The Bible college where I serve has a flagship course titled “Preparation for Ministry.” But I increasingly find it a challenge to convince people to take the time to do preparatory work. Most enquirers look for the quickest path to ministry, the one with the least resistance. This raises alarm bells for me. We compel students to pause and prepare because this is the way God works with his people throughout the Scriptures.
From Noah building the ark to Moses walking the wilderness, God frequently prompts his people to stop and prepare for what’s to come. This is the function of the little-known Feast of Trumpets.
What Is the Feast of Trumpets?
In two brief passages tucked away in the Torah, Moses calls his hearers to observe what has become known as the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashana (Lev. 23:23–25; Num. 29:1–6). On the first day of the seventh month, God’s people were commanded to rest from their work and present offerings to the Lord. They were called to observe this day by blowing trumpets—hence the name given to the feast.
God frequently prompts his people to stop and prepare for what is to come. This is the function of the little-known Feast of Trumpets.
There’s some debate about whether this served as a New Year’s festival for the Israelites, something common in the ancient Near East. This seems unlikely given it occurs in the seventh month. The feast does, however, fall at the end of the grape harvest and just prior to the annual rains. The Feast of Trumpets could be viewed as marking the beginning of the agricultural year.
Why Is the Feast Significant?
Though the feast is addressed only briefly in Scripture, we see three ways it’s significant.
First, it’s celebrated on the first day of the seventh month. Not all numbers are significant in the Bible, but the number seven carries connotations of perfection or holiness. Just as the seventh day of the week is holy, so too the seventh month is marked as special: a Sabbath month. This assertion is based on more than mere numbers. The seventh month carried three feasts or festivals: Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. The Feast of Trumpets is therefore an opportunity for the people to prepare themselves for this holiest of months in the Jewish calendar.
Second, consider the trumpet’s significance. Admittedly, the Hebrew word for “trumpet” doesn’t occur in either text, but the blast (Lev. 23:24; Num. 29:1) presupposes blowing a trumpet. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the trumpet blast is associated with God’s power or presence. Often it’s blown like a musical prayer to acknowledge or request divine help—a prayer that tends to be answered. At the beginning of the agricultural year, blowing the trumpet is an expectant prayer to God that marks the passing of one season and the anticipation of a new one.
At the beginning of the agricultural year, blowing the trumpet is an expectant prayer to God that marks the passing of one season and the anticipation of a new one.
Finally, the trumpet blast was a call for the people to respond. When they observed the feast, the people rested from work and offered sacrifices. This solemn rest—drawing aside from regular activities—acknowledges reliance on God. The trumpets call the people to prepare for the time later in the month when the high priest will enter the Holy of Holies. By resting, they remind themselves that the faithful God alone is their salvation.
The feast prepares the Israelites to meet their God.
Prepare to Meet Your God
In this way, we see the feast fulfilled in Jesus. Admittedly, there’s no quotation, reference, or allusion to either Leviticus 23:23–25 or Numbers 29:1–6 in the New Testament. But in Jesus we meet God, and at the very same time, we’re prepared to meet God.
As Jesus walked the ancient Middle East, teaching authoritatively, healing miraculously, caring intimately, and dying innocently, we meet God. Because Scripture records Jesus’s life and ministry, we encounter God each time we return to the text. But when we encounter God-in-the-flesh honestly, we quickly realize we’re not ready to meet God. This is a problem because there’s a trumpet blast coming that will bring us face-to-face with our Creator (Joel 2:1; Zeph. 1:15–16; Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 8). Rhetorically the psalmist asks, Who has the right to meet God (Pss. 15:1; 24:3)? How can we unworthy people prepare to face him?
There’s a trumpet blast coming that will bring us face-to-face with our Creator.
We must look to Jesus. In him we see the One who laid down his life for his friends (John 15:13). We see the One who, even though he was without sin, bore the penalty of sin (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus becomes a curse for us in order that he might prepare us to meet God (Gal. 3:13–14)—one day presenting us blameless (Jude 24–25) like a bride without blemish (Eph. 5:27). In Jesus we hear the announcement of the end of one age in judgment and the beginning of a new age in resurrection. In Jesus we confidently anticipate the fullness of the age to come, an age inaugurated with the sound of another trumpet.
Mercifully, we’re no longer required to follow all the intricacies of Old Testament laws about feasts. Jesus fulfills them. Does that empty the Feast of Trumpets of any value for Christians today? By no means. This ancient Israelite feast continues to call us aside from the frantic world we live in to rest and focus our thoughts on our Savior. It calls us to meditate on how God is preparing us to meet him at the final trumpet blast (1 Cor. 15:52).