YOM TERUAH 2000
The Feast of Trumpets Part 2
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 30 September 2000
Continued from Part 1
Brethren and sisters, I welcome you in the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) whom we are specially honouring today on this the Feast of Trumpets. Last week I gave you an outline of some of the Jewish traditions that have accrued over the centuries and we saw how this festival evolved into the modern Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year. You will remember that these included celebrations of the New Year, God's Royalty or Coronation Day, the Day of Judgment, Remembrance (Yom haZikaron), and the Birthday of the World. Today I am going to strip all that tradition away and focus entirely on what the Scriptures reveal, and no more.
"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 Yahweh by fire" (Lev.23:23-25, NIV).
We see that there are three elements to Yom Teruah: (1) It is a sacred assembly; (2) It is accompanied by shofar blasts; and (3) A sacrifice was required.
You will, I hope, immediately begin to see with a prophetic eye that Yom Teruah, like all Old Testament festivals, is in fact Messianic, meaning it is pointing to Christ. The blowing of trumpets is a sign of the return of Christ and a memorial of Yahweh's grace to Abraham in sparing his son Isaac (Gen.22). And you will remember, Isaac is a type of Christ, and Abraham of our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father, Yahweh, sacrificed His Son Yah'shua (Jesus) in order that we, through repentance and faith on His Name, might receive everlasting life. This is the sacrifice "made to Yahweh by fire". We therefore remember the offering made by Yah'shua (Jesus) as the price He made for our sins.
But Yom Teruah is more than a commemoration of Christ's sacrifice, something we do every week when on Friday evening we celebrate the Lord's Supper. It also - simultaneously - anticipates the Second Coming which was made possible only by the First Coming and the terrible sacrifice that involved on our behalf. Yom Teruah is celebrating two events together with the focus on that which is to come. We may therefore say that this festival, whose purpose seemed so mysterious when we first looked at it last week, is yet to be completely and literally fulfilled.
To understand Yom Teruah we must keep two different things in focus and try to understand how it is that God wants us to bring them together today. To help us visualise this I am going to use a three-armed candle-stick. The candle on the left represents the sacrifice of Christ in His first coming, with the candle on the right representing His victorious return in power and glory. The central candle symbolises the mystery of Yom Teruah which we have gathered here to commemorate and to try to understand.
As we all know, Yahweh's festivals mean different things on different levels. The Bible is a deep book because its author, Almighty God, is deep. It will take you a lifetime to properly understand it. It is like a gold mine with the best ore-yielding veins deepdown in the earth. To get the best you have to dig deep, sweat alot, and get dirty hands. This principle is true of all things in life that are valuable. If we seek the truth, we must labour hard to find it and be blessed by it.
As I mentioned last week, it is no accident that Yahweh called His people to celebrate Yom Kippur, which is the Day of Atonement, in nine days' time. Yom Teruah is about new beginnings, which is how it has come to be a Jewish new year.
When a soul yields sovereignty of his or her life to Yah'shua (Jesus) he is, as Paul reminds us, laying the old life aside and putting on a new one. And you will notice that the apostle likens this change in life to changing clothes.
We've been discussing this concept for the last two days in our evening meetings and have discovered some very intereresting things. One thing you will notice is that when people put on different clothes their behaviour changes to reflect what the clothes represent. Put a man in a soldier's uniform and he is soon behaving like a soldier - marching, saluting, standing to attention, and so on. Put a woman into a beautiful evening dress and in most instances she will start behaving in an elegant manner - you will not usually find her slouching with her feet up ion the table as she might wearing jeans and a tea shirt. Put a boy into sports clothes and he behaves in a sporty way. When we put on clothes we often undergo a fascinating change of behaviour. Put a woman in a wedding dress and you can easily imagine how her thoughts will change. A man wearing a dinner suit will not behave in the same way as a man in sports clothes.
The apostle Paul tells the Colossian Christians, who were newly won to Yah'shua (Jesus), to "put on the new self" (Col.3:9, NIV). He goes on to say: "..clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (v.12). Notice that this is something that we must do. The instruction is: "Put on new clothes and take off the old ones." We should as Christians, dress ourselves in such a way that we will appear completely different to the way we were before we received Christ.
A person who joins the army and puts on a uniform for the first time will immediately "feel" different but as we all know it takes a long time to train a soldier to be a good soldier. A woman about to be married and puts on a wedding dress for the first time will immediately "feel" like a wife but as we all know learning to be a wife takes a long time. But the point of putting on those clothes is that this is the first step in becoming what those clothes represent. The clothes serve as a reminder of what we are supposed to become. A soldier, in wearing his uniform, will constantly be reminded of what it is he is supposed to be and how he is supposed to behave. So long as he is wearing it, he knows, for example, that he must always salute a superior officer. Furthermore, when others see a man in a uniform they know what he is and how he is supposed to behave. In wartime, a man captured with a uniform on is made a prisoner and his life is spared, but if he is going around killing the enemy with civilian clothes on, he knows that if he is captured he will be shot as a spy. Our clothes announce who we are and what we represent, and give us certain rights and privileges.
