"And Yahweh spake unto Moses, saying, 'Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.'"
Rosh HaShanah, the first of the Fall Feasts, is marked by the blowing of the shofar, the ram's horn. In Biblical times the blowing of trumpets was used to call God's people to assemble together for various reasons. The blowing of trumpets served as a kind of "public address system" for the entire congregation of the Lord. There were different trumpets which were sounded in different ways at different times to tell God's people what they were supposed to be doing.
We need to discern "the sound of the trumpet" for our generation. "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" (1 Cor. 14:8) God's trumpet does not give "an uncertain sound," but if we do not have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Body of the Messiah in these days, we will not know what God's people are supposed to be doing in this generation at this point in history.
The Church's history, like Israel's history, has been a journey. Throughout Church history there have been different movements of the Spirit, led by different men who had an ear to hear what the Spirit was saying to the Church in their generation. It is an understatement to say that many of these men were imperfect. Nonetheless, they did discern the sound of the trumpet that was blowing in their day. In the 1500s the Reformers heard God's shofar telling them that it was time to come out of Babylon, and they broke away from much of the darkness and superstition of medieval Roman Catholicism. During the Reformation, God's trumpet was saying, "The just shall live by faith" and "sola Scriptura" and "Come out of her, My people."
Some of today's Protestants believe that the Reformation was a great success, and that the Protestant Church was re-formed by the Reformation into what God wants. However, the Reformation was only the beginning of the re-forming of the Church. Each succeeding generation of believers must listen for the sound of the trumpet for their own generation, and discern what re-formations the Lord wants to make in the Church in their generation. This idea is neither new nor novel. John Robinson (c.1567-1625), the leader of the Pilgrim Fathers, wrote these words:
"We have come to a period in religion when the Lutherans cannot be drawn beyond what Luther saw. And the Calvinists stick where Calvin left them. Luther and Calvin were precious shining lights in their times, yet God did not reveal His whole will to them. I am very confident that the Lord hath yet more truth and light to break forth out of His Holy Word." (Reclaiming Reformation Day, page 36). [The fact that someone like Luther could be viewed as a "shining light" should tell us how spiritually dark those times were! -DB]
Yeshua wept over Jerusalem because His generation "knew not the time of their visitation" (Lk. 19:44). They should have known the time of their visitation; they should have known from the Scriptures that their generation would see the Messiah, and they should have known from the Scriptures that Yeshua was the Messiah. It is easy for us to criticize the Jewish religious leaders of Yeshua's generation, but what about our own generation? Do we know what to expect from the Lord during the time of our visitation? In what way does the Lord want to visit our generation, and what will be the intended purpose of this visitation?
I do not claim to have all the answers, but I do know one thing. I know that in the Lord's present visitation, He is visiting His people as a Jew. He is no longer walking among us wearing a Gentile disguise and bearing a Gentilized name. He is not a White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Republican named Reverend Jesus Christ. He is Rabbi Yeshua of Nazareth, a Galilean Jew with no political interests except His Father's Kingdom.
This present visitation which many of us are experiencing is commonly referred to as the Messianic Movement. And what is the purpose of this visitation? To conform us more into His image and likeness by teaching us to live and worship as He did. He did not go to church on Sundays, celebrate Christmas, and attend church-sponsored hog roasts. He honored the Sabbath and holy days and ate clean meats. These neglected elements of Torah are by no means the sum total of what it means to be His disciple. However, these things are an important and necessary part of being His disciple, because being His disciple means following His example and following His teachings. He certainly did these things, and He taught His disciples to do them as well. (See Matt. 5:17-19 & 23:1-3, e.g.)
The signs of this visitation are obvious for all to see. Our generation, and our generation alone, has witnessed some amazing historical events which are tied to this visitation: the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948; the re-taking of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967; the re-emergence and growth of the Messianic Jewish movement in the past five decades. No other generation of believers since the First Century has been privileged to witness these things.
As these important historical events continue to develop and unfold, a remnant of the Church is awakening to the significance of the Jewishness of Yeshua. Those who have ears to hear know that the sound of God's shofar is calling His people to abandon pagan-inspired religious traditions and to return to a Torah-honoring lifestyle in the Messiah. This is why so many non-Jewish disciples are beginning to keep the 7th-day Sabbath and celebrate the annual Feasts of Yahweh.
The Sabbath and Feasts are called God's mo'adim, "appointed times." The mo'adim are first mentioned in Genesis 1:14, where we are told that the lights in the heavens are to serve as indicators of God's mo'adim (translated "seasons" in KJV). This shows us that God had His appointed times, His mo'adim, in mind from the very beginning of Creation, even before He created man.
The Sabbath and the Feasts are the times which God has appointed for His people to assemble together for "holy convocations." (See Lev. 23:2.) The Hebrew word translated "convocation," mikra, means a calling together or a rehearsal. Rehearsal means practicing for the real thing. When we hear the call and assemble together in holy convocation at God's appointed times, our assembling together is a rehearsal for the real thing.
"But isn't Jesus 'the real thing'?" some Christians say. "And didn't He render sabbaths and holy days obsolete? Doesn't Colossians 2:17 say that these things were mere shadows?"
The NASB does say "mere shadows"; however, the belittling word mere is not in the Greek text. That is why it appears in italics in the NASB, to indicate that it was added by the translators. Colossians 2:17 does not say that the sabbaths and holy days "were" a shadow. It says they "are" a shadow, present tense. Why is this important? It is important because it shows us that Paul still regarded the Sabbath and Feasts as a presently-existing shadow of the Messiah, and not as a bygone shadow of the past which had been made obsolete by the New Covenant.* The shadow of the Messiah is still with New Covenant believers. When we step into the Sabbath and Feasts, we are stepping into the shadow of the Messiah.
"But what good does it do to step into a shadow?" some ask. Ask the people who brought the sick out into the streets in an effort to get them into the shadow of Peter as he passed by. (See Acts 5:15.) Let me ask you a question. Suppose Yeshua was in the next room over from you, standing in such a way that you could not see Him, but you could see His shadow being cast into the room where you are. Would you not want to step into His shadow? If people were blessed by the shadow of Peter passing over them as he walked by, do you not think that we can receive even greater blessings by stepping into the shadow of the Messiah?
Yeshua is, indeed, "in the next room." He is in the heavenly realm. Even though we cannot see Him, His shadow is still being cast into "this room," the earthly realm where we presently dwell. When we honor God's appointed times, we are stepping into the shadow of the Messiah.
Many disciples who have been stepping into this shadow from Sabbath to Sabbath and from Feast to Feast can testify that it has brought them great blessings. If you doubt the testimony of present-day disciples, then hear the testimony of the Bride in the Song of Solomon when she says this of her Bridegroom: "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste" (Song 2:3).
As we celebrate the Fall Feasts this year, may the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah remind us that we are stepping into the shadow of our Bridegroom Yeshua. As we observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, may we be thankful for the atonement that we have in Him. As we sit in the shade of our sukkot during the Feast of Tabernacles, may we sit down under His shadow with great delight, and may His fruit be sweet to our taste. Happy Holidays!
*Paul's criticism in Colossians was not directed toward the observance of God's appointed times. Paul was criticizing those who insisted that these appointed times be observed in strict accordance with man-made traditions. The appearance of the words man/men six times in Colossians chapter 2 should make it obvious that Paul was criticizing only man-made doctrines and commandments. The commandment to observe the mo'adim is not a man-made commandment.
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Image (Top): Rosh HaShanah by Daniel Botkin from his Portraits of Prophets Gallery. See more of Daniel's paintings on his art website: DanielBotkin.com