The Reformed Home


October 6, 2020

Article by Brian Hanson

Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary

ABSTRACT: The English Reformation of the sixteenth century not only brought about a reformation of doctrine, but it also promoted a reformation of family piety. The making of godly households happened primarily through printed prayerbooks and catechisms, authored by evangelical clergy who believed that the Reformation could be prolonged only by a spiritually literate laity. The practices reflected in these publications provide an ongoing model for how households can reform their family worship — whether in sixteenth-century England or today.

For our ongoing series of feature articles for pastors and Christian leaders, we asked Dr. Brian Hanson, assistant professor of history and theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary, to trace the reformation of the family in sixteenth-century England.

In Thomas Becon’s popular bestseller The sycke mans salve, published in 1560, the godly yet fictitious Epaphroditus lies on his deathbed, his wife and three children surrounding him to receive his final exhortations regarding his posterity. He first charges his wife to “governe thy houshold, that there may be founde in it no vice but vertue, no wickednes but godlines, no sinne but honestie and christen behavour.”1 She was to be “an example of a godly lyfe” for her children to emulate. He then addresses his only living son, whom he instructs to “order thy houshold godly and honestly.”2 As a father and spiritual leader of his home, his son would bear the responsibility to lead his children so that “they may learn to know God, even from the very cradels.”3 Lastly, he encourages his two daughters as mothers to “bring them [children] up in the glory of God in his fear and doctrin.”4

Though fictitious, Becon’s piece of ars moriendi dialogue between Epaphroditus, his minister, and Christian friends went through 22 editions between 1560 and 1631 and served as a popular example for sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestants to aspire to, particularly in regards to deathbed piety. Preparation for a godly death in Reformation England not only entailed confession of and repentance from sins, reaffirmations of assurance of true conversion, and eager anticipation of eternal bliss, but a formal admonition to one’s household to impress upon them the importance of deliberately transmitting a spiritual legacy for generations to follow so that the Reformation in England would endure.

“Parents should both model for and teach their children to see God in the rhythms of their daily schedule.”TweetShare on Facebook

It is striking, yet unsurprising, given the context of Protestantism in England in the 1560s, that a godly husband or father would be concerned with the spiritual state of his family. This particular literary example illustrates that Becon, a leading evangelical Reformer in England, one of the most vocal advocates of household piety, and an author of pious materials for households, viewed the spirituality of families as an integral component of religious devotion.5 He was certainly not alone in his vision for parents to be deliberate and faithful in instilling godliness within their children.

Investigating and determining the precise ways in which household piety was transferred from the pulpit and practiced in the household is the aim of this brief survey. It will pose three crucial questions. First, what catalysts ultimately spurred and motivated Protestant parents to propagate their faith to their children and their future posterity? Second, how did evangelical ministers guide and provide parents with texts in reforming their households in Reformation England? Third, in what specific ways did households practice piety, and how did those practices form and cultivate godliness? As will be demonstrated, the answer to these questions relates to the evangelicals’ deep-seated conviction of the primacy of the word of God and the outworking and permeating of its teaching within domestic boundaries, shaping all household members according to its standard.

‘Traine Them Up in the Law of God’

The root of evangelical household piety was the word of God. The primacy of the word of God above traditions, human notions, and even ecclesiastical hierarchy was one of the clarion calls of the Reformation, and it was no different in England’s Reformation. The English Reformers argued that all doctrines and practices, including inculcation of household piety, were to be tethered and subservient to the Scriptures. Evangelical clergy, beginning in the 1540s, insisted that the two primary ways to establish and instill godliness in households was through prayer and catechesis. Because at the outset of the English Reformation the only pious literature available in English was Catholic in its theological framework, they took upon themselves the initiative in creating the first evangelical prayerbooks and catechisms for families to intentionally implement within their domestic spheres.6

Authors of evangelical prayerbooks and catechisms were concerned that their content was inherently biblical, in contrast with late medieval Catholic household literature that contained Marian prayers and other traditional recitations. Household governance was to be strictly established “accordynge to Goddes moost holy worde.”7 “The dutie of fathers and mothers unto their children,” explained Becon, “is to traine them up in the law of God, to teach them to know God and his holy word.”8 Evangelical authors intentionally and visually communicated the primacy of the word of God on the physical pages of their texts, often including catenae of scriptural texts in addition to numerous biblical references in the margins.

