Sunday, October 2, 2016

Confounding the satan

On Yom Teruah, the Day of the Trumpet Blast, shofars will sound in synagogues, messianic congregation and homes all over the world. The eerie, wavering notes will pierce the air, signaling the beginning of the High Holy days of the Fall feasts. The sages say that the sound of the shofar ‘confounds the satan,’ and I had always assumed that this is because it is a call to watchfulness or battle, something I had learned long ago in Christian circles. But I recently read an article which put the shofar in its original context, giving it an additional meaning I didn’t expect.*

The article’s subtitle is “There truly is a spiritual war taking place. It is not taking place in some heavenly realm; it is a battle for our hearts.” Its point is that the sound of the shofar confounds the satan, because it is the cry of repentance. When I read that, I felt a stab of recognition and agreement. As I grow older, I am indeed finding that my biggest battles aren’t with others, or society, or politics—not even with the devil. My biggest fight is with my unruly heart.

In my younger years it never occurred to me that I could grow so weary in well-doing that I would be tempted to give up. That I would say with the scoffers, “What good does it to do serve the Lord?” Unthinkable! Yet as I stand at the threshold of old age, that is the battle I’m fighting. The enemy points to my aching body, my fuzzy brain, injustice in the world and the myriad disappointments inherent in life to build a case against God. It’s subtle, because the things he says are true…I am aging. My physical form is wearing down. Life has not always turned out as I thought it would. Wickedness seems to run rampant in the world, with no rescue in sight. It is tempting to relax into habit and just go through the motions. But God does not want my duty. He does not need my reluctant devotion. He wants me, and He wants me to want Him. My battle then, is to choose to believe in, rely on and rest in the character of God. To find my way once more into the delight of the Lord; to make Him the joy of my heart and my portion forever. Which was a lot easier when I was young and strong and things were going the way I thought they should. The depth of my rebellion, as well as the astounding magnitude of what Jesus did for me have become breathtakingly clear. Now I’m battling to subdue my will, to choose God’s way over my own, to guard my heart and finish my race—not as a dutiful death march, but running with joy to meet my great Redeemer.

On Yom Teruah (also known as Rosh Hashanah) the shofar warns that there are only ten days left to reflect and repent before the most solemn day of the year, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). For the Jewish people these are days of reflection, repentance and restitution. For me these days are an opportunity to reflect on where I’ve come from and where I’m headed, days of gratitude and celebration, days to gather with friends and talk of the good things God has done for us, and days to acknowledge the staggering debt we owed and how marvelously and completely Jesus paid it. This is also a season of re-commitment, a sort of renewing our vows to our Bridegroom King, days to say, with greater understanding than ever before, “Not my will but thine be done.” I am encouraging myself—and you too—to lift my eyes above the false glamour (and horror) and this present age and remember that my hope is above, where I am seated with Christ my great Messiah.

So the sound of the shofar makes the demons tremble, because a repentant believer humbly returning to joyful, willing obedience to God is deadly dangerous. I want the sound of the shofar to be the sound of my choice—to continue to rest in God’s goodness, to refuse to give up, to reject the comfort and satisfaction of this world, relying instead on God’s faithful provision. I want my testimony to align with the Psalmist, “I won’t die—no, I will live and declare what the Lord has done.” God is good, despite the giants in the land.

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown tonight. I'll closing with my take on the traditional greeting. May you have a sweet and joyful new year, rejoicing that your name is inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life.

*to read the article in full, go to http//  

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