You will not find the phrase Rosh Hashanah in the Bible, but rather the festival is called Yom Teruah, the Day of the Blowing of the Trumpet. This correctly casts the festival as an attention-grabber for the Jewish people, preparing the Jewish people for the Day of Atonement, which will be observed ten days later (Leviticus 23:26-27).
Moses writes what was given to him by God at Mount Sinai,
“…In the seventh month on the first of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:24-25).
The key elements found for all seven major festivals are outlined in this text; a specific day or days, a rest, a convocation (gathering), and offerings.
However, as with most of the other festivals, the command to observe Rosh Hashanah comes with an additional and unique element as well.
In this instance, it is the blowing of the shofar, which we understand to be the ram’s horn.
There are many reasons for the blowing of trumpets in the Bible. It serves as a warning to the Jewish people and is also used to announce something to come.
The shofar has taken on additional meaning throughout the years of Jewish history, and understanding the role of the shofar in Jewish tradition is helpful.
The shofar (ram’s horn) is blown in synagogues to remind Jewish people of the obedience of Abraham, who was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice in obedience to God, even though God prevented Abraham from going through with the act!
The shofar reminds us that God demands full and unquestioning obedience. Additionally, according to the sages of Israel, Abraham earned an abundance of spiritual merit through his obedience.
This merit is available today for Jewish people who believe that their good works and repentance will not meet God’s holy standards during this season.
The Jewish people would, therefore, understand the concept of “imputed righteousness,” or enjoying the benefit of another’s obedience and ability to please God.
Abraham did this for all Jews, according to tradition, and this idea permeates our understanding of Rosh Hashanah.
Of course, this is exactly what Jesus the Messiah did as His righteousness, earned through a perfect life and atoning death, is now granted (imputed) to all those who, by faith, invite Him into their lives to be their Savior, Redeemer, and Lord.
This could very well be what Paul is referring to when he contrasts the disobedience of Adam with the obedience of the Messiah Jesus,
“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
So, why is Rosh Hashanah important to me as a Jewish follower of Jesus the Messiah? Allow me to give a few reasons why I personally observe Rosh Hashanah, as well as what it means to me.
Rosh Hashanah is also an important family time, and many Jewish families around the world will have special dinners and time together, as well as attend synagogue.
And so, observing Rosh Hashanah is a wonderful way of identifying with my Jewish people on a more spiritual level, rather than focusing on Israel or social, cultural or political concerns that might be important to communal Jewish life.
It is also a fruitful season of witness where I am able to invite Jewish friends and neighbors to our services and Bible studies around the globe so that Jesus can be seen in a Jewish context.
Most of all, Rosh Hashanah reminds me of my own need to regularly repent of my sins and be faithful and obedient to His Word. A season of spiritual reflection can be wonderfully enriching and I believe is vital and necessary in the midst of our busy lives – even if we are busy doing the Lord’s work.
As Isaiah the prophet wrote so many years ago,
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).
This encouragement to come clean before God is further outlined in Isaiah chapter 58:1-12, where the prophet mentions both the New Year and the Day of Atonement. I hope you will read the entirety of this passage and see that God wants to forgive us of our sins.
He is merciful and gracious by nature, as well as just and righteous. He loves us, but in order to be forgiven, we must come to Him in repentance, forsaking our sin, with a new desire to please him through what we say, think, and do. For those of us who know Jesus as our Messiah, we are forgiven once for all.
But, during these ten days of awe, we can seek renewal and ask the Lord to help us become more willing to do His will as we deepen our understanding of the everlasting love of God for His creation that sent Jesus to the cross.