Further, the theological orientation between the two confessional approaches in regards to soteriology and conversion was qualitatively different. For instance, the popular bestseller The werke for housholders by the Bridgettine monk Richard Whitford stressed that an “encrease in grace” accompanied a child’s obedience to one’s parents. The act of obedience would result in “your synnes (by your duety done unto your parentes) be wasted and clene losed and forgiven.”9 The early evangelicals in the 1540s countered that only justification by faith brought forgiveness of sins. Household duties — such as obedience, deference, and godly attitudes and virtues — were fruits of, rather than prerequisites for, justification. Because of the common theme of solifidian theology in early English evangelical literature, the correlative doctrine of evangelical conversion was the fountainhead for all evangelical household literature.

“These prayerbooks silently preached to the households a practical theology of God’s fatherly interest in his people.”TweetShare on Facebook

For the evangelicals, parenting and household governance involved a twofold purpose: conversion and household godliness. Evangelical clergy urged parents to view their spiritual responsibilities toward their children with gravity, aiming to “see them the children of God, and heyres of the covenant.”10 At the same time, they were to recognize the monergistic work of God in the conversion of their children, that the “strengthning and constant standing in religion of their children, is onely of God, and from God, and not of themselves.”11

Nevertheless, parents were not to be lax in leading their children to conversion, for as the Zurich Reformer Heinrich Bullinger cautioned, the neglect of spiritual nurture in the household was tantamount to “helping their children and servants forward to their damnation.”12 Further, parents who were derelict in their duty to nurture their children in the Scriptures were guilty of being “murtherers of their soules, and cut-throats of their salvation.”13 Bullinger also warned that “reformation” of the household was unattainable without the “master of a household,” the father, taking extreme measures to “reform” himself first: “For as one candle cannot light another if it selfe be out: even so a master of a Household shall not reforme those of his charge, and inflame them with the love of God and godlinesse, if hee himselfe be voyd of the same.”14 Therefore, the household disciplines of prayer and catechesis were tools that were to be implemented in households to cultivate an ethos leading to conversion and household piety.

While evangelical clergy were motivated to reform household piety for the sake of the “Christian Religion,” they also encouraged their parishioners to intentionally inculcate household piety within their children in order that it would ultimately be projected upon and dispersed among the English commonwealth. They believed that well-nurtured domestic piety would permeate the public sphere, resulting in a godly “common weale.”15 They contended that godly households were to be the microcosms of a godly commonwealth so that true conversion and godliness would be normative in society.16

Given the political context of sixteenth-century England, the evangelical clergy received assistance to fulfill their vision of godly households from their partnership with the state, the Tudor monarchy, with the exception of Queen Mary I. Beginning in 1538 with the second series of royal injunctions issued by King Henry VIII, all English clergy were to “exhort all parents and house holders to teach their children and servants the same, as they are bound by the law of God and conscience to do.”17 The fourth injunction stipulated that parents instruct their children to memorize and recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Decalogue. Both Edward VI’s and Elizabeth I’s royal injunctions for the Tudor Church regarding household piety mirrored, almost verbatim, the injunctions of their father, exhorting all clergy to teach parents how to establish piety in households. Both the injunctions of 1547 and 1559 inserted an additional order for households: the removal of all “images” and “idolatry” from households, including religious tables, pictures, paintings, and monuments.18

‘Ardent Openinge of the Heart Before God’

Prayerbooks served as instruments for guiding and promoting godliness in families. They reinforced the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of believers, that all Christians had uninhibited access to approach God in prayer, a stark contrast from late medieval theology, which stressed that priests served as human mediators of God. Because prayers were individual and personal, they were to be “simple,” an “unfained, humble and ardent openinge of the heart before God.”19 Prayerbooks provided a framework for households for instilling a culture of habitual prayer through the daily routines and rhythms of domestic functions.

