Last night, before I went to an exhausted sleep, I was told by a friend of mine in the congregation that she would be unable to teach in Sabbath School this afternoon and so I would need to teach the lesson on the Feast of Trumpets in her stead. And so, being the sort of disciplined person I am when it comes to teaching Sabbath School classes , I thought it would be worthwhile to share with you all what it is I taught my students by reflecting on and organizing my thoughts beforehand in the process of writing an essay about it. The Feast of Trumpets is coming up in a couple of days, and so it is good for children (and adults) to be reminded of this Feast of God, particularly since it is a most obscure one.
When we first look at the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23:23-25, what we read is very short and obscure: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.'” That is all that is said. The festival is not even named, although Feast of Trumpets (or Yom Teruah transliterated from Hebrew) is a fitting name for this festival. It should be noted that unlike among the heathen Babylonians, this day was not the New Year’s Festival, but rather it was halfway through the year. But what is meant by the blowing of trumpets? Where are we to untangle the meaning of this festival and better understand the importance of celebrating a memorial of the blowing of trumpets.
In Numbers 10:1-10, we see a fascinating glimpse of the use of Trumpets within the people of ancient Israel in the wilderness: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps. When they blow both of them, all the congregation shall gather before you at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. But if they blow only one, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall gather to you. When you sound the advance, the camps that lie on the east side shall then begin their journey. When you sound the advance the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall begin their journey; they shall sound the call for them to begin their journeys. And when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow, but not sound the advance. The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and these shall be to you as an ordinance forever throughout your generations. “When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.”
So, when does the Bible say that these trumpets shall be blown? Most often, these silver trumpets were to be blown at the beginning of every month, on the new moon. The Feast of Trumpets, it should be noted, is the only Holy Day that takes place on the New Moon, one of the cycles of time that the Bible discusses like the Sabbath or the year . We also see that the trumpets were blown when God wanted to call the leaders or the people of Israel to assembly, and the people would know who was being called by how many blasts there were from the trumpet. The trumpet would also call the children of Israel to depart from where they were to travel to where God was sending them, similar to the way that the Feast of Trumpets is a call for us to prepare to depart our own homes to travel to the Feast of Tabernacles, which is coming up in only about two weeks. Additionally, the trumpet was to be blown as a call to arms to go out to war, and was also to be blown on all of the festivals of God as a way of celebrating in the day of our gladness, as Numbers 10:10 puts it. From these we can see that trumpets and the blowing of trumpets, was important to the people of Israel in many ways.
One of the psalms, Psalm 98, gives us some of the meaning of the Psalms for ancient Israel, and for us, as well. Psalm 98 reads as follows:
“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Sing to the Lord with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity.
In looking at this Psalm, we see a great deal of meaning for the Feast of Trumpets as it was understood by ancient Israel and also how we view it ourselves as believers. We see in verse six that we are called to celebrate with trumpets and the sound of a horn, as is done on the Feast of Trumpets, and in the last verse we are given the reason why we are to celebrate, the reason why this day is so important for us, because our Lord and King is coming to judge the earth with righteousness, and even to treat the Gentiles with fairness. This world is not just or fair, and people are not treated as they ought to be. We often do not treat others justly or fairly either, so this is not something merely to criticize others about. The psalmist here understood, though, that the trumpets of the Day of Trumpets were connected with the coming of the Lord to rule over the whole earth with justice and fairness, and that is something we need to keep in mind as well.
Having discussed with the Hebrew scriptures say about the Feast of Trumpets, though, let us look at what is added in the New Testament. There are two places we can go in order to see the meaning of trumpets that is added in the New Testament to the existing understanding we have seen. The first one is fairly brief, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which reads: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” We see from these verses that the return of Jesus Christ at the sound of the trumpet will be accompanied by the resurrection of those believers who died in the faith and the change from physical to eternal life among believers who are still alive, something that Paul expects rightly to comfort believers who are reflecting on the loss of dead friends or relatives who died in the faith.
The second place in the New Testament where the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets is expounded on can, of course, be found in Revelation. In Revelation 8, 9, and 11:15-19, we see the seven trumpets discussed in great detail. If you wish to read these for yourself, I will give you the homework assignment to read Revelation 8 and 9 for yourself to read about the first six trumpets, which include various curses like the burning up of grass, the sea becoming blood, and other such judgments on the wicked inhabitants of earth in the last days. What I would like to focus on is the seventh and final trumpet, which is discussed as follows in Revelation 11:15-19: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.” We see from this passage that the twenty-four elders who are in heaven sang a song praising Jesus Christ for returning to rule over the world and judge it with fairness and justice, in rewarding God’s flowers and destroying those who destroy the earth.
Let us summarize. When the Feast of Trumpets is introduced in the Bible, it is an obscure festival commanded without being provided a lot of detail. Through the course of the Bible, more detail is added. Numbers 10 tells us that the blowing of trumpets was to symbolize both celebrating on the Holy Days and calling Israel to fight against wicked oppressors as well as assemble to depart or to hear the word of God. Psalm 98 tells us that the people of Israel associated trumpets with the coming of God to rule and judge the world, and this understanding is expounded upon in further detail in the New Testament, where 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 tells us about the resurrection of God, and where Revelation chapters 8,9, and 11 connect the trumpets with the judgment of a righteous God on a wicked and unrepentant earth. Hopefully now you better understand this Holy Day and why it is so important for us as God’s people.
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