The Romance Of Passover

Many Christians have a complicated relationship with the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs as it’s also called. They skip it when reading through the whole Bible, ignore it in study, and struggle to explain what it’s doing in scripture. Even the idea that the Song is an allegory for the love between God and His people and/or Christ and the church (the dominant interpretation for thousands of years) has been largely abandoned by modern Bible scholars.

In Jewish tradition, the Song is associated with Passover (Pesach) and is read at this time of year. Some say this is just because the song references the spring season. But other rabbis describe this book as the “holy of holies” in the canon of scripture. They accept as a matter of fact that “Israel, in it’s covenant with God made on Mt. Sinai, was married to God” and the people owed Him their “absolute fidelity” (quotes from “Why Do We Sing the Song of Songs on Passover?” by Benjamin Edidin Scolnic).

This assumption explains why the prophets speak so often of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God as marital infidelity. In reference to Hosea, Gerson Cohen said this was “because his Israelite mind had been taught from childhood to think of the relationship between God and Israel in terms of marital fidelity, in terms of love” (quote from “The Song of Songs and the Jewish Religious Mentality”). The Song of Songs might be the most explicitly romantic book in the Bible, but it’s certainly not the only time romantic imagery is used to teach us something about the relationship between God and His people. The Apostle Paul (also a Jewish rabbi) even said after giving instruction to human husbands and wives that “this mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32, LEB).

Covenants and Romance

So what does all this have to do with Passover? For some writers, the Song actually functions as a midrash on Exodus — a commentary in the form of a poetic, figurative retelling of the Exodus story. With this interpretation, “the Song of Songs, according to the rabbis, is a text which describes the very events that Pesah celebrates and commemorates.” You can read more about this viewpoint in Scolnic’s paper (click here).

Even without turning to Jewish midrash, though, we can find connections between God’s romance of Israel and the Exodus story. Take, for example, one of my favorite passages from Hosea: Read more

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Our Atonement Today

A blessed Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement to you all. Earlier this month, I subscribed to Bible Gateway’s newsletter Holy Land Moments with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. It’s described as a way to learn about the Jewish background of Scripture by exploring the High Holy Days.

I’m finding it fascinating. I grew up keeping these Holy Days, but not always with much understanding of the Jewish perspective on them. While some of the Jewish tradition doesn’t relate to Christian observance of these days, they often teach a perspective that deepens my understanding. Take the Days of Awe for example. Using the 10 days between Trumpets and Atonement for self-reflection and repentance deepens the meaning of and my engagement with this holy time. And sometimes, the Jewish perspective sparks a thought about how my Christian perspective differs, such as today’s comment in the Holy Land Moments newsletter:

The central part of the Yom Kippur service is missing today. Chapter 16 of Leviticus is dedicated to the description and instructions for the Yom Kippur service that was performed when the Tabernacle and later the Temples stood. Today, we no longer have a high priest, nor do we participate in ritual sacrifices. So how do we achieve atonement?

Those who believe Messiah has come have a different answer to this question than those who don’t. Rabbi Eckstein writes,”There are three keys that take the place of the service performed in biblical times” and they “can undo our wrongdoings and change things for the better.” These things are “repentance, prayer, and charity.”

Our Atonement Today | marissabaker.wordpress.com
original photo credit: Nick Fullerton, CC BY via Flickr

While those things are important, I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord that I’m not trying to atone for myself. There’s no way I could ever do enough or be good enough to undo my own sins. Today, we do have a High Priest and He has filled the ritual sacrifices with His perfect sacrifice (Heb. 7:23-28). The “central part” of Yom Kippur isn’t missing for Christians who keep this Holy Day — it’s more real than ever. Read more

Thirst

I woke up this morning and reached for my water bottle. It wasn’t there, of course, since today is Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and we started fasting last night as the sun set. What struck me was how automatic the gesture was — I always have a bottle of water nearby, and grabbing it when I feel thirsty is almost unconscious.

