************ Sermon on Numbers 29:1-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 5, 2003
Numbers 29:1-6 (cf Leviticus 23:23-25)
"The Feast of Trumpets"
On this first Sunday of 2003 I want to look with you at the Feast of Trumpets. I want you to hear the trumpet blast marking the start of the new year. I want to explore what it means for you and me today as well as in the future.
You should know that there are 4 separate new years in the Jewish calendar:
-there is the new year for agriculture that began in the 7th month
-there is the new year for the reign of kings that began with the month a king was crowned
-there is a new year for figuring the age of animals and is timed according to when their young were normally born
-and then there is the new year celebrated with the Feast of Trumpets; God established this new year in Egypt at the time of the Exodus:
(Ex 12:1-2) The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, (2) "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year."God took the month that historically had been the middle of the year and He announced that it was now the start of the Jewish calendar year. God announced this as Israel's new year because it marked the start of Israel's birth as a nation, her rebirth as the redeemed people of God, when God took her out of the bondage of Egypt.
I The Feast of Trumpets in Israel
A Israel used two kinds of trumpets. They had long, straight metal trumpets that flared at the end. These were the trumpets that God commanded the sons of Israel to fashion out of silver (Num 10:1-2). By Solomon's day the number of silver trumpets had grown to a magnificent ensemble of 120 (2 Chron 5:12). These trumpets were used in Israel's life on a regular basis. The silver trumpets were sounded when sacrifices were about to be offered and at the beginning and ending of the Sabbath. They were Israel's alarm clock, their air-raid and fire siren, the way they regulated their life – much like the siren that goes off in Exeter every day at noon.
B The second kind of trumpet was the shofar, a curved trumpet formed from a ram's horn or an antelope's horn. The Israelites were not allowed to use a cow's horn or a calf's horn because that would remind God of the golden calf Israel made when she first came out of Egypt. The shofar, on the other hand, was a pleasant reminder of God's deliverance of Isaac through the ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
The shofar was used for an entirely different purpose than the silver trumpets. In Leviticus 25 we read that the shofar, not the silver trumpets of the priests, is to blown on the Day of Atonement announcing the start of the Year of Jubilee. Every 50th year, the shofar announced the arrival of the Jubilee Year in which the slaves were set free and the fields were given rest from the farming cycle. The shofarim were blown on the Feast of Tabernacles and on the New Moon Festivals. The shofarim were blown when Moses led Israel to the foot of Mount Sinai to hear and receive the Law of God. The shofarim were used by the Judges of Israel in order to summon the people to battle against those who oppressed them. The shofarim were blown when David brought the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. The shofarim were blown when Solomon was crowned as king.
The shofar was also used when Israel marched on Jericho. God ordered Joshua to organize the march in a certain way. At the front of the procession were armed men. Then came 7 priests blowing 7 shofarim. Then came the priests carrying the ark of the Lord. Then came a rear guard. They marched around the city once and returned to the camp. The whole time they were marching the shofarim would be blowing and blowing. The next morning the Israelites would line up and march in this order again. And they did this for 6 days. On the 7th day they made 7 trips around the city all accompanied by the non-stop blowing of the shofarim. I'm sure the constant sounding of the trumpets struck fear in the hearts of those in Jericho. But that was not the main reason for the blowing shofarim.
The Hebrew language has a word for the blowing of the shofar. It is a word related to the breath or Spirit of God – the Spirit that God breathed into man so that man became a living being. The same Spirit that God pours out upon us so that we are new or renewed creatures in Christ. At Jericho, then, and on the Day of Atonement, the blowing of the shofar was the sound of God, the sound of the Lord. It was an announcement that God is here and that God is King and that God's people trust in Him and find their rest and security in Him and not in themselves or their own military might. That was the main reason for the blowing of the shofarim as far as Israel was concerned.
C Jewish literature and practice indicates to us that there were professional shofarim players – men who were set aside to blow the shofarim; men who spent hour after hour practicing their skill.
When the shofarim were blown there were a variety of arrangements. Sometimes the shofarim players were in the middle with the silver trumpet players on the outside, sometimes the silver trumpet players were in the middle and the shofarim players were on the outside.
