Tuesday will be the full moon just before the Feast of Trumpets (or more properly “a memorial of blowing of trumpets”). This is the only festival in the covenant God made with ancient Israel that occurs on the new moon, and that got me wondering what, if any, significance that might have in God’s curriculum for His people. How might an ancient Hebrew or early Christian have seen the Feast of Trumpets in light of the new moon?
Gen. 1:14-18 notes that God put the sun, moon and stars in the sky to “rule” the night and day and to mark days, seasons and years. Even though those heavenly bodies (sun and moon) “rule” their respective territories by providing light, they also provided a much-needed service to humankind in its rule on earth. In this way, even the sun and the moon are created to serve humankind, God’s co-regent on earth.
The sun obviously marks days, and the weekly sabbath is based on counting days. Less obvious, but just as important, the moon marks the seasons, which are based on counting moon phases. This is an ancient practice of many cultures. How many old Western movies, for instance, show the stereotype of the “Indian” telling the “cowboy” that something happended a number of “moons” ago. The Hebrew word for “month” is literally “moon.”
Num. 10:10 tells the Israelites to bring in each month as the new moon showed the first thin line of light each month with a blast of trumpets. The first sign of light on the moon symbolizes a movement from darkness to light. What a perfect metaphor for salvation! Repentance from deeds of darkness. Death and resurrection! All pictured in the moon’s light returning. For Christians, turning from darkness to Jesus, the Light of the World.
Num. 28:11-15 lists a specific set of sacrifices God expected the Israelites to make as each month began. This was not a sabbath of rest, like the weekly sabbath, but rather a celebration of sacrifices, with offerings for sin and reconciliation. Bringing people from darkness to light requires God to work in their lives. In John 5:17, Jesus is replying to people upset by the fact that He healed on the sabbath. His reply, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Jesus was busy being the sacrifice that makes it possible for us to pass into His light from the darkness. And He is still working through the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and in those He calls. That brings us to the new moon that is also a sabbath of rest: Rosh Hashanna or the Feast of Trumpet-blowing.
What we now call the Jewish New Year begins on a new moon after the major autumn harvest in Palestine, as the cycle of seeding and harvesting begins anew in that region. It is the seventh new moon of the year, making it the sabbath of the new moon celebrations so it is “logical” for it to also be a sabbath-rest day.
The usual new moon trumpet-blasts on that special day are intensified sevenfold. According to one Messianic Jewish website,
“On Yom Teruah we blow several different trumps on the shofar (ram’s horn trumpet). The Last Trump is preceded by a shout, “Tekiah Gedolah!” which translates something like “The return of the Great One!” Does this sound like something Paul might have referred to? At the last trump, with the shout of the archangel, Messiah shall return, and the righteous dead shall be raised (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 15:52)! The renewal of life — from the dead! That is what Rosh Hodesh pictures.”
There seems to be evidence in Isa. 66:23 that the new moon may remain important in the future, for “all flesh” will be required to worship at Sabbath and new moon before the Lord. (I think that this expression more likely refers to immortality that lasts as long as the moon continues to shine, but I cannot entirely discount a literal meaning.)
In Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal’s book The Feasts of the LordEzek 37: 24-25 teaches that David reigns forever as Prince. If they are correct this means that in Ezek 46:1-8 the resurrected King David leads new moon worship service before the Lord.
Another perspective on the Feast of Trumpets is held by another Torah observant believer in Jesus on her own blog. Refering to the ancient practice of literally watching for the first sliver of light on the moon to signal the beginning of the month, she writes,
“The time spent waiting and looking for the new moon is a vivid and practical reminder that we need to be always watching and waiting for the Messiah to return. Messiah Yeshua will return when the time is right and He was clear that His followers need to understand the signs of the times, as he said in Matthew 16:3, even though the hour and day of His return are unknown to everyone except YHVH, as explained in Mattew 24. So while we wait and watch, straining to see the first glimmer of the new moon we remember Matthew 24, that we are to be ever watchful and waiting for Messiah Yeshua to return. When He returns it will usher in a new time of rejoicing and we’ll all feast together as a family at a glorious wedding feast, together at one table. In Isaiah 66:23 we read of a time when “all flesh” will come to bow in worship of Him from Rosh Chodesh to Rosh Chodesh and from Shabbat to Shabbat. In the new kingdom we will certainly be recognizing Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat, as well as Sukkot. We know this because it says so in the Isaiah 66 passage and in Zechariah 14:16-19.
In a very real sense, the work of Jesus is not yet complete. He has not yet redeemed all of humanity. He has not yet returned, as He has promised. It does seem that His return will signal the arrival of light that completely overcomes a dark world, just as His ministry to date has brought light to many individual lives around the world.
The triumph of light over darkness is not yet complete, so we continue to pray and work for His Father’s will to be done on earth as it already is in heaven. As the Feast of Trumpets comes to us, let us look back with gratefulness and grace to the light of salvation Jesus has already brought us. Let us also look forward to the salvation of the entire creation in a new heavens and a new earth.