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Understanding The Shofar
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Understanding the Shofar

By Joy Gilbert

The understanding of the shofar begins with recognizing the value of the word chosen for its name.  Literally translated, the Hebrew word shofar is “a sense of incising; cutting or burning into” and it comes from a root word meaning “beauty”.  Obviously the sound of the shofar was more than a mere horn blast to the ancient Hebrews for it to earn a name that signified a cutting or burning into the heart and soul of the people from a sense of beauty rather than harshness.  Even now, most would agree that when you hear the anointed sounds of the shofar, it deeply penetrates both soul and spirit in a quite beautiful fashion.  Through tradition, the word shofar also means ram's horn and many times it is used interchangeably.

When you see the word trumpet in the Bible, it is usually referring to the shofar, which is considered the trumpet of God.  By studying the Scriptures, we see that it is quite important to God since, along with the harp, the shofar is the most spoken of instrument in the Bible.  On the one hand, the harp is used to calm and soothe the soul and spirit, whereas the shofar is usually used to seize the attention of the people by waking up the soul and spirit, announcing that something important is to follow.  The harp consoles the soul and spirit while the shofar prepares the soul and spirit.  It's no wonder that more and more churches are blowing the shofar as we prepare ourselves for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

The shofar frequently was made from the horn of a ram sheep; however, any kosher animal horn could be used except the horn from a cow or ox.  Hebrew law prohibits the use of the cow or ox horn because their figure was the model used for the golden calf in Ex. 32:7-8 that the Israelites worshiped, which greatly angered God.  The shofar continues to be made by the same method utilized for over 5000 years and is remains an object of great spiritual significance for both the Jews as well as the Church.

The shofar is a symbol of power.  The horn is an animal's source of power and physical strength. It’s what the animal uses to gore with in order to cause as much damage as possible to its “enemy.”  Therefore, the horn equals strength and power.  It also represents the ram caught in the thicket when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:13).  Just as God provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac to spare his life, today, the shofar represents God's ultimate sacrifice for our salvation, Jesus Christ. There is nothing more powerful than salvation unto eternal life with God!

The most popular shofar in the church is the Yemenite triple twist horn from a West African antelope called a Kudu.  Animal horns are made of cartilage (fleshy bone), blood, and keratinous material (like fingernails).  Removing the cartilage, drilling a hole in the tip for the breath to flow through and smoothing the rough outer edges makes the instrument.  In this it is also symbolic of man.  We, too, must have our fleshly nature removed from our lives, be pierced (filled) by the Holy Spirit (the breath of God), and have our rough edges smoothed in order to be an effective instrument of God.

In the Jewish tradition, there are different calls or types of noise sounded with the shofar.  The first is the "teki'ah." This sound is one continuous burst, consisting of one or two tones.  It's the sound of triumph, joy, and happiness.  It was often used to announce the coming of the king.  The second noise is the "shevarim." It consists of three shorter blasts of two tones each.  This represents a broken, moaning, and crying sound, signifying that we are broken before the Lord.  The third sound is the "teruah." It's a set of nine or more shorter bursts of sound and can be of one or two tones.  This is the uttering of short piercing cries, a plea for mercy.  The latter two sounds speak powerfully to the intercessor..

When listening to the shofar, we should remember that we cannot forget God during times of contentment, and we cannot let our egos swell from our achievements.  Only with God's help do we prosper, and only with God's help will we continue to do so.  Further, when we hear the sorrowful sound, we shouldn't think that God has forsaken us, but remember that He hears our cries and can be relied upon for strength and mercy.

There is a fourth traditional sound called "teki'ah gedolah." It is one long blast of one or two tones, held as long as possible.  It is used to call upon God.  It was sounded at Mt.  Sinai before God's descent and, as stated in 1 Thess 4:16, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God," it will be sounded upon the return of the Lord, Jesus.  It is riveting to note here that in the past couple of years there has been a 70% increase in the sales of shofars in the church.  Christ will return to the sound of the Shofar and they are being blown more and more throughout the land.  It's something to which serious thought should be given.

Besides these traditional sounds, there is a different sound coming to the shofar.  In the Church today we have the advantage of being baptized in the Holy Spirit and are no longer under the law of the shofar and, therefore, have much more liberty with its use.  In other words, we are no longer confined to producing only the traditional Jewish soundings but can produce the pitches or 'notes' as led by the Holy Spirit.  It is important for those blowing a shofar not to get too caught up in learning the “proper” soundings to produce but rather to stay in communion with the Lord and simply allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Unlike the traditional “soundings” of the Synagogue, today the Lord is “playing a new song”.  It is a new song, a new way in which God is speaking to His people.  And yet it is not totally new.  It is very similar to the system He instructed Moses to employ as the Israelites moved through the wilderness (Numbers 10:1-10).  He called for distinct soundings to be blown as a means of maintaining order while the multitude of His people followed the Glory Cloud and other soundings for raising the alarm when going to battle.  I am convinced that the day of the Lord is at hand and God is again using the sounds of the shofar as one way among many to direct the movements of His Church.

While I was first learning to produce the different soundings of the shofar, many times either no sound or some very strange sounds came from it.  Gradually, I began to get revelation from the Holy Spirit of these different sounds.  These distinct tones and patterns of rhythm have great meaning in the spirit realm.  Many times, these patterns of pitches or 'notes' are prophetic in nature and can be understood by those gifted in interpretation. As you blow the sounds given by the Holy Spirit, it is similar to praying in the spirit; we don't always understand just what we're uttering but it has great effect. 

