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The Feast of Trumpets

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 The Feast of Trumpets Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1-6 Pastor Pat Damiani September 17, 2017 Last Sunday 22 people in our family and extended family gathered together to celebrate several birthdays. This is actually a pretty regular occurrence for us since we pretty much have at least one birthday to celebrate almost every month of the year. Those gatherings are always a great opportunity to celebrate not only a number of birthdays but to think about and celebrate the great blessing of family. When we gather like that, we don’t do it because we’re directed to do that – there is nowhere in the Bible that commands us or even suggests that we are to celebrate birthdays. We do it because we genuinely enjoy getting together. The same is actually true for some of the holidays we observe as disciples of Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to celebrate the birth or the resurrection of Jesus, for instance. There are really only two observances that are commanded in the New Testament – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That’s why I’m really excited that we’re going to have at least one baptism coming up on October 8 and I’m praying that we’re going to have some others who will also be publicly testifying to their faith in Jesus through baptism that day. While over the years I have run across some Christians who disagree, to me I see absolutely nothing wrong with observing a holiday that celebrates the birth or the resurrection of Jesus. Those holidays are kind of like our family birthday get togethers – we observe them because we enjoy having a special time to celebrate those important events, not just because we are commanded to do so. When I think about the significance of family gatherings or church celebrations in my own life, it’s not really surprising to me that God initiated a number of holidays and observances in the life of Israel. Those feasts we intended to remind the people of the great salvation that God had provided for them and to thank God for his goodness to them. Those feasts also pointed ahead to the arrival of the Messiah, who would provide a way for God’s people to be saved for eternity. Those feasts were divided into two seasons. Earlier this year, we studied the four spring feasts [show chart] and found that each one of them were fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming: • The Feast of Passover was fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrificial death • The Feast of Unleavened Bread was fulfilled by His burial • The Feast of Firstfruits was fulfilled by His resurrection • The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) was fulfilled by the coming of the Holy Spirit While each of these feasts all pointed forward to significant events in the life of Jesus, we need to keep in mind that these feasts were specifically instituted for the people of Israel and have great significance for them as a people. Go ahead and turn to Leviticus chapter 23. We’ll be spending some time here over the next several weeks. In this chapter, God provides Moses with instructions concerning the feasts. The chapter begins with instructions for the Sabbath and then in verses 4-21, we read instructions for the four spring feasts that I just mentioned. Then we come to verse 22, which seems out of place: “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:22 ESV) Then in verse 23, God continues with His instructions for the three fall feasts. But for some reason, in this four-month gap between the spring and the fall feasts, we find instructions for providing for the poor and the sojourner – a word that is used throughout the Old Testament to describe someone who does not belong to the nation of Israel – in other words a “Gentile”. While there is no way the people of Moses day could have understood this, the New Testament clearly reveals why God includes this verse about the Gentiles right here in the text. First we have the words of Jesus to His disciples after His encounter with the woman at the well in John 4: Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (John 4:35 ESV) Notice the mention of “four months”. I don’t think Jesus just randomly picked that time period. Jesus has just told the woman at the well that “salvation is from the Jews” and then revealed to her that He was the Messiah, who would inaugurate that salvation. That four-month period corresponds to the gap between the spring and fall feasts, a period that corresponds to an important time in the life of Israel in which God is preparing them for their ultimate salvation. Then in Romans 11, Paul is writing about how salvation had come to the Gentiles in order to make Israel jealous so that they would eventually be saved. Let me read just a couple of verses from that section: Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way, all Israel will be saved, as it is written… Romans 11:25-26 (ESV) These period that began with the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit and which will last until the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in” is what we would call the “Church Age” – the time in which we are now living. [Show next chart] Essentially the Church Age is a “break” in God’s dealing with Israel that will resume with future