Sound of the Shofar: Past, Future, Present


As denizens of the 21st century, the shofar conveys to us a primitive mystique – a voice from the distant past. Even the fact that this ancient instrument has survived through the ages is tribute to its enduring eloquence.

Seeking to unlock the secrets carried within the ram’s horn, we encounter its poignant sound in the past, in the future and as an inspiration for the present. Beginning with the past, what can we learn from the appearance of the shofar in the days of Abraham and Moses?

Covenant Sacrifice

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son” (Genesis 22:13).

This was a moment of enormous encounter with God. In Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and in the Lord’s response, Eternity met Time through the divine initiative of substitutionary sacrifice! The ram was offered instead of Isaac. Yeshua is offered in our place. The ram’s horn is an emblem of that sacrifice.

In the process, God confirmed His everlasting covenant with Abraham and his seed. “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:18).

God’s Voice

… and the sound of the shofar was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the shofar sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain” (Exodus 19:16-20).

This is a serious meeting with God. Emphasizing the centrality of hearing His voice, the word kol ( s= voice, sound) is repeated several times in this passage. Why does the sound of the shofar accompany the shaking of Mount Sinai? It is again, to confirm God’s covenant with Israel! He manifested His presence through His voice. His authority reverberated through the blast of the ram’s horn – “louder and louder.” This distinct, eerie sound signals God’s arrival on earth, and the timing for all those with a heart for God to meet with Him.

Fast-forwarding to the future, the coming glory of God’s Kingdom is announced by the sound of a great shofar.

Messiah’s Arrival

Shofars in unison (Wikiphoto, Bible_Card)

… we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Messiah will rise first … Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,18).

Yeshua’s descent upon Earth will be announced with the sound of heaven’s shofar. What a splitting of the air that will be! Like unto God’s shofar blast on Mt. Sinai, this shofar will be even more sobering, more “show-stopping”. Our future experience in hearing the ram’s horn will surpass even our most vividly imagined demonstrations of Light piercing the Darkness. Not incidentally, we are told to “comfort one another with these words.

Indeed our present plight leads us to cry out, “How shall we then live? How shall we face the present and impending crises upon the earth?”

Courageous Faith for the Last Days

Then seven priests bearing seven shofars of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually and blew with the trumpets … So the people shouted when the priests blew the shofars. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the shofar, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat” (Joshua 6:13, 20).

In the days of Joshua, the impenetrable walls of Jericho fell at the focused, simultaneous, consecrated sound of seven shofars. Despite the imposing defenses of Jericho and the vulnerability of the Israelites, the shofar’s supernatural effect imparted courage to Israel and caused the enemy’s ramparts to disintegrate.

Victory through Shofars in Unison

Then the three companies blew the shofars and broke the pitchers – they held the torches in their left hands and the shofars in their right hands for blowing – and they cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran out and fled. When the three hundred blew the shofars, the Lord set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp …” (Judges 7:20-22).

Gideon and his radically reduced army faced enemy forces “as numerous as locusts”, yet the Midianites were defeated at the sound of three hundred shofars. It must have been a freaky sound! This tells me that the shofar is also an instrument of victory. It unites the people of God, especially during times when it seems that the enemy has the upper hand and the momentum is all his.

Is that not the appearance of things today? It’s so extreme that one must dial back to ancient, decadent cultures to find the level of sexual perversion, public corruption and blood-thirsty violence witnessed and splashed on social media today. In the days of Joshua and Gideon, God’s people faced similarly overwhelming conditions. They were instructed to utilize the shofar as an instrument of breaking through. The very sound of the shofar transformed their fears into resolve, their doubts into faith. Here is the sound of His voice. The Lord wants us to hear and take it to heart today.

God wants to give us courage to face today’s profound shaking – which is bound to increase. The outward circumstances will seem terrifying. But we are to rise up, stand together, and look for the coming of our KING! The Kingdom of God is breaking through.

Can you hear the sound of the shofar?

Editor’s note:
This article was adapted from a message given in Haifa, to the Tents of Mercy network of congregations, on the Feast of Trumpets, 5778 (2017).