The shofar in the Hebrew Bible was a ram’s horn. It was used with a loud blast to bring attention of the people for an important announcement or a call to arms. It was the shofar that was blown by Joshua and his troops to bring about the collapse of the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:4-5).
The sound of the shofar caused people to tremble in fear. The shofar sounded as a call together of God’s people to repent, a call to enter battle. The shofar was to announce that all men are accountable for their sin, and the penalty is still death. It was a call to makes some changes in their lives.
I recently read a novel written by best-selling author Francine Rivers entitled And the Shofar Blew. In the novel we read about the call; about the sight of the Promised Land; about the wilderness wandering; and the Shofar blew. The novel is about a pastor who seemed to be the perfect pastor to lead a struggling church, he was a young man, son of a famous pastor, and his wife was the perfect pastor’s wife (she played the piano). He accepted the call to pastor the struggling church, he had no idea what to expect. It was certainly not what he had dreamed of for his first pastorate. But it didn’t take long for him to turn the struggling church around. Attendance was up, way up. Everything seemed to be going well, even if his wife could not see it his way. He got rid of the old people who kept him accountable and out of his way, and he took his flight to build a super church, bringing in thousands of people each week. He became a super pastor. He brough in “yes men” to help him build a monument to himself. He was on a roll. He became proud and arrogant. He was all about himself, not about what God wanted. He was the man about town. He received requests to speak at all the clubs in town. He was now into the golf club crowd. But many, even the pastor’s wife, thought things were not right as it should, not right for a long time. The wife had closed her door many times, knelt beside her bed and prayed fervently for her super pastor husband.
Those closest to the super pastor, his son, his wife, many of his closest friends knew something had changed, radically changed, from the young man who was so on-fire for God. Those closest to him tried repeatedly to get him to slow down; listen to God for what God wanted for the church, but he would not listen. He simply ignored all the signs that his family and friends were trying to tell him.
Super pastor was floating on cloud nine and he thought no one could knock him off that cloud. He found himself getting more and more into things that are not right in God’s sight; he prayed less, while he became more of a CEO of a super church; he got so deep in sin that he didn’t even realize what was happening – pride, arrogance, self-centeredness, and ignoring those who had stood by him and loved him for so long. Then, one day it happened. His air castle came tumbling down with the result of an adulterous affair. And the shofar blew! He lost his first love – his glorious church he had built; he almost lost his wife who had stood by him and prayed for him all this time; he almost lost his son who had nothing more to do with him; lost many of his closest friends who had tried to tell him of his wondering ways. Even his own mother turned her back on him, asking him to leave her house because of his greed and selfish sin who had turned his back on those who had tried to help him.
It took the shofar to blow for this wayward child of God (with so much potential for serving God) to see what he had done. After the shofar blew, this super pastor repented on bended knees, resigned his pulpit, and started on the path of trying to make right a lot of the wrongs he had done.
Fortunately, at the end of this novel, after the shofar blew, the super pastor made some changes in his life, which brought about changes in the lives of others, for the better, after his own change.
Anne Graham Lotz said of the book, “This book is a powerful and almost prophetic statement of the church in America today.
This novel depicts so many super churches and super pastors today – running on pride, arrogance, and selfish indulgences instead of seeking and following God’s directions.
I for one, I believe it is high time for the shofar to sound. In the Old Testament Joshua, Gideon, and Joab, to name a few, used the shofar to lead the children of Israel – to announce, to alert, to warn of danger, to call to battle, or call to action
The sound of the shofar is in desperate need in our time; time to remember that all men are accountable for their sin, and the penalty is still death. We, like the super pastor in the novel, have turned from the God who created us and sustains us, and have turned to our own ways, instead of following the Word of God.
Many churches and super pastors are following the ways of the world to reach great numbers; bring in the money needed to build monuments to themselves, instead of building up the body of Christ. It is being done every day in America in the name of Christ, of which never thinks of what Christ wants to do. I believe many of these super churches grieve the heart of God to a degree that we cannot even imagine.
As with this church, this super pastor in the novel, reached out to those who could help him build his monument; he changed the worship to appeal to the world, dropping the old hymns, started preaching the “good-feeling” gospel without words like sin, holiness, righteousness; watch out! Be on your guard against greed; be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning; love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself, and commitment to God. They are preaching a “me-ism gospel.” It is all about me and what I can get using the name of God. Everything goes. Sweeping sin under the rug, ignoring adultery, homosexuality, greed, cheating, lying, and stealing.
