It is no secret that I love the Jewish holidays. This year, as I was preparing to give a teaching on them for the Chinese Church, I discovered a lot of interesting facts that I’ve been mulling over the past few days. This morning, a new and simpler meaning for the Feast of Trumpets suddenly occurred to me.
You see since the fall of the second temple, somewhere along the way, Jewish leaders turned this holiday into the Jewish New Year. Yet this is a feast with a very specified date and the only Jewish holiday with no reason given for its celebration. The reason for celebrating is a mystery. I’ve written about that before.
But today, during my quiet time, the thought came to me, perhaps the reason is quite simple and right there before our eyes. You see, on this holiday, trumpets are to be sounded; but that word has a synonym, to shout. Were the people supposed to shout as well? Some people think so.
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. Lev. 23:24
“On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets…. Num. 29:1
This has caused me to stop and think. I don’t have a trumpet, I can’t play one anyway. But shout? When was the last time I shouted to the Lord? Really shouted with rejoicing to him, with praise? I recall a time a few weeks ago when I attended a praise service with some friends and a group of Koreans. It was quite a while ago. But I shouted to the Lord and it felt wonderful—a declaration of victory—this is my God and He is wonderful.
But when was the last time we stopped to praise God for absolutely NO reason. To play our instrument or shout praise to Him, for no reason, other than because He IS and He deserves our praise?
Traditionally, Jewish New Year is a time for retrospection as guidance for the future. But for many, these past few months hold out very little to look forward to. A friend of mine is losing his wife to cancer. This past year has seen terrible typhoons and hurricanes making literally thousands of people homeless and devastating entire nations. And just now there has been an earthquake in Mexico. The rebuilding will take years. The grief will take longer for many to overcome.
When God commanded the Jewish people to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, it was just before celebration of the holiest and most fearful day of the year, the Day of Atonement. Hence, the Feast of Trumpets marks the beginning of a period of time for serious introspection. Jewish people are confronted with their sin and the need for forgiveness.
How on earth can I praise God for seemingly no reason, with a feast, trumpets, and joyful shouts when judgement is coming?
This is the wonder and power of the Feast of Trumpets. For the one who had a true relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob there was hope in the God of creation. No matter what the past or future held, the believer knew their God was worthy of praise, even if there seemed to be no reason from a worldly perspective. The unbeliever, however, would find the holiday just another day, and perhaps scoff. Praise God when the world is falling apart around me? Ridiculous!
Nothing has really changed, even for those of us who claim to believe in Jesus. Beyond the possible looking ahead towards the rapture of believers, this holiday should powerfully remind us that our God is worthy of praise. Through our wonderful Savior, Jesus, He has forgiven and redeemed us, clothed us in robes of righteousness. Do we need any other reason to praise Him? To rejoice in Him?
We can look at the horrible condition of this world, or we can look to the God we claim to believe Him. But we can’t do both. We can rejoice in His sovereignty, or despair in the world’s sorrow. Again, we can’t do both.
But what we can do is this: Rejoice in the God of our salvation, and weep with those who suffer, find a way to help them—whether through personal encouragement, a donation to a trusted organization such as Samaritan’s purse, or the prayer of the righteous which does far more than we realize (James 5:16).
Whether or not the Feast of Trumpets is your holiday, may these thoughts be a reminder, in the midst of whatever you are suffering, that God is still on the throne. He is still with you and has never left you. May you find genuine comfort in praising the God of your salvation and laying the future in His hands, where it belongs.
Happy New Year!