Since Scripture did not describe the manner of blasts required a compromise was reached over time that covered all the possibilities. There was a long, sustained blast. And three short, broken blasts. And a nine-part staccato blast – it made a sad sound, something like a sob. All of these were joined together so that when the shofarim were sounded there was a long blast, three short blasts, nine staccato blasts, and one more long blast.
The three kinds of blasts were identified as three messages from the Lord. The first blast was considered to be an announcement of kingship: He is God, He is King, He rules. The second was considered to be a call to repentance – this was the one that sounded like a wailing cry or sob. And the third was a reminder of all the times that the trumpet had sounded in Israel's history and what God had accomplished each time. Every time the people of Israel heard the sound of the shofar they were told that God is here and He is here as King, that they needed to repent, and that they needed to remember what God has done.
D The Temple and Temple worship must have been noisy: the bleating of sheep, the lowing of cattle, the death shrieks of sacrifices, the singing of the Levites, and the blowing of the trumpets. The trumpets would blast before each and every single sacrifice. At the Feast of Trumpets, for instance, we read that the burnt offering consisted of 1 young bull, 1 ram, 7 male lambs, 1 male goat; these were in addition to the monthly and daily burnt offerings with their grain offerings and drink offerings – the trumpets would blast for every one of these. The trumpets were blown all day long, every day, and many of them – 7 priests blowing the shofarim and 3 priests blowing the silver trumpets. In fact, at the Feast of Trumpets there was never a time of the day when you did not hear the trumpet blast. They were blown from morning until night.
So, then, I want you to observe that Israel started every year with the Feast of Trumpets. At the start of every year she was told that God is here and He is here as King, that they needed to repent, and that they needed to remember what God has done. Not a bad message for us to keep in mind at the start of this new year.
II The Feast of Trumpets Today
A We need to realize that the feasts of Israel are not just Israeli feasts. They are prophetic feasts that are meant to teach us about the person and ministry and redemption that is offered by Jesus Christ. This includes the Feast of Trumpets.
How does the Feast of Trumpets talk to us about Christ?
We are given a hint when we look at Ezekiel 33 – a passage in which the prophet talks about a watchman on the walls of Zion. In the first paragraph, Ezekiel says that when an enemy comes, the watchman on the walls of Zion had better blow the trumpet, he had better sound the shofar; the blowing of the shofar summons the people to bear arms and summons God to defend His people. If the watchman blows the shofar, and the people ignore it, their blood is on their own head. But if the watchman fails to blow the trumpet and the city is destroyed, the blood is on the watchman's head.
In the next paragraph, God draws a comparison between a watchman and a prophet or a preacher. The prophet or preacher must preach the Word and if the people hear and repent, they are saved. But if the people hear and do not repent, their blood is on their own head.
I want you to notice what happens. There is a shifting. There is a shifting in enemies: from an approaching army to sin. There is a shifting in sounds: from the blowing of the trumpet to the call of the Gospel. And there is a shifting in response: a call to arms becomes a call to repentance.
B In this light, I want you to consider what Paul writes to the church at Rome:
(Rom 10:13-15) "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (14) How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (15) And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"How does this connect with the Feast of Trumpets? In the Greek, the word for "preach" comes from the root word for "trumpet sound," for "heralding with a trumpet's cry." Through Paul, God tells us that the church is to herald the message that God is here and is here as King, that people need to repent, and that people need to know all that God has done for them in Christ.
The sound of the trumpet becomes the call of the Gospel. But how can they hear without a preacher? And, how can they preach unless they are sent?
C We can also turn to Matthew 24. Outside of the Reformed faith, most people assume that Matthew is talking in this chapter about the end of time and the rapture and other future events. But I want you to notice what Jesus says in verse 34:
(Mt 24:34) I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.Jesus is not talking about the end of time. He is talking about the end of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."
With this understanding, I want you to consider what Jesus says in verse 31:
(Mt 24:31) And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.Jesus is not talking about the rapture here. He is not talking about last things. He is not talking about being left behind. He is talking about Pentecost. He is talking about Pentecost when the Gospel trumpets forth from the mouths of the apostles. He is talking about today when the messengers of God go to the 4 corners of the earth and herald the Gospel sound to repent and believe.
