God has ordained certain cycles for our lives on earth – and for our relationship with Him for eternity. We enjoy the refreshing changes that come with the four seasons. We celebrate the milestones as a child grows from an infant into an adult. And then there are the biblical feasts – what Scripture calls “appointed times” – which were instituted by God both to remember His goodness and mercy to the Children of Israel in the past, and to give signposts for prophetic fulfillment in the future.
Rosh Hashanah signals that the harvest has been gathered and now it is time to count our blessings and look forward. On the streets of Israel you will hear people greeting each other with “Shana Tova”, which means “good year.” It is the abbreviation of the traditional blessing:
“May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good New Year.”
Jewish tradition says it is the day that God created man. Ancient rabbis called it “the birthday of the world.”
The name Rosh Hashanah literally means the “head of the year.” It is the beginning of the fall feasts – also known as the High Holy Days in the Jewish calendar, or “The Days of Awe.” These annual holy days start on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and end on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Like the western celebration of “New Year’s Day”, Rosh Hashanah is a time of reflection on the old year and anticipation of the new. It is a time of repentance for sin and past mistakes and an opportunity to make resolutions for change in the coming year.
One of the ways this repentance is expressed is through the tradition of “Tashlikh”, which means “casting off” in Hebrew, where you travel to a nearby stream or river and drop in bread crumbs that symbolize the carrying away of our sins.
The first biblical mention of the holiday is Leviticus 23:24-25:
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.”
This Scripture mandates the blowing of the trumpets, or shofar, which is a musical instrument fashioned from a ram’s horn. The loud blast of the shofar is meant to remind the hearer to repent of their sins and make things right with God and their brothers and sisters.
The use of the ram’s horn became a custom because when Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in obedience to God, it was a ram that God provided as a replacement.
The psalmist declares: “Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon … on our solemn feast day.” (Psalm 81:3)
The Coming of the King
Theologians believe that many of the other major biblical feasts have been fulfilled through the life of Jesus or the New Testament Church.
The Feast of Passover was the time when the Children of Israel killed a lamb and sprinkled the blood on the doorposts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their home. This feast was fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who poured out His blood for the washing away of our sins, giving us eternal life in Him.
The Feast of Pentecost was the time when the first fruits of the harvest were gathered and dedicated to the Lord. The word “pente” in Greek means fifty, so Pentecost came fifty days after Passover. On the first New Testament Day of Pentecost, which was fifty days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples were gathered in the upper room, waiting on God, just as Jesus instructed. Suddenly there was the sound of a mighty wind and the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers. This was the offering up of the first fruits of the Church to the Lord.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a celebration of the final harvest before the New Year. Many theologians believe that this feast, which begins with Rosh Hashanah, has not had its New Testament fulfillment. They believe it will be fulfilled when the Trumpet of God sounds and the Messiah returns.
The Bible speaks of two significant times where the shofar is sounded by God Himself. The first time on Mount Sinai when God entered into covenant with Israel. The second time will be at the return of the Messiah.
So Rosh Hashanah is a time for Christians and Jews to look to Heaven with anticipation for the return of Jesus – Yeshua – the Messiah, promised of God.
Dr. Craig von Buseck is Editor of Digital Content for Inspiration.org.