I said in my first entry that I grew up in an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God. The WCG was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, who promoted the observance of Old Testament laws, such as the Sabbath, the holy days, and food regulations. Today, I do not entirely believe in Armstrong’s doctrines, but I still honor the Sabbath and holy days as special times. I do not do my school work on those days, and I use the time to draw closer to God through prayer and Bible study.
Today is the Feast of Trumpets, which Jews call “Rosh Hoshanah” (“the head of the year”). On some level, its meaning escapes me. While the Bible defines the significance of Passover, Sukkot, and Yom Kippur, there is no biblical passage that explicitly says what the Feast of Trumpets means. The Torah simply commands sacrifices and the blowing of trumpets on that day (Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6).
The WCG always tied the Feast of Trumpets to the second coming of Christ, since Christ will come with the blast of trumpets (I Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 8). Jewish exegetes have also interpreted the trumpet of Rosh Hoshanah in light of other biblical passages on trumpets. For example, Isaiah 27:3 says that the Jewish exiles will return at the sound of a trumpet, so some Jewish interpreters said that Rosh Hoshanah concerns the Jews’ restoration under the Messiah. There is a ram in Genesis 22, the story where Abraham almost sacrifices his son, and a ram’s horn is the trumpet blown on Rosh Hoshanah. Not surprisingly, the Genesis 22 story is a huge part of the Rosh Hoshanah service.
Judgment is a big theme in Jewish Rosh Hoshanah liturgy, and the trumpet performs a variety of functions. The blast is designed to shake the people from their complacency so that they will repent of their sins. After all, Rosh Hoshanah to Yom Kippur is a time of reconciliation with God and neighbor. The ram’s horn also reminds God of Abraham’s faithfulness in Genesis 22. As Christians rely on Christ’s righteousness for justification, many Jews ask God to spare them from wrath on account of Abraham’s devotion.
As a new year’s festival, Rosh Hoshanah may also relate to the maintenance of order in the world. My midrash professor once said that the blast on Rosh Hoshanah was designed to get God’s attention so that he would send abundant rain. Rosh Hoshanah was the seventh month, yet it was a new year’s festival because it kicked off the agricultural year. Autumn was the time of the former rain, which was crucial for the agriculture of ancient Israel. On Rosh Hoshanah, Israelites asked God to bless them with the food that they so desperately needed. They also repented of sin, since sin against God could lead to drought and famine (Leviticus 26).
So what can I learn from the Feast of Trumpets? The festival is about divine judgment in both WCG and Jewish traditions. As a Christian, I can reflect on the need to stay in relationship with God. In the same way that Jews lean on God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 22, I must rely on the love, grace, and righteousness of Christ to survive the judgment that I so richly deserve. That judgment will come when Christ returns. I also should remember my dependence on God for my other wants and needs, including food, a job, academic success, relationships, etc. The trumpet was designed to get God’s attention. For the Christian, prayer does that (Luke 18).