 

There are times when the Lord uses the shofar as an instrument of the Psalmist. I will hear the tones in my spirit and then play the inspired song. Sometimes I will immediately have the interpretation (a prophetic Word). This Word might be intended for an individual on occasion, but most often it is a Word to the Church at large (the Body of Christ).  Other times when I hear and play a song from the Lord, I do not get the interpretation.  However, someone else will usually have the interpretation (almost always the Pastor of the church).  There have also been a few times when no interpretation comes forth at all.  However, in all cases, I witness in my spirit that something powerful and effective has just happened. [Isa 55:11-"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." KJV]

 

Of course, when blowing the shofar it is very important to be led by the Holy Spirit.  Simply making noise with the shofar accomplishes nothing and may even be repulsive to God.  First of all, just making noises, not being led by the Spirit, it just that, noise.  Anytime that we’re not being led by Spirit then we are in the flesh and, as Rom 8:8 states, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Of course this does not mean that we should rely on our natural ears to discern whether it be of the Lord or our flesh.  We must always rely on a witness with our spirit and the fruit it produces.  In fact, I have several friends and fellow intercessors that blow the shofar with very powerful results but the sounds to the natural ear are not always so pleasant and occasionally even lack tonal quality.  So it is not a pleasant sound or a quality of tone that is effective in the spiritual realm and/or pleasing to God, but rather our obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

Secondly, being a deliverance minister as well as a shofar Psalmist, I am somewhat knowledgeable concerning the dark side (paganism, witchcraft, etc.).  As most Christian are aware, Satan attempts to counterfeit the things of God and His kingdom.  One of these counterfeits is the use of tongues.  Person’s involved in the kingdom of darkness may try to emulate God's language (especially when they attempt to infiltrate churches) so we must always be sure not to 'fake' it just to be accepted but to be truly baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in God's true language.  The same thing applies to the blowing of the shofar.  I believe that we should respect the things of God and that whenever we are flippant, taking His gifts too lightly, it must be somewhat repulsive to God.

In the Bible, the Shofar was blown for a variety of reasons. It was most frequently blown to call for fasting and prayer, repentance, praise and worship, to rally troops, for God's intercession when going to battle the enemy, and for sounding a memorial to God.

Many people in the Bible used the shofar, from priest to shepherds of the field and the watchman on the walls.  It was not just used in religious ceremony.  The words watchman, sentinel and shepherd are linked together in meaning by the vigil that they take upon themselves.  Vigil means an act of praying and standing watch for someone or something, guarding that person or thing, waiting for however long as necessary for the safety of the one watched over.  These three, the watchman, sentinel and shepherd will stand the vigil and sound the alarm, attack the enemy, or cry out to God for mercy when necessary.  I have no doubt that the greatest call for the shofar today is its use in the hands of the mighty prayer warrior, the intercessor.

Evangelist Dick Reuben has produced a videotape, "Sound the Shofar," in which he teaches on the biblical patterns and relevancy of the Shofar.  They are having great success with deliverance, healing, and intercessory prayer through its sounds.  Reuben shares that one of the reasons the shofar is so effective is that the sound pierces the air, thereby penetrating the realm of the enemy (the prince of the air).  This causes the enemy confusion just as it did for the troops of Gideon.  At Gideon's command, 300 men went into battle blowing their shofars, and the enemy, confused, destroyed themselves.  By this penetration of the air, our praise, prayer, and worship are sent directly to the third heaven unimpeded.  This video is rich in spiritual teaching and is a valuable resource for further study.  

The overall use of the Shofar as an effective tool for breaking down spiritual walls, snapping the chains of bondage, facilitating worship, and empowering intercessory prayer can be best understood when one realizes the significance of its penetrating tones in the spirit realm.  As previously noted, our Lord and Savior, Jesus, will return to its sound.  His return signifies the end of Satan and his principalities and powers.  It is easy to understand the fear and confusion it causes the enemy when it's played.  When he hears the sound, he doesn't know if the time has come for his end or if it is just a reminder of his ultimate finish.  Either way, he surely must hate it.

The sounding of the shofar can also call sinners to repentance for the same reason though they may not actually understand why they seem to be so troubled by its sound.  It is useful for opening the soul of man to the conviction and drawing of the Holy Spirit.  However, the soul of the right standing believer is reassured and made glad at its sound because we welcome the return of our Lord and Savior while, at the same time, the sound brings us into a place of reverence at the awesome-ness of Almighty God.

One very simple analogy is to imagine being robbed and beaten.  You are in fear of your very life!  Suddenly you hear a siren.  When the robber hears the sound, he knows the authorities are on the way; he is immediately struck with fear and flees.  For you, the siren brings a great feeling of relief and gratefulness because you realize you have finally been rescued yet at the same time you have an increased understanding and awe of just how vulnerable and dependent you are on this lifesaving authority.

The sound of the shofar also speaks to us in another way.  It calls us together in unity, encouraging us and causing our faith to arise.  Standing together, the strength of our faith is multiplied many times greater. This voice of corporate faith penetrates the air just as does the sounds of the shofar.  God not only hears us, but He willingly responds to our faith with all His Power and Glory.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the Lord is coming.
Joel 2:1