The first autumn festival of the feasts God gave to ancient Israel is referred to as “a memorial of blowing of trumpets.” Beyond this, not much is described about its observance except a cessation from work like the Sabbath.
Chapter 10 of the book of Numbers might give a clue about what a Feast of Trumpets might symbolize, as described briefly in the previous post. Depending on the combination of notes, trumpets were used:
- to assemble 1) the elders of Israel, 2) the entire nation or 3) the army;
to mobilize the tribes for movement or the army for battle;
to announce new moons; or
to announce and celebrate God’s festivals (which were based on phases of the moon in a lunar/solar calendar).
Numbers 10:9-10 notes an interesting function of the trumpet-blasts in the assembling for war or for appointed festivals. They are blown in those instances so that Israel will be brought to remembrance before the Lord. During the festivals it reminds the Lord that He is their God. In the case of an enemy, this remembrance by God will result in their salvation by God.
A spectacular instance of the latter remembrance is the siege of the city of Jericho. Jericho was the main stronghold blocking the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land. Leaving it intact would have allowed a powerful enemy force to remain behind them as they attempted to take the land. The story is recounted in Joshua 5:13-6:20.
The “Commander of the Armies of the Lord” approaches Joshua, who recognized Him as Lord and worships. This “Commander” is referred to as “the Lord” in 6:2, who gives Joshua the battle plan. The army, led by a group of priests blowing trumpets, circles around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day, they go around the city seven times. At the end of the seventh time, they shout in unison, and the wall falls down flat.
The trumpets and walk-around for seven days had to be demoralizing to the enemy prior to the collapse of the wall. (Of course, the fall of the wall itself would have been more than unnerving to whatever defenders were left.)
For the Israelites, this incident would have lodged the idea of God’s war-trumpet deep into their collective psyche. It would become a standard feature of prophetic and apocalyptic writing for generations to come.
I suspect that the prototypical event that suggests trumpet-blasts for times of gathering to celebrate festivals before God is to be found in Exodus 19:16-20:21. God has asked Moses to gather the people at the base of Mt. Sinai for a “face-to-face” meeting with Him. The trumpet blasts – apparently to signal the approach of God. It gets louder and louder as He approaches in thick clouds and darkness, reaching its maximum volume as God’s cloud touches down on the mountain peak.
The combination of cloud, the thundering voice of God and the trumpet-blasts becomes too much for the Israelites, who leave before God is finished talking. Only Moses is left to hear God tell him what to write into the book of the covenant, which goes on to the end of chapter 23.
The multiple trumpet blasts can therefore symbolize the approach in glory of Almighty God. Trumpets also become linked to the approach of God in later apocalyptic writing.
In the New Testament, we see many of the aspects mentioned above in terms of trumpet blasts. God gathers His elect into His presence, even from the realm of death, with a trumpet-blast (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). A trumpet-blast triggers the earthquake that destroys Babylon the Great (Rev. 11:11-13, assuming that the two witnesses are raised up at the same time as all the rest of the saints). The multiple trumpet-blasts also signal the approaching Presence of God Himself, with the heavenly temple open to be seen by all and the announcement that “the kingdoms of the earth have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15-19). Those promise to be terrifying and amazing times indeed.
We enjoy gathering at the time of the Feast of Trumpets to remind ourselves of these symbols that point to the return of Jesus Christ to begin His Millennial reign. We look forward to the fullness of our assured salvation in resurrected bodies at His return. It reminds us that Jesus Christ promises to finish what He has begun in our lives. He saves and vindicates His people. We also long for His visible presence in glory here on earth.