Shofar, So Good!

Shofar, So Good!

“… And the trumpet shall sound!”

What is it about the trumpet blast that moves the spirit and gives your soul a talking-to? Are we programmed in some way to respond in a deep way to the trumpet, as if it’s nature’s own wake-up call? There’s good historical evidence that this has been true since the days of the ancient Hebrews, long, long before the thrilling “and the trumpet shall sound” in Handel’s Messiah.

“One of my colleagues had the custom of holding up his shofar to show that it was in the shape of a question mark. I agree that the shofar presents a question. This is true even at the most basic level. If one strikes the keyboard of a piano, it produces a note. But if one blows into the shofar, even though one has some skill and has blown successfully on a dozen previous occasions, there is always a doubt. Responding to the atmosphere in the synagogue, or the spirit of the service, or some hidden facet of the blower’s state of being, the shofar may simply refuse to produce any sound at all. There is always a mystery, always a question.” (Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, The Eternal Journey).

“The sounding of the shofar is considered an act of great mystery. The wordless but wailing shofar sounds are taken to be a higher or deeper expression of Israel’s outcry than words can express. While the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah is perhaps the most eloquent and poetic of the year, the raw emotion of the season is so elemental and primitive that it is better expressed by these unrefined cries of the horn than by words of great poets.” (Rabbi Arthur Green, These Are The Words, p. 217).

“The sound of a shofar is a universal call. Produced on a raw horn without the intervention of a mouthpiece, it is more primitive, deeper even, than a human sound. It is the voice of an ancient partnership, between man and beast, between creation and the Spirit of creation. Sometimes, when I blow the shofar, I think of animals and birds, squirrels, foxes, wrens, trees, running water, wind, and storm; and I listen in the shofar for the expression of all this wild and teeming life. The shofar’s question then comes on the very breath of existence: ‘Where are you, partner amongst us, in this moment of shared time?'”  (Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, The Eternal Journey).

It does appear that trumpets have had a crucial role in salvation history, and we haven’t even heard the last of the trumpet yet! There are two kinds of trumpets in scripture… the silver trumpet and the shofar (ram’s horn).

  1. Silver Trumpet. (Numbers 10; Numbers 29; 2 Chron. 5). Long and flared at the end, these horns were used for all sorts of religious ceremonies and other activities, including pre-battle psych music. Gideon in particular learned to love those silver trumpets during the Midianite rout. Back on Mt. Sinai, Yahweh told Moses to make two trumpets for the Tabernacle, fashioned from the same silver given to the Jews while hurrying out of Egypt. These same horns were also the heavenly alarm clock during the subsequent 40 years of wandering… When God and the Cloud got up to leave, the trumpets blared and off they would go as the priests would sing, “Rise up, Lord, let thine enemies be scattered! Amen!” And because silver symbolized redemption for those faithful Jews, the silver trumpets were blared over the many sacrifices and burnt offerings in the Tabernacle. In fact, Solomon went over the top once again and made 120 of those silver horns for worship in his Temple! Without ear plugs.
  2.  Shofar (Ram’s Horn). The blowing of the shofar signifies the historical importance of Abraham’s faith on Mt. Moriah, on which a ram was caught in the thicket and sacrificed in place of beloved son Isaac. The Jewish identity and imagination was fed and nurtured on this story, and no doubt thought of Abraham and Isaac every time they heard the priest blast his shofar. The cow’s horn was forbidden, because the Jewish worship of the golden calf was a major, embarrassing blemish in their family history. There seem to be four scriptural reasons given in ancient Israel to blow the shofar: to summon faithful believers to God’s presence; to sound a battle alarm at God’s command, such as the destruction of Jericho by Joshua and his crew; to anoint a new king; and finally, for specific ceremonies when the shofar was centrally featured, such a Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of the Trumpets in Psalm 81), and the arrival of the Jubilee every 50th year, when all debts were forgiven and all slaves were freed.
  3. God Toots His Own Horn. There are two instances in scripture, one in the past and one in the future, when God Himself performs a trumpet solo, and in both cases the Lord picks up a heavenly shofar, not the silver trumpet, and He let ‘er rip!

a. On Mt. Sinai with Moses. “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered in smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain.” (Ex. 19:16-20)

b. At the Return of the Messiah. “Then the Lord will appear over them; his arrow will flash his lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; he will march in the storms of the south, and Lord Almighty will shield them.” (Zech. 9:14-15a). “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

If the thought of the Lord Himself blowing that shofar, so the whole world hears it, doesn’t shiver your timbers, you’re either not listening or asleep! Isn’t this mind-boggling, that God will personally blow the Last Trump, raising the final victorious battle call against Satan and his minions, announcing the coronation of the King of Glory, summoning all believers to His presence, resurrecting the dead!

“Therefore, encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18)