“They contended that godly households were to be the microcosms of a godly commonwealth.”TweetShare on Facebook

A variety of prayerbooks were encouraged to be used in a household, because different prayerbooks served different household and spiritual needs, and each prayerbook contained prayers for unique situations that would be either relevant or irrelevant depending on the circumstances of each household.20 The first evangelical prayerbooks in English served as channels of inculcating evangelical doctrine intermixed with defenses of the evangelical faith, subtly refuting Catholic theology.21 Of the earliest English evangelical prayerbooks, four of them — those of Thomas Becon, John Bradford, Queen Katherine Parr, and the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 — became the most popular in households, with numerous subsequent editions.22

Prayers during the English Reformation are noteworthy for two theological emphases: repentance with its corollary, mortification of sin, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Not only did prayerbooks feature formal prayers of repentance; most prayers expressed “geve me repentaunce,” an affirmation that repentance was a gift of God.23 Accompanying prayers of repentance were ubiquitous requests for grace to “mortify” specific sins. Katherine Parr, the sixth and last of the wives of Henry VIII, pleaded with God to “destroye in me all carnall desires” and to “sende forthe the hotte flames of thy love, to burne and consume the cloudie fantasies of my mynde.”24 This kind of mortification rhetoric expressed strong desires to destroy the very nature of sin with its “carnal affects” and “ragynge lusts” that “boil in oure inward members.”25

Pneumatology also permeated the prayers of Reformation England, illustrating a high esteem for the person of the Holy Spirit. In addition to requests for the Holy Spirit to mortify one’s sin, prayers frequently honed in on the Spirit’s role as illuminator and revealer of truth. Bradford, for example, petitioned God to “illuminate the eies of my minde with the light and lively knowledge of thy presence.”26 Prayers often called upon the Spirit to “enflame mine affections” and to “supresse the kingdom of sinne in myself and in others.”27 This “kindling of affections” theme in evangelical prayers highlighted the recognition that the supernatural work of the third person of the Trinity was essential to penetrate one’s affections until the Christian “may desire nothing in earth but thee.”28

Evangelical prayerbooks in Tudor England reflected the social and religious transformation of England and an increasing interest in Christian humanism, particularly in regards to household piety. One of the products of Renaissance humanism was an interest in the ordinary household activities of the day, activities such as menial jobs, meals, meditation, and rest. This interest in the mundane is reflected in evangelical prayerbooks, which communicated to the household that every activity, no matter how mundane, matters to God. Prayerbooks included prayers for the morning and evening, prayers before and after meals, and thanksgivings offered after dinner and supper. These prayers not only expressed the importance of these activities to God; they also demonstrated that laypeople, not merely the clergy, were valued by God. Unlike medieval Catholic prayerbooks, evangelical prayerbooks addressed the spiritual needs of women, children, and the social outcasts of Tudor England. There were prayers for single women, married women, pregnant women, mothers, children, the poor, servants, and the sick.

Evangelical prayerbooks also served those in different and various vocations in England. For instance, of the sixty prayers in Becon’s bestseller Flour of godly praiers, one-quarter of them were prayers for specific occupations, including the king, lawyers, magistrates, mariners, soldiers, landlords, merchants, and bishops. There were prayers for multiple situations: prayers against specific sins, prayers to be delivered from plagues, prayers to be offered before and after a sermon, prayers to be said before and after the receiving of Communion, and prayers to God in prosperity and adversity. The content of these prayerbooks silently preached to the households a practical theology of God’s fatherly interest in his people. They themselves, their vocations, their temptations, their situations, and their daily activities were sacred to God. The prayerbooks in Reformation England became a sermon in print that reinforced that all of life was sacred and there was ultimately no distinction between “secular” and “sacred.”

