When God gave Moses the seven appointed feasts to be observed by Israel, He told Moses that the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) was to be a Sabbath day observed by the blowing of trumpets as a memorial to remind Israel that they were a people under a covenant– a nation who had accepted the responsibilities of being God’s people (Num 29:1; Lev 23:24). God Himself blew a heavenly trumpet (shofar) at Mt Sinai to call the people to attention and to announce His Presence for the inauguration of His covenant with them. Therefore, the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) is a time of calling God’s people to attention, to sound a warning, to give an alarm, jolting us from our sleep, calling us to remember our Lord as King. “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.” (Matt 25:6,7).
In ancient Israel, when the trumpet (shofar) would sound at the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), the field workers would stop their labor and come into the Temple. The high priest blew the trumpet so that the faithful would stop harvesting and come to worship. It was, in essence, a call to attention to assemble themselves to be gathered unto the Lord: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. …For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt 24)
When the trumpets are blown on the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), there is a set pattern of different sounds that are repeated, with one single, final blast referred to as the “Last Trump”: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 will be changed.” (1 Cor 15:51,52).
The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) is unique because it is the only appointed feast that begins on a new moon. Jews reckon their days as beginning and ending at sunset, rather than at midnight. Therefore, in ancient Israel, the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) was also known as the “Feast that no man knows the day or the hour”, because it could not be determined whether the new moon would appear before the sun set or after the sun set, only God knew the exact hour when the moon would appear. In ancient Israel, two witnesses would stand on the walls of Jerusalem and watch for the first sliver (crescent) of the new moon. When God decided to allow the new moon to appear in the sky, then these two witnesses would sound the shofar (trumpet) and all the people in the city would immediately drop what they were doing, and go to the temple. “But as for that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
The days leading up to the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) are known as the “season of repentance” and they take place during the 6th month on the Jewish calendar which is called Elul. We prepare for the Feast of Trumpets during the month of Elul by getting our spiritual house in order, “And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.” (Matt 25:10). We’ll take a closer look at what it means to be “ready” in my next post.