Friday, April 30, 2010

Need Help? Go Blow a Horn!

One fourth of the way through the book of Numbers, God established that celebrating the Passover was mandated by law, and that those breaking this law without a good excuse were to be killed. Now, in a mostly unrelated topic, God moves on speak about trumpets.

Need Help? Go Blow a Horn!
It is amazing. Sometimes you cannot remember anything until something triggers that memory; a place, a smell, a sound. Then you can remember every detail. You would not expect to need to remind God, given that He has perfect knowledge. However, as we will see in this study, you would be wrong.

Taking a closer look at Numbers 10:1-10, we see that God instructs Moses to make a couple of silver trumpets to use as a system for organizing the Israelites. Sounding one trumpet will call the leaders together. Sounding both trumpets will call everyone together. Various trumpet blasts will call for the Israelites to move out by encampment. Nothing is of out of the ordinary there, at least not until the last three verses.

In Numbers 10:8, we read that only the priests were allowed to blow the horns, and that this would be lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You could interpret this text to mean that this ordinance would be everlasting. Obviously, there has been a disruption in the trumpet service, but you have to wonder if theologians think that this is supposed to continue again after the foretold Second Coming of Jesus.

Numbers 10:9 is much more interesting:
“When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies.” NIV
So when the Israelites are in their own land, the Promised Land that God is giving them, they will occasionally fight an enemy who oppresses them. Or in other words, they will fight an enemy that gets the upper hand over them. So we find that God is not granting them an automatic peace or military security in the Promised Land, which would seem to be in direct contradiction of Leviticus 26:6-8.

Furthermore, as we can see, God will not even automatically step in to help the Israelites. Instead, they must first sound a blast on the trumpets to trigger God's memory; to remind God that these are His chosen people who He promised to protect. Why would an omniscient God need to hear a trumpet blast to remind Him of anything, or clue Him in that His people are in need of help?

Apologists may be quick to point out that this is an indication that God wanted a continuous relationship with the Israelites. So this trumpet blast was part of a dialog and simply represents a reminder to the Israelites that it is God which gives them their providence, and that they need to always seek God's help. However, that fails to be a good explanation in two ways. First, and most obvious, is that the Bible text reads specifically that it is to remind God, not to remind the Israelites. Second, this text portrays God as rather lax in keeping His covenants.

For example, let us say that you call a contractor to paint your house. You agree on the price. You sign a contract. The day arrives when the painting is to occur, but the contractor does not show up in the morning. You call the contractor, and he tells you “Oh, you still want me to paint your house? I had forgotten about that. OK, I will be right over.” Sure the contractor is eventually keeping his promise, but you would likely not think very much of his business ethics in keeping a commitment. One should expect better from a contractor, and even better still from God.

Numbers 10:10 continues on to say that the trumpets should be sounded at New Moon festivals and all of the other feasts. Why? The trumpeting will be a memorial, reminding God again about the Israelites.

Time and time again we see that God is in need of memory aids. Rainbows remind God not to flood the entire earth again. The Israelites crying out in the oppression of their Egyptian slavery reminded God of the promise He had made to Abraham about his offspring. And now, trumpets remind God of the promises He made to the Israelites. No wonder why Jesus told His disciples to pray continuously (Luke 18:1-8)!

Finally, on a quick side note, it is often said by Christians that everything in the Old Testament was pointing towards Jesus. Anyone who can figure out how the blasting two silver trumpets used to remind God of His own promises relates to Jesus in a specific sense, please feel free to comment on this post. ;-)

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