By T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: Numbers 10:1-10
There is a great deal about trumpets in the Bible: indeed the word occurs about a hundred times. This suggests that God has something to say to us on this subject, especially to His servants. This is our privilege as ministers of Christ, to sound forth the clear message of salvation like silver trumpets.
We notice that the material used for these trumpets was silver which, in Old Testament symbolism, denotes redemption. This suggests that God's message to man is about redemption, but it also means that no one can be God's trumpet unless he himself is redeemed. The trumpets were made of solid silver, which means that they were the embodiment of the spiritual reality of redemption. So it is that before we can proclaim the message of God we must know redemption in the very constitution of our being. What is more, they are described as being "of beaten work". They have to be hammered out in such a way that redemption is wrought into their very experience. It is not just that God gives us words to say, but that our message must have a background of some real and thorough-going experience in the matter of which we speak.
These things, then, should characterise every one who would be a messenger of God to others. It is better to have a small experience but a very real one, and to witness of that, than to speak empty words which have no solid background in the life and cannot therefore serve God in the trumpet call of His grace. The process will go on if we allow God to pursue it and He will work our redemption into us, making us like those silver trumpets which were "of beaten work". Redemption does not begin and end just with our being saved from judgment and hell and being assured of heaven. This is an important part of our Christian experience, but it is only a part, for redemption begins to apply to and touch every part of our lives until we are wholly on that ground.
When the Israelites were redeemed by God from their bondage in Egypt, the result was that not one ox was left in the land. God applied this matter of redemption to the last hoof of the last animal to leave Egypt. His idea was a very thorough-going redemption which left nothing outside. Now that illustrates our point. It was true in history, but it shows us that in our spiritual life everything has to be wrought and beaten into us, so that our lives can be silver trumpets for God.
The trumpets were two in number. This surely stresses their devotion to witnessing. In the Bible the legal position was that the evidence of one person alone was never accepted. It had to be confirmed and corroborated by a second reliable witness before it could be valid. "At the mouth of two witnesses... shall every word be established" (2 Corinthians 13:1). Two is the irreducible minimum of God. As many more as you like, but no less than two. It was equally the case with the silver sockets of the tabernacle boards - there had to be two sockets for each board. God wishes to have everything ratified and confirmed in an unmistakable way where His testimony is concerned.
This matter is taken up by the apostle Paul in the passage about trumpets where he writes: "If the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war?" (1 Corinthians 14:8). Unhappily there is far too much indefiniteness and uncertainty about some Christian witness today. It is essential that there should be nothing of the kind where redemption is concerned. The witness must be positive.
It is helpful to consider the purpose of these silver trumpets:
1. To Call Together (v.3)
In the first place they were to be used to call an assembly together. Here were instruments to establish the relatedness, the oneness, of the fellowship together of God's people. We should have a unifying effect on our fellow believers, avoiding anything which could tend to scatter or divide the people of God. It is a great ministry to bring the Lord's people together. The ministry of the silver trumpets is never to disintegrate God's people but rather to strengthen relationships and consolidate fellowship.
2. To Order Movement (v.5)
We find that the trumpets were used for the ordering of the life and movement of Israel. It is interesting to notice that the two silver trumpets come next to the cloud of Shekinah glory which rested upon the Tabernacle. They worked together. The pillar of cloud and fire provided guidance for God's people, and when Israel was in right relationship with Him, then the guidance was always towards the land of promise. So when it was time for the people to move forward, the trumpets were sounded to give direction to the march, bringing them ever nearer and nearer to the spiritual wealth and fullness of God's objective for them.
In this way we see that the trumpets proclaimed God's great purpose for His redeemed people. The trumpet note cannot be sounded too strongly in this connection nor too clearly, for we are called with a great divine purpose which God formulated before the world was. The Lord's people need to have it made known to them, for there is a tremendous purpose governing their being called together into the fellowship of His Son, and they need not only to know the purpose, but also God's way of realising it. They need to be kept from wandering round in circles, straying about indefinitely without any clear assurance of what redemption really involves and where it should be leading them. There is a great need for an enlightening and inspiring ministry of the Word which will summon God's redeemed people to move on to His eternal purpose for them in Christ. The silver trumpets were to govern God's people in relation to the ultimate fullness which He has for them in Christ.
3. To Call to War (v.9)
They were also to sound the summons to war. Perhaps this note is as much needed as any, for every Christian is intended to be involved in spiritual warfare. It is so easy to be surprised or worried when we become involved in conflict, as though this were very strange and unfair for peace-loving persons. The fact is, though, that conflict is far from being strange or unusual but is the calling of every true Christian. The silver trumpets call us to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We must realise that we have a part in the Lord's battles and that these will go on to the very end. We must learn to respond to the rallying voice of redemption's trumpet. It calls us to victory, for the words seem to suggest that the Lord Himself would listen for the trumpet alarm and when He heard it, would remember His beloved people and send them salvation from their enemies.
4. To Express Praise (v.10)
The fourth purpose was simply the trumpeting of praise to God on feast days and special occasions of rejoicing. Salvation is a feast, and is often so described in the Gospels. Our testimony to the world around us should always be bright and clear. In this way the trumpet call can be a call of salvation to those who are outside of God's grace in Christ. Paul writes about their sound going into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Romans 10:18). God's people are set in so many places that they may be a witness to Him, like the silver trumpets celebrating the perfect offering of Christ and the gospel truth of God's provision for sinners by that offering. For us, then, every day should be a feast day, a day of gladness. There is no time when we should not be sounding the silver trumpets of redemption as we remember Christ and rejoice in His saving grace. As we make much of the Lord Jesus and concentrate on Him, then from us goes out a message of hope and salvation to those around us. We blow our trumpets over the one great Burnt Offering and Peace Offering and we are assured that God will always remember us and work for us as we do this. The last word of this passage is: "I am the Lord your God". What a joy if others should enter into such a relationship because we have served as silver trumpets of redemption.