So I asked myself, “Do I long for God the way I crave water when fasting?” Jesus called Himself the “living water.” Just as we need water to survive physically, so we need Him to survive spiritually. And yet somehow, I don’t think we are as attentive about drinking Him in as we are physical water. We should keep Him even closer than I usually keep my water bottle, and turn to Him at every reminder just like we take a drink whenever our throats feel a bit dry.

Thirst | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: [cipher], CC BY-SA, via Flickr
The Jews consider Yom Kippur the most solemn and holy day of the entire year, and I’m inclined to agree with them. This isn’t to belittle any of the other holy days or the weekly Sabbath, but God does seem to put a special importance on this day. For one thing, it’s the only day when He strictly specifies “you shall do no work at all.” The other holy days are also days of rest, but He uses a different phrase for that: “you shall do no customary work” or “No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you.”

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” (Lev. 23:26-32)

On the Day of Atonement, everything stops. We stop eating, we stop drinking, and we stop doing any work. Usually, my morning routine goes like this: pray, feed fish, make breakfast, read a book, Bible study, yoga, then start working. On the Sabbaths, I usually only do the first three and then head off for per-services dance practice. But today, the only thing I have to think about is thirsting after God. I took a minute to feed the aquarium fish, but that’s it. I don’t have to worry about making breakfast or scheduling my day. I can listen to Hillsong music, pray, study, and turn my thoughts into this impromptu blog post.

I wonder if my younger self would have believed she’d learn to look forward to the Day of Atonement. Fasting doesn’t make me terribly ill, but it’s not really easy for me either, and I often thought of it as something we just had to get through before the Feast of Tabernacles. But, God be praised, I’m starting to learn more about how amazing this day is and why He considers it so important.

I pray each of you has a blessed, refreshing Yom Kippur that draws you closer to God.

G'mar Chatimah Tovah -- traditional greeting for this season. Literally," A good final sealing" or idiomatically, "May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good"
G’mar Chatimah Tovah — traditional Hebrew greeting for this season. Literally,” A good final sealing” or idiomatically, “May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for good”

The Bridegroom Cometh

I love weddings. Smiling faces, happy tears, white dress, flowers, everywhere, dancing, true love … *sigh*. But even the best wedding I can imagine won’t be as wonderful as the heavenly wedding after Jesus Christ returns to claim His bride.

We’re fast approaching the fall holy day season. Yom Teruah/Feast of Trumpets is on Monday, September 14. It’s the day that pictures Christ’s triumphal return, which closely connects it with His marriage.

The Bridegroom Cometh | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Building A House

In the marriage customs of Christ’s day, at least among the Jews, there were strong parallels with God’s plan. After a betrothal ceremony, the bridegroom went away to build a house. In the mean time, the bride got ready and watched carefully because she wasn’t sure when he’d show up again. The timing depended on the bridegroom’s father saying the house was complete and the bride’s father agreeing that the bride-price had been properly paid.

Jesus told His disciples He didn’t know when He was coming back — that was something only the Father could decide (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32). He did, however, tell us what He’d be doing in the mean time.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Jn. 14:1-3)

Christ’s house-building functions on two levels. One is mentioned here – His preparation of a dwelling place for us in His Father’s heavenly realm. Another involves us more directly.

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Heb. 3:4-6)

We just spent the past four weeks talking about our status as God’s temple, how we can build up each other, what obstacles we face in temple building, and how to clean a spiritual temple. The common thread in all this was the key role of Jesus Christ as Foundation, High Priest and chief Builder of His temple.

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:20-22)

Bridal Preparations

We are built on and in Jesus, by Jesus, so we can be fit dwellings for God. While He is preparing a place for us, He is also preparing us to dwell with and be indwelt by Him and His Father. Still, He isn’t the only one working on getting the Bride ready.

