The ram’s horn, called the shofar, is blown on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah). There are many reasons for sounding the shofar that are found in Scripture and in Jewish tradition. In addition to the New Year, the shofar was sounded at the arrival of a visiting dignitary, as an alarm, at the start of the new year, and even at the beginning of every new month. It was also blown to inaugurate the movement of troops into battle (Numbers 10:1-10).
The sounding of the shofar is also a call to worship. It reminds the Jewish people of the shofar blasts heard at the base of Mount Sinai just before receiving the Ten Commandments. “When the sound of the trumpet ( ק֣וֹל הַשּוֹׁפָ֔ר , kol ha-shofar, the sound of the shofar) grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder” (Exodus 19:19). In this sense, the sounding of the shofar may be viewed as a precursor to an encounter with God.
Today, the shofar is not completely foreign to Christianity. There has certainly been an increase in Christian use of the ram’s horn since the explosion of the Messianic movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As many within the Messianic community sought to restore the Hebraic heritage of Christianity, there was a resurgence of forms of worship that were once considered culturally limited to the Jewish world. Songs with a Jewish flavor became popular within the Church, including “Trees of the Field,” and found their way into mainstream Christianity. The music and growing popularity of seeing Jesus in His original Jewish context led to the use of the shofar in a variety of different Christian venues.
In the future, the shofar will be blown to announce the second coming of Jesus. The Greek word used to translate the Hebrew shofar is the same word as the word for trumpet found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” In the same way that the children of Israel heard the shofar sounded when the written Word was given at Mount Sinai, so will we all hear the same shofar sound when the Living Word comes to dwell with us for good!
This New Testament connection may be one of the greatest reasons the shofar can be seen at Christian events. Of note is the National Day of Prayer held in the U.S. capital each May. This event usually opens with the blowing of the shofar. One year, the shofar was introduced with a description of how it was used in the book of Joshua. In Joshua 6:20, the people shouted and the trumpets sounded “and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet (kol ha-shofar, the sound of the shofar), the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat….” While the symbolism of the shofar will often depend on the circumstances and the personal experiences of the listener, the sounding of the shofar is spiritually moving to many Christians.
Blowing the shofar at public events is one way that Israel’s Christian supporters show solidarity with the nation of Israel. Through blowing the shofar, pro-Israel evangelicals are able to connect with Israel. By using the shofar in worship services and other events, they are showing Israel and the world their love and support.
As the Jewish world celebrates Rosh Hashanah this month with the shofar’s joyful sound, may we all count ourselves blessed to belong to our Messiah, and may we be reminded of the coming day when the trumpet will sound and the Lord, for whom we wait, will return.