events that correspond to the three fall feasts. So it seems quite likely that all three of those feasts also correspond with the second coming of Jesus in some way just as the four spring feasts were all literally fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming. [Show next chart]. So today and next week, we’ll look at the first two fall feasts – the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. And then at the beginning of October, we’ll study the final feast – the Feast of Booths. Hopefully, you’re still in Leviticus 23 and you can follow along as I read verse 23-25: [Read Leviticus 23:23-25] There is some further detail about the offerings that were to be made as part of this feast in Numbers 29:1-6. I would certainly encourage you to read that on your own, but since those details aren’t crucial to the main ideas that we’re going to develop today, I’m not going to spend time there. Trumpets played an important role in the life of the Israelites. The first mention of the trumpet is found in Exodus 19 in connection with the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. There the trumpet was used to summon the people to the mountain. In Numbers 10, God gave Moses instructions for making two silver trumpets, which were to be used to summon the people to break camp or as an alarm. They were also to be blown at the beginning of each month and during the appointed feasts as a reminder that the Lord was their God. So throughout the Old Testament, God used blasts of the trumpet to gather His people to Himself in order to reveal Himself to His people and to remind them that He is their God. That is an important idea that we need to keep in mind this morning. The Feast of Trumpets was to be held on the first day of the seventh month – the month of Tishrei, which occurs in either September or October on our calendar. The Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, of approximately 29- 1/2 days, so months can consist of either 29 or 30 days and years can be either 12 or 13 months. The Jews have both a religious calendar, used to determine the dates of the prescribed feasts, and a civil calendar. Since Tishrei is the seventh month on the religious calendar, but the first month of the civil year, the Feast of Trumpets has also become to be known as Rosh Hashanah – which means “the head of the year.” The feast itself was pretty simple. The people were to gather together for a day of solemn rest. In which they took a break from their occupational work. They were to remember God with a blast of the trumpets. While trumpets were blown on other occasions, it seems that at the Feast of Trumpets the instruments were sounded continuously from morning until evening. They were also to present a food offering to God in addition to the normal daily sacrifices. Over time, the feast actually came to comprise two days rather than just one. This has to do with the fact that the Jews determined the first day of the month by the physical sighting of the new moon rather than based on scientific calculations, so there was often a discrepancy of a day in the sighting of the new moon and eventually the Jews just decided to make the feast a two-day observance. This year that observance will begin on sundown on Wednesday and end at sunset on Friday. As is true with most of the Jewish feasts, since the Temple is no longer in existence and therefore the prescribed sacrifices can no longer be made, the Jewish people have had to modify the observance of the feast. Today, most of the day is spent in the synagogue, where religious poems are added to the regular service and prayers from a special prayer book developed for the feast are recited. The Scripture readings include Genesis 22 – the account of God providing a ram as a substituted as Abraham prepares to sacrifice his own son Isaac – undoubtedly a picture of how God would sacrifice His own son on our behalf. It is also traditional to eat apples dipped in honey as a symbol of the wish for a sweet new year. The most important part of the observance is the blowing of the shofar, or the ram’s horn, which is associated with Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah. Beginning on the first day of the sixth month, Elul, the shofar is blown each day, except on the Sabbath, and the day before Rosh Hashanah. Then on the two days of Rosh Hashanah, exactly 100 notes of various types are sounded, ending with one long blast. The Feast of Trumpets begins a ten-day period known as “The Days of Affliction” or “The Days of Awe” which lead up to the Day of Atonement, the feast that we’ll study next week. This is to be a time of self-examination to prepare for that feast. There are several other traditions associated with Rosh Hashanah that are important in helping us understand the prophetic significance of the Feast of Trumpets. In addition to be identified as Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, this feast is also known by several other names. We’ll look at just two of them: • Yom HaDin – the Day of Judgment According to the Talmud, three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah and the fate of each person for the next year is sealed. The names of the righteous are immediately recorded in the book of life, those of the wicked are blotted out of the book of life and they are appointed for death and then there are those in between, who are allowed a respite of ten