In addition to highlighting the sacred nature of all of life, evangelical prayerbooks were intended to be used didactically to assist in forming the prayer habits of children and to help in developing a mindset of viewing life theocentrically. An anonymous author encouraged parents to “teache hym every daye some short prayer according to the capacite of his witte or memorye. And as he dothe encrease in strength, fede hym with longer prayers.”29 Bullinger, positing the biblical models of Abraham, David, and Job, recommended that fathers deliberately “set an order in his house” so that prayers were regularly said before and after meals and throughout the day in the household in order to convey to his children that God was “the authour, not onely of all spirituall graces that belong to a better life, but also of all temporall blessings that belong to this life.”30 Moreover, the children will witness that “Gods good hand over us, that doth defend us and all our familie in the night from outward dangers, and giveth us freedome from feares and terrors, and from Sathans rage, and also giveth us rest and comfortable sleepe.” From their “cradels,” parents implemented prayerbooks to aid their children in acknowledging God throughout the day.

‘Planting God’s Religion’

The earliest English evangelical catechisms were primarily composed for children, but some were not, such as the very first evangelical catechism in English, Richard Taverner’s Catechisme, published in 1539.31 These early catechisms had a polemical flavor, stressing the doctrines of justification by faith, Christology, repentance, and the gospel in order to combat Catholic theology. Evangelical catechisms, like prayerbooks, also reinforced theological truths that were intended to be planted as seeds within the souls of household members, both adults and children alike.

In fact, Reformation evangelicals frequently employed the garden metaphor within catechisms to reiterate the calculated, measured, and repetitious approach to catechesis in English evangelical households. John Calvin, in a letter to Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset, uncle of King Edward VI and de facto head of England in 1547–1550, articulated that one of the crucial elements needed for a prolonged reformation in England was the catechesis of children. In order for the Reformation in England to be effective and lasting, the catechism was to be the “seed that multiplies from age to age.”32 With the aid of evangelical catechisms, children were exhorted to “plucke out the faultes that are in us, and in their place plant vertues.”33 Both fathers and mothers were exhorted to be active in “planting Gods religion” through catechesis, “pluck[ing] up weeds” of “vice” in their children.34 The evangelicals contended that the practice of catechesis was not merely intellectual, but in order for children to “feele and shew the power of religion in their lives.”35 The aim of catechesis was “to seeke the salvation of their [children’s] soules.”36

Unlike household prayerbooks, the Church of England specifically prescribed and regulated the use of catechisms in all English parishes. Royal injunctions and ecclesiastical visitations during the 1560s and 1570s not only regularly admonished clergy to catechize children on Sundays at the parish church, but also to persuade parents of the necessity of children learning the catechism, in order to “say [it] by heart.”37 Bullinger was particularly adamant that Protestant parents, not their ministers, had the primary responsibility to catechize their children.38 While the Prayer Book Catechism was the official catechism of the Church of England, it was not the only catechism that was used by Protestant households. Based upon the numbers of printed editions in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the most popular catechisms during the English Reformation were those of Becon, Calvin, Cranmer, Dering, and Nowell.39

English evangelical catechisms had several components that made them accessible to children. They were generally arranged in a coherent, predictable question-and-answer sequence, following Calvin’s preferred sequence of Creed, Decalogue, and Lord’s Prayer. This arrangement was intended to communicate the idea that the knowledge of God himself must precede any exposition of biblical texts.40 The first series of questions of most of the catechisms probe the “principall and chiefe ende of mans life” in order to establish the purpose of life as the knowledge of God. Authors of catechisms emphasized that their works were deliberately “playne” and “easie” so as to avoid any controversial theological nuances, including “unknown secretes.”41 Biblical prooftexts were submitted for each answer either as an entire quotation or inserted as biblical references in the margins of catechisms. Catechisms varied in length from John Ponet’s Short catechisme of 58 questions to Calvin’s massive Catechisme in English, comprising 373 questions. Whether brief or lengthy, the evangelical catechism became the primary genre and instrument for developing children’s spirituality in churches, schools, and households in England.42

Model for Today

How can the practice of evangelical household piety in Reformation England serve as a healthy model for Christian families today? First, fathers should acknowledge and embrace the God-ordained responsibility to “bring them [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Both father and mother must recognize that “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3) and partner together in guiding their family in worshiping and serving the Lord in the rhythms of daily family life.

