YOM TERUAH 2000
The Feast of Trumpets Part 1
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 23 September 2000
Brethren and sisters, today I wish to talk to you about a biblical holiday that we will be celebrating in a week's time, namely Yom Teruah, which literally means "sounding of the shofar", more populary called the Feast of Trumpets.
The purpose of this festival is shrouded in mystery. It is first mentioned in Leviticus 23:23-25 which reads: "Yahweh said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites: "On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the Lord by fire" (NIV).
Not a word of explanation as to why this has been commanded. All the other festivals described in this same chapter are explained, but nothing regarding Yom Teruah. Over a period of time the Jews renamed it Rosh Hashanah, which means, "the beginning of the year", making it their New Year, but there is no solid biblical evidence that this is what it actually is. As a result of the cloud of mystery surrounding Yom Teruah, the Hebrews have done much speculating.
Because it is a memorial (a day in which to remember something important) many believe that it commemorates Yahweh's grace to Abraham when He substituted a ram to be sacrificed instead of Isaac (Gen.22). As a result of the Jewish tradition, both Jews and Christians have looked upon it as a memorial to the creation of the world, at which the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7). And so this became a holiday in which Yahweh's people rejoiced in grateful remembrance of Yahweh's benefits and implored His blessings for the future year.
The Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur, which we celebrate 9 days after Yom Teruah) are the holiest days of the Hebrew year. These 10 days between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur are called the "Days of Awe" or "High Holy Days". Unlike other holy days they do not celebrate a season or an historical event. This season is a time for looking inward to spiritual growth. Over the millennia these themes have come to be associated with this period of time:
(1) The Jewish New Year;
(2) Yahweh's Royalty (Coronation Day);
(3) Day of Judgment;
(4) Remembrance (also called Yom Ha-Zikaron, "the day of remembrance");
(5) The Birthday of the World.
I would like to look at each of these traditions in turn and then next week, when we actually celebrate the festival, I will talk about its actual spiritual meaning for us.
The New Year
The Jewish New Year cannot remotely be compared with our western secular idea of New Year which is celebrated on 1 January and is a Roman tradition. In fact, the difference between the two is so marked as for them to be incomparable. Whereas 1 January is a pagan midnight drinking party in which vast amounts of alcohol are consumed and people sing the traditional song, Aul Lang Syne, for the Jews Yom Teruah is a most holy day. It takes place in the Hebrew month of Tishri, on the first day. It is the first of our autumnal holidays and usually occurs in September. This year (2000) it falls on 30 September, and in the year 5761 in the Jewish calendar. According to Jewish tradition the world is celebrating its 5,761st birthday. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that date, mind you!
In calling this the Jewish "New Year", do not be confused, because Judaism has several New Year days. Just as in the West we have a calendar New Year on 1 January and a Taxation New Year in April, a Fiscal New Year in July, and a school New Year in August or September, so amongst the Hebrews Nisan 1 is the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings and months on the calendar. Regardless when the king actually became ruler, he was always crowned on Tishri 1. Another "New Year" amongst the Hebrews was Elul 1, which is in August, which might be called the "Tithing New Year" because this is when animals were tithed. Shevat 15 (in February) was yat another New Year, being the new year for trees (the day when one determines when the first fruits can be eaten, and so forth). And Tishri 1, the Feast of Trumpets, or Yom Teruah, or Rosh Hashanah, is the New Year for Years. Finally, we in the New Covenant, celebrate the Birth of Christ on 6 April, which is our ecclesiastical New Year.
The last coronation day in Great Britain was that of Queen Elizabeth II nearly half a century ago. It was a day of great pomp and majesty. Some of you here will remember it in June 1953. I missed it by one year! Not so long ago I acquired a Daily Telegraph supplement which in those days were printed only in black-and-white (the day of the colour supplement had not yet come) which as you can see captures something of the majesty of that occasion. In olden days the pomp and ceremony would be matched by the very real power which monarchs wielded - today the monarch has only a ceremonial position and possesses little power.
By contrast, Yom Teruah commemorates the supreme, sovereign Monarch, Yahweh-Elohim, Lord of the Universe, whose power is absolute. He is in every sense of the word a King. Thus when the trumpet or shofar is blown in a week's time, we shall be proclaiming to the world both here and in other Christian gathering places where Yahweh's Sovereignty is upheld that Yahweh is King. We shall be celebrating Yahweh's Coronation Day, which is known by the Hebrews as Chassidim. In Psalm 98:6 we read: "With trumpets and sound of shofar make a joyful noise before Yahweh, the King".
In this picture in the Daily Telegraph you see the Duke of Edinburgh kneeling before newly crowned Queen Elizabeth making his homage. In a similar way we, as loyal subjects of the King of the Universe, make our homage through repentance. The Hebrews have a tradition which says that on the day that God manifests His Royalty, the day He created the world, is also naturally the day on which He sits in judgment over His subjects. Coronation Day is therefore a joyous day and a world celebration. Sadly, only a tiny minority will be celebrating it in a world which has rejected God and has created gods of its own making.
