You are God's beautiful music!


For the week of June 6, 2015 / 19 Sivan 5775
Torah: Bemidbar/Numbers 8:1 - 12:16
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7 (English: 2:10 - 4:7)

God's Trumpets

God's Trumpets

And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. (Bemidbar/Numbers 10:8)

This week's parsha includes directions for the making and using of silver trumpets. They were to be blown to gather the leaders or the whole community, to break camp, or as a sort of prayer at time of war, and over the burnt offerings during the appointed feasts and at the new moon (the first day of each month).

Centuries later Yeshua might have been alluding to this in what is commonly known as "The Sermon of the Mount," when he said, "When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others" (Matthew 6:2). It's not as if people were literally blowing trumpets when they gave charity. The Messiah was painting a graphic word picture to describe the boastful way some people performed good deeds. Their attitude toward giving was not primarily out of love for God and neighbor but as a way to show off their false piety.

It's possible that people considered their offerings to the needy as similar to the Temple sacrifices. This fits with the development of Judaism in those days from being Temple/sacrifice based to synagogue/good deeds based. So it's conceivable that Yeshua's reference to trumpets in this context is itself a critique of people's inflated view of their religious performance. Whatever the actual background, it is clear that it is wrong to make a big deal over doing good to others. Yeshua introduced this section of his teaching with "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:1).

Note, however, this doesn't imply that the trumpet blowing given to Israel through Moses was wrong or that it had become wrong for the people of Israel to obey these commands. Using the silver trumpets to sound an alarm or over certain sacrifices at certain occasions was completely appropriate, because that is what God said to do in those situations. The purpose of the blowing of the trumpets was always for some sort of communal response, either a practical one or as a way to connect as a community to God. But never as a way of drawing attention to the individuals involved. Personal acts of righteousness such as giving to the needy, praying, or fasting, should stay between the individual and God.

On the other hand, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua says, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Just as there were occasions to blow the trumpets, not everything about our faith is to be private and hidden. We should always be ready and willing to be like trumpets played on the lips of God for everyone to hear. God makes himself known by the sound of his truth and reality reverberating through our lives.

Some people wrongly apply Yeshua's teaching on private spirituality to almost everything as if God's people should never be noticed in public. I have heard people pray that God would use them, but keep them invisible. That's like trying to make a trumpet sound without a trumpet. I accept that something is wrong when the instrument becomes the focus instead of the sound it was designed to make. But when a trumpet is blown well it will be noticed, but noticed in order to bring attention to the purpose for which it is being blown. While we must be careful not to blow our own trumpets to draw attention to ourselves, we must be willing to let God blow his as loud as he wants. In case you missed the metaphor, that's you and me.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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