Rosh Hashanah is the First of the Fall Feast.
By Chris Suitt
Many of my friends ask, “Why do you as a Gentile pastor celebrate and teach the 7 Jewish Feasts?” My standard answer to them is found in Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” What were the Scriptures Paul had? The Old Testament or what many refer to as the Hebrew Bible. Thus, I teach about the 7 Jewish Feasts because the more we understand the Jewish background of our faith, the better we will understand our faith and how to be healthy believers.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk about the upcoming 5th Jewish Feast that the Bible calls “The Feast of Trumpets” or what is commonly referred to today as “Rosh Hashanah” (the head of the year). Passover is the beginning of the religious New Year, and Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as the beginning of the civil New Year. It is also called the Day of Remembering and is the celebration of the creation of the world. For Jews, the 5th Feast is a time of spiritual renewal through prayer and deep personal reflection that leads up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah is when the Jewish people recognize G-d as King and Judge over all living things. On this particular day, the shofar (a ram's horn) is blown and bread and honey are handed out, symbolizing fullness and completion, and apples are dipped in honey to symbolize prayers for a sweet new year.
While these traditions certainly have meaning and significance, I want to do what Paul said and study the Word itself to discover what it teaches about this 5th Feast. This, according to Paul, is what can bring us encouragement and hope in our faith. When studying a particular passage in Scripture, it can be very revealing to take note of the particular words that the Spirit chose to impart revelation. Adding to or taking away from these words will distort the meaning and obscure what the Spirit wants us to know. Though the traditions mentioned earlier show us important aspects of the Lord's character and spiritual truths, I believe that they are "adding to" the original meaning of the 5th Feast listed by Moses in Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6; those traditions can distract us from what the L-rd wants us to know. It's easy to understand, however, why additional meanings were given to the 5th Feast. At first glance, it seems the Bible didn't give us a lot to go on.
Firstly, Moses does not specifically give a name to the 5th Feast in either Leviticus 23 or Numbers 29. Of the 7 Feasts listen in the Bible, only the 3rd and 5th Feasts are not specifically given names. Then there's something else about this 5th Feast that is noteworthy: of all the Feasts, it is the only one that the Bible does not give a reason for observing it. So, it seems as if the Spirit of G-d is drawing attention to Feasts 3 and 5 for some reason. They are not given names. And the 5th Feast is even more conspicuous since the Bible does not even give a reason for observing it. Why is that so? Of course there's a reason, and we just need to open our hearts and minds a bit to discern what the Spirit is trying to show us. I find it interesting that Leviticus 23:24 states that the 5th Feast was a day to hold an assembly “commemorating” with trumpet blasts. The word for “commemorating” means to remember, to call to mind, or to recall. This is why it is called the Day of Remembering. Yet keep in mind two things: This day is not given it a specific name and the Bible does not tell us what we are supposed to remember in this day. All of the other 6 Feasts are tied to something that was known. But not this one. Hmm… Hold onto that fact and let's keep looking at Leviticus 23:24.
Because the passage states that this day was to be remembered with “trumpet blasts”, people have given the name The Feast of Trumpets. But what does “trumpet” actually mean here? I think it is interesting to look at the meaning of the Hebrew words used in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29 to get a fuller understanding. The Hebrew words "shofar" and "terua" are used. Let's look at other passages to see contexts in which these words are used: In Joshua 6:16, the word "shofar" and "rua" (a form of terua) are mentioned in the context of the Jericho walls coming down. 2 Samuel 6:15 also uses both words when the people shouted (teruah) and blew the trumpets (shofar) in celebration of when the Ark came into the city of Jerusalem.
If the Spirit uses different words, He must have a reason. I believe He is telling us that there is a difference between the two words shofar and terua. Job 33:26 reveals that seeing G-d's face causes one to shout for joy. Psalm 33:3 says to sing a new song to the L-RD and shout for joy! The Psalmist states (47:5) that G-d ascended amid shouts (teruah) of joy and the sounding of trumpets (shofar). According to Joshua 6:4, only the priests carried the trumpets or shofars. What did the rest of the people use? Nothing but their mouths! In Numbers 23:21 teruah is translated by the NIV and KJV as “the shout of the king.” The king is here, so shout!
