Lately, I keep hearing trumpets. Did you hear them at Prince Philip’s funeral? “Taps” was played at my father-in-law’s military interment ceremony last month. I read trumpet texts at the funeral.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1. Cor. 15:51-52).
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
No doubt, when that happens someone will say, “I’ve never liked trumpets in worship.”
In the 1800s the Seventh Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the trumpets, but Jesus did not return. Hal Lindsey and the Left Behind books and movies picture it, but in the 1980s Jesus was not heard. Even Harold Camping, raised in the Christian Reformed Church, who led others to high expectations in 1994 and 2011, was let down. Second Coming notes aren’t trending now.
Some people are optimistic progressive Post-Millennials: the church will reform society into the Kingdom of God. Others are pessimistic spiritualistic Pre-Millennials: God will deliver us from this evil world and bring us to heaven. A-Millennials realistically look at the conflict now. Most Millennials do not think about it at all – let’s enjoy life now. Few are listening for trumpets.
Trumpet is our translation of the Hebrew “shofar,” the hollow ram’s horn. In Jewish practice, based on Leviticus, it is still blown on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), both in early Fall. Both stand for renewal.
In the Hebrew Bible we first hear trumpets in Exodus 19.
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning . . . and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God.”
In Numbers the sound of the ram’s horn called people to break camp and move on. Trumpets were a sound for battle and victory, especially at Jericho and Gideon’s triumph. Trumpets were blown at the king’s coronation and in praise of the Great King. “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets” (Ps. 47:5, cf. 150:3).
The Prophets warn of the sound of the enemy’s trumpets coming in judgment (Isa.18:3, Jer. 4:19). Ezekiel is called to sound the trumpet of warning (33:2-6). These are also the trumpets of Revelation 8-11.
Listening for Trumpets
Like a car horn, trumpets warn. Trumpets get our attention. “I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’” (Jer. 6:17) Listen for the prophetic trumpets of justice.
Trumpets announce God is here at work. They call us to celebration and to join into new things. “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet” (Rev. 1:10) Listen.
Trumpets awaken us to the present and encourage us for the future. Sing the last stanza of the hymn “God of All Ages” with the opening trumpet notes. “Refresh thy people on their toilsome way / lead us from night to never-ending day / fill all our lives with love and grace divine / all glory, laud and praise be ever thine.”