In just a few days, we’re observing Yom Teruah–the Day of Trumpets (you may also know this day as Rosh Hashanah). As the earliest New Testament believers did, Messianic Jews and many other Christians today will gather to blow shofars and celebrate a day that God describes as holy to Him. We’ll do this because we want to honor God and show our love for Him by obeying His commands, yet we don’t know very much about this day or why God wants us to mark it. The most detailed description we have is this:
Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, there shall be a solemn rest for you, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no regular work. You shall offer an offering made by fire to Yahweh.’”Leviticus 23:23-25, WEB
There are many theories about this day. Some say it pictures the time when “the Lord himself will come back from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thes. 4:16, NET), like a Jewish bridegroom arriving to marry his betrothed. Others say its a day picturing freedom, release from debts, and joyful shouts. Or perhaps it’s simply a call to prepare for Yom Kippur (JewishLink.com). Some teach that it marks the sixth day of creation and is intended to wake us up, reminding us to turn to the Lord and pray we be inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life (Hebrew4Christians.com).
First and Second Creation
This idea of a connection between Yom Teruah and the sixth day of creation comes from Jewish mishnah writings rather than scripture, but if that tradition is true it would connect neatly with the second coming. As the author of Hebrew4Christians points out, this reading would mean Yom Teruah “commemorates both the creation of the universe by Adonai as well as the ‘calling up’ of the new creation at the behest of Yeshua, when the sound of the heavenly shofar inaugurates the anticipated End of Days.”
Paul also draws a link between Adam–the first human being God created–and Jesus Christ–the first person raised from the dead in a spirit body. There’s an orderliness to this comparison, “for just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him” (1 Cor. 15:20-25, NET). We’ve born the image of the man made of dust, created by God on the sixth day in Genesis 1, and we will “also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:42-53, NET).
Something marvelous is going to happen in the future. We, who are fleshy like the first created man, will change. We’ll become spirit, like the Firstfruit from the Dead, Jesus Christ who lived as a human being, died, and then rose a spirit being. And that will happen “in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:52). We can debate the exact timing of that change (and many have), but it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to associate it, or at least a blasted reminder that this change is coming, with Yom Teruah.
The King is Coming!
The connection between trumpets and Jesus’s second coming is perhaps the simplest explanation for this day’s meaning that we can offer. The spring holy days (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost) pointed toward and now call us to remember Jesus’s first coming. The fall holy days point to a time in the future when God Himself will dwell with people; when Jesus Himself will return with the sound of trumpets, shofar blasts, and shouts.
The trumpets and shofars used to make the “alarm, signal,” “shout,” or “blast” that’s described by the word teruah figure prominently in scripture (H8643, BDB definition). Often, this word refers to the sound made by a shofar, or ram’s horn (TWOT entry 2449c). The shofar was used when Israel met with God at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:16-20). It’s what the priest blew when Jericho fell and Gideon went up against Midian (Josh. 6:4-20; Judg. 7:16-22). The shofar was used for signals in battle and to sound an alarm, and it’s often used figuratively as well as literally (Judg. 3:27; 2 Sam. 18:16; 20:1; Neh. 4:20; Is. 58:1; Jer. 4:19, 21; 6:1, 17; Ezk. 33:3-6; Hos. 5:8; 8:1; Joel 2:1; Amos 3:6). Israel also used shofars when anointing a new king (1 Kings 1:34, 39; 2 Kings 9:13), and it played a key role in praise and covenant making with God (2 Chron. 15:13-14; Ps. 81:3; 98:6; 150:3; Joel 2:15).
Shofar blasts are connected to kingship, to warnings for Israel to return to God, and to proper expression of joy after returning. They serve as a warning and reminder as well as a tool for worship. So let’s keep this holy day with all those meanings in mind. Let the Day of Trumpets wake us up from spiritual sleep, renewing our commitment to wait faithfully for the Bridegroom. Let that day remind us to prepare and use the days between now and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) wisely. And let’s also celebrate joyfully, remembering the goodness of God in creating us and promising to recreate us in His spiritual likeness. This world which is so full of frightening and wicked things will not last forever. Someday, our Lord will return with trumpet blasts and we will be changed, fully born into His spiritual family. And that gives us great reason for joy as we begin another fall holy day season.
Song recommendation: “Yom Teruah” by Steve McConnell