Second, family spirituality requires intentional planning and discretion. Crafting a family mission statement, reading the Bible and praying as a family, and memorizing a catechism, practices that were encouraged in Reformation England, are all imperative to the devotional life of a family. However, it is important to remember that while cultivating spiritual disciplines as a family is crucial in creating an ethos of spirituality, the disciplines in and of themselves do not impart saving faith. As Bullinger cautioned, conversion “is onely of God, and from God, and not of themselves [parents].”43 Yet that does not dismiss the parental obligation and biblical mandate to lead children to belief in Christ. Actively praying and seeking for the conversion of children, implementing prayerbooks, catechisms, and other Bible study tools, is essential in shepherding children for the glory of God.

“One of the crucial elements needed for a prolonged reformation in England was the catechesis of children.”TweetShare on Facebook

Third, parents should both model for and teach their children to see God in the rhythms of their daily schedule, no matter how mundane it might seem. Becon suggested that families make direct connections from material objects in their households to God. For instance, a door provided an opportunity for family members to meditate upon John 10:9: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”44 Daily joys, awards, bruises, fevers, accidents, meals, music, and mercies are all occasions for parents and children to see God’s grace and love intertwined in the activities of each day.

May God grant wisdom and grace to all Christian families in cultivating godliness and imbibing the spirit of the following prayer, composed in 1603:

God be in my head, and in my being.
God be in my mind, and understanding.
God be in my eyes, and in my Seeing.
God be in my Eares, and in my hearing.
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.
God be in my harte, and in my thinking.
God keepe me from al[l] evil in my working, touching, smelling, and all my other senses.
God be at mine ending, and my departing.45

  1. Thomas Becon, The sycke mans salve (London: John Day, 1561) STC 1757, sig. O7r. 

Girlfriends in God

Melissa Spoelstra

Today’s Truth
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19, NLT).

Friend to Friend
When I breastfed my children, I knew how dependent they were on me. I also knew I could quiet them when they were fussy by feeding them. I was their sole source of nourishment.

As strange as it sounds – Scripture uses this picture of breastfeeding to illustrate how God wants to take care of us. The Hebrew word shad means “breast”—specifically a woman’s breast. It is the root word for the name of God El Shaddai. His name reveals God as the pourer of life, nourishment, and blessings. While the Hebrew word is associated with nourishment, I also want us to consider the English translation “all-sufficient.” Webster defines sufficient as “enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.” When we say that El Shaddai is the all-sufficient One, we are believing that He is enough for us.

We have enough food, time, people, and possessions. It may not always feel like it, but our God has promised to supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). When we recognize God’s sufficiency, we can pursue greater dependency. We find El Shaddai first mentioned in Scripture in the book of Genesis.

God had promised a man named Abram that he would have many descendants. When twenty-four years went by after the promise, Abram and his wife grew impatient. Sometimes when it takes more than two weeks for a prayer to be answered, I get impatient, so we can’t judge them too harshly.

They used human logic to try to help God along. I have done that one, too. What I love about El Shaddai, our All-Sufficient One, is that He enters the scene after Abram and Sarai have tried to force fulfillment. They decided to have Abram sleep with his wife’s servant to get this promised son. As you can imagine it caused a bit of friction when the servant got pregnant.

While our decisions certainly have consequences, El Shaddai understands our weakness and doesn’t kick us to the curb when we do not wait on Him and take matters into our own hands. After we make a mess of things, God can still fulfill His promises to us.

Abram had tried things his own way, but later he fell on his face before the Lord. (Genesis 17:3-8) He didn’t justify himself. He didn’t shame God for taking too long. He got low. This was a sign of deep respect and dependency. After Abram took this posture, God began to speak. He reaffirmed His covenant and gave Abram a new name. Abram means “exalted father,” but Abraham means “father of a multitude.” Every time someone spoke his name, he was to be reminded that God had plans for his children, grandchildren, and a multitude of descendants.

God promised Abraham not just an heir but a nation that would include kings and a kingdom. Abraham couldn’t out-sin God’s grace, and neither can we. Just because you may have tried to “help” God out and may have made a mess of things in the past, God isn’t done with you.

