The Shofar is the ancient trumpet which called the people of God to prayer, repentance, sacrifice and war.


Isaiah 58
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By Stephen Green
First Published in Christian Voice September 2008

Isa 58:1  Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

While looking at designs for our new newsletter, I found my attention drawn to the Christian Voice logo.  It depicts the United Kingdom with a trumpet over it.  The Israelites, of course, made their trumpets, the 'shofar', from the horn of a ram or other kosher animal (but not a cow or a calf). The word 'shofar' comes from the Hebrew for 'an incisive sound.' Trumpets of silver were also made by the Israelites (see Numb 10) but a different word in Hebrew (Chotzotzerah pronounced Khats-o-tser-aw) is used for them.

Strictly speaking, our trumpet is not a Hebrew shofar.  It is an ox-horn.  In fact it is the Ripon Charter Horn, which is said to have been given to the city by Alfred the Great in 778AD.

Traditionally, the chief citizen of Ripon was known as the 'wakeman' and he was responsible for security and the prevention of crime during the hours of darkness.  The wakeman or his herald blew the Charter Horn at 9pm every evening to announce the beginning of his watch, which ended at daybreak.  The wakeman levied a tax on each house, 2d for a house with one door, 4d for a two-door property, which provided for a small private police force.  This was way before the days of Robert Peel.  To concentrate minds, if there was a crime on the wakeman's watch, he had to make reparation.  It would be interesting to say the least if our modern-day police became subject to the same rule, but they would probably license anyone who wanted to be on the streets at some exorbitant fee, or just ban us all.

In any event, the original Ripon Charter Horn itself is now on permanent display, being considered too fragile to be blown, but the tradition of blowing a horn to start the night watch is still carried on in Ripon to this day.  A newer horn is used, one just a few centuries old, rather than one which is claimed to date back a millennium and a bit.

But there was a recognition in Ripon that the wakeman and the city were subject to a higher law and that there was a higher 'Wakeman' over all.  The motto of Ripon is: 'Except the Lord keep the city, the wakeman waketh in vain'. Psalm 127:1 has 'watchman' instead of 'wakeman' because the Hebrew meaning is that of protecting and guarding, but that of course was the Ripon Wakeman's function, despite his unusual name.

So the use of the Ripon Charter Horn in the Christian Voice logo is a reminder of the Lord's protection over this land.  Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the booklet 'We have a Guardian' which is on the Christian Voice resources list.  The booklet catalogues the many miracles the Lord has done in the face of threatened invasions, and especially in time of war, to protect this United Kingdom .  Truly the Lord has 'kept the city'.

But what of now?  Sixty-three years have gone by since the end of the Second World War.  Sixty-three years have passed without a national calling to prayer by our monarch.  By any yardstick, it is sixty-three years of rebellion from God, sixty-three years of 'we know best'.  It is also sixty-three years of ever-increasing social fracture and escalating human misery as we all try to keep the balls in the air.  Does the Sovereign Lord still keep this 'city' of the United Kingdom ?

Or is He turning His face from us, both grieved and angered at the way we have repaid His grace and generosity?  Is He withdrawing His hand of protection from us?  Is the Lord who once kept the city now determined on its destruction?  It is sobering to remember that the Lord's word says that if a people reject Him, He will reject them.  That principle is set out plainly in the Law:

Lev 26:21  And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.

Lev 26:22  I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.

Lev 26:23  And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;

Lev 26:24  Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.

And it is developed at the mouth of the prophets:

Jer 6:19  Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.

Eze 20:24  Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols.

Eze 20:25  Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;

Hos 4:6  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

It really seems to me that as we have progressively legislated against God's law, so He has brought judgment upon us, and this year has brought home in chilling fashion that the judgment is falling on the young, just as Hosea prophesied.  We really can't expect to exclude God from our counsels and continue to keep his sovereign care any more than the people of Ripon could refuse to honour the wakeman with his dues yet still enjoy His protection.

So it is coming to the time when the Charter Horn of protection will have to be replaced in our logo with the Shofar of warning.  The word for Christian Voice, and for the Lord's people everywhere, has to be that of Isaiah 58:1, quoted at the head of this article. We have to lift up our voice like a trumpet and show this people their sins.  Interestingly, the Reformers, Knox in particular, had a particular burden from the words of Ezekiel:

Eze 33:7  So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel ; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.            

Eze 33:8  When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Eze 33:9  Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not

turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. ...

Eze 33:11  Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?

We are back with the watchman, but this is a watchman sounding a warning of impending trouble.  It is a wake-up call, and it is the duty of believers to sound it, or be taken with the wicked in their sin.

If the Lord's chilling warning does not force us to sound the warning, surely our compassion for our fellows ought to.  The trumpet of the Lord’s watch is waning.  And if we do not sound the trumpet which shows the people of Britain their collective sin, then the trumpet which heralds destruction will be the sound they hear.