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7)

This verse describing the bride as “ready” is in the future. Since that’s the case, the Bride today should have started preparations if she wants to be ready by the time this marriage takes place.  Yet how can we possibly prepare to marry Jesus? How can we hope to be a suitable helper for Him? Well, we couldn’t if all this preparation was done on our own.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)

We have to work on ourselves, but that’s all made possible because God is working in us. Since He’s already adopted us into His family, He fills the Father-of-the-Bride role as well as being the Bridegroom’s Father.

Paul wrote to Timothy that if we purge ourselves form ungodliness and iniquity, then we’ll be “a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). That’s what we want to become — purified for use in the temple and prepared to do good works.

The Bridegroom Cometh| marissabaker.wordpress.com

Claiming The Bride

The time between formal betrothal and when both fathers gave the go-ahead for the groom’s return could stretch into years. Like some of those ancient brides, the church has waited a long time for her groom to come back. We know He’s coming, and we’re working on getting ready, but are we waiting eagerly for Him? Do we anticipate His arrival?

But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ (Matt. 25:5-6)

Now we get to the part involving trumpet blasts — they signaled the bridegroom’s return in an unmistakable sign that he was close at hand. It’s enough to wake you up, but doesn’t give you enough time for panicked last-minute preparation. If you aren’t ready when the trumpet sounds, you miss His arrival.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

Once He’s here, we’re out of time. Either we’re ready to go with Jesus into the wedding feast, or we’re left outside like the five foolish virgins (Matt. 25:11-13).

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  (1Thes. 4:16-17)

This is what Yom Teruah — the Feast of shouting and trumpet-sounding — pictures. It’s a yearly reminder for the Bride of Messiah to get ready. Your Bridegroom is coming! Do you hear the trumpet?

 

Credits for photos used in blog images this week:

At The Mercy Seat

Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) — today — is considered the most holy day in the Jewish calender. After finishing such an exciting study of Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets), I spent the ten “Days of Awe” in between these two holy days on a study of Yom Kippur, which I’d like to share with you today.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” (Lev. 23:26-32)

The other Sabbaths and Holy Days also include an instruction to cease from all customary work, but the admonition is much stronger here and includes any and every manner of work. This is obviously very important to God — He repeats the commands to “afflict your souls” and “do no work” three times each, and says that the person who does not fast and rest on Yom Kippur shall be cast off, or destroyed, “from among his people.” It is also described as “a statute forever,” so New Testament Christians aren’t getting “off the hook” (see Acts 27:9). The depth and meaning of this Holy Day teaches us so much about Jesus Christ, and we still need those reminders.

Yom Kippur

The Hebrew word kippur or kippurim (H3725) means atonement or reconciliation. Strong’s Dictionary notes, “atonement may be a figure of covering over and therefore forgetting (forgiving) sin.” Zodhiates says “atonement means the condition which results when one makes amends, a satisfactory reparation.” He also includes an interesting note about the history of the English word “atonement,” which “has its roots in Middle English and means ‘to be “at one”.'” You can see this by breaking the word into the phrase at-one-ment.

Kippur is used only 8 times in the Bible, and typically refers to the Day of Atonement. It is also used of the sacrifices that were offered when consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests and cleansing the altar of the tabernacle (Ex. 29:36), and in reference to a monetary sacrifice given by the children of Israel to be used in the tabernacle/temple (Ex. 30:15-16).

esvstudybible.org

Other times the word “atonement” occurs in the Old Testament it’s translated from kaphar (H3722). It’s the root word of kippur, and is where we get the idea of “covering” in relation to atonement. It can mean to hide sin, to annul a contract (Is. 28:18), or to make waterproof by covering with pitch (Gen. 6:14). Baker and Carpenter’s WordStudy dictionary says, “the word conveys the notion of covering but not in the sense of merely concealing. Rather, it suggests the imposing of something to change its appearance or nature.” It’s used most often “with reference to ‘covering’ (hiding) sin with the blood of sacrifices.”