Abram made mistakes along the way. You and I have, too. The enemy wants to convince us that God’s plan for us is beyond fixing. It isn’t true. God is our supplier. If we are still alive, then our story isn’t fully written. We can start today by leaning into God. This means that, like Abram, we get low. God’s sufficiency calls us to pursue greater dependency.

Let’s Pray
El Shaddai, You are the all-sufficient one. Help me to recognize my needs and depend on You as my provider. You are my source. Sometimes when I make mistakes, I feel like I can’t ask You for more. Help me come to You, knowing that You are the supplier of my needs.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn 
Where is God calling you to recognize Him as all-sufficient in your life? Take a moment to identify a current need. Then thank God in advance for meeting that need.

More from the Girlfriends
Melissa Spoelstra is an author and speaker. Her newest Bible study titled The Names of God: His Character Revealed was released on August 4th. Check it out here.

Encouragement for Today

Duration: 365 days

Lysa TerKeurstOctober 6, 2020The Blessing of Boundaries
LYSA TERKEURSTLee en español

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27 (NIV)

Have you ever found yourself having an out-of-control reaction in response to someone else’s out-of-control actions?

I understand. It’s all so very hard.

When I share biblical discernment with someone I love, but then they go away and do the opposite, it’s maddening. My bottled-up wisdom in the midst of their chaos produces extreme anxiety. My resulting reaction is not me being dramatic or overly emotional … I’m simply trying to save us both from the impending train wreck I can see so obviously headed our way!

A perfect example would be the two gallon-sized baggies stuffed full of ripped-up papers currently sitting on my dresser. Why do I have baggies of ripped papers? So glad you asked.

Some important documents came in the mail one day. In my defense, my name was included on the envelope. But the minute I opened the envelope and started reading through the contents, my blood pressure skyrocketed. One of my people was moving forward with something I deeply disagreed with. I had absolutely vocalized my many reasons to shut down this idea. I couldn’t believe they weren’t listening to me.

In hindsight, I should have simply reminded my family member of my boundary to not bail them out financially if this decision was as detrimental as I thought it would be.

Instead, I just stood there in my kitchen and slowly tore those papers into as many tiny pieces as I could. And when every last paper was torn, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I also tore the folders they were in and the mailing envelopes as well. I quietly stuffed all the mess into the baggies and sat them on the counter with a note that read, “This is all I have to say about this situation.”

It felt so good in that moment. But the next morning, I woke up and was like, Really, Lysa?! Really?! All my family member said back to me was, “Wow, you’ve made quite a statement.” Now I was the one who needed to apologize and figure out a way to tell the company needing to resend the papers I accidentally, on purpose, in a crazed moment, shredded. And when I did, the lady who worked at that company told me she’d recently read one of my books. Perfect. Wonderful. Ugh.

Controlling ourselves cannot be dependent on our efforts to control others.

I know I have hyperextended my capacity when I shift from calm words to angry tirades. I shift from blessing to cursing. I shift from peace to chaos. I shift from discussing the papers to ripping them to shreds and putting them in baggies. I shift from trusting God to trying to fix it all myself.

What do I need to do in response to situations that feel so out of control that they make me lose my self-control?

Establish boundaries. Boundaries aren’t to push others away. Boundaries are to help hold me together.

The truth is, without good boundaries, other people’s poor choices will bankrupt your spiritual capacity for compassion. Not to mention the fact that at some point, you’ll get so exhausted and worn down that you’ll lose your self-control because they are so out of control.

You’ll sacrifice your peace on the altar of their chaos. Soon you will get swept into a desperate urgency to get them to stop! Right! Now! And we all know acts of desperation hold hands with degradation. I’m preaching to myself because I’ve got the tendency to downgrade who I really am in moments of utter frustration and exhaustion when I don’t keep appropriate boundaries.

It all makes me think of today’s key verse: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered” (Proverbs 17:27).

When we understand that only God can bring about true change in another person’s heart and life, it frees us from all of our panic-induced attempts to control them. We can love them. Pray for them. Try to share godly wisdom with them. But we don’t have to downgrade our gentleness to hastily spoken words of anger and resentment. We don’t have to downgrade our attitude of reconciliation to acts of retaliation. We can use our words with restraint and stay even-tempered because we’re ultimately entrusting them to the Lord.