The history of the Feast of Trumpets as a "Day of Judgment" is a colourful one. It is said that Yahweh sits in judgment between the New Year and the Day of Atonement over mankind to determine what is to happen in the coming year. This symbolism is drawn upon to great effect by the authors of the liturgical poems written to heighten the prayers of the season. The sages say that destiny - whether financial, physical, or other - is pre-ordained on one day each year for the entire duration of the year (Talmud Rosh Hashanah).
It is said in Hebrew tradition that on this day Yahweh has three books that are opened. Those who have returned to God are written in the Book of Righteousness. All other people are divided into two groups. The first is the wholly wicked whose names are written in the Book of the Wholly Wicked. The other group are considered intermediaries. They are people who have not been judged and have ten more days to repent. If they repent by the Day of Atonement their names will be written in the Book of Righteousness. Hosea 14:1-9, they claim, expresses this theme.
The Feast of Trumpets is also a memorial day. Over the years it has come to be a kind of Hebrew "Mothers Day" too where the Bible's most godly women, such as Sarah, Rachel and Hannah, are especially remembered.
Birthday of the World
Hebrew tradition believes that this day is the birthday of the world because the first part of Genesis is called Bereishit, which translates "in the beginning", which when changed around, reads Aleph b' Tishri, or "on the first of Tishri". Therefore the Feast of Trumpets is known as the birthday of the world. This is an example of sod or mystical scriptural exegesis.
The shofar has always had a special place for the Hebrew people. Trumpets were of a great variety of forms, and were made of diverse materials. Some were made of silver (Num.10:2) and were used only by the priests in announcing the approach of festivals and in giving signals of war. Some were also made of ram's horns (Josh.6:8). They were blown on special festivals, and to herald the arrival of special seasons (Lev.23:24; 25:9; 1 Chron.15:24; 2 Chron.29:27; Ps.81:3; 98:6). And as you will recall, trumpets are among the symbols used in the Book of Revelation (Rev.1:10; 8:2).
In trying to understand why this festival is called the Feast of Trumpets it is necessary for us to see how trumpets were used:
(a) It was sounded to bring Moses to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the commandments (Ex.19:19-20);
(b) It was a signal during time of war (Judg.3:27);
(c) It was blown at the start of the Jubilee year (Lev.25:9);
(d) It was blown during coronation services of a new King (Lev.25:9);
(e) It was a sign of the regathering of dispersed Israel (Isa.27:13);
(f) It was sounded as a warning of danger (Amos 3:6); and
(f) It will be sounded in anticipation of the day of the arrival of the Messiah (Zec.9:14).
The Feast of Trumpets in Bible Times
Anciently the Feast of Trumpets was celebrated in a far more festive fashion than it is today. Although this was a two-day holiday, preparations usually began a full month in advance. On the Jewish calendar today we find a 40-day season called Teshuvah (meaning "return" or "repentance"). It begins on Elul 1 and ends on the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10). This 40-day season is a time for a person to annually examine his life and restore relationships between God and man. The first 30 days of this season are the 30 days of the month of Elul. The last 10 days of this 40-day season are the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement otherwise known as the Ten High Holy Days or Days of Awe.
This holiday is one of mixed emotions. It is considered both a happy, joyous occasion and a sombre occasion: joyous because it is celebration of the new year and somber because custom has it as a "Day of Judgment" in that it is a day of looking back and taking stock of one's life over the past year. In this respect it is very similar to the New Covenant tradition called by us "Tabal 12". No work is allowed on the Feast of Trumpets.
This festival has three expressions:
(a) A day of "solemn rest" to be observed on the first of the seventh month (cooking is permissable);
(b) A memorial proclaimed with the blast of the horn (Zikhron Teru'ah); and
(c) A day of blowing the horn (Yom Teru'ah) which indicates its chief observance, namely, the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn) (Num.29:1).
One Day or Two?
The Feast of Trumpets occurs at the time of the new moon. The entire Hebrew calendar revolves around the moon, so it was very important to get the date of the new moon correct. In Bible times, as it is today, this feast is celebrated for two days instead of one. The Talmudic tradition maintains the second day was added during the time of the prophets, and indeed we find that this was so in Nehemiah 8:2-3,13 when Ezra observed it over two days. This was a rather exceptional situation, however, and we shall only be observing one day this year.
We can therefore summarise the special events which were supposed to have occurred on Tishri 1:
(a) Adam and Eve were created;
(b) The flood waters dried up;
(c) Enoch was translated - taken into heaven (Gen.5:24);
(d) Sarah, Rachel and Samuel (1 Sam.1) were conceived;
(e) Joseph was freed from prison by Pharaoh;
(f) The forced labour of Hebrews in Egypt ended;
(g) Job contracted leprosy;
(h) The start of sacrifices on the altar built by Ezra (Ezta 3:1).
Next Friday evening when the Sabbath begins and before we eat we shall celebrate the Feast of Trumpets. Next Saturday I shall develop the themes I have talked about and shoe the relevance of the Feast to us today in the New Covenant of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
May the Lord bless us all during this special time and may it especially be a time of self-examination so that we can make a fresh start in our relationship with the King, Yahweh-Elohim, pledging our fealty, love and obedience, is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Click here to read Part 2
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Last updated on 16 February 2001
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