During the centuries leading up to the time when Jesus was crucified and when he rose from the dead, the prophetic significance of these four feasts no doubt was lost to most people, and perhaps to everyone. This connection came only afterwards with the teaching revealed in the New Testament. For us, living after the events and able to tie together these teachings, it is a relatively easy study to learn some of the more complete significance of what God told Moses and the Israelites.
Since the first four feasts of the seven had a prophetic component to them, it is reasonable to assume that in all probability, the final three also would be prophetic in some way. If so, however, these three were not predictive of anything surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. They are not as we saw in the first four feasts.
In fact, they seem not to be indicators of anything in the life of Jesus, at least not during his first coming and the days of his ministry on earth. Can we say then that these final three may be predictive of his second coming?
If so, we are today in the position that Moses and the ancient Israelites were in during their own days. Without a direct revelation by God, those people of the Old Testament could not have possibly known that the Passover feast, the Unleavened Bread, the Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks were predictive of the coming of Jesus Christ hundreds of years later.
In much the same manner, neither are we able to know about the predictive attributes of the final three feasts without the direct revelation by God. These are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Tabernacles.
With what we read of the Feast of Trumpets, the Holy Day that we will study today, there is little if anything that will give us an indication that it is prophetic in any way. The instructions for this feast are among the shortest that we have of any of the seven feasts:
The LORD also said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say, ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly announced by trumpet blasts. You must not do any regular work, but you are to present an offering made by fire to the LORD.’ ” (Leviticus 23:23-25 BSB)
On the first day of the seventh month, you are to hold a sacred assembly, and you must not do any regular work. This will be a day for you to sound the trumpets.
As a pleasing aroma to the LORD, you are to present a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram, and seven male lambs a year old, all unblemished, together with their grain offerings of fine flour mixed with oil—three-tenths of an ephah with the bull, two-tenths of an ephah with the ram, and a tenth of an ephah with each of the seven male lambs.
Include one male goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you. These are in addition to the monthly and daily burnt offerings with their prescribed grain offerings and drink offerings. They are a pleasing aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. (Numbers 29:1-6 BSB)
This is the totality of the instructions given for this feast. There is no reason given for why the Feast of Trumpets is to be celebrated, other than it is an offering made to the Lord. Nor can I (or anyone else) determine any significance to the very specific numbers of animals sacrificed, or the precise measurements of grain, flour and oil. This is true not only in this feast, but in any of the Old Testament sacrifices. All of this to us is a mystery later to be revealed.
The Feast of Trumpets is different from the previous feasts in one important way. If we would recall when God gave Moses the instructions for the first four feasts, there was a memorial element to them: “That you may remember for the rest of your life the day you left the land of Egypt,” “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and carefully follow these statutes.”
In this Feast of Trumpets, there is no memorial element mentioned, and neither is there any ancillary or additional information given in relation to this feast as there was, for instance, in the Feast of Weeks. If you recall from the sermon last week, in that feast, the people were told that they were to remember the plight of the widows, orphans and foreigners. With the Feast of Trumpets, there is none of this. There are only the basic instructions of how the feast is to be celebrated.
There is however, the statement that it is an offering made to the Lord, and that the aromas of the burnt offerings are pleasing to the Lord. And of course, this is sufficient. There does not need to be another reason for the feast. It is done as an act of worship to God and nothing else. This is a concept that is important for us to remember in all of our activities.
“Whatever you do, even in your eating and drinking, do it all for the glory of the Lord,” Paul instructs us (1 Corinthians 10:31).
A Pattern of Prophetic Meanings
Nevertheless, with nothing inherent in the feast itself, we are left wondering about the prophetic element of the feast. Frankly, it is only because of the prophecies fulfilled in the first four feasts that we are left with this question.
We do also have however, the words of Paul, when he tells us that all these feasts are like indicators or shadows of a deeper reality that is to come. The reality they point to, he said, is to be found in Christ (Colossians 2:17).
The writer of Hebrews agrees with this when he tells us the Law is a mere “shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things” (Hebrews 10:1).
It is not the feasts themselves that are the ultimate reality, but the full reality is what they point to. Were it not for these facts and this information, we would perhaps not be so inquisitive concerning this Feast of the Trumpets.
What is said to us by these two New Testament writers indicates to us a help that we have in learning the true fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets. Moses in the days of the Old Testament may have had direct and face-to-face revelations given to him by God, but in our own day we do have one resource that Moses did not. We are able to hold in our hands and to study the revelation of God to man. We have the Bible, which reveals much to us not only about the past actions of God, and what He is doing in these present days, but also what He will do in the future.
Of course, this does not clear up all difficulty for us in determining a deeper significance to this feast. The writings of prophecy are often very perplexing and enigmatic. It is easy for us to misinterpret them and to get things wrong.
With Fear and Trembling
This is my great concern when I speak of prophecy, because I know that it is an awesome and even frightening thing to teach from the Word of God. It would be bad enough in my studies if I should lead myself into a mistaken interpretation. However, if I should teach a wrong doctrine and mislead others—well, these are consequences that I could not bear.
I would rather remain silent. I would rather remain a disciple rather that venture into the role of an apostle, that is, a teacher of the truths of God. It is not lightly that the apostle James tell us, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
However, it is also true that this is the role that God has given me throughout my adult life—that of a teacher of the Bible. I fulfill it not because of personal desire, but because I seek to be a servant and a steward of what God has put upon me. Nevertheless, understanding that I am held to a more severe standard is a frightening thing to me, so I do so carefully. This is true not only in my teaching, but also in my personal life.
Like Paul said of himself, I seek to “discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
Paul acted with determination in all that he did. He said, “I run, but I do not run aimlessly. I will fight, but I will not fight by merely beating against the air.”