I know this isn’t easy, sweet friend. But it is wise.

It’s for the sake of our sanity that we draw necessary boundaries. It’s for the sake of stability that we stay consistent with those boundaries. And it’s with a heart of humility that maintaining those boundaries becomes a possibility.

Lord, please forgive me for all the times I’ve tried to step into Your place in the lives of the people I love. Today, I’m releasing my loved ones into Your hands. You are their Savior, not me. Show me anywhere I need to draw healthy boundary lines, and help me maintain them with humility and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (ESV)

Start to overcome your hesitations that boundaries are cruel or impossible by resetting your perspective with three days of Truth-focused devotions. Sign up to receive “Stop Dancing with Dysfunction: 3 Days to Setting Better Boundaries” from Lysa TerKeurst for FREE here today.

Learn how to move on when the other person refuses to change and never says they’re sorry with Lysa’s new book, Forgiving What You Can’t ForgetPreorder your copy now.

You can follow along with Lysa TerKeurst on Instagram.

Do you struggle with setting and maintaining boundary lines?

How did today’s devotion encourage you? We would love to hear from you in the comments.

© 2020 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.Proverbs 31 Ministries
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Matthews, NC 28105

What Is the Feast of Trumpets?

Ashley Hooker | Contributing Writerfeast of trumpetsTuesday, October 6, 2020 Share Tweet Save

Throughout the Old Testament there are many feasts mentioned. One such feast is the Feast of Trumpets. This was a celebration ordained by God for the Israelites. It was a time when they were to remember what God had done for them. The Feast of Trumpets was a beautiful day that is celebrated even today. Let’s unpack this special feast and understand what it is, and how Christians today should respond to the Feast of Trumpets.

What Is the Feast of Trumpets?

The Feast of Trumpets is first spoken of in Leviticus 23:23-25. At this time, the Israelites had been brought out of Egypt and Moses received the covenant from God. The Israelites had built the Tabernacle, and God gave instructions to be told to the Israelites by Moses.

We find the Feast of Trumpets listed as one of the holy days for the Israelites to keep. God tells Moses the exact time the Israelites are to celebrate, and how the people should celebrate. During the feast, the people would bring various offerings to the Lord. In Numbers 29:1-6, we read about these offerings. Here we can find specific instructions about what to offer and how to offer it.

This feast was a call to stop work and remember the Lord. The people were to hold the feast on the first day of the seventh month and you were to present a fire offering to the Lord. Throughout the day, the Israelites could hear the sound of a trumpet or shofar, hence the name Feast of Trumpets.

No daily work was completed on this day. It was a sacred time. The Feast of Trumpets was an outward expression of the feeling of anticipation the Israelites had. The Lord had shown himself to Moses at Mount Sinai, and the people anticipated the Lord showing himself again.

This feast is also a beautiful picture of the second coming of Christ, and Jews around the world continue to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets today. 

Is This the Same as Rosh Hashana? 

The Feast of Trumpets is better known today as Rosh Hashana. Jews celebrate it in the same way and at the same time. Rosh Hashana literally means “head of the year.” Jews believe that on this day God created the heavens and the earth. They also believe other biblical events happened on this day. For example, they believe that Adam was created on this day and that Samuel was born on this day. Jews also believe the first temple was dedicated on this day.

We do not find the words Rosh Hashana in the Torah, the Jewish holy book. The phrase makes its first appearance in the Mishna, a Jewish code of law around 200 AD.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/yoglimogli 

When Is the Feast of Trumpets?

Rosh Hashana is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the first day of the Jewish new year. In 2020, Jews celebrated Rosh Hashana on September 18th. Each year this date changes with the changes of the western calendar. It usually falls in September or October.

Rosh Hashana begins the 10 days between the Jewish new year and Yom Kippur. Jews consider this day the beginning of the high holy days for Jews. This was and continues to be a time for prayer and repentance. It is the time that God will decide who lives or dies that year. Rosh Hashana is when Jews take a deep look into their lives and evaluate their relationship with God.

What Is the Symbolism of Trumpets?