Like the super church in the novel, the worship service in many super churches have become nothing more than a light show with rock music, jump and shout, feely good times. God gets lost in the hi-tech of all the worldly stuff called worship. Let’s feel good. Let’s shout! Let’s jump with joy! God gets lost in all of this.
The old hymns had a message; the music was a vital part of worship, as were the reading of Scripture and preaching of the gospel of Christ. The song service was about Jesus, about the shedding of His blood, about His amazing grace, about how we are to follow Jesus. It is not about jump and shout with repeated one-liners.
You used to hear worship songs like Amazing Grace, Are You Washed in the Blood, At the Cross, Blessed Assurance, Heavenly Sunlight, Higher Ground, Hold to God’s unchanging hand, I must tell Jesus, I’d Rather have Jesus, In the Garden, It took a Miracle, Jesus is all the world to me, Jesus paid it all, Jesus saves, Kneel at the Cross, Safe in the Arms of Jesus, Rock of Ages, Stand up, stand up for Jesus, The Old Rugged Cross, Victory in Jesus and the like.
It seems we have lost the fuel that powers the church, the Holy Spirit. We have lost the focus on Jesus that glorifies the Father. We have lost from which we came. We have lost who we are in Christ.
One of the most important pieces of advice I ever got in my life was when my old dad sat me down as I was getting ready to go off to college. He said to me, “Son, don’t ever forget where you came from; know who you are in there (as he poked his finger on my chest); learn all you can learn in college that helps you be who you are; do your thinking, don’t allow other to think for you. In other words, don’t let them turn you into an educated fool.”
I believe a lot of churches have become no more than educated fools; having let the world do their thinking for them; forgetting who we are and where we came from; who redeemed us by His precious blood, who we are now ashamed to talk about.
In Matthew 23, Jesus gives seven woes to his disciples. The modern-day church does not have an edge on woeful thinking. It was happening then. Those woes were mostly about false religious practices; a lot of preaching, but very little practicing; doing everything they do for men to see; exalting themselves; giving the tithe, but neglecting the more important matters – justice, mercy, and faithfulness; full of greed and self-indulgence; appear to people as righteous, but on the inside full or hypocrisy and wickedness. Jesus said to them then, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers, I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.
Great super churches will continue to be built, great crowds will flock to the boastful, super pastors, saying I have built a great church, I have reached many people, I have amassed gold for the house of God. All this Hypocrisy will prosper for a time, great monuments will be built, unrighteousness and ungodliness will prevail for a time, but when the shofar blows, all these great hypocritical buildings, man-made monuments will crumble, as Jesus said of the Great Temple (Herod who had made a monument to himself who had been desecrated with selfish and unrighteous worship), not one stone will be left on another; every stone will be thrown down.* These great monuments to man, and great super pastors who do self-serving, rather than serving God, will fall to the earth like fallen stars from the sky.
We need to remember who we came from – the church was established by Jesus upon the rock of confession of faith in Jesus Christ the Son of the living God; we are the body of Christ and He is the head; we need to think about how we worship- worship the Lord God with all our souls, all our minds and all our hearts, not just jump and shout and enjoy ourselves. Pastors are not to make a name for themselves, but to be servants of God in Christ Jesus; we are not to be super Christians, we are here to glorify God, His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
Today, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word in the Bible calls us to be alert to danger, to call us to action, in much the same way as the shofar did. God’s voice alerts us, warns us to danger, and calls us to accountable for our actions.
Accountability is one of the things we are missing in the church today. As a former firefighter, we served in some of the most dangerous situations known to man. We used an accountability system to keep everyone safe in the throes of deadly dangers on the job. Every individual firefighter was accountable. We followed the orders of the Incident Commander. We did not do freelancing (we never went out on our own to be heroic in our own actions). We need that same kind of accountability system in our churches today.
God bless you as you seek God for answers in serving Him. Don’t try freelancing on your own. Always follow the IC (Jesus). For surely, the shofar will blow!
*This was literally fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans under Titus, completely destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Stones were pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire. Excavations in 1968 uncovered large numbers of these stones that had toppled from the walls of the temple, just as Jesus had said they would do.