12 years, a woman bleeding 12 years, a woman bent over 18 years, a man infirmed 38 years, and a man lame in the temple over 40 years ( ). He remembers our life is spent with grief and our years with sighing ( ).
And so in your own upcoming journey this year, consider the Sun of Righteousness (), who preached the acceptable year of our Lord ( ). Contemplate how we spend our years as a tale that is told ( ). Remember that He also crowns the year with goodness ( ), and makes us glad in the years in which we have seen evil ( ). Don’t forget in this brief year that God is the same and His years have no end ( ). And “be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” ( ).