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Sounding the Shofar: 3 Ways to Observe Rosh Hashanah
Sounding the Shofar: 3 Ways to Observe Rosh Hashanah

This week, the Jewish people have been celebrating the holiday Rosh Hashanah. Today, the last day of Rosh Hashanah, I wanted to share how we as Christians can celebrate this important holiday, too, as we all well should.

First, what is Rosh Hashanah? Put simply, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish equivalent of New Years. Rosh Hashanah falls on the first day of Tisrei, which is the first month of the Jewish calendar. (In the biblical calendar, Rosh Hashanah is the 10th day of the 7th month.) It is a time of rejoicing and sounding the shofar (pictured above). Unlike our version of New Years, however, Rosh Hashanah is a time of deep reflection and praising God for the victory He brings to our lives.

What Christians often forget is that the Jewish holidays that the Jewish people celebrate were laid out by God Himself in the Bible. These are not random holidays that the Jewish people came up with themselves! Rosh Hashanah, like the other biblical feasts and festivals, is laid out in Leviticus 23:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts. You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall present the Lord’s offering by fire.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves and present the Lord’s offering by fire; and you shall do no work during that entire day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. For anyone who does not practice self-denial during that entire day shall be cut off from the people. And anyone who does any work during that entire day, such a one I will destroy from the midst of the people. You shall do no work: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your settlements. It shall be to you a sabbath of complete rest, and you shall deny yourselves; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening you shall keep your sabbath.

Leviticus 23:23-32

Sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashanah signifies that God remembers all of mankind and call us all to repentance. In Jewish tradition, proceeding Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is blown each morning (except Saturdays, the Sabbath) to metaphorically waken everyone from their spiritual slumber and alert them to the coming judgment, as seen in the Mishneh Torah:

Even though the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a decree, it contains an allusion. It is as if [the shofar’s call] is saying:

Wake up you sleepy ones from your sleep and you who slumber, arise. Inspect your deeds, repent, remember your Creator. Those who forget the truth in the vanities of time and throughout the entire year, devote their energies to vanity and emptiness which will not benefit or save: Look to your souls. Improve your ways and your deeds and let every one of you abandon his evil path and thoughts.

Rosh Hashanah, then, is seen as an observance of several practices: (1) Resting, (2) Repentance, and (3) Rejoicing.

Here are 3 ways you can observe Rosh Hashanah today:

 

Resting

Do not do any work on that day… You shall do no work at all. …It is a day of sabbath rest for you…

Leviticus 23:28, 31-32a

As laid out in Leviticus 23:23-32, the Lord commands His people to rest during Rosh Hashanah. Lately, I have spoken with several college students who are feeling the anxiety and overwhelming stress of “having too much on their plates”. I encouraged them to find times of resting, whether that be meditating on Scripture or spending time in God’s presence. It can even mean watching some television while lounging on the couch! Find time to just be. These are the verses I sent them via email, and now I will share them with you:

  • “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  • “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
  • “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Food For Thought:

  • How can you rest today or this week? What tasks or responsibilities can you set aside for a moment, so you can spend time alone with God? What social requests can you turn down so you can be by yourself for a moment?
  • How can you, in this next year, develop a spirit of restfulness (i.e. not becoming easily stressed by situations)? How can you seek the Lord in this area?

 

Repentance

Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement …for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God.

Leviticus 23:27,28

As the shofar’s blast warns the Jewish people of the coming judgment to encourage repentance, we too should repent of our sins before the Lord. It is a time of self-reflection, as we pause to consider what areas have we been disobedient to the Lord.

  1. We are called to turn away from our sin and turn back to God.
    Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sin, and thus His salvation grants us justification, i.e. as if we had done nothing wrong. However, even after we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are still technically sinners who continually need to the seek the Lord for His forgiveness and help in overcoming our struggles. Today, take a moment to look within yourself for how you might be disobeying the Lord, and ask Him for forgiveness in those areas. Remember, His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9). Look at these verses with me:
    1. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” Psalm 32:5
    2. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. …Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence
      or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12
    3. “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.'” Hosea 14:1-3
  2. We are called to repent towards one another.
    Because of what the Lord did for us, we are to change our attitude toward one another and forgive as He has forgiven us (Colossians 3:12-14). The 10 Commandments, for example, are mainly commandments on how we are to deal with one another (do not steal, do not lie about one another, do not covet what your brother has, etc.). Instead, we are to love another and make peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ as much as we are able (Romans 12:18). Look over the following verses with me:
    1. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
    2. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. …Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10
    3. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” Romans 14:13
    4. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7
    5. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. …May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” Romans 15:1-2, 5-9
    6. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
    7. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24)

Food for Thought:

  • What areas of your life do you need to repent of and ask God’s forgiveness? What areas are you afraid to talk to God about? Why?
  • Who in your life would you consider an enemy or someone you’ve had issues with? Is there anyone you have been avoiding? Talk to the Lord about these people, and ask how He might heal those situations.

 

Rejoicing

…a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.

Leviticus 23:23

Rosh Hashanah is not supposed to be a downer holiday, where you’re thinking about what a bad person you are. It is also a time to praise God for the victories He has done in your life! Remember that the shofar signifies how God remembers His people. We are to praise Him for the salvation He has granted us, and how He continually remembers us in our worst seasons.

  1. God has remembered us.
    When we go through dark times, hard trials, or seasons of intense need, God will always “remember” us. This is not to suggest that God has somehow forgotten us! Instead, it denotes that God comes through in that moment with provision. He remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1), Abraham (Genesis 22), and His people by bringing a Savior (Isaiah 53:3-6).
    1. “Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed festivals and New Moon feasts—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the Lord your God.”” Numbers 10:10
    2. “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. …“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.” Joel 2:1, 12-14
    3. I waited patiently for the LordAnd He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:1-3
  2. We are to remember God.
  3. We are also to remember God, as in to continually spend time with Him by prayer and reading His Word. So oftentimes, when life is going good, we totally forget God. We don’t spend time with Him, and we use church as a way to somehow feel spiritual even in our lack of relationship with Him. (Part of the reason I felt so inclined to start Deep Roots in the first place!) We need to have Him on the forefront of our minds. Read these with me:
    1. “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” Deuteronomy 4:9
    2. “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Deuteronomy 8:11-14

Food for Thought:

  • What areas of your life do you want God to “remember” you? Where do you need His provision in this season of your life? Ask Him for those things, but be wary to not think of Him as Santa Claus. Ask that these areas will go according to His will. (See James 4:3)
  • How do you need to remember God more? Have you been neglecting Him? How? Talk to the Lord about it.

 

How will you observe Rosh Hashanah as a believer today? Tell me in the comments!

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