What I believe the Word is teaching us about the 5th Feast is that a whole lot of shouting is going on, not necessarily trumpets blowing. What difference does it make? What can we learn from this? I believe the 5th Feast is talking about when the King comes for His bride, the Body of Messiah to the marriage supper of the lamb (Revelation 19:7-9). Paul calls the Body of Messiah a mystery in Ephesians 5:32 as He relates the relationship between the Messiah and His Bride, the Body of Believers on the earth. In Scripture, very often a mystery is something that was hidden in the Old Testament, but is brought to light in the New Testament. In other words, I believe the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Together they form a complete message. Paul states that the L-rd will come from heaven with a “loud command” or “shout” and the “trumpet call of G-d” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. What will happen after this shout and trumpet call? The dead in Christ and then those believers left on this planet will be “caught up” or raptured.
I find it interesting that this shouting and trumpeting mirror another example in the Word- a Jewish wedding. In Yeshua’s day, a groom would negotiate a price for his bride and sign a document - ketubah or betroth. At this point she is his wife. They are married. The groom would then return to his father’s house to prepare a place for them to live in. Only when his father felt he was ready would the groom come to get his bride, usually at night with his best man in a torch-lit procession. The bride knew her husband was coming, but never knew when. She was always to be ready and to anticipate his coming for her. When the groom came, guess how he let everyone know that he was coming - shouts and trumpets blasts!
Yeshua came and negotiated the price for us - His death on the cross and signed the ketubah in blood. Yeshua taught in Matthew 24-25 that His Bride was to live as healthy believers (i.e. putting their faith into action) every day in order to be ready for His return to come get her, which could take place any time the Father said for Yeshua to come. 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us that Yeshua’s coming for His Bride, His Messianic Community/ Church, will be preceded by a shout and a trumpet blast of G-d the Father. It is my belief that that this 5th Feast, called by some the Feast of Trumpets, others Rosh Hashanah, is the day the Yeshua will appear in the sky for all the world to see and rapture His Bride. Some will counter, “But the Bible says you can’t know the day or the hour, so are you not predicting it by saying Feast 5 is the day of His return?” No I am not. First of all, keep in mind that the previous 4 Feasts took place on their days, why not this one? Second, we still don’t know on which Feast of Shouts He will come; thus, we can’t know the exact date or hour of His return, but Yeshua Himself commands us to know the "times and the seasons" of His return.
Yeshua told many parables to highlight the importance of believers being found faithfully doing what their Master told them do when He returns. If Yeshua doesn’t return this Rosh Hashanah, in His grace, G-d is giving us another year to get right with Him and start doing what He has called us to do - reap a harvest! Can you mess around all year and get your act together just before He comes? If you waited until days before the Rapture to get right, you will be like the person in thorny soil - green stalks but no corn! You can’t plant the seed two days or even a month before you need the fruit to be eaten. It has to be in the ground long before. The point is that we are to live each day in light of tomorrow. If Yeshua doesn’t come this Feast of Trumpets, in His grace G-d is giving us another year to plant seeds of character and the gospel now, so we might reap a harvest.
In Judaism, a time period of a month called Elul precedes Rosh Hashanah. Elul is used to prepare for Yom Kippur where a Jewish person performs a daily “cheshbon”, a spiritual accounting, in order to evaluate their lives to see how they can improve the next year. The shofar is blown every weekday until the day before Rosh Hashanah to help remind people to deal with their “stuff”. So this coming month would be a great time to evaluate your life. The shofar is blown as a call for repentance, to return to the path as outlined in the Scripture. It helps us remember who our Creator is and our need to live for Him. It is time to evaluate our lives. Are we ready for Yeshua’s return? How healthy is your faith in Yeshua seen on a daily basis? Are you asking the L-rd to send you into the harvest? (Matthew 9:35-38) Are you willing to let go of your distractions and fears so that you can see those who are without hope, those who have pasts that are eating them up in the present, come to faith in Yeshua? The Feast of Shouts is coming and so could our L-rd Yeshua Messiah. Are you ready? You could be hearing the shout and trumpets from heaven soon.