days until Yom Kippur to repent and become righteous. • Yom Hakeseh – the Hidden Day As we’ve seen, the Feast of Trumpets was held on the first day of the month of Tishrei, a day which in earlier times had to be determined based on the observance of the new moon. Because of clouds which would obscure the moon, it was often difficult to determine exactly when the new moon occurred. And since the exact time of the new moon varied depending on one’s location, the Jews would say that no one could determine the day or the hour that the new year began. Jesus literally fulfilled the spring feasts at His first coming, including the inauguration of the church age on the Day of Pentecost as He empowered His followers with the Holy Spirit. So I have little doubt that He will literally fulfill the three fall feasts at His second coming. However, just as the fulfillment of the spring feast was somewhat of a mystery until those events actually took place, for us there is no doubt a bit of mystery concerning exactly how Jesus is going to fulfill the fall feasts. So all we can really hope to do this morning is to point out some connections between the Feast of Trumpets and what we learn in the New Testament about the return of Jesus. Obviously, we need to be really careful about drawing conclusions that are not supported by the Biblical text. But at the same time, there are some connections that we can draw that help us understand the significance of the return of Jesus for the nation of Israel and for us. The most obvious connection is the way that trumpets are mentioned frequently in the New Testament in relation to the return of Jesus. Let’s look at a few of them. We’ll begin with the words of Jesus. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:29-31 (ESV) We see here that the return of Jesus will be accompanied by a single loud trumpet blast, which is exactly what occurs at the end of each day of the observance of Rosh Hashanah. And, just as we saw in the Old Testament, the purpose of that trumpet blast is for God to gather his people to Himself. This event will occur “immediately after the tribulation of those days”. A simple, literal reading of this passage reveals that Jesus’ return, accompanied by the load trumpet blast, is going to follow some period of tribulation. Whether that is for all Christians or just for the Jews is certainly a matter of much debate that we’re not going to pursue this morning. But what is clear here is that there will be a blast of the trumpet at that time, just like the one in the Feast of Trumpets. Let’s look next at a couple of passages from Paul’s letters: 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52 (ESV) In that passage, we learn that the return of Jesus will be associated with the “last trumpet”. And at that time, the bodies of the dead who have placed their faith in Jesus will be raised and given new resurrection bodies. Paul gives us some more insight into that “last trumpet” in another of his letters: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 (ESV) Paul is clearly describing here the very same event we just read about in 1 Corinthians and in Matthew 24. And here he defines the “last trumpet” as the “trumpet of God”. Here Paul reveals that not only will the dead in Christ be raised from the grave, but the disciples of Jesus who are still alive at that time will also be gathered to Jesus. Finally, let’s look at the words of John in the book of Revelation: When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Revelation 8:1, 2 (ESV) Remember that we learned earlier that the trumpet is blown for the entire month of Elul except for the day before Rosh Hashanah and then it is blown again for exactly 100 notes on each day of Rosh Hashanah, ending with one loud blast. We certainly see a similar pattern here, with a half hour of silence in heaven that corresponds to the day that the trumpets are silent prior to the beginning of the Feast of Trumpets. I want to be very clear with what I’m going to say next and I want you to listen very carefully so you don’t leave here today and say “Pastor Pat predicted the day of Jesus’ return”. The Bible is clear that no one other than God the Father, not even Jesus, knows the day and hour of His return. But in the same discourse where Jesus said that to His disciples, He also told us that we should not be caught off guard by His return because there are going to be signs that will precede His coming. And Paul also wrote to the Thessalonian church that they should not be surprised at the return of Jesus. When I combine all those passages with what we saw earlier about the fact that the Feast of Trumpets is also known as the “Hidden Day”, what I will say is this. I won’t be surprised at all if the return of Jesus occurs in connection with the Feast of Trumpets. Since Jesus literally fulfilled all the spring feasts on the specific day of those feasts, it seems likely that the same thing might very well occur with the fall feasts. I get really excited when I see these kinds of connections between the Old and New Testaments and my prayer is that you’ll experience that as well. But if all we do is leave here today with a little more information, then we really haven’t accomplished much of lasting worth. So if this message is going to have a lasting impact on my life, the question we need to answer in closing is this: How should I live then in light of what