Summary: The Jews celebrate their New Year with the blowing of the Shofar (ram's horn). What was the significance of this and what can it mean to us today?
OPEN: Today is the first day of the New Year – 2017. Many of us who live in Western cultures tend to take it for granted that the New Year has always started on January 1st. But that’s not true.
• The ancient Babylonians and Romans celebrated their New Year in March.
• The Chinese celebrate theirs somewhere between January 21st & February 21st and they party for 15 days.
• Ethiopians do theirs in September.
• Muslims have their New Year in November.
• And then there are the Thais people who celebrate in April. Do you know how they observe the coming in of the New Year in Thailand? According to one of my sources, they throw water on each other. They’ll use garden hoses, buckets of water and even squirt guns.
But perhaps the most important New Year celebration EVER was held by the Old Testament Israelites around the month we call September. They began with their Feast of Trumpets and ultimately culminated their rejoicing on the Day of Atonement.
Now, the Jews today call this New Year’s Celebration - Rosh Hashanah.
And they welcome the New year… with a Shofar.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5dO1m4HMCU - no more than 30 seconds or so)
(I pulled out a shofar I’d gotten in Israel)
This is a shofar I bought last year when you folks sent me to Israel. It cost $60. You could get one about twice the length for anywhere between $200 to $300. For that kind of money you’d think they’d throw in a couple of lessons on how to play it.
But they don’t.
This is a Ram’s horn.
In Jewish culture the Rabbis have made several observations about the horn’s role in Rosh Hashanah. They say they blow the Shofar at Rosh Hashanah as a way of signifying the need for folks to their need for repentance. And they say the curve in the horn reflects the posture of a person who bows before God.
On the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah (ten day festival) they read the story of Abraham about to sacrifice his son on the Mt. But God intercedes by supplying (A RAM). The rabbis seem to believe the ram reminds one of Abraham's willing sacrifice of that which was most precious
These reasons (the need of repentance, the reflection of a repentant man and the significance of the Ram in Abraham’s story) they say are why God used the Shofar in Israel’s history.
Well oddly enough, God never used the Shofar that way. I mean there’s not anything necessarily wrong with those thoughts of the Rabbis, it’s just that God really had a much more powerful message for the shofar.
For example, in Exodus 19 (the text we used for this sermon) we find Moses has led the people of Israel to the Mt. Sinai where God gave them His laws:
“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet (shofar) blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.
Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the SOUND OF THE TRUMPET (shofar) grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.” Exodus 19:16-19