Yesterday was Rosh Hashana. I’ve been studying the Biblical holidays with my sons, starting with Passover this year. In Passover, Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Weeks I could really see Jesus… His fulfillment of these feasts is fairly obvious to me and exciting, because I can see God’s story woven through HIStory and these special times God set aside for Israel.
But when it came to Rosh Hashana I was having a hard time. I read about how Rosh Hashana and the other fall holidays are those that have yet to be fulfilled in God’s prophetic time line and it seems true to me, yet I prayed that the Lord would reveal to me something of Himself through this holiday.
Through A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays and scripture I learned that the shofar (a ram’s horn) is sounded on Rosh Hashana and that Psalm 81 is read by the Jews on Rosh Hoshana. So, having no real inspiration about what I could do to learn of Jesus on this day and to teach Him to my sons through this day I decided to simply read Psalm 81 to my boys and listen to the sound of a shofar online, and then to just think on these things all day. Amazing how simply doing these few things really gave me an ear to hear the Lord.
As I sat down with my boys and read Psalm 81 I was struck by the heart of God. God emotes. God feels. God remembers. God loves us so tenderly, so vulnerably.
My boys were to draw a picture of something they heard me read, but they kept asking to hear the psalm again, four times, so that by the time I finished reading the fourth installment of Psalm 81 I was really sensing, at least in part, the Spirit’s purpose and how God is revealed in Rosh Hoshana.
The psalm begins saying, “Sing… blow the trumpet…” Why? “This He established in Joseph as a testimony…”
God’s testifying through this holiday. What is the testimony?
In verses 5-10 God says the testimony He established in this memorial of trumpets holiday (Leviticus 23:24) is remembering God’s presence and deliverance.
He says this is the thing He wants His people to remember on a day when trumpets are blowing and people are singing and shouting joyfully to God:
- That HE went through the land of Egypt where His people didn’t understand the language.
- That HE removed the burden from their shoulders and freed their hands from carrying baskets (as slaves).
- That He delivered and answered when His people called to Him in their trouble, and that He tested them at Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7).
Why does God want His people to remember in the setting of blowing trumpets, singing and shouting? Because He wants to teach them. (Don’t kids learn better when there’s music and something dramatic involved like a real loud horn!?)
“Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you!” (Psalm 81:8a)
And in the verses to follow I hear God’s pleading heart. The heart of a father or mother longing for their wayward child to come home. The heart of a lover betrayed, a spouse rejected.
“O Israel, if you would listen to Me!” (Psalm 81:8b)
Listen to what? LISTEN to this: Get rid of and stop worshipping foreign gods! (Psalm 81:9) Because God is the One who delivered this people, He’s the One who fed them, not their man-made gods.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your
mouth wide and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:10)
This celebratory holiday fast becomes “our solemn feast” (Psalm 81:3) as you read through Psalm 81.
Why is it solemn? Because God’s people are singing and blowing trumpets and God is grieved crying, “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me.” (Psalm 81:11)
And with the heart of a husband who truly loves his wife God will not impose His desire to be loved and remembered against His peoples’ will. He lets them go, “So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.” (Psalm 81:12)
But He holds out a longing hope, “Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries.“
God here is painting the picture He painted through Hosea’s prophetic life. His people have played the harlot and He has been longsuffering towards them like a faithful husband. His love for them burns with jealousy, a righteous jealousy, for He knows only destruction awaits them when He gives them over to their own ways. But He is God, He is not a fallen husband. So though His people have committed adultery against their God, worshipping the work of their own hands, God says,
“Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so
that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers, but not overtake
them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go
and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.'” (Hosea 2:6-7)
Just as a sounding shofar wakes up someone asleep, warns someone in danger, rallies warriors, and ushers in a trembling that sets the tone for awe-filled worship of God, Psalm 81 is a solemn reminder that God is faithful and we His people, have not been. It’s a wake up call to the danger of being one who pretends submission to the LORD, yet really is a hater of Him (Psalm 81:15).
The holy sound of the shofar combined with the reading of Psalm 81 reveals to me at least some of why this is considered a new year celebration for the Jews. There is a new beginning which happens when you remember the unfailing covenant of God’s love and what it cost Him to rescue you and at the same time you see how you have left loving God for loving what you can do for yourself. There’s tension. There’s fear because you know you deserve condemnation for your spiritual adultery against God but He doesn’t give it to you. There’s awe because God’s love for you is so pure that He’ll reject you for a time, allowing His chastisement to come against you, not so that you will be condemned but so that you will run to Him again!
I read this from Ann at Holy Experience yesterday in her remembering during Rosh Hoshana:
Remembering sins grieves, but doesn’t the joy of His
covenantal, always, unwavering, right-to-the-end, love wipes away the tears?Our shortcomings cripple, but doesn’t the joy of the Lord
strengthen these bent and weary bones?
The solemnness of this feast comes from remembering that damage is done, God is grieved, chastisement comes because of our sin, yet there is joy amidst the tears because the One we have hurt allures us to Him again!
At the Biblical Holidays website I read this:
The sages of the Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 1:3) say, “Normally, someone
standing in judgment would dress somberly, cloaking himself in black robes and
not trim his beard. After all, he does not know how it will turn out. Israel is
different, though. We dress in white and cloak ourselves in white and trim our
beards and eat and drink and are joyous for we know that God will do miracles
for us. Being judged by God is at once an awesome thing — He knows all — but He
is a merciful God. Even judgment itself need not be devoid of joy (Talmud Rosh
“For your Maker is your husband,The LORD of hosts is His name;And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;He is called the God of the whole earth.For the LORD has called youLike a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,Like a youthful wife when you were refused,” Says your
God.“For a mere moment I have forsaken you,But with great mercies I will gather you.With a little wrath I hidMy face from you for a moment;But with everlasting kindnessI will have mercy on you, ” Says the LORD, your Redeemer.Isaiah 54:5-8
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of
God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not
obey the gospel of God?…Therefore let those who suffer according to the will
of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.-1 Peter 4:17,19
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
– Jesus (Revelation 3:19)
My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be
discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens,
and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure
chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father
does not chasten?…Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but
painful; nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to
those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-7,11
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse
your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts you double-minded.
Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy
to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you
up. – James 4:8-10
Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions
to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord.
Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength- Nehemiah 8:10
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of
Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy
youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the
wilderness, in a land that was not sown.