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The Sound

by Ray Haynes

What does the voice of God sound like? I am so thankful for the voice of God that warns us when we start to stray; whispers encouragement to us when we struggle; commands our enemies to flee; comforts us when we fail or lose someone dear; and even sings over the deepest parts of us in the good and bad times because life is hard and he is familiar with our suffering. He does it with His presence, through words or even groans we can’t comprehend, and He does it in symbolic ways. The blast of the shofar is one of the more interesting symbols of His presence.

Since God speaks in diverse ways for different situations, the shofar has several distinct blasts. In ancient Israel, one long sustained blast was a common reassuring sound that meant the watchmen guarding the city were on duty and all was well. That sound divided up the watches of the day and night. He is always calling us to be prayerful watchman on His walls. If we were more alert, we would notice that from morning to night He woos us to draw near so that we might receive His strength and comfort.

Three successive blasts signaled some significant event – usually it meant good tidings. Likewise, He rejoices over us with singing and dancing. I love that God finds joy in celebrating us. Most of us will never hear the sound of applause on earth, but if we draw near to God in those moments, we will feel His deep affection. What so many of us are trying to get from “likes” on Facebook is available from the One who created and sustains everything.

And the third trumpet call, nine rapid bursts, was the sound of alarm. It meant they were under attack and all the fighting men were needed to draw together immediately for battle. Like Israel, we all need to be alarmed so that we become aware of sin that separates us from God. We need to know an enemy has drawn near. And we need to hear His voice reminding us of our need for atonement. When your spirit feels shaken within you, learn to respond to the sound of His alarm. We need to constantly pray, “lead us not into temptation but from deliver us from evil.”

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

The word used in Genesis 3 for God’s voice is the Hebrew word quol. It is also used for the sound of thunder, water, rain, a multitude, or when someone is calling out, shouting, or even singing. It’s also used for the sound of a shofar blast (like the one heard on Mt Sinai along with thunder and lightning that made the Israelite camp tremble in fear).

The second phrase used in Genesis 3, in the cool, is the Hebrew word ruwach. While ruwach is translated cool for this verse, it’s used nearly one hundred times for wind, and several hundred times for the Holy Spirit. So, when we read a little deeper, we have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all coming to deal with the sin of Adam and Eve, to bring them out of hiding. God’s voice is carried on the wind of the Holy Spirit through the Garden beckoning Adam and Eve to come out of hiding. They find judgment, but they also find His deep love for them.

The shofar or trumpet is first mentioned in history in 1500 BC in Egypt around the time of the Exodus. The Israelites were probably awakened each morning to the slave masters calling them to work with the trumpet, and their movement throughout the days directed by those loud blasts. It was the very sound of their oppression. When they marched out of Egypt and waited at the Red Sea, that same sound filled the air as the armies of Egypt rushed down on their position. So imagine their terror when they arrived at Mount Sinai to hear the voice of God, and they heard the terrifying sound of the shofar.

It’s easy to understand their hesitation, but they were missing the significance. God knew completely how they felt about that sound. As God revealed His law on Mt Sinai, He also revealed His deep love for them, not as a slave master, but as a protector who would now bring terror to anyone choosing to become their enemy.

“‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” Exodus 19

In Numbers 10 God tells them to forge silver trumpets so that they can call Him whenever they need Him, “When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies.”

Sadly, while the former slaves never could shake their terror, and all of them eventually died in the desert, the generations that followed discovered that the shofar blast was the very voice of God and used it to bring down the walls of Jericho, to coronate kings, in the temple worship, and placed it in the hands of the priests and Levites to lead the way into battle.

Do you hear the voice of the Lord calling? In His Word, through music and dance, and so many forms, His voice is always calling out to us to stop and listen. “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near.” Joel 2:1