The Sound Of The Trumpets

The Sound Of The Trumpets

The Jews’ New Year’s Day (known as Rosh Hashanah) is a special day which serves as “a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets” (Lev. 23:23-25).  Have you ever been listening to the radio or some random playlist, and a song begins which triggers a memory in your head?  Maybe it takes you back to some joyful event from your early childhood, or maybe even something tear-filled, tragic, and painful from your teenage years?  How many have been deeply moved in this way by a church hymn?  It may have been the invitation song preceding your baptism, or it might be a song from the funeral service of a loved one.  These audio cues set off a cascade of mental imagery and strong emotion.  In the same way, on Rosh Hashanah, the blast of the trumpets would do the same.  Benson writes that the trumpets were blown in all of the cities of Israel from sunrise to sunset – almost like the sound of fireworks all throughout the day.

However, this all leads us to ask, “For what do the trumpets act as a memorial on Rosh Hashanah? Of what do they remind the hearer?”  Unfortunately, the Lord never tells us.  My only guess would be that, just as the memorial of the Lord’s Supper has an abundance of reminders embedded into its observance (after all, how many different meditations have been offered as we partake?), so it might be said of this memorial.  However, just as the Lord’s Supper has a few prominent and popular reminders which seem to constantly reoccur in our minds, I think the same is probably true of the blasting of the trumpets.

First, the instrument with which this is done is not a trumpet like we picture, but rather a ram’s horn known as a shofar (SHOW-far).  After the Lord stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac on the mountain (Gen. 22:1-14), God provides a ram, caught in the thicket by his horns.  Abraham offers it as a burnt offering, and he calls the name of that place “The Lord will provide.”  Naturally then, the sounding of the ram’s horn would bring to remembrance this landmark moment in the history of this people, with the chief message being “The Lord will provide.”  I believe that we would, at the start of the new year, experience a blessing from a similar reflection – that “The Lord will provide.”  Meditate on all He has done for you over the past year and approach the uncertainty of the new year with the full assurance of faith that He will continue to be faithful and provide what you truly need.

Second, the Lord commands the separate use of two silver trumpets in Israel to assemble and unite the people (Numb. 10:1-3).  They make sure that everyone is on the same page.  They are the announcement that it is time to come together for a common purpose.  So, as the shofar sounds from sun-up to sun-down on the first day of the New Year, the Jewish people hear that similar sound and likely cannot help experiencing sentiments of camaraderie and community.  Would we not benefit from this same trumpet sounding within the church today?  Since the eruption of COVID-19 nearly three years ago, many have become separated and isolated.  Additionally, how many will make goals for the new year which are are all about self-improvement – goals which are self-driven and self-focused?   Let us instead be reminded of the blessings which come from community, fellowship, and togetherness.

Third, the sounding of the silver trumpets can serve as an alarm as well (Numb. 10:5-9).  Scholars agree that this would have been a long, sustained trumpet sound, rather than the shorter blast for the call to assemble at the tent of meeting.  Therefore, the New Year’s trumpet throughout the entire day would probably be very reminiscent of this alarm sound.  In a related note, according to the tradition of the Jews, the New Year marks the first of what they call “The 10 Days of Repentance.”  Up until the Day of Atonement ten days later, those who are “in the middle” – neither in the Book of Life nor in the Book of Death – have only a short time to change their hearts, their attitudes, and their ways.  In Nehemiah 8:1ff, the alarm takes the form of the Word of God, which Ezra reads to all of the people on New Year’s Day.  The hearers there respond with weeping, as they realize they have not kept His commandments.  Therefore, may the Word of God similarly reverberate in our lives, awakening us to our shortcomings and to our continual need for our Savior.

Finally, the Jews believe the sound of a trumpet will signal the arrival of the Messiah, as well as the Day of Judgment.  It is possible that the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a reminder of this.  In contrast, Christians truthfully believe that, with the sound of the trumpet of God, “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven, and we who are alive will be caught up together with Him in the clouds and meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16).  Thus, may the New Year remind us all that we are eagerly anticipating that great day when He will “make all things new.”