- The Lord wants to get our attention in these unprecedented days. He wants us to awaken and listen to what He is saying to His people.
- CUFI’s Alastair Kirk explains the ‘Feast of Trumpets’ (Rosh Hashanah) with a message titled “Awaken”.
- Why did God command the blowing of the shofar? Why is it blown during Rosh Hashanah? And what is its significance to its hearers?
- “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11)
Today marks the first day of Rosh Hashanah or Feast of Trumpets, which is the beginning of the New Year in the Jewish civil calendar. Rosh Hashanah literally means “first” or “head of the year.” Its traditionally celebrated at the end of the agricultural year and is the seventh month in the Jewish religious calendar.
One of the key features of the Feast of Trumpets is the blowing of trumpets, or to be exact, the ‘shofar’ or ram’s horn. Whilst it is custom to blow the shofar at various times voluntarily, the Bible specifies certain times when it is mandated, such as on the first day of the month, entering battle, the anointing of a new king and during feasts. During Rosh Hashanah specifically, it is required to be blown on each day of the feast. In fact, Jewish law requires it to be blown 30 times on each day of Rosh Hashanah and by custom is blown 100 or 101 times each day.
Now, anything that has been instituted by God Almighty is worthy of our attention. Afterall, the piercing sound of the shofar is meant to be heard by its listeners. Let’s read the passage in which God gave this instruction to the Jewish people:
Number 10:8-10 (NKJV) says,
The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and these shall be to you as an ordinance forever throughout your generations. “When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.”
Instituted by God
The Biblical festivals, the precise dates for which are based on lunar months, were laid down in the Law of Moses.
This is referenced in Psalm 81:3-4
Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon,
At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.
For this is a statute for Israel,
A law of the God of Jacob.
Why the Shofar?
Another interesting aspect of Rosh Hashanah is that it is noted as being the commemoration of the Creation of the world. It also marks the beginning of 10 days of repentance and contemplation that culminates in the holy day of Yom Kippur.
Although the Bible doesn’t say specifically why the shofar should be blown on Rosh Hashanah, a lot of emphasis is placed on the individual to seek what God is saying at the start of the New Year. The tenth century rabbi, Saadia Gaon, compiled 10 thought-provoking reasons (paraphrased below) explaining why the shofar is blown at Rosh Hashanah. Maybe the Lord is speaking to you through one of these reminders today.
- On Rosh Hashanah we coronate G‑d as King of the world. The shofar’s trumpeting call heralds this exciting event.
- Its piercing wail serves to awaken slumbering souls that have grown complacent.
- It evokes the shofar blasts that were heard when G‑d descended on Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah.
- It echoes the cries of the prophets who urged Israel to mend their ways and return to G‑d and His commandments.
- It reminds us of the war cries of our enemies as they broke into the Temple in Jerusalem and destroyed it.
- Made of a ram’s horn, the shofar recalls the near-sacrifice of Isaac, who was saved when G‑d showed Abraham a ram to bring as an offering in his stead.
- Its loud piercing sound humbles us and fills us with awe before G‑d.
- It foreshadows the day of judgment at the end of days, which the prophet (Zephaniah) describes as “a day of shofar and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers.”
- It gives us hope, mirroring the sound of the “great shofar” that will call together the Jewish people who are scattered to the corners of the earth at the time of the coming of Messiah.
- It reminds us of the Resurrection of the Dead, about which we read, “dwellers of the earth … a shofar is sounded you shall hear.” (Isaiah 18:3)
Entering a new season
From what we’ve already mentioned, the important festival of Rosh Hashanah signifies the end of one season and the beginning of a new season or period. The fact is, we don’t want to enter into anything without recognising God as sovereign. If God Himself instructed the sounding of the shofar then it must imply that the occasion is not without insignificance.
We see this throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, where God wants to awaken the attention of His people. It’s interesting that we also read in the New Testament, that the ‘trumpet of God’ will announce an incredible event described in 1 Thessalonians 4 that will see believers in Jesus Christ meet the Lord together in the air. This will usher in a new season, the end of one period and the beginning of a new period in accordance with God’s plan and purpose.
The Bible says that our Creator God is the author of time and seasons. They are in his hands. They are in His authority according to His own calendar, known to us only in part, but to be revealed fully in due time according to His purpose.
The word that I felt the Lord impress upon me whilst preparing this teaching was ‘Awaken’. God wants our attention. He wants you to hear the sound of His voice. He wants us to be alert. To be attentive to His call. That is why I believe the shofar features so prominently in this festival.
We may need to wake up and recognise our own sins, weaknesses and dependency upon God. We may need to wake up and recognise Him as the Creator King that He is. We need to awaken and understand that Jehovah who has been faithful from generation to generation is with us in our battle. We may need to be awaken and stirred from complacency. The question is, how many trumpet blasts do we need to wake up to His call?
We’re living in unprecedented times. We’re living in Bible times. And in these days, we need to listen to His voice. We need to have ears that are willing to hear.
Awake, awake, put on strength O Zion
Isaiah 51 says this concerning Israel:
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old.
Isaiah 52 continues the same theme:
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
Friends, today is a new day. We’re one step closer to our final redemption than when we first believed. When we hear the shofar blast it reminds us that we are one moment closer till the Day of our Lord’s coming. Hallelujah!
And as the Jewish people enter into a New Year we can be confident that, in the words of the Lord to Moses, “you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. I am the Lord your God.”
As Christians who love the Jewish people, our prayer is that our Jewish brothers and sisters will have a blessed and sweet new year, or Shanah Tovah, a good year in Hebrew.
Become a member of CUFI and receive these 5 mini-books and exclusive lapel-pin