When I was a boy, I learned to play the trumpet. Ed, a family friend, was an awesome trumpet player and I wanted to learn to play. Our pastor said that whenever Ed played for church, it made him nervous. He gave me lessons and taught me the basics. When I was a freshman, I started attending Boulder Junior Academy. I joined the band and started taking trumpet lessons from Mrs. Carlisle.
Because I hadn’t been playing trumpet for very long, I played third chair in the band. On one particular piece, the first chair trumpet player thought it would be great fun if we would switch parts. I practiced and practiced and got to where I could play the first part fairly well. We decided to make our big switch during a concert. I never did well under pressure, and I can tell you that it was a disaster. Mrs. Carlisle was not amused.
The trumpet has a long and rich history. Trumpets were used as signaling devices in Ancient Egypt, Greece and the Near East. Pictures of a trumpet were found in King Tut's tomb. In the Roman era, trumpet-like instruments, though prominent in art and literature, are not known to have been used in music. They remained instruments of only a few tones for signaling, announcing, commanding, and ceremonial purposes.
The very first trumpets were made from animal horns. It is why we still refer to trumpets as horns. The word shofar in the Bible is used for an animal's horn. Most translations refer to the shofar or ram’s horn as a trumpet. The first mention of the shofar is in Exodus, where a very loud blast of the shofar heralded God coming down on Sinai.
“On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” Ex. 19:16 (NAB)
Later, in Leviticus, the shofar alerts Israel to the Jubilee year and its laws: “sound a ram’s horn across the land in the 50th year on the tenth day of the seventh month. Sound the ram’s horn throughout the land on the Day of Atonement.” Leviticus 25:9 (VOICE)
The shofar in biblical times had several purposes. It was used in rituals and worship; it was used as a signal to send a message to the people or army and was sometimes used to accompany singing.
In Joshua 6:3-5 (NAB), God directs Joshua to, “have all the soldiers circle the city, marching once around it. Do this for six days, with seven priests carrying ram’s horns ahead of the ark. On the seventh day march around the city seven times, and have the priests blow the horns. When they give a long blast on the ram’s horns, and you hear the sound of the horn, all the people shall shout aloud. The wall of the city will collapse, and the people shall attack straight ahead.”
While it was the priests who blew the horns, this was actually a military use of the shofar. In Judges 7 we find shofars used as military weapons. I’m sure you remember the story of Gideon. He was fighting against a large army of Midianites with a force of only 300 men.
“He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and provided them all with horns and with empty jars and torches inside the jars. ‘Watch me and follow my lead,’ he told them. “I shall go to the edge of the camp, and as I do, you must do also. When I and those with me blow horns, you too must blow horns all around the camp and cry out, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’” So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the posting of the guards. They blew the horns and broke the jars they were holding. When the three companies had blown their horns and broken their jars, they took the torches in their left hands, and in their right the horns they had been blowing, and cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” They all remained standing in place around the camp, while the whole camp began to run and shout and flee. When they blew the three hundred horns, the Lord set the sword of one against another throughout the camp.” Judges 7:16-22 Can you imagine 300 shofars sounding all around the soldier’s encampment? I’m sure it was frightening.
Not all of the trumpets mentioned in the Bible were made from animal horns. The use of a metal trumpet goes back to the time of Moses and Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. God told Moses to, “make two trumpets out of hammered silver. Blow them when you want the community to gather together. And blow them when you want the camps to start out. When both trumpets are blown, the whole community must gather in front of you. They must come to the entrance to the tent of meeting. Suppose only one trumpet is blown. Then the leaders must gather in front of you. They are the heads of the tribes of Israel. When a trumpet blast is blown, the tribes camped on the east side must start out. When the second blast is blown, the camps on the south side must start out. The blast will tell them when to start. Blow the trumpets to gather the people together. But do not use the same kind of blast. Numbers 10:2-7 (NIRV)
God always sounds a trumpet of preparation and assembly before the trumpet to begin the journey sounds. Are we part of God’s assembly? Are we part of the preparation?
Trumpets have a very clear and pure sound which seems to be clearer and louder than most other musical instruments. The silver trumpets were used to alert the people to danger and battles. They were also sounded to let the Israelites know when it was time to journey on and follow the cloud, and sometimes that occurred during the night so they would have been awakened by the sound of the silver trumpets. But being awakened by trumpets can be a bit of a shock! Yet how necessary it is for us today to hear and know God's voice as a trumpet blast which wakes us from our spiritual apathy.
We have been given a message to give to the world. Joel 2:1 (NKJV) says, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the Lord is coming, For it is at hand.” Are you blowing the trumpet? If so, what tune are you playing? We are to make the message plain. We are to blow the trumpet clear. 1 Corinthians 14:7,8 tells us that, “Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?
There are many uncertain sounds in Christianity today. The core message of the book of Revelation is that God is in control, even when things seem out of control. Not only was God in control of the past, not only is God in control of the present, Revelation tells us that God is also in control of the future. And if He is in control of the future, I can trust everything to His care.
The other day as I was going through the channels on my TV I saw that there was a baseball game on. The Boston Red Sox were playing the New York Mets. The score is tied at 5 in the bottom of the tenth inning with two out. Without watching I know what is about to happen. Mookie Wilson is going to hit a slow roller to the first baseman Bill Buckner, who is going to miss the ball that would have been an easy out. Instead, the Mets score the winning run, and the game is over. I knew what would happen because I was watching a rebroadcast of a very famous game from the 1986 World Series. The game had already been played. I knew the outcome.
Just like baseball game I was watching; when it comes to the end of the world, I know who wins. I have been reading my Bible, and it is very clear who the winner is. That is the trumpet that we are to be sounding. We know how this all ends. We need to share that information with others.
What I love about biblical prophecy is that with all of its weirdness and challenging symbols, there is an underlying sense of confidence that God can be trusted in everything, even in the future. He has promised to take care of his children. What about you? Do you trust Him?
Our message is found in Revelation 4:1,2: After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
We are to sound the trumpet. Jesus is coming again, and the book of Revelation shows us things which must take place. We have an obligation to let people know. Joel 2:2 “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near.”
It is a serious obligation. Ezekiel 33:6 “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.”
From my experience, it seems that the majority of us are not blowing the trumpet. Why do you think that is? I think that a big part of it is that we don’t know what sound the trumpet is to make. And when we do blow the trumpet, it is the trumpet of politics – or social change – or lifestyle, not the gospel. We blow a trumpet with an uncertain sound.
I think that Paul had the right sound when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:1,2 “So, my brothers, when I came to you, I did not come to tell you God's message in big or wise words. I made up my mind that I would talk about only one thing while I was with you. That one thing was Jesus Christ and his death on a cross.”