I also pick my battles. God has given me certain tasks to fulfill in my life, and it is upon these where my attention lies. This is the reason why, in regard to the Feast of Trumpets, I will avoid getting myself diverted into additional information that may or may not be correct. Interpreting the Bible revelation about this feast is difficult enough, but through the centuries, this feast in particular has become loaded with many supplementary elements that may be well and good, but which are not derived from Scripture.
We see this with any annual religious celebration. As the holiday is repeated throughout the years, many new rituals and customs are added and become part of what is done every year. What often happens is that so many are added that the true meaning of the day is lost. It is in our own celebration of Christ’s birth where it is perhaps the easiest for us to see this. So many elements have been added to the way we celebrate Christmas, that one actually has to dig to see the true meaning of our joy in that day.
And so it is with the Feast of Trumpets. It perhaps has come to this because there is actually very little about it said in the Old Testament. God did not leave many instructions. So, I suppose, in order to make the celebration “meaningful,” through the years many have added additional aspects to it.
It is for this reason that when it comes to teaching about this feast, I prefer not to go beyond what I see in the Bible. As I mentioned a few moments ago, I try to remain focused on my task. The stewardship that God has given to me is that of a teacher of the Bible. It is not as a teacher of tradition. I will leave that role to others.
Nevertheless, there is more to say regarding the Feast of Trumpets. The use of trumpets has an important place in Biblical prophecy. Also, since we have learned that so far in our study of the previous Holy Days, there was a prophetic component to them, it leads us to wonder if the trumpets blown on this day are meant to announce something beyond their immediate sounding.
In point of fact, to announce something is actually the true meaning of the word that we have translated in our Bibles as “trumpets” in the instructions given to Moses. The true translation for this word in regard to the feast not really trumpet at all. Rather, the word simply means a shout or loud sound of some kind given as an announcement—an awakening blast. The same Hebrew word is translated in various ways in the Bible, including a shout of alarm or joy and even as a war cry, as well as blasts made by the blowing of trumpets.
But I will not quibble with the translation. Since we think that the blowing of trumpets was used for this particular feast, it is understandable and acceptable to have the translators use the word trumpet in translating this text.
Nevertheless we must ask, what is it that these trumpets are announcing? What are they indicating?
In the context of the time of Moses and the ancient Israelites, the trumpets were announcing the leading up to the Day of Atonement, a day that we will look at next week. The Feast of Trumpets is announcing the important period of humbling oneself before the Lord as it leads up to the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement is a crucial Holy Day, as they all are, but that day in particular speaks to the very heart of our attitude before the Lord God.
In the context of the connection to our own day and to future events, it was Jesus who first drew our attention to the trumpet in terms of events that we should expect to happen.
Jesus said, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31 BSB).
Last year in our church we spent about six months studying the book of Revelation. In that study we learned of the seven trumpets blown by seven angels in the last days of the earth. It is a series of separate soundings of the trumpets, each trumpet in its turn and one after the other. After each sounding of the trumpets, we are told of events that take place on the earth.
It is with the sounding of the last of these trumpets, the seventh, that Paul tells us, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 BSB).
But that is the last of the trumpet blasts—the seventh one. There were six others before this final trumpet. With each of the first six we learned of great devastations taking place on the earth, even horrendous things.
Each of these trumpets of Revelation is announcing devastations of the things of the world, but they are also calling those who are faithful to God to holiness. It will be a time of great trial and ordeal for those believers who are living through those times. Such terrible events will be happening on the earth that the faith of each will be put to the test, examining the heart of everyone on earth to determine where their allegiance truly lies.
The Call to Holiness
This also is the message of the Feast of Trumpets. It is a call to preparation and a call to holiness.
What is holiness? Holiness is examining your heart and asking yourself some deep questions about your own priorities.
I don’t care how genuine and transparent before others you think that you are, we all try at times to exhibit a certain persona, or put up a façade on our personality. We dress in a certain way or groom ourselves in a certain style to represent a certain personality we hope to broadcast to others: tough guy, beauty queen, outdoors man, naturalist.
I am not saying this is entirely bad, but when all of that is removed, when we get down to the core of who we really are as a person, what is truly important to us?
Holiness means that when we get down to the heart of our beings, we find Jesus. The call to holiness is that when we realize this truth about ourselves, we can discard all of those elements about ourselves that detract from the center.
As we live in this world, we are like a religious holiday that has had so many added elements to it that the reason for the celebration is all but forgotten. We are like a holiday that is all about the decorations and the shopping, all about the customs and the special food, but where the important aspect of the day, the spiritual aspect, is neglected.
The call to holiness is a call to rid ourselves of all of the worldly glitter of the celebration and remember what is important.
We are like a ship moving through the oceans. As we move through our lives, the barnacles of the world begin to attach themselves to us, inhibiting our growth and draining us of our spiritual energy.
The call to holiness is the call to remove the barnacles that have accumulated on our lives.
Our Church Bell
In our church we have a great bell hanging outside of the building. Every Sunday morning it is usually Josh who rings that bell precisely at 9:30 and with great enthusiasm. Our bell is not like the bells we all used to hear in the schools, announcing the beginning of class. It is not like the alarm clocks that many wake up to in the morning.
Our bell is a call to holiness. It is a call to remind us that in the hour to come, we in our church will be examining our lives to see what it is that we have picked up from the world in the previous week, and that needs to be removed. Our church bell is a call to remind us that in the next hour, we will again be digging deep into our lives and discovering again what is truly important and vital.
Our bell is the call to holiness. It is a call like the call to holiness found in the words of King David in Psalm 139:
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
For You formed my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:1-2, 13-14, 23-24)