L’shana Tova. During our Rosh HaShanah services we read Twelve Reasons Why We Blow The Shofar. We blow the shofar for a variety of reasons, from remembering the binding of Isaac to the return of Messiah Yeshua. We may blow the shofar for a variety of reasons, but the shofar essentially has a straightforward purpose. The sound of the shofar ringing in our ears causes us to wake up and pay attention to what is going on around us.
It is a strong, piercing, and distinct sound. You cannot confuse a shofar with anything else, there is no sound quite like it. The piercing sound of the shofar calls us to turn back to the Lord and to seriously inventory our lives.
We need the sound of the shofar because we tend to live our lives based on routine. Going through the same unbroken cycles day in and day out. Many people, especially those who do not know the Lord, are trapped in dangerous and destructive sinful patterns. We know there are changes we should make, people we should reconcile to, things we need to refocus on, but we kick that can down the road to be dealt with later. We are broken and the world we live in is broken and so it makes sense that many of us would rather distract ourselves or ignore what is going on around us.
But cycles and habits are only really broken by deliberate planning and intentional effort. For change to happen it must start somewhere, there needs to be a beginning. Rosh Hashanah is a time for us to hear the shofar and through the Lord’s power break the cycles of sin and mindlessness that ensnares us throughout the year. In a world filled with numerous voices and distractions, the sound of the shofar pierces through them all to call us back to the Lord and to reflect on our lives and what we are doing.
I am reminded of my favorite prayer from our Machzor, You Who Are Asleep Wake Up. It is a short and powerful prayer that speaks to me. I especially love this line from it, “You who forget constant truth in vanities of the hour and indulge all year in trifles which can’t profit or save, look rightly into your souls!”
We are surrounded every day with so many distractions, from games, social media, television, etc. But there are also the distractions of drama and people, getting lost in a tempest of wild emotions and being so wrapped up in others that it distracts from the things around us we really need to be focusing on. I am not talking about being there for one another or building one another up, but rather petty drama along with superficial and wildly emotional relationships that serve to distract us or destroy things in our lives. We lose ourselves in other people and become lost. These things and others are like a multitude of voices that pull at us. They can easily make us lose our focus and drift away from the Lord as the center of our lives.
These distractions fill the time in our days, maybe even make us feel good, but are really trifles, small things of no eternal value. They take up our time but cannot save us. The call of the shofar pierces across these many voices and distractions that pull at us daily and gives us a path back to the Lord, a starting place to break the cycles we find ourselves trapped in.
But to properly hear the shofar we need ears that can hear. This is because throughout God’s Word we see that being wise and being in a personal relationship with our Creator is connected to having ears that can hear. Proverbs 18:15 teaches us, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” A wise person desires to hear truth, they do not cover their ears even if they don’t want to hear it, but intentionally seek it out. In Psalm 40:6, King David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that it is the Lord who has opened his ears to hear. The Lord has given him the ability to hear a divine call and the desire to the Lord’s will over his own.
So, we hear the shofar, which calls us to return to the Lord and calls us to action in our lives. To hear it’s call and respond though requires ears capable of hearing it, open ears that come from the Lord. The Lord works on us in our hearts and minds to lead us back to Him, but we still must act on the call that we hear.
This is incredibly crucial, it is not enough to simply hear the call of the shofar, to hear the call of God in our lives, but we must respond. We must listen to the shofars call and then act. Messiah Yeshua in John 10 tells us that His followers are like sheep who listen to His voice and not the voices of others. They know Him and then follow Him. Yeshua declares to the crowd surrounding Him that He has spoken to them, He has told them about Himself, but they have refused to listen.
What does it mean to hear and respond to the shofar’s call? First, it means believing and being in a personal relationship with the One whom the shofar announces, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Messiah Yeshua. Everything begins with responding to His call in our lives, to ending our cycle of following our own will or someone else’s, which leads to trouble and ultimately destruction. Instead, through the Lord’s power, we hear and then respond to His will and turn back to our Great Creator as the core of our lives.
Second, especially during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it means reflecting on who we are and what we are doing. To look rightly at our souls. Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and even through brothers and sisters in the Lord, we can examine ourselves and see whose will we are really following right now. To figure out if cycles and patterns of sin have creeped into our lives this last year and through the Lord’s power end them.
Finally, we also need to understand that part of the shofar’s call to repentance is also a call to reconciliation between one another. Through Messiah Yeshua we have complete forgiveness of our sins and restoration of our relationship with our Great Creator. It is because of this reconciliation, this restoration of our relationship with our Creator that we are inscribed forever in His book of life. But, this does not allow us to avoid working on our relationships with one another. This can be a very difficult command for us. I can confess that some years I find this harder to do than fasting.
For many of us we have no problem fasting and going through the liturgy for Yom Kippur but avoid this important step of letting go of grudges and trying to restore our relationships with one another. It is crucial to know the Lord and break cycles of sin in our lives, but it is also crucial to be community with one another, to have peace wherever possible, and to forgive others as our Messiah has forgiven us.
This week we all need to pray to the Lord to show us if there any relationships in our lives that need working on, people we need to reach out to. If there is anyone in our lives we need to apologize to or forgive, then we should not delay doing so like we have throughout the previous year. If we are holding grudges or hurts in our hearts, we need to ask the Lord to help us let them go and turn them over to Him. Holding a grudge is a poison that eventually destroys not only us but the people around us as well. It should also be said that it is not always safe to approach others that have wronged us and seek to restore that relationship, but we can still let go of the hatred and hurt in our hearts through Adonai’s help.
I can testify that is important to have discerning friends and family members in our lives that can be used by the Lord to accomplish His desire for reconciliation and forgiveness. They can give us perspective when we are blinded by our hurts and emotions. I am very grateful for the good council of brothers in the Lord that I have in my life, to check my pride and thinking when I really have needed it. It can be very hard to accept their words and advice, but it has saved me from making serious mistakes, and helped me fix many problems.
This is one of the most important and hardest jobs for us to do as human beings. It is not natural for us to want to apologize or to reach out to those who have hurt us. There is a reason the Lord has to say repeatedly the importance of loving our enemies, because that is not something we are ever motivated to do on our own. We need to take seriously the command of Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Messiah God forgave you.”
So as we enter into this High Holiday season let the piercing sound of the shofar cut across the chaos and darkness of this life and call us back to the light and love of God revealed through Messiah Yeshua. May each one of us look rightly at our lives, having ears that are able to hear, and also do the hard work of being reconciled and in community with one another. Finally, may each one of us have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit we are saved, that we are inscribed forever in Messiah’s book of life. May we each believe Messiah Yeshua when He says that His followers have eternal life, and that no one can snatch them out of God the Father’s hand.