The Silver Trumpet

Numbers 10  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee. When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward. When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys. But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm. And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance forever throughout your generations. And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Loan your God." vv. 1-10.
We have quoted the entire of this interesting passage for the reader in order that he may have before him, in the veritable language of inspiration, the lovely institution of the silver trumpet. It comes in with striking fitness immediately after the instructions respecting the movement of the cloud, and is bound up in a marked way with the entire history of Israel, not only in the past, but also in the future. The sound of the trumpet was familiar to every circumcised ear. It was also the communication of the mind of God in a form distinct and simple enough to be heard and understood by every member of the congregation, however distant he might be from the source where the testimony emanated. God took care that each one in that vast assembly, however far away, should hear the silvery tones of the trumpet of testimony.
The two trumpets were made of one piece, and they fulfilled a double purpose. In other words, the source of the testimony was one, however the object and result might vary. Every movement in the camp was to be the result of the sound of the trumpet. Was the congregation to be gathered in festive joy and worship? It was by a certain sound of the trumpet. Were the tribes to be gathered in hostile array? It was by a blast of the trumpet. In a word, the solemn assembly and the warlike host -the instruments of music and the weapons of war-all-all were regulated by the silver trumpet. Any movement, whether festive, religious, or hostile, that was not the result of that familiar sound, would be but the fruit of a restless and unsubdued will which Jehovah could by no means sanction. The pilgrim host in the wilderness was as dependent upon the sound of the trumpet as upon the movement of the cloud. The testimony of God, communicated in that particular manner, was to govern every movement throughout the many thousands of Israel.
Moreover, it pertained to the sons of Aaron, the priests, to blow with the trumpets, for the mind of God can only be known and communicated in priestly nearness and communion. It was the high and holy privilege of the priestly family to cluster around the sanctuary of God, there to catch the first movement of the cloud, and communicate the same to the most distant part of the camp. They were responsible to give a certain sound, and every member of the militant host was equally responsible to yield a ready and an implicit obedience. It would have been at once positive rebellion for any to attempt to move without the word of command, or to refuse to move whenever that word was given. All had to wait upon that divine testimony, and walk in the light of it the very moment it was given. To move without the testimony would be to move in the dark; to refuse to move when the testimony was given, would be to remain in the dark.
This is most simple and deeply practical. We can have no difficulty in seeing its force and application in the case of the congregation in the wilderness. But let us remember that all this was a type; and further, that it was written for our learning. We are solemnly bound, therefore, to look into it; we are imperatively called upon to seek to gather up and treasure up the great practical instruction contained in the singularly beautiful ordinance of the silver trumpet. Nothing could be more seasonable for the present moment. It teaches a lesson to which the Christian reader should give his most profound attention. It sets forth in the most distinct manner possible that God's people are to be absolutely dependent upon and wholly subject to divine testimony in all their movements. A child may read this in the type before us. The congregation in the wilderness dared not assemble for any festive or religious object until they heard the sound of the trumpet; nor could the men of war buckle on their armor till summoned forth by the signal of alarm to meet the uncircumcised foe. They worshiped and they fought, they journeyed and they rested, in simple obedience to the trumpet call. It was not by any means a question of their likings or dislikings, their thoughts, their opinions, or their judgment. It was simply and entirely a question of implicit obedience. Their every movement was dependent upon the testimony of God as given by the priests from the sanctuary. The song of the worshiper and the shout of the warrior were each the simple fruit of the testimony of God.
How beautiful! How striking! How instructive! And let us add, How deeply practical! Why do we dwell upon it? Because we firmly believe it contains a needed lesson for the day in which our lot is cast. If there is one feature more characteristic than another of the present hour, it is insubjection to divine authority-positive resistance of the truth when it demands unqualified obedience and self-surrender. It is all well enough so long as it is truth setting forth with divine fullness and clearness our pardon, our acceptance, our life, our righteousness, our eternal security in Christ. This will be listened to and delighted in.
