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Paging Wynton Marsalis: Numbers 10

Ok, so the great musician obviously was not available in the Exodus, but Numbers 10 starts off speaking of silver trumpets, so I couldn’t help but jump to an old album of Wynton Marsalis my band director had. This one, actually:

which, I don’t actually have a copy of, but the two silver trumpets caught my eye way back when, and now we come to a Scripture passage about the silver trumpets.

What I like about the trumpets of Numbers 10 is their use to call people to action. The people had to learn what to listen for, and by God’s grace we now live in an age with saxophones as well as trumpets, but let’s take this apart for a moment.

First, the trumpets are blown to assemble the people. If both horns toot, then the whole assembly is to gather. If just one trumpet is sounded, then the leaders are to gather. That’s not too hard to figure or to hear, but what can we learn from this?

How about that there were not too many “secret leadership meetings” for the Israelites during the Exodus? You’re assembling the leadership meeting by blowing a trumpet that everyone can hear! While I would hesitate to say that the meetings were completely open, one should realize that there was no way to hide the meeting. We can learn from this in our churches and coordinated Christian work: secrecy rarely helps the community.

Scripture is clear about some behaviors remaining secret: anything that would allow for self-aggrandizement or position seeking should be kept secret, like financial giving or personal ego builds. However, the decision making processes cannot be held sub rosa all the time. It should be the exception, not the rule.

Second, the gathering of all the people. There were calls for the whole of the people to assemble, and there are no recorded exceptions. This is important: that which involves everyone ought to involve everyone. That’s not even a conversation that should have to be had, but we still have it. Consider the mixed multitude that goes up in the Exodus (see Exodus 12 or here). There were ethnic Israelites in the Assembly. There were some Egyptians, some Cushites (Moses’ wife, for example), and plenty of other folks.

And the Assembly of Israel included all of them. Not some of them.

Finally, I would point you to Numbers 10:5-10, when there is a time and place to blow an “alarm” and a time and a place just to sound the trumpets. This is reflected to this day in bugle calls: there’s “assembly,” “reveille,” “mail call” and many others (check this page out). We should be certain to use the right calls at the right time, that others may follow what is appropriate!

Today’s Nerd Note: Numbers 10:29-33 records the interaction with Hobab, son of Reuel, Moses’ father-in-law. This would, logically, make Hobab Moses’ brother-in-law, but that is not how he is described.

Moses appeals that Hobab go with Israel to help with the camping needs, and it appears that Hobab agrees. This shows that Moses has begun to recognize his need for help.

It is interesting to note that Hobab is not offered a place within the community. Instead, he is offered that the people will reward him as God rewards them.


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