Thursday, 22 January 2015
For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? 1 Corinthians 14:8
The words today continue with the thought of the previous verse. There, Paul noted the flute and the harp which need to be played properly in order to make a distinction in the sounds. Likewise, the same is true with the trumpet. The word for “trumpet” here is salpigx, which is properly denoted as a war-trumpet. It was comparable to another Hebrew trumpet which was played before battle and which jubilantly would announce the Lord’s victory over His enemies.
In the Old Testament, which is where Paul’s mind would be referring to, there were different trumpets which were used for different occasions. The trumpet that he was most probably thinking about would be the chatsotsĕrah or “battle trumpet” which is first referred to in Numbers 10:1-10. In that description, this is found –
“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.” Numbers 10:9
In the surrounding instructions for this trumpet, the Lord noted it would be used for various purposes; and when it was used, different signals would be given to distinguish what was occurring. Without varying the tunes, one wouldn’t know whether the congregation was being gathered for a meeting or for going to war. As Paul says, “if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?”
The same is true with military units throughout history. There have always been different signals for different purposes. Those signals have been used to call the troops to battle, engage in various types of maneuvers, to sound retreat, or even to surrender. If the trumpeter blew the same note all the time, only chaos would result.
The first time that the battle trumpet was used in the Bible came later in the book of Numbers when Israel took vengeance on the Midianites. Here is that record –
“Then Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from each tribe; he sent them to the war with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand. 7 And they warred against the Midianites, just as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed all the males.” Numbers 31:6, 7
In the Psalms, this same trumpet is mentioned, not for going into battle, but for a joyous praise to the Lord at His victory –
“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
5 Sing to the Lord with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
6 With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.” Psalm 98:4-6
Someday, the final battle trumpet will be sounded when the Lord’s victory is complete and all of His enemies have been made His footstool. The sounding of that trumpet is seen in Revelation 11:15 –
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'”
Paul’s use of the trumpet is given to again demonstrate the need for coherence and understanding within the congregation. He is doing his best to ensure that the Corinthians (and thus us!) see the importance of using words that can be comprehended by all when speaking in the church. As he progresses through this chapter, this needs to be kept in mind. There should never be anything spoken within the church that is not perfectly clear and understood by all, unless it is properly translated.
To ensure this will be the case, he will give definite instructions which are expected to be adhered to. How sad it is that they are all but neglected by so many in the church today. There is flash at the expense of edification. There is an attempt to draw attention to self rather than a desire for exhortation. May we take to heed Paul’s words and sound out notes of clarity and purpose!
Life application: When in the congregation, let the voice which proceeds from your mouth always be a voice of clarity for instruction or edification.
Lord, I would rather speak 10 words of edification to others than one hundred long-winded speeches that tickle the ears of those who hear, but which fail to teach them anything useful about Your word. My life is nothing but a breath in the passing of time, and I pray that each thing that I impart to others will be for them to understand You better. A sermon without instruction is a wasted sermon. A note of counsel which doesn’t return to Your word is a note which has failed to direct the reader to You. Help me to keep You and Your word as the center of my focus always. Amen.