Thoroughly Equipped: The Sound of the Shofar

Today’s reading is Leviticus 24:1-25:46, Mark 10:13-31, Psalm 44:9-26, Proverbs 10:20-21.

Yesterday we talked of the Feast of the Shelter, one of the seven annual feasts.  As stated, there were several holiday/feasts that God gave to the Israelites and required them to keep.  They were:  the weekly feast of the Sabbath; the 7 annual feasts which included the 3 “pilgrim feasts”; The New Moon Feast which began each month in the lunar calendar [the official calendar of the feast cycle]; The Sabbath year feast, held every 7th year; and the Jubilee Feast which was celebrated every 50th year.  Notice all of those holy numbers!

Every 7 years it was declared a Sabbath year.  God takes His Sabbath days very seriously and so should we.  They are to be days of rest and spiritual renewal.  He gave a weekly Feast of the Sabbath, and  every 7th year it was a Sabbath Year for the land.  It was a time of absolute trust as they let the ground rest from its work.  The people were to simply trust the Lord for His provision during this year.  And it was also to make the ground more fruitful, more fertile.  When 7 Sabbath years had passed, it was time to really celebrate.  It was time to really trust God.  The 49th year was a Sabbath Year and the 50th year was the Year of Jubilee.  Here is some of what God instructed about the year of Jubilee.

“In addition, you must count off seven Sabbath years, seven sets of seven years, adding up to forty-nine years in all. Then on the Day of Atonement in the fiftieth year,[a] blow the ram’s horn loud and long throughout the land. 10 Set this year apart as holy, a time to proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live there. It will be a jubilee year for you, when each of you may return to the land that belonged to your ancestors and return to your own clan. 11 This fiftieth year will be a jubilee for you. During that year you must not plant your fields or store away any of the crops that grow on their own, and don’t gather the grapes from your unpruned vines. 12 It will be a jubilee year for you, and you must keep it holy. But you may eat whatever the land produces on its own. 13 In the Year of Jubilee each of you may return to the land that belonged to your ancestors.

The Jewish High Holidays began with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and ended with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  The focus of this entire period is the process of teshuvah, or repentance.  The Jewish people admit to sins, ask for forgiveness, and resolve not to repeat the sins. On the Day of Atonement, during the Year of Jubilee, they began the event with a long and loud blow of the ram’s horn.  This was their trumpet of the day.  We hear much about the ram’s horn, or Shofar, throughout the scriptures and these can tell us a lot about the symbolism of the sound of the Shofar and the symbolism of the Year of Jubilee.

The blowing of the Shofar indicated several things which all relate to each other.  Most of these implications involve announcement of warfare—both physical and spiritual—and declaration of victory.

We first see indications of the Shofar in the story of Abraham’s offering of Issac.  What was the substitute sacrifice God provided?  It was a ram.  Review the story with the following verses.

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together,Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

God provided a ram, a male sheep, symbolic of Jesus, the Ultimate Sacrifice.  But how did the Lord provide it?  By catching it by the horns.  That, too, is significant.  This whole incident which God required of Abraham was a preview of what was to come.  It was a preview that God would give His own Son as a sacrifice.  He would be the replacement ram.  The fact that the replacement lamb in this scene was caught by the horns was indicitive of the sound of the ram’s horn. It was an announcement of warfare and a declaration of victory. When Jesus died, it was the ultimate announcement of warfare.  It was ultimate declaration of victory.

We also see the announcement of warfare and the declaration of victory in the story of Joshua. The priests blew the rams’ horns and the walls of Jerico came tumbling down. It was their first victory as they entered the Promise Land.

In the book of Joel, we find these words:

1Blow the trumpet in Zion;

Sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,

for the day of the Lord is coming.

It is close at hand—

The trumpet refers to the Shofar, the ram’s horn. It was an announcement of warfare and a declaration of victory.

We ultimately see the announcement of warfare and the declaration of victory in Revelation 22:15

15The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become

the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,

and he will reign for ever and ever.”

This trumpet, this Shofar, this Ram’s horn, declared that ultimately Jesus will win the victory in heaven and earth, in our hearts and souls.

It is important to note that the Year of the Jubilee began with the loud and long blowing of the ram’s horn.  The Year of Jubilee was all about freedom.  The land was set free, the slaves were set free, the sin of the people was forgiven, bringing about the spiritual freedom so desperately needed.

One day, the final trumpet, the last Shofar, the ultimate Ram’s horn will blow.  The battle will be over; the victory will be won.  But we don’t have to wait for the end of time for the sound of the Shofar to resound in our lives.  We have been set free.  Let’s fight the good fight and not allow our spiritual enemy to enslave us anymore.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

                                                                        John 8:36

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