Atonement Sacrifices

You’re probably way ahead of me in connecting this Yom Kippur observance to Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But before we move to the New Testament, let’s take a closer look at what happened on the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament.

and the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.” (Lev. 16:2)

The Day of Atonement was the only time during the year that the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, which was the inner sanctuary of the temple/tabernacle, and no one else was ever allowed inside. The rituals for Yom Kippur were quite involved, and you can read all about them in Leviticus 16. For now, I want to focus on what the high priest was doing inside the Holy of Holies on this day.

And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself. Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die. He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness. (Lev. 16:11-16)

quoted with Quozio

Notice how much of this ceremony is centered around the mercy seat. This was the covering of the ark of the covenant, and we’ll get back to it in just a moment when we go to the book of Hebrews.

This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. (Lev. 16:29-31)

Though we know Jesus Christ’s sacrifice did away with the need for animal sacrifices by fulfilling all that they pictured (Heb. 10:1-18), there is still meaning for us in the Day of Atonement. God said many times that observance of this day is something that would last “forever.” We are still to afflict our souls by fasting from food and water for 24 hours, we’re still to keep it as a sabbath of absolute rest, and we are still to be mindful of the sacrifice required to atone for our sins.

Christ, Our Atonement

In Hebrews 9, the writer speaks at length about the relationship between Christ’s sacrifice and the Day of Atonement. Following a description of the tabernacle, with particular attention paid to the sanctuary “called the Holiest of All” located “behind the second veil,” he talks about the priest’s daily ministrations and the high priest’s yearly role on Yom Kippur.

But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. (Heb. 9:7-8)

Up until the moment of Christ’s death, the average person had no right to enter the Holy of Holies or approach the mercy seat. But when Jesus died, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). This didn’t mean the Jewish priests would let just anyone stroll into the physical Holy of Holies, but it did show that the way was open for us to approach the true Mercy Seat in heaven through the blood of Jesus Christ.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Heb. 9:11-12)

Christ’ one sacrifice did what none of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament could do. The animal sacrifices were figures of His sacrifice, used to sanctify the physical representations of a heavenly temple, cover sins until the true Sacrifice came, and bind God’s covenant with Israel. In fulfilling the terms of that covenant, He paid the ultimate price for all past and future sins.

And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another —  He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Heb. 9:22-26)

In the Old Testament, an animal sacrifice was required before someone could approach God. Those who are sinful are separated from God (Is. 59:2), and the repeated animal sacrifices taught that in order for us to be made right with God, someone has to die on our behalf. That Someone — whose sacrifice covers and puts away the sins of the whole world — is Jesus Christ.

The Mercy Seat

and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. (Heb. 9:3-5)

I personally think this last line is one of the most frustrating in the Bible. I’d love to know what would have been said if this writer could “speak in detail” about the mercy seat.

Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “mercy seat” is kapporeth (H3727), and it is always used in reference “to the golden cover of the sacred chest deep inside the tabernacle or Solomon’s temple. This was the exact spot where God promised to meet with human beings (Num. 7:89)” (Zodhiates). The Greek word used in Heb. 9:5 is hilasterios (G2435). In the literal sense, it means the same thing as kapporeth — the lid of the ark of the covenant.  This word is only used twice in the New Testament, and the other use adds another layer of meaning.

being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed (Rom. 3:24-25)

The word translated “propitiation” here is hilasterios. Zodhiates says, “Paul, by applying this name to Christ in Rom. 3:25, assured us that Christ was the true mercy seat, the reality typified by the cover of the ark of the covenant. … He is designated not only as the place where the sinner deposits his sin, but He Himself is the means of expiation.” In the Old Testament, the high spriest sprinkled a sin offering for the people on the mercy seat once a year. Now, we can bring our sins directly to the High Priest, who Himself paid the blood price to cleanse us. In reference to Jesus, Zodhiates thinks mercy seat “is an inadequate translation of the Gr. word which is rather equivalent to the Throne of Grace.”

quoted with Quozio

Christ’s role as High Priest and ultimate sacrifice fulfill the role of the mercy seat in the Day of Atonement. It goes even deeper than that, through, since He also fulfills the role of the mercy seat as the place where God “will meet with” and “will speak with” His people (Ex. 30:6, 25:22).

