Monday, May 6, 2013

A One Hundred Trumpet Blast Wake-Up Call

When I think of a trumpet blowing, I envision an old episode of MASH when Major Frank Burns and Major Margaret Houlihan run the Army campy.  Under their rigid command, poor Radar is required to jolt awake the camp each morning with a frightful ramble of missed notes played on his near tuneless bugle.  What a wake up call.

The trumpet blast, though, served a purpose--it is a warning, a signal that change is coming, a reminder to be on alert.

For the Biblical Feast of Trumpets (otherwise known as Rosh Hashanah), the trumpet is used in a similar way.

Scripture says, On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord” (Lev. 23:24-25).

This is the first of the "fall" feasts, and, in Jewish tradition, would begin with the blowing of the shofar, a trumpet of sorts carved out of the horn of a ram (or antelope).  On Rosh Hashanah, the shofar would be blown 100 times in a series, each series including "one long blast, three medium wails, and nine short bursts."

That's a lot of horn blowing.  The point, though, is to make sure everyone hears the sounding trumpet, for all to be warned and reminded of what is to come.  And, in the Jewish calendar, "what's to come" is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement ten days later, a day on which Israel's sins are judged for another whole year.  (Lev. 23:27-32). 

Imagine having ten days to prepare your soul for an annual meeting with the Lord.  You would likely spend those ten days doing everything in your power to make your soul clean, performing acts of kindness, and being on your best behavior.  As you might expect, those ten days between Rosh Hashanah (the blowing of the trumpets) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are filled with much reflection, prayer, repentance, making right any wrongs, and repairing broken relationships.

The Talmud (a Jewish book of history, legend, & tradition) recounts that on Rosh Hashanah, three books are opened--one for the "utterly wicked," another for the "absolutely righteous," and a third for the "tweeners" who, as their name suggests, aren't completely evil or completely righteous.  For ten days, that last group's book is left open so they can get their accounts right with God and their names transferred into the Book of Life.1

However, those of us who are believers in Christ know that this tradition of doing good works to move one's name to the Book of Life is not the truth God intended when He established this Feast.  As Paul stated, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph. 2:8-10).  In essence, Christians are definitely called upon to do works out of their love for Christ, but not because those works will earn them a ticket into heaven.  Only faith in Christ alone can transfer one from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God's beloved Son (Col. 1:13).

What God did intend for His children to see in this Feast was how hopeless they were to save themselves, how they could never do enough to save themselves.  

 Likewise, the Feast was also to serve as a reminder that we must be ready because we know not when the day of salvation and judgment is.

Before that Great Day of Atonement when all mankind stands before the great white throne of judgment, there will be a trumpet blast telling us of Jesus' return to earth.  Scripture says,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Cor. 15:52).

Additionally, in the end, there will be a great judgment with books.  John says, "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books" (Rev. 20:12).  Even Daniel saw "ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened" (Dan. 7:10).

The difference between when Christ returns as Judge and King and the others Days of Atonement throughout the rest of history?  This time, we won't be given ten days to make our hearts right with Him.  This time, if our souls aren't ready, it will be too late and no amount of good deeds will make any difference.  One's present level of faith in Christ at the time of the trumpet blast is what will be judged.

As such, the Feast of Trumpets should remind us of our need to live in a constant state of readiness to meet our Lord.  That morning wake up call is coming.  Unlike when Radar played on his bugle, this time, the piercing blast will be perfectly in tune and will literally be the shot heard round the world.

For some, it will be a sound of much anticipated joy.  For others, it will be a sound of damnation.

Rabbi Derek Leman puts it so beautifully: "Rosh Hashanah is a reminder that we all have a limited time on earth.  Just like the 10 days between the blowing of the trumpets and Yom Kippur, we are all living in the meantime.  The only question is how we will spend it."2

(Click on the YouTube video above to hear just one "series" of blasts on a traditional shofar.)

Other Articles in this Jewish Feasts Series:
Positioning Passover Pronouns
Preparation Day: 'Go to Church' or Worship
Reorienting Our Lives: 50 Days From the Cross
Understanding the Jewish-ness of Jesus
The Truth About Passover

1.  Nadler, Sam. Feasts of the Bible. "Feast of Trumpets."  Video. Torrance: Rose P, 2011.
2.  Leman, Derek. Feast: Finding Your Place at the Table of Tradition.  Nashville: Lifeway, 2008: p. 62

1 comment:

  1. Attended a Messianic Jewish temple several years ago for Rosh Hoshanah. When the rabbi applied the trump blast to the sound we as believers are waiting to hear heralding Christ return and the men then sounded the horns in the back, well, all I can say is it had me anticipating His coming all the more. "Living in the meantime", like that quote.