Jews continue to use trumpets in the celebration of Rosh Hashana. Jews of the Bible and today use an instrument called a shofar – a trumpet made from a ram’s horn. This was the ancient version of the trumpet. During the Feast of Trumpets, they blow the shofar in certain sound patterns that represent different reasons for the celebration.

Trumpets are mentioned throughout Scripture; they are a call to action. Blowing the trumpet could mean a call to war, a call to assemble, or call to march.

In the Old and New Testaments, we can find many references to the sound of a trumpet. In Joshua 6:4-20, the walls of Jericho collapse after seven days of trumpet blowing. Zechariah 9:14-16 references the coming of the Lord with a trumpet sound. In Revelation, we read about the seven trumpets that will sound as the end times approach.

What Does This Mean for the End Times?

In almost all religions, we debate the end times. We live in expectation of an end to this life and we want to know what is going to happen. Regarding trumpet sounds, Scripture is clear. We will hear trumpets in the events of the end times.

In Revelation, beginning in chapter eight, we read about trumpets in the hands of angels. There are seven angels and there will be seven trumpets. As each angel sounds a trumpet, an event will occur. These events include portions of the Earth burning, stars falling from the sky, water becoming bitter, and locusts harming people.

When the seventh trumpet has sounded, the kingdom of the world will have become the Kingdom of God. Rosh Hashana, or the Feast of Trumpets, is an Old Testament picture of what the rapture will be like.

In the New Testament, Paul refers to the trumpet sound of the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. The apostle Paul is telling us that as the last trumpet sounds, the dead will rise and we will be changed. There is no mention of a definitive date, though. We must understand that trumpets will signal the people of God to gather and be ready to meet our Savior.

Just as trumpets were sounded to call God’s people together, the trumpets sounded at the end times are a call for God’s people to remember. They are calling for all people to repent of their sins. They are the sound of anticipation for the return of our Lord.

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Should Christians Celebrate the Feast of Trumpets? 

Just as Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, I think we should consider celebrating the Feast of Trumpets. We should take any chance to celebrate the greatness of our God.

Christians can learn much from the Jewish traditions and festivals laid out in the Bible. Often, we think the Old Testament has little significance in the way we express our love for God. In the case of the Feast of Trumpets, there are beautiful symbols that Christians should embrace.

The celebration of the Feast of Trumpets represents several key thoughts that Christians should hold sacred. First, we should see the feast as a recognition that God is Lord over all the Earth. This holy day is a sanctified reminder of that fact.

Second, preparing for the Feast of Trumpets reminds us to be ready for the Lord’s return. The sound of the shofar is a call to prepare.

Third, Christians should recognize the prophetic significance of this day. It is a time when the ways of the world are set aside. Our focus shifts and is solely on the Lord.

Lastly, Christians can celebrate the Feast of Trumpets with a joyful heart, knowing our God is a God of new beginnings. Even though this is the Jewish new year, Christians can celebrate that our God can and does make us clean and new. He is the God that will come back for His people and create a new heaven and earth. It is a time where we can express our gratefulness for the God that sent His one and only son to save us from our sins.

Christians are called to be prepared for the coming of Christ throughout the entirety of the Bible. Rosh Hashana or the Feast of Trumpets is a celebration of that call.

Today, Christians should consider this celebration in their own walk with the Lord. It may not look the same as the Jewish celebration, but it can be a special time for you and your family to stop everything and focus on God. We can use this celebration along with each day to be ready for the return of Christ.

Sources, “Rosh Hashanah”

Promises to Israel, “Rosh Hashanah – The Feast of Trumpets”

Hebrew for Christians

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Ashley Hooker is a freelance writer who spends her time homeschooling her two children, ministering alongside her husband as he pastors a rural church in West Virginia, and writing about her faith. Currently, she is a contributing author for Journey Christian magazine. She has taken part in mission trips with the NC Baptist Men during the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey in Mississippi and Texas. In her local church, she has served on various committees focusing in the area of evangelism along with traveling to West Virginia and Vermont to share the Gospel. Her dream is to spend her time writing and sharing the love of Christ with all she meets.