Summary: Leading into communion, with a large amount of OT Festival background, all around the question "how is your relationship with God?"
A New Year’s Feast
Jan 4/5, 2003
New year’s resolutions…
There was a couple who were sitting with a marriage counselor for their first session and the good doctor asked them to identify what seemed to be the root of their problems. The wife responded, "It all started when we thought it would be cute to think up each other’s New Year’s resolutions…”
New Year’s Resolutions for the computer addict…
The Need for Reflection:
I want to spend a little more time around the communion table than normal this morning, to give us the opportunity to begin a new year by examining our hearts before God. 1 Corinthians 11:28 says: “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” The beginning of a new year seems an appropriate time to do that.
So how are you doing in your relationship with God? Are you close, or distant? Obeying, or disobeying? Are you spending time with God – in His word, in prayer, worshipping fully, loving Him deeply, serving faithfully in His Kingdom? Or is your life crowding out your relationship with God?
The Feast of Trumpets:
In the list of the feasts God commanded His people to observe, we find a very short description of one of them: Lev. 23:23-25: “The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: ’On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.’ "”
That’s all it says. There is a little more in Numbers 29, but all it adds are the types of animals to be sacrificed during this feast. If we didn’t know any better, we might conclude that this is a feast day merely to honor people who play the trumpet! But in fact, there is much more going on here than we see at first glance.
See, this “first day of the seventh month” is the day the Jewish people observe as the first day of the new year. The Jewish calendar begins on this day, with this particular feast – it generally occurs after the harvest has been brought in, in the fall (generally September or October), and is known today as Rosh Hashanah. And in addition to kicking off the first day of the Jewish New Year, it begins the busiest month of religious feasts. The feast which follows, 10 days later, is especially significant: it is the day of atonement.
Generally, the Jewish feasts were celebrated with much joy and exuberance. But not these two. The feast of trumpets, which begins the 10 day period leading to the Day of Atonement, marked the beginning of a national exercise of each individual examining their own life before God.
So what’s with the blowing of trumpets? Samuele Bacchiocchi, in his book “GOD’S FESTIVALS IN SCRIPTURE AND HISTORY,” describes it like this:
The blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah was understood by the Jews as the beginning of their trial before the heavenly court, a trial that lasted ten days until the Day of Atonment (Yom kippur). Greenberg explains that the central image underlying the Ten Days of Awe is that of the trial. "Jews envision a trial in which the individual stands before the One who knows all. One’s life is placed on the balance scales. A thorough assessment is made: Is my life contributing to the balance of life? Or does the net effect of my actions tilt the scale toward death? My life is being weighted; I am on trial for my life. Who shall live and who shall die? This image jolts each person into a heightened awareness of the fragility of life. This question poses the deeper issue: If life ended now, would it have been worthwhile?
"The trial image captures the sense of one’s life being in someone else’s hands. The shofar of Ros Hashanah proclaims that the Judge before whom there is no hiding is now sitting on the bench. Sharpened self-awareness, candid self-judgment, and guilt are activated by the possibility that a death sentence may be handed down. Like standing before a firing squad, a trial for life wonderfully concentrates the mind."12
So, the Jewish people celebrate their new year with the Feast of trumpets, which begins a 10 day period of self examination leading up to the day of atonement. The mournful trumpet sounds, announcing “the Judge is now presiding,” and calling us to bring our lives and stand before His throne.
You see why this wasn’t one of the exuberant feasts… In fact, it seems a little bit terrifying, don’t you think? Maybe we can sigh with relief that we aren’t Jewish and aren’t required to go through this process…