As the starting shot crackles through the air, the runners begin their race. A factory whistle hoots and workers lay aside their tools. A school bell rings, and students slam their books shut, eager for other pursuits—or reluctantly leave the playground for the confines of the classroom. A trumpet blares and the troops prepare for battle. Or do they? It all depends on the signal. Did the trumpet sound retreat” or “advance”?

In ancient times the people of Israel moved, fought and worshiped according to the call of a trumpet. Perhaps the most important—and probably the most awesome—of such calls was the sound of the trumpet on the first day of the seventh month. That call demanded prompt and total compliance. Coming in direct command from the Almighty himself, it was an “invitation” not to be declined.

A Call To Be Reconciled

On the first day of the seventh month, the trumpets called Israel to a solemn assembly. It was a specific time set apart for reflection and worship. Leviticus 23:24 calls it “an holy convocation.” Convening in that manner, the people of Israel were reminded of their need for reconciliation. They were to be reconciled to one another, and they were to prepare to be reconciled to God 10 days later on the Day of Atonement.

A Call To Retreat

The trumpets called Israel to retreat. The Feast of Trumpets was a special sabbath, a time for the people to lay aside all work. They were to give themselves totally to thoughts of their Creator and their relationship with him. In a sense, the Feast of Trumpets resembled the God-ordained weekly sabbath, when all Israel rested from its labors and worshiped Jehovah. As they commemorated the completion of creation on the seventh day, they replenished their physical energies as well as their faith. Then at the Feast of Trumpets the people once again laid aside all work and, along with preparing the prescribed burnt offering, prepared themselves for the most important annual exercise of their religious lives.

A Call To Repent

The trumpets heralded a scheduled time of penitence. As the Israelites turned away from their ordinary pursuits and set aside the distractions of their daily routine, they were to prepare their hearts for repentance. It was a period of awe as they faced their annual day of judgment. It was a time for careful scrutiny of past actions and attitudes that would lead to heartfelt sorrow for straying from God’s ways. It was a time for mustering the willingness to change, without which there can be no true repentance. The height of penitence and awe was to occur on the Day of Atonement, when all of Israel was to be afflicted of soul as they waited for God’s forgiveness that would signal a fresh start.

A Call To Renewal

The Day of Atonement was a day of solemn vigil. The people prayed and watched for the emergence of the High Priest from the Holy of Holies. Only when they saw him alive and well after his awesome encounter with the Living God, were they assured of divine acceptance of the atoning sacrifice. This entailed national forgiveness for Israel and a period of renewal. With grateful hearts, the Israelites could then rejoice in God’s mercy as they looked to the future.

A Modern Parallel

We can see many parallels between ancient Israel’s observances of the Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement and the Christian life. As the people of Israel were reminded of their own inadequacies before a holy and righteous God and their need for repentance and forgiveness, as believers we also are called to the same considerations. We are reminded, too, of the reality of Christ’s return and of the last judgment, when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise—when those who are in Christ shall rise to glory; yet our deeds in this life will be weighed and measured by the Righteous Judge of all the earth.

The solemnity of such thought ought to alert us, like a trumpet blast that awakens the sleeper from lethargy. God’s alarm is ringing for those who will hear it. He’s trying to get our attention. Through the ministry of his Holy Spirit who prods the consciousness and consciences of his people, God warns, “Wake up! Look around you! It’s time for reality!”

So get ready, get set, STOP! It’s high time for us as believers to consider the directions our lives have taken. Like ancient Israel at the Feast of Trumpets, let’s heed God’s call. He calls us first of all to retreat. We must step back from the cares and concerns that crowd our days and look to the Author and Finisher of our faith. As we seek him and his will for our lives, we will see how far short we have fallen, for “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But praise God for the remedy—the One who became flesh and dwelt among us that he might become the perfect sacrifice and atonement—our High Priest who “entered…into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us”; and was “once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:24b and 28a). We need not agonize or wait to know if the sacrifice was acceptable, as did Israel awaiting the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Yeshua’s resurrection proved that he was alive and well and that his atonement was efficacious. We need only repent and receive God’s forgiveness. He then calls us to renewal as we walk with him in the power of his Spirit. Finally, he calls us to rest in his finished work of salvation, “For he that is entered into (God’s) rest, he also hath ceased from his own works” (Hebrews 4:10a).

Appropriating all of this, we can then readjust and rededicate our lives, so that we may look forward joyfully to the sound of the Last Trumpet, when Christ shall reign.