As you know, the judgment of God fell upon the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. because the people rejected all of the signs and arrows and feasts pointing to Christ as the Messiah. Today, messengers of the Gospel must go forth with the sound of the trumpet and call all people to "repent and believe." "Repent and believe," says the Gospel sound, "or else you too will perish."
This means, my brothers and sisters, that right now we are in the time of the Feast of Trumpets. Right now, at the beginning of the year 2003, we are celebrating the trumpet feast. Because right now, the time between Christ's ascension and Christ's return, is the time when the Gospel is to be preached, the time when the Gospel is to be heralded with its call to repent and believe. Right now as the Gospel is being sounded, people need to recognize that God is here and is here as King, that they need to repent, and that they need to remember all that God has done for them in Christ.
We need to understand, then, that the Feast of Trumpets was not just a Tabernacle or Temple festival. It is a Christian celebration of the preaching and the sharing of the Gospel. It is the heralding of the message of the King. It is a reminder at the start of the New Year of why we are here and what God expects of us.
D The Feast of Trumpets also ought to suggest something about the content of the church's preaching. The church's preaching is not all nice sounding words, kindness, fluffy white clouds, love and peace. It is a not a sweet, little, quiet sound. It is not a statement that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. It is a trumpet blast. It is a loud declaration that God is King. It is a declaration that the God Who made the walls of Jericho come crashing down is the same God Who demands that we repent and believe or else, like Jerusalem, we will be destroyed. It is a declaration that God wants us to remember all of His great and glorious acts throughout the history of redemption.
III The Feast of Trumpets and Future Fulfillment
A The Feast of Trumpets also has a future fulfillment. To see this, you need to realize that the Feast of Trumpets is Israel's dark feast. Every other festival happens at Full Moon, but this one happens at the New Moon when the night sky is dark.
The prophets of Israel repeatedly warned of a coming dark day of judgment. They knew it as "the Day of the Lord." It was that terrible period of time at the end of this age when the Lord will pour out His fiery judgment. The Day of the Lord will be a time when the lord pours out His wrath not only upon Israel's enemies, but even upon Israel herself.
The prophet Amos spoke of this dark day of judgment. Listen to what he says:
(Amos 5:18-20) Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. (19) It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. (20) Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light-- pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Cf Zeph 1:14-16; Joel 2:31)
In his Revelation the Apostle John described the scene that prefigures the Day of the Lord:
(Rev 6:12-17) I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, (13) and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. (14) The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (15) Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. (16) They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
The day is coming in which the Lord will switch off the natural lights of heaven. He will then pour out His wrath with relentless fury upon this wicked world. As I was preparing this message I saw the headlines on Yahoo!: "Bush Warns Saddam of 'Day of Reckoning.'" Well, that day of reckoning is coming not just for Saddam but for every person who lives on the face of the earth.
B Do you know remember what else Scripture says will happen on the Day of the Lord? The trump, the shofar, will sound (1 Cor 15:51-52; 1 Thess 4:16-17). The Lord will return. The living and the dead will be judged. There will be a rebirth, a brand new beginning, of the entire creation as God makes a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, when the Lord returns, the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated; a celebration that will go on for eternity.
The trump will sound when the Lord returns. A huge, big, mighty blast that you can hear everywhere. A huge, big, mighty blast that will fill all the earth. A huge, big, mighty blast that everyone will hear and that no one can possibly ignore. It is a loud declaration that Jesus is King. It is a loud declaration that if we have not repented and believed we will be destroyed. It is a loud declaration that we are to remember all of His great and glorious acts throughout the history of redemption from the beginning of the world to its end.
The Feast of Trumpets. The feast celebrating the new year. It is a call that we acknowledge Jesus is King, that we need to repent and believe, that we need to rejoice in God's glorious acts of redemption.
The Feast of Trumpets. The feast celebrating the new year. It is a call to herald the Gospel to people everywhere, calling them to repent and believe.
The Feast of Trumpets. The feast celebrating the new year. It is a call to make ready and be ready for the dark and terrible Day of the Lord.
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