But the very moment it becomes a question of the claim and authority of that blessed One who gave His life to save us from the flames of hell, and introduce us to the everlasting joys of heaven, all manner of difficulties are started; all sorts of reasonings and questions are raised; clouds of prejudice gather around the soul and darken the understanding. The sharp edge of truth is blunted or turned aside in a thousand ways. There is no waiting for the sound of the trumpet; and when it sounds with a blast as clear as God Himself can give, there is no response to the summons. We move when we ought to be still, and we halt when we ought to be moving.
Reader, what must be the result of this? Either no progress at all, or progress in a wrong direction, which is worse than none. It is utterly impossible that we can advance in the divine life unless we yield ourselves without reserve to the word of the Lord: saved we may be, through the rich aboundings of divine mercy and through the atoning virtues of the Savior's blood; but shall we rest satisfied with being saved by Christ, and not seek, in some feeble measure, to walk with Him and live for Him? Shall we accept of salvation through the work which He has wrought, and not long after deeper intimacy of communion with Himself, and complete subjection to His authority in all things? How would it have been with Israel in the wilderness had they refused attention to the sound of the trumpet? We can see it at a glance. If, for example, they had presumed at any time to assemble for a festive or religious object without the divinely appointed summons, what would have been the result? Or further, had they taken it upon themselves to move forward on their journey, or go forth to war, before the trumpet had sounded an alarm, how would it have been? Or, finally, had they refused to move when called by the sound of the trumpet, either to the solemn assembly, the onward march, or to the battle, how would they have fared?
The answer is as plain as a sunbeam. Let us ponder it. It has a lesson for us. Let us apply our hearts to it. The silver trumpet settled and ordered every movement for Israel of old. The testimony of
God ought to settle and order everything for the Church now. That silver trumpet was blown by the priests of old. That testimony of God is known in priestly communion now. A Christian has no right to move or act apart from the divine testimony. He must wait upon the word of his Lord. Till he gets that, he must stand still. When he has gotten it, he must go forward. God can and does communicate His mind to His militant people now, just as distinctly as He did to His people of old. True, it is not now by the sound of the trumpet or by the movement of a cloud, but by His Word and Spirit. It is not by anything that strikes the senses that our Father guides us, but by that which acts on the heart, the conscience, and the understanding. It is not by that which is natural, but by that which is spiritual, that He communicates His mind.
But let us be well assured of this, that our God can and does give our hearts full certainty both as to what we should do and what we should not do-as to where we should go and where we should not go. It seems strange to be obliged to insist upon this- passing strange that any Christian should doubt, much less, deny it. And yet so it is. We are often in doubt and perplexity, and there are some who are ready to deny that there can be any such thing as certainty as to the details of daily life and action. This surely is wrong. Cannot an earthly father communicate his mind to his child as to the most minute particulars of his conduct? Who will deny this? And cannot our Father communicate His mind to us as to all our ways from day to day? Unquestionably He can; and let not the Christian reader be robbed of the holy privilege of knowing his Father's mind in reference to any circumstance of his daily life.
Are we to suppose for a moment that the Church of God is worse off in the matter of guidance than the camp in the desert? Impossible. How is it then that one often finds Christians at a loss as to their movements? It must be owing to the lack of a circumcised ear to hear the sound of the silver trumpet, and of a subject will to yield a response to the sound.
Thus much as to the beautiful institution of the silver trumpet which we shall not pursue further now, though, as we have noticed above, it is not confined in its application to Israel in the wilderness, but is bound up with their entire history right onward to the end. Thus we have the feast of trumpets-the trumpet of jubilee, the blowing of trumpets over their sacrifices-upon which we do not now dwell, as our immediate object is to help the reader to seize the grand idea presented in the opening paragraph of our article. May the Holy Ghost impress upon our hearts the needed lesson of "The Silver Trumpet."