Jesus is both High Priest within us as the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16), and High Priest in the heavenly places pictured by the physical temple. He is the only one with the right to enter the inner sanctuary of our hearts and minds, and He is the only one who can give us access to the heavenly Mercy Seat.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19)

My dear readers, let’s take this time on this Yom Kippur to work towards at-one-ment with our High Priest, and invite Him to dwell in us as His temple. Let’s approach the Mercy Seat with boldness, humility, and repentance as we keep this day for Him.

Shout For The King

These are the Days of Awe. That’s what Jewish believers call the 10 days between Yom Teruah/The Feast of Trumpets (which fell on Thursday, September 25th this year) and Yom Kippur/The Day of Atonement (Saturday October 4th).

Having recently started attending with a Messianic Jewish group, I wanted to focus my pre-Trumpets study this year on the Hebraic roots of this Holy Day. With the Feast of Trumpets just a few days past, I’d like to share some of that study with you today as we look forward to the Day of Atonement.

A Question of Trumpets

I found five different Hebrew words translated “trumpets” in the Old Testament. Let’s just take a quick look at each one:

  • chatsotserah (H2689). A metal trumpet (Num. 10:2, 8).
  • yobel (H3104). The signal of a trumpet or blast of a horn. A common noun referring to trumpets, horns , and the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10).
  • shophar/shofar (H7782). A ram’s horn. The word most often used in the Bible.
  • taqoa (H8619). A trumpet with a looped tube and flared bell that makes a shrill sound (Ezk. 7:14).
  • teruah (H8643). A shout of joy or alarm. The noise from a trumpet.
“Rabbi Blowing Shofar” by Carole Spandau

This last word is the one used in Leviticus 23 and in Numbers 29 in reference to the Feast of Trumpets. My Hebrew dictionary says it means “a shout of joy; a shout of alarm, a battle cry. It refers to a loud, sharp shout or cry in general, but it often indicates a shout of joy or victory. … It can refer to the noise or signal put out by an instrument” (Baker and Carpenter, 2003). A more literal translation of Yom Teruah, the phrase we translate as “Feast of Trumpets,” would be “Day of Shouting.”

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’” (Lev. 23:23-25)

Now, I’m certainly not saying this day doesn’t involve blowing trumpets. Silver trumpets would have been blown for the new moon and because this was a high Holy Day (Num. 10:1-2, 10). Shofars (the ram’s horn trumpets) were blown as well. In fact, they were blown on every Sabbath and Festival.

Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob. (Ps. 81:3-4)

Based on this scripture alone, I’d say shofars belong as part of every Christian service. And there are other passages too, like Joel 2:15, which indicates shofars are a key part of calling solemn assemblies and sanctifying fasts, and Psalm 150:3, which instructs us to praise God “with the sound of the trumpet.” But I digress …

So, lots of trumpets blasts on Yom Teruah. There’s even a traditional pattern for how to blow them, and shofars are sounded at least 100 times in a typical Yom Teruah service. (Here’s a link for more about Jewish tradition associated with Yom Teruah, and a recording of the shofar sounds). But even though trumpets are a huge part of this day, looking into the Hebrew had me wondering if I’d been keeping the “Feast of Trumpets” my whole life when I should have been keeping “the Day of Shouting for joy and battle cries.” I also wondered if it really made any difference. Does a better understanding of the Hebrew add layers of spiritual meaning?

