Cycles of the Moon

closeup photography of crescent moon

In this Article, we will consider how the monthly cycle of the waxing and waning of the moon might illustrate for us something critically important about the covenant of Torah. Perhaps the Holy One designed the renewing appearance of the moon each month as a monthly visual reminder of His covenant with us, a covenant which is a light to our path. As we read the description in this suggestion, remember that the word Torah means “teaching/instruction.”

The Scriptures provide a history of God relating to man from the very beginning of mankind. In this manner, the recorded teachings/instructions of God — His Torah — reveal, explain, and guard those covenants. This Torah has been a living covenant among His people in every generation. For example, Abraham knew God’s Torah. This becomes evident as we look at the translation from the Hebrew of Genesis 26:5. “Because Abraham heard My Voice and guarded My protective guards; My commandments, My statues and My torot” (the Hebrew plural form of torah).

With this information as a foundation for our thinking, let us now have a look at the monthly lunar cycle. When the moon is in the phase called a “new” moon — it is not visible to the human eye. The moon still exists of course; it’s just not physically visible due to its position between the earth and the sun. According to astronomer Patrick Moore, the moon’s “dark side is towards Earth and it cannot be seen” with the unaided eye. 

As the moon continues in its normal orbit around the earth, more and more of its illumination becomes visible, called “waxing,” until it reaches its maximum illumination, which is called the “full” moon. Thus, what appeared to be invisible progressively becomes more visible until the fullness of what is actually there is fully seen.

The process described above occurs in the first half of the lunar cycle. After the full illumination of the moon, its illumination begins to “wane,” or diminish, over the second half of the lunar cycle until once again it becomes completely invisible. From this we see that what is traditionally called the “new” moon is not actually “new,” but its process of full illumination is “renewed” each month. Since this cycle is repeated on a monthly basis, it points to an endless display within the night sky that God put in place from the beginning of Creation (Genesis 1:16–17; Psalm 8:3). 

In like manner, The Torah has been present in every generation since the beginning. With each new generation, the people of The Covenant are to begin their walk within the Torah community. This process of walking within the Torah allows the beauty and provisions of The Covenant to be seen within the setting of the Covenant Community. To state this truth again: The Community sees the beauty and the provisions of The Covenant as they walk the life of Torah together. Living out the covenant with each other and interacting with the God of the Covenant, brings more and more light to their path of the Community until they see The Covenant in its fullness. Each person within the Community is, therefore, seen as the person God created them to be and is contributing to the Community as God intended.  Thus, the Community becomes a bright light within that generation, a light so bright that Israel is able to be a light to the nations!

What about the phase of the moon during the second half of each month, when the full and bright moon begins to wane, its light diminishing until there is no light at all? The moon still exists, but can no longer be seen. Psalm 78 records a profound revelation from Abba to His children, which can be seen most clearly from the Hebrew text. This revelation was a testimony to every generation. And what was the testimony? God testified that each generation was a generation that did not firmly establish its mind. Notice that it says, “its mind” (singular) (translation of lev, ck)! As a result, the mind of the generational community became “leavened” with the ways of the outside/foreign cultures surrounding that generation. The leavening of the mind occurred as the detriment of those cultures acted as leavening agents upon the Covenant Community, therefore leavening the mind of the whole generation.

We suggest this process of leavening is visualized for us by the waning of the moon and shown to us every month as a monthly reminder. It is in the purity of the life taught within The Covenant of Torah that the children of God are an ever-increasing light to those around them. As that purity is diminished through the “leavening of the mind,” the community’s “light to the nations” continually diminishes — as in the waning of the moon — even to the point when no light can be seen. 

Allow us to ponder further within the meaning of this phrase, “the mind became leavened.” We find this expression in the Hebrew of Psalm 73:21. In the context of this psalm, the psalmist is describing the seeming prosperity of those who do not know God. While he is looking at their apparent prosperity, “his mind becomes leavened.” This leavened mind produced thoughts that compared his life experience with those who seem to “prosper” — “the ones who are always quietly at ease, increasing in wealth.” Comparing and contrasting the ease that the ungodly seem to have in their daily lives with his own daily struggles are “embittering” to his mind.

The Hebrew word for embittered in Psalm 73: 21 is chametz (חמץ). Perhaps in English we can invent word to express this: chametzed. The verb, “chametz” usually means “leavened.” However, in verse 21 it is in the hitpa’el stem. When it is in this stem, it means “to be embittered.” “For my mind was embittered [“chametzed”] and I was pierced through in my kidneys.” When the mind becomes leavened with thoughts we were not created “to eat of,” the mind becomes embittered.