I’ve learned today? There are obviously a lot of applications we could make, but let me share just two that I think are most important IMPLICATIONS FOR ME 1. I need to be constantly preparing my heart for Jesus’ return Remember that earlier we described how the Jews blow the shofar throughout the month of Elul in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. That time is also set aside for the people to evaluate their lives and to repent in preparation for the judgment that would occur on Rosh Hashanah. Much of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians dealt with the return of Jesus. We’ve already read one passage from chapter 4 that connected the return of Jesus to the trumpet of God. But Paul made it very clear in that letter that the purpose of his writing was not just for information, but rather for instructing the people about how they should live in expectation of Jesus’ return. Among those instructions we find these words: But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 (ESV) When Jesus returns to the earth again, he will come as Judge, not as Savior. But for those of us who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and already have their names inscribed in the Book of Life, the only judgment we will face is for the purpose of receiving rewards. The very moment we placed our faith in Jesus, our eternal fate was sealed once for all and we will not ever be condemned for our sins. But at the same time, Paul commands us here to live a sober life in which we are constantly preparing our hearts for the return of Jesus. We are called to be vigilant and to make sure that we don’t become complacent in our walk with Jesus and thus become unprepared and surprised by His return. But for those who have not committed their lives to Jesus, the Feast of Trumpets is a reminder that when Jesus returns, whenever that is, their fate will be sealed for eternity. Because they failed to put their faith in Jesus alone, they will be held accountable for all their sins and they will be appointed to what the Book of Revelation describes as the “second death” or the “lake of fire”. So for any of you that have not yet committed you r life to Jesus, this Feast ought to be a solemn warning for you to carefully evaluate your life and respond by putting your faith in Jesus alone, which is the only way you can be saved from God’s judgment. 2. I am to encourage others and build them up One of the most important aspects of all the Jewish feasts is that they are to be celebrated and observed in community with others. Although certain aspects of the feasts, like evaluating one’s own life, are personal, the feasts themselves are all community events. This points out the importance of being an integral part of the body of Christ. And as the time of Jesus’ return comes nearer and nearer, we are going to need each other more than ever. Again, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul, in the midst of his description of the second coming of Jesus, points out the importance of encouraging and building each other up. In fact, the entire section where he addresses how to live in light of the coming return of Jesus, begins and ends with similar admonitions: Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 (ESV) Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV) The writer of Hebrews confirms the importance of encouraging and building each other up as the second coming of Jesus approaches: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25 (ESV) I don’t know exactly what the future is going to bring. I can’t tell you exactly when Jesus is going to return. But based on what we can observe and what we can know from the Bible, we should expect that things are going to get more difficult for the followers of Jesus, not easier. And when that occurs, we are going to need each other more than ever. And we can’t wait until those difficult days come to begin to encourage and build each other up. It may very well be too late then. Let’s start right now. As disciples of Jesus, we are no longer required to observe the Feast of Trumpets. But just like those family gatherings that I talked about at the beginning of this message, out of gratefulness for what Jesus has done for us, we sure ought to celebrate what that means for us together on a regular basis [Prayer] Discussion questions for the Bible roundtable: 1. Even though God commanded the Israelites to observe all seven feasts each year, they failed to do that during much of their history. What happened to Israel as a result? What can we learn from their failure to keep those feasts? 2. Which Old Testament book pictures the Church Age in which God brings salvation to the Gentiles? What does that book lend to our understanding of that process? 3. How do we strike a balance between not making a connection between the fall feasts and the return of Jesus at all and the other extreme of trying to make exact predictions about his return? How does that balance help us live as disciples of Jesus? 4. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul commands his readers to “be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” What does that mean and what are some practical ways we can do that in our lives? 5. What are some practical ways that we can “encourage one another” and “build one another up” right here at TFC?
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