Monday, September 17, 2012

Rosh Hashanah & The Feast of Trumpets // Our God is King!

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One of my goals this year was to learn and partake in some of the Jewish festivals God ordained in the Bible. I haven't been very diligent about it, but I did explore Rosh Hashanah a bit.

As with any religious celebration of any faith, it is easy for it to become laden with tradition and ritual. But one thing I love about the Feasts of the Lord is that at the heart of each celebration is one essential purpose: to re-focus.

Even as a devout believer it is so easy to lose focus. I appreciate the occasions that grab my attention and encourage me to remember something specific about God and my relationship with Him. I believe remembering is important to God; He calls His people to remembrance constantly throughout the entire Bible.

Last night, at sundown, marked the start of the Jewish civil new year (Rosh Hashanah). This holiday is also known as Yom Teruah, the "Feast of Trumpets" or Yom ha-Zikaron, the "Day of Remembrance".

The reason for so many names for this holiday has a lot to do with tradition adding meaning to the day. The name Rosh Hashanah and the celebration as a new year came later in history. Originally, the day is recorded in the Bible as "a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation." (Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1-6)

On this day the people are to:
  • Observe a Sabbath rest
  • Sound the trumpets
  • Offer burnt offerings to the Lord

This is one of those passages in the Bible I used to skim through quickly while thinking, "this is so weird..." But a growing reverence toward God and understanding of who He is has shown me that nothing is weird or arbitrary about Him, His commands, or His feast days.

Sabbath Rest
God requires Sabbath rest with many important days of remembrance. I believe this is to eliminate distraction. To fully remember, to completely re-focus, we often need to pause and allow time for the memories to resurface. Even more, pausing and resting allows our spirits to still and our hearts be open to what God would want to show us. Sabbath rests are days for restoration, replenishment and realignment with God's Spirit. The Feast of Trumpets is especially ordained for this.

Sound the Trumpets
The trumpet (also shofar or ram's horn) was sounded to convey a variety of messages. The sound and length of the blast could signify the coronation of the King, the awakening of the soul, a call to repentance or even joyful occasions. On this day, the trumpet blasts came to signify two things: the celebration of the King and repentance.

Burnt Offerings
As with the trumpet blasts, burnt offerings given to the Lord may symbolize a few different things. According to the passage in Numbers, for the Feast of Trumpets, the people were to offer burnt offerings to make atonement for their sins. Even from the first recorded burnt offering (given by Noah after the flood) we seen how these offerings are recognition of God's provision, His covenant, and His salvation for humanity.

What this Means for Me
Learning all this has brought me to a new understanding and appreciation for God's history with His people. Feasts like today are not irrelevant to the "modern" Christian. I believe what Christ said, that He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. It is important for us to regularly remember who God is and what He did for us.

Throughout the Bible we see God providing for and saving His people. Each time an affirmation of His covenant with us. Each time a foretelling of the greatest plan of Salvation through His Son Jesus. When Jesus (also fully God) gave His life as a sacrifice for all the sins of humanity, He made a way for us to be fully free from our sins (and hell) and have constant access to God our King. This is God's ultimate gift of love, mercy and grace that He has prepared humanity for over so many years.

But there is more to the story in that we have a choice - we must choose that relationship with God. Part of the message of the Gospel is our own dying to ourselves, to our sinful nature. The language of the New Testament speaks of "dying daily", offering ourselves as "living sacrifices", being baptized in "the Holy Spirit and fire". As believers, we become burnt offerings to God every time we consciously choose Him over ourselves. It is a choice that affirms that covenant relationship in which He provides Life by His blood, and in which we live out our days serving Him.

For the believer this feast day is also a reminder to look with joyful expectancy for the day when Christ returns at the sound of the trumpet, and we are joined with Him, to continue to reign as joint heirs in God's kingdom. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Romans 8:12-17)

So today, on Rosh Hashanah (a new year with new beginnings), the Feast of Trumpets (commemorating the King and acknowledging my need for Salvation), I remember and worship my God as Savior King.

I may not have had the rituals in place by sundown last night. No shofar of my own to sound. Instead I am able to offer a humbled heart on bended knee with head bowed low. I offer my heart in repentance and my spirit to be filled by His Spirit. And I sing praises to the King of the universe...the King of my heart.

Will you join me in honoring the King today?

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
For the Lord Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
The princes of the people have gathered together,
The people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is greatly exalted.
Psalm 47