Becoming a good Christian takes a long time. Becoming perfectly kind, humble, gentle and patient does not come naturally to us. Everybody knows that you do not need to train a child to be naughty because it comes naturally, but to make him kind and thoughtful, you have to train him. The Bible says: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov.22:6, NIV). Wickedness is something we are born with; righteousness is something that has to be learned. That is why the Scriptures teach we are born with a disposition to sin.
Unfortunately, though, it is not enough to train someone to be good. The Scriptures also teach that in order to become good - so that it naturally springs from our heart - we need to be changed from the inside. The art of teaching someone good manners, politeness, and consideration for others does not change a person's nature but rather creates good habits. You wll likely meet people with impeccable manners who are demons inside. The idea that you should train people to be cultured and well-mannered is called formalism.
There are many Christians who reject the idea of formalism. They say that anything which isn't from the heart is fake and should be avoided. Far better to be how you really are, they claim. I would only half agree with them. And the Bible most certainly disagrees with them! The Bible teaches that we must both be being changed from within by our walk with Christ and from without by "wearing the clothes" of good manners and civility. Indeed, did not Paul not say that we should clothe ourselves with Christ? He certainly did.
What this means is this. We are to behave as if we are Christians the moment we commit ourselves to Christ. We are to deliberately cultivate - like the formalists - the art of "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" like a carpenter learning the skills of his trade. This is equivalent to putting on a certain type of clothing. Inspite of the well-known expression, "clothes make the man", clothing is not necessarily "the man" himself, however, but reflects only how he wishes to be. But so long as he is wearing this clothing, he will be sending a signal to his innermost soul which says: "This is how I want to be for real". The clothes we wear - our deliberate attempt to cultivate the arts of graciousness from the outside - send a constant reminder to our soul that this is the way we want to be transformed by the living presence of Christ. As we get into good behavioural habits, so an inner transformation can begin to take place through trusting in Christ, repenting when we fail to maintain our high Christian standards, and praying for continuing sanctification.
So remember - the outer cultivation of the Christian graces is not the graces themselves. We are told in the Book of Revelation that God's holy ones are clothed in white robes. Everybody is clothed in exactly the same way. These are clothes given to the resurrected by Yahweh Himself to reflect what we have actually become. The clothes become the badge of salvation in heaven. Here on earth our clothing is merely a reminder of what we are aiming to be.
So I hope you can now see that the idea that you should just be your "natural" self is only a half truth and is actually quite dangerous. When everybody behaves "naturally" morality declines, because in our natural self we are disposed to sin. A new Christian is fighting his old impulses which stand out in sharp contrast to the intentions represented by the new clothes he has put on. He knows he is a hypocrite when he speaks politely to someone who is being rude to him and he wants to be rude back, but the fact that he is cultivating politeness by in a way imposing it on himself, shows him the changes he must make in his soul. He knows he cannot do it in his own strength so he must go on his knees, plead forgiveness for the wickedness of his heart, and ask for Christ to change him within. The more he does this - cultivating politeness, and repenting of the bad impulses within him, the more quickly he will be changed by the supernatural power of the Lord. This is the Biblical way.
What, you may ask, has this to do with Yom Teruah? I believe almost everything. On the one hand, we are commemorating the work of the Cross in Christ's first coming every time we clothe ourselves with righteousness by cultivating what we know are the graces expecetd of us. How do we know the way we are supposed to be even though we have not become it naturally yet? By reading the Bible and seeing what it is we are supposed to be wearing. The Bible is in this respect a spiritual tailor's shop. Here we discover the clothes we are supposed to be wearing. Here we discover we are supposed to be kind, thoughtful, polite, and considerate of others. Here we discover that we are not to steal, have sex before marriage, commit adultery, or swear. Here we discover what we are aiming to be. At the same time we discover, to our horror, that these things do not come naturally to us, and that no matter how much we cultivate the social graces, we change little inside. And that is where surrendering our lives to Christ becomes important. It is here we invite the resurrected Lord, represented by the second candle, into our lives, to that He can supernaturally make the inner like the outer.
