The ram’s horn has been the symbol of the Jewish New Year since Mount Sinai, but in recent years, the distinctive sound of the shofar has been growing stronger in Christianity as a call to prayer. Jews and Christians both look to the Bible as their connection to God, so it is no wonder that many Biblical aspects of Judaism are beginning to appear in Christianity, sometimes taking on a different appearance and bearing a distinctively Christian message.
A CALL TO PRAYER
This new role of the shofar in Christianity was most emphatically displayed ten years ago when over 70,000 people attended The Call, a Christian prayer gathering that took place in the Nashville Tennessee Titan’s Stadium on July 7th 2007 (07-07-07). The highlight of the event was a powerful use of the shofar. 300 men marched to the stage bearing long shofarot while African drums pounded out a rhythm. The subsequent mass sounding of the shofar, led by country musician Ricky Scaggs, was awe-inspiring, witnesses said. This part of the event, called Gideon’s Army, was inspired by a section in Judges.
Then Hashem said to Gidon, “I will deliver you and I will put Midian into your hands through the three hundred ‘lappers’; let the rest of the troops go home.”So [the lappers] took the provisions and horns that the other men had with them, and he sent the rest of the men of Yisrael back to their homes, retaining only the three hundred men. Judges 7:7-8
Rachel Walker Hillensbeck, who attended the event, was deeply affected.
“I was at The Call with my son Elijah, who was less than a year old at the time,” Hillensbeck told Breaking Israel News. “Christians from all over the country gathered to pray for our country to turn their hearts back to God. When they blew their shofars it was a call to prayer but it was also a call to battle; a battle of prayer for the healing of our nation and battle for its morality.
“The sound that came from that group you could feel in every fiber of your being, as if every cell vibrated with the sound. After the sounding of the shofars stopped a shout rose from the congregation. It was one of the few moments in my life when I experienced a moment that transcended time, when the veil of time and space was pulled back and I could glimpse the divine.”
The shofar is used as an inspirational call to prayer. Jed Lindstrom, the director of Let’s Go Ministry in Minnesota, uses it extensively.
“I started using it years ago,” Lindstrom told Breaking Israel News. “We blow shofar when we reach out to people on the streets. We saw right away that when we blew the shofar, it brought in the people from the edges, homeless people who were afraid to come close, drug addicts, anyone who needed the strength.”
For Lindstrom, the shofar carries a direct message from Heaven.
“It is the sound of grace, that God is with us, and that only God saves,” he said. “It is the sound of the nation so people can hear that even if they can’t hear words or preaching. It tells people that they are free to change, free to come to God.”
NOT JUST FOR ROSH HASHANNA
The Bible describes many occasions on which the shofar is sounded. It was blown as a call to war and once every fifty years to announce the Jubilee. Today, the shofar is best known as the central aspect of Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) as commanded in the Book of Numbers.
You shall observe it as a day when the horn is sounded. Numbers 29:1
This Jewish practice has also inspired many Christians. On Rosh Hashana two years ago, Grant Schuchmann from Kentucky felt a sudden spiritual need to blow the shofar. He was provided with a shofar by Dennis McKirahan, who founded Shofar Call ministries in 2012 to “build an army of shofar blowers”. This “army” is now made up of thousands of Christians from all over the world.
Schuchmann was so inspired by the experience of blowing the shofar that he took up making shofarot, buying the raw horns online and preparing them in his workshop to be used in worship.
“I love to use the shofar in prayer,” Schuchmann told Breaking Israel News. “There is an awakening happening in Christianity and the sound of the shofar accelerates that process. It is the sound from Sinai when we all received the Bible,” he said, citing the verse from Exodus.
On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled. Exodus 19:16
“That sound from Sinai is still inside of us connecting us to Heaven,” Shuchmann said. “It brings God’s fighting forces into alignment, allowing us to do what needs to be done.”
Schuchmann has been invited to blow shofar for others, and the crowds are getting larger as more Christians discover this powerful spiritual tool.
Similarly, Tom Washburn from Woodbury, Tennessee has incorporated many Biblical aspects into his religious life that are normally associated with Judaism, most notably his flowing beard. The shofar has been a part of his observance for 25 years, used on Rosh Hashana and at “the appointed times found in scripture”. Washburn also uses the shofar to announce the sabbath and new moons, but for him, the shofar has a strong social element and acts to bring people together.
“We sometimes blow it to get people’s attention in a group or crowd,” Washburn told Breaking Israel News. “We will often blow the shofar at weddings and sometimes at funerals. I have been in more traditional Christian meetings where someone will ask me and my sons to start the service with a ‘shout’ from the shofar. I particularly enjoy letting the younger children play the shofar.”
Though Washburn enjoys having the shofar as part of his service, he sees it as a commandment like all the others.
“There is a strong aspect of obedience,” Washburn said. “We try to obey whatever we can obey from the scriptures, even if we don’t understand it all. While I enjoy blowing the shofar, I have to admit that I sometimes don’t ‘get it’. I admit I don’t understand everything that happens in the spiritual realm and I sometimes I blow the shofar just because I believe that’s what the Father wants me to do. As such, there is a blessing in it.”
THE RETURN OF JACOB’S SHOFAR
Unlike a manufactured metal horn, a shofar comes from a living animal and each shofar is unique, with its own special voice. Recently, a type of shofar that hasn’t been seen for thousands of years returned to Israel, bringing back a shofar’s voice from the time of the Bible.
Shofarot can be made from the horns of any kosher animal except for a cow. Kudu produces an impressively long and beautifully spiralled shofarot. Though many exotic horns are available, Jews traditionally use a short ram’s horn as a reminder of the Binding of Isaac.
Jacob’s Sheep originated in Northern Israel and though it is a sought after-breed in Europe and Canada, the sheep have not existed in Israel since Biblical times. The breed derives its name from the unique dark spots that correspond to the story of Jacob and Laban.
Let me pass through your whole flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted animal—every dark-colored sheep and every spotted and speckled goat. Such shall be my wages. Genesis 30:32
Gil and Jenna Lewinsky took on the daunting task or reintroducing Israel’s historic flocks into their homeland. After overcoming bureaucratic and practical obstacles, they succeeded in transporting their flock of 119 speckled sheep from Western Canada to Israel. Tragically, 37 sheep contract Bluetongue and died. The sadness contained a blessing since each ram had four horns that could be made into shofarot.
Grace Wang is the pastor of the Upper Room Prayer Center in San Diego and her Torah teachings, written in Chinese, are read by tens of thousands of people all over the world. Wang began blowing shofar 12 years ago and has just acquired a rare Jacob’s Sheep Shofar. On Sunday, Wang took part in a ceremony in which she blew one of those precious shofarot. Wang was effusive when describing the special voice of her new shofar.
“This is the sound of God!,” Wang told Breaking Israel News. “This is the sound that calls together God’s Angelic Hosts and calls His people to return.”
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