“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.” – Numbers 10:2
This is one of many laws given through Moses at Sinai which were abrogated as to their literal observance when the Lord came into the world. But being a part of the Word they have a meaning for today and for all future ages.
When the commandments were given at Sinai, there was the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, signifying that a revelation from the Lord was being given.
Our text speaks of two trumpets made of silver. If both were blown at the same time the people were to assemble before the tabernacle. If but one trumpet was blown, the princes and heads of Israel were to assemble. When an alarm was sounded, the camps on the east were to take up their journey, and at the second sounding the camps on the south. Before going to war they were to blow an alarm on the trumpets, and also on the days of their rejoicings, on their solemn days, and in the beginning of their months.
In the Word to sound a trumpet is to give a revelation or a warning.
The two silver trumpets made of one piece stand for the two great commandments. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” To represent this twofold nature of the Word there were two trumpets – not one only. They were of one piece because these commandments belong together. Love to the neighbor comes from love to the Lord.
The first use of the trumpets was to call the people together at the tabernacle to hear the Word of God. Before every duty is that of coming to the Lord. “I am, the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” The Word throughout calls us to come to Him who is the life and light of the world, that our minds may be enlightened and that power may be given us to overcome evil. “Come unto me… and I will give you rest.”
The children of Israel were on their way from Egypt to Canaan. Life is a journey. Spiritually we are all on our way from Egypt to Canaan. We cannot stand still; we must march on. So the second use of the trumpets is this call to go forward. Regeneration is a journey in which we advance not from place to place but from state to state.
And there is an order in this journey. Israel had a definite order of encampment. At the first sound of the trumpets the camps on the east were to move forward. The sun rises in the east, and the sun represents the Lord. This teaches us that love should always be first. If the heart is not in it, our journey will not prosper. There will be no real progress.
Then at the second alarm the camps on the south were to take their journey. The south is where the sun shines in its greatest splendor. The holy waters which Ezekiel beheld issued from the south side of the altar. We need heavenly light or intelligence on our journey. The mind as well as the heart is needed. “Let the south side go on their journey.” It has been thought that we do not need to understand. “If you have love in your heart, all will be well” has a familiar ring, but it is not sound advice. Truth that we do not understand has no fixed home and influence in the mind. The Lord said, “When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.” The Word is to be understood as well as loved.
When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and saw the Egyptian hosts destroyed, they felt safe and thought that the rest of their journey would be easy and that soon they would come into possession of their homes in the land of Canaan. But there were many dangers and many difficulties to be overcome, many enemies to meet and conquer before they would cross the Jordan, and even when they entered the Holy Land, they found it inhabited by enemies which could be driven out only little by little.
So it is with us in our journey. When we first determine to overcome the desire to live for ourselves and the world, we feel the gladness and joy of deliverance. But we do not know the depth of the mind or the extent of evil. No sudden transformation of the whole man is possible. It takes perseverance to come into the state of loving those things that are not of self and the world. Evils are deeper, we find, and more subtle that we at first thought. It is easy to give up the grosser evils. But the Lord does not want us to rest here. He wants us to gain the greater victories so that He may give us more of His joy. For apart from Him we cannot be happy anywhere. Isaiah writes, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
“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.” Through the Word as it is learned, understood, and obeyed power is given to overcome all the enemies to our peace.
Whatever be the enemies which assail us – and their name is legion – we must go to the Word, let its voice be heard, and we shall receive encouragement and strength. “They cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” Through the Word the Lord is present with us. We cannot grow in goodness in our own strength nor conquer our own evils. We shall have our conflicts and trials. Then let us hear the voice of the silver trumpets.
The last use of the trumpets was that they were to be blown on the days of solemn rejoicing.
It is wrong to think of the Christian life as a sad one, though sometimes the church has made this mistake. The Lord did not come to take away joy from us. He told His Apostles He came “that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” We should thank the Lord for our joys. All real joys have their origin in heaven. Were it not for sin, all our days would be days of gladness. So on our days of gladness the voice of the two great commandments should be heard. All our joys – even external ones – should be humane and moral and should have in them love to the Lord and the neighbor.
The three great solemn feasts of Israel represent the beginning of our regeneration, the time when we bring forth the first fruits of the virtues, and the time of the final ingathering, when charity rules in the heart. But there are many minor occasions for the expression of love and gratitude toward the Lord.
The beginning of the months is also mentioned as a time for blowing the trumpets. The month depends upon the phases of the moon, and the moon is the symbol of faith. The beginning of the month is the commencement of a new state of faith in the soul, when we come into clearer light.
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.” Truth is the spiritual power by which love acts, enlightens, and saves. Let us be grateful for the interior truths of the Word. All truth hangs upon love to the Lord and the neighbor, the two great commandments which lead us to come to the Lord as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Then we can go forward. When foes are met, we must be faithful to the call of the silver trumpets. And when the days of struggle are over, our days of happiness should praise the Lord, who has overcome for us and made them possible. Our whole lives should be under the direction of these two universal truths of heaven, so that finally we can say with John: “I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither.”