In Yom Teruah we are told to make an offering to Yahweh by fire. Under the Mosaic Covenant this was an animal sacrifice whose blood covered our sins. Christ, at His first coming, has made an eternal sacrifice for us so that we no longer need to do this. We have only to turn to him. Christ has paid the price for the punishment we should receive for our natural wickedness - for the wicked thoughts and feelingsd we sometimes harbour against others, for the unkind words which can cause others so much inner pain, for the thoughtlessness in allowing others to take our share of work which we should be doing ourselves, for our negligence of prayer and Scripture study, for disrespecting parents, speaking evil of others behind their backs, for gossipping, and all that the Bible teaches us is wrong. By confessing these sins in prayer in private and to those whom we have wronged, and asking the Lord's forgiveness, we become cleaned out by fire. A sacred fire - the love of God - cleans us out, forgives us, and the wrong-doing is remembered no more.
The left candle of Yom Teruah reminds us that we must put on the clothes of holiness by cultivating the way we are supposed to be. The right hand candle reminds us that in order to be really changed within we need to put on the clothes of Christ by personally accepting him as our Lord and Saviour, surrendering our lives totally to Him, making a public confession, obeying His commandments, getting baptised in water as a visible covenant between him and other believers that we are Christians, and getting on with life as a new person. The central candle represents these two things combined together. Take the right candle of salvation away and all you have is dead formalism - a plastic mask which people wear, trying to appear good but remaining the same sinner underneath. Take the left hand candle away and you have no way of measuring where you are supposed to be - many Christians try it this way and end up becoming what are called "existentialists". They measure all truth in terms of what they feel inside and not in terms of what God's Word says. Most of these people get so subjective that they invent their own Gospel up and soon wander out of the light and truth. Without both these candles in place, the third one cannot be lit. When the inner and the outer are the same - when the outer clothes reflect what the heart actually is, then a person may be said to have made it. Then the walk of discipleship is at an end. Such a person the Scriptures call an "overcommer".
We have almost, I would suggest, come to understand what Yom Teruah is actually all about. It's about two comings of Christ - one as God incarnate in the weakness of mortal man and another as the trumphant resurrected and all-powerful God-man. It's about us as Christians putting on the mortal, formalist clothes of righteousness, and it's about receiving the living God in our hearts. To get these two to work for us requires that we follow the scriptural recipe completely. And so I return to Paul's letter to the Colossians, third chapter. If we are to do this properly - if we are to be true Christians and not half-hearted or lukewarm ones, we have to realise somethign shocking and yet glorious. And it's this: we have to die.
I mentioned how important the ordinance of baptism is which consists of complete immersion in water. Baptism symbolises death - your death. When you go under the water you are declaring that the "old you" -- all of you -- your whole previous life -- has died, as in literal death. And when you come out of the water, you indicate that you are becoming a new man or woman. The water represents the grave, going into it death, and coming out of it respresents the resurrection. Christ literally died for you so that you could come up out of that watery grave.
Death is the only was back to God. We must die physically in order to leave this earthly realm to enter God's spiritual one, and we must die to our carnal nature spiritually in order to meet God within ourselves. To see God physically tomorrow we must be resurrected, and to see Him spirtually today we must be born again.
A person who is a true Christian has died and been reborn. That is wht Paul said to the Colossians: "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with Him in glory" (Col.3:4, NIV). Now understand this. A Christian, when he is born again, is both dead to his or her old self and alive in Christ. We have a new identity. That's why we wear white clothes in the baptismal ordinance, to symbolise this new identity. They represent Christ. We have put on Christ. Paul goes on to say: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming" (vv.5-6). Not, "put away in a box", but put to death. The old life is over when we are in Christ. As a Christian, a completely new life begins - we have an entirely new identity including a new name. Just like when a woman marries she takes on her husband's family name, so we as believers take on the name of Christ. We become the children of Christ. Indeed, if our name is John Smith, it should really become John Smith Christian. Our name, our clothing, our behaviour - everything changes. Can you understand why, therefore, this festival is called the Feast of Trumpets?
Christianity is not something you do in a dark corner. It's a public affair. That is why it is announced in such a dramatic way. It is announced with trumpets. That is not to say that we are "toothing our own hornss" - trying to get attention for ourselves - but rather we are anouncing the living Christ who now lives in us. Our lives become a living advertisement for God. What kind of advertisement? A very loud one, because shofars make a big noise! Notice we are not announcing ourselves, but only Christ, because self is dead. Paul said, "You died"!
This is what the New Covenant Festival of Yom Teruah means. It is to remind us that we, as Christians, do not belong to ourselves but to Christ, who paid for our sins with His life. And it is to remind us that we should be announcing Christ loudly, just as His second coming will be announced by the blast of trumpets from heaven. We announce our Christianity in our public confession, in our public baptism, and in our public behaviour - first by putting on the clothes of Christ and then by repenting of sin and inviting Him to change us from the inside out. The clothes remind us of what we are aiming for. They help us to keep our vision clear.
May the Lord of Yom Teruah bless you in your walk of discipleship and may this be for everyone an opportunity for renewal as we focus on getting our lives right in preparation for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Amen.
This page was created on 16 February 2001
Last updated on 16 February 2001
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