“Leaven” is an agent, like yeast, that causes fermentation. The dictionary definition states that leaven is not only a substance that causes fermentation, but it also “is an element that produces an altering or transforming influence.” In the context of Psalm 73, the term is referring to the process of thought within the mind of the psalmist:

Behold, these are the wicked ones;

the ones who are always quietly at ease,

increasing in wealth.

Psalms 73:12

He responds to this with this thinking:

Surely in vain I have kept my mind pure 

and I have washed my hands with innocence/cleanliness/purity.

Psalms 73:13

He continues to describe his thought process:

When I thought intensely to know [understand] this,

it was troublesome in my eyes.

Until I came into the sanctuary/holy place of God [God’s House],

[then] I understood their end/result.

 Psalms 73:16–17

The wording of these verses of Psalm 73 show us the process of the psalmist’s mind becoming leavened, but because of his relationship with God, he comes to see as God is showing him to see. In this new way of seeing, the psalmist then understands that the ways of the ungodly always end in destruction. 

Let’s continue to explore this process of “the mind becoming leavened.” As we have stated, the dictionary defines leaven as an element that produces an altering or transforming influence. In the context of Psalm 73, the term is referring to the thought process within the mind of the psalmist. He was looking at the prosperity of those who do not know God. While he was consumed with those thoughts, his mind became leavened with thoughts that caused him to doubt the value of how he has been living his life: “Surely in vain, I have kept my mind pure and I have washed my hands with innocence/cleanliness/purity,” (Psalm 73:13, Author’s translation).

As a result, the psalmist’s mind was filled with mixed thoughts that considered the promised goodness of God against the apparent prosperity of those who do not know God. Within such a mixture of thoughts, his mind became leavened. There were elements of doubtful/detrimental thoughts “fermenting” within his mind concerning God’s promises. This “fermenting” had an altering influence and he found that his “feet had almost slipped and he had nearly lost his foothold.” The Psalmist opens Psalm 73 with this declaration,

Surely, God is good for/to Israel;

to the ones who are pure in mind.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

As you ponder the words of Psalm 73, we leave you with this question: Why were the Israelites instructed to make bread without leaven when God was preparing them to leave Egypt? Yes, they were to leave before the bread would have had a chance to rise, but He specifically directed them to make it without yeast, [chametz, .nj], without the element that is an “altering or transforming agent.” 

The generations of Israelites that lived in Egypt in slavery for 400 years had become greatly assimilated into the Egyptian culture losing much of their uniqueness as a distinctive people of God. Assimilation is “the process whereby a group … gradually adopts the characteristics of another culture.”

The process of assimilation can leaven a generation until the light of Torah wanes to the point of not being visible at all. Thus, in the picture of the renewing moon every month we are looking at both the teaching picture of the Exodus of Egypt and the testimony of Psalm 78! Psalm 78 opens literally by saying, “Oh My people, hear My Torah; listen to the words of My Mouth. I will open My Mouth with a parable, I will cause to gush forth things locked up mikedem, מקדם, (from before any first), which we heard and we knew and which our fathers told us” (our translation). The Psalm continues as a testimony of every generation — including the generation that assimilated in Egypt. They heard. They knew — and they forgot. How did that forgetting happen? Each generation was “a generation that did not firmly establish its mind.” The people of that generation assimilated into the culture(s) around them. Thus, the mind of that generation became leavened. The Light of Torah waned until it again gave no light at all. It was there, but no longer seen. 

This reminds us of Deuteronomy 29:29 where we read, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this Torah.” Did God design for His ancient people a visual monthly reminder to renew their attention to their Creator and the life-giving words and instructions of His Covenant with them?  

It is possible to see a parallel here: God designed a visual reminder happening every month — visible to every generation of mankind upon the earth. 

Psalm 19:1–4 

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

As stated before, the mind of a generation becomes leavened through a process by which “leavening agents” — such as detrimental thoughts or assimilation into ungodly culture — consumes our thoughts little by little until our entire way of thinking becomes “leavened.” As later reiterated in Galatians 5:9, “a little leaven will soon leaven the whole lump.”

We suggest that this is pictured for us by the waning of the moon and is displayed for us every month as a visual monthly reminder. Living out The Covenant with each other in community and interacting with the God of the Covenant, brings more and more light to our path until we see The Covenant in its fullness.

What we are suggesting in this Article is something to think through and consider. 

5 Webster’s II New College Dictionary, New Your, Houghton Mifflin Co., 68.

6 We have done extensive research on the Hebrew word mikedem, מקדם. There is no doubt that the primary meaning was and still is “from before any first.” For further understanding of the more literal translation of Psalm 78 and of the Hebrew phrase mikedem, we recommend that you visit this web site:

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