The Day of Shouting

The word “Teruah” is used 36 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “blow an alarm” as for war (Num. 10:6, 31:6) and to shout like when the walls of Jericho fell (Josh. 6:5, 20). The people shouted for joy when seeing the ark of the covenant and when the temple was rebuilt (2 Sam. 6:15; 1 Chron. 15:28; Ezr. 3:11-13).  Teruah is also translated “joy,” “rejoicing,” and “joyful sound” (Job 8:21, 33:26; Ps. 27:6, 89:15). It is used of praising God (Ps. 47:5), and of fighting with Him on our side (2 Chron. 13:12).

The meaning of Yom Teruah/the Day of Shouting can be interpreted several ways. A website for Karaite Judaism says it may be “intended as a day of public prayer. The verb form of Teruah often refers to the noise made by a gathering of the faithful calling out to the Almighty in unison.” The examples they give are Psalms 47:2, 66:1, 81:2, and 100:1. A Messianic website says the shofar and trumpet blasts are “a wake-up blast — a reminder that the time is near for the Day of Atonement.” There are strong themes of repentance, rebirth, and resurrection associated with this day.

Another element of Yom Teruah was brought out in the teaching given by the Rabbi at my local Messianic congregation. He said that the shofar is blow every day in the month leading up to Yom Teruah as a proclamation that the King is returning. We are to prepare ourselves to hear the voice of the Lord (traditionally, the shofar is seen as symbolizing God’s voice). In Hebrew, the word “prepare” is connected with the human face — we’re making ourselves ready to be face-to-face with God. In that sense, Yom Teruah is a yearly reminder of something we should be doing all the time. It’s also just the beginning of such reminders to repent and be at one with God, since it’s starts out the 10-day count to Atonement (which will definitely be the subject of next week’s blog post).

This preparation to meet God reminds me of the giving of the Ten Commandments. Before delivering His laws, God commanded boundaries to be set up so the people couldn’t get dangerously close to His presence on the mountain, but He did want them to be present as He delivered the words of the covenant. The people were commanded to consecrate themselves and wash in preparation for meeting with God, and then God commanded, “When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain” (Ex. 19:10-13). Here, the trumpet acted as a call to assemble in God’s presence.

The King is Coming!

In the New Testament, trumpet blasts and shouts are strongly associated with Jesus Christ’s return. Traditionally, Christians who keep Yom Teruah have said that the Feast of Trumpets pictures Christ’s second coming and the first resurrection from the dead.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thes 4:16-17)

For my readers who aren’t familiar with this particular interpretation of future prophecy and “what happens after death” belief, here’s a quick summary of what I believe: Those who have died are “asleep,” waiting for a resurrection. The believers who have died “in Christ” will be raised to eternal life at His second coming, and the non-believers will be raised 1,000 years later to be given as second (or in many cases a first) chance to understand God’s truth (Rev. 20:4-5, 11-15)

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

“Behold, He Cometh” by Simon Dewey

Right now, we’re in waiting for our Bridegroom, Jesus the Christ, to return for us (John 14:1-3). If we’re dead when that happens, we’ll be brought back to life. If we’re still alive, we’ll be changed into spirit beings.

At first, shouting for joy and shouting a battle cry seem only distantly related. But if we turn to Revelation and read more about Christ’s return, the connection in Yom Teruah becomes more clear.

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:6-7)

Here is where the shouts of joy, praise, and exhalation come in. We’ve been preparing to meet our Bridegroom, and here He is! Then, just a few verses down, we see how the shouts of joy turn into a battle cry.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. (Rev. 19:11-14)

The armies which follow Christ at His return are clothed in “white linen” garments just like His bride, so this is often read as a sign that we’ll be riding into battle alongside Him to set up the promised kingdom of peace.

Yom Teruah is already passed for this year, but our preparations to meet the King and become a suitable bride for Him are ongoing. In Matt. 22:2, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” This marriage is an integral part of Their great plan, and we as the church are the focus of it. I pray we all hear and head the trumpet blast that calls out to us and says, “The King is coming! make ready to meet Him.”