Lord's Day Evening Meditations April 20, 2003

Nehemiah 4:18-23

"The Sound of the Trumpet"

As we read this Old Testament story, what is important is not so much the story itself, as what we should learn from it. We see Nehemiah, a man of faith, set before us as an example of the activity of faith in his day. Nehemiah wasn't perfect; the Lord is the only perfect example we have. Nehemiah made mistakes, but he serves as a good example of concern for the Lord's people and the Lord's center, and of activity directed to the removal of the reproach and affliction of the Lord's people. His people then were the people of Israel, basically, the Jews; His people now are all those who are saved, whose sins are forgiven, who have eternal life, and are children of God. His people then were quite despised, and they are today also, mostly through our own faults and failures. Nehemiah was concerned about the state of things in God's center, and amongst God's people. Do we have such a concern; can we do something about it?

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, etc." 2 Tim. 3:1 - 2. When Paul wrote that, the perilous times were still to come. As we read this tonight, they have come; we are in them now. He describes what people would be like, and the first item on the list is "lovers of their own selves." That pretty well describes the state of things as we know it, but that should not describe us as believers. We read in 2 Cor. 5:14 - 15, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him." As we follow the Lord Jesus in His life down here, we see Him continually spending Himself for others. His death at Calvary was not for Himself; it was for others; it was for us. His thought was always for the accomplishment of the will of His Father or for the blessing of others. That is the thought that should be in our minds as well. That is the way it was with Nehemiah, and his faith and labours not only accomplished the will of God; they were a great blessing to God's people.

In chapter 3 we saw the people busily building and repairing the wall; in chapter 4, when danger threatened, the builders became soldiers. "Every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded." But that was not all; there is another truth of basic importance given to us here. The Jewish remnant was relatively small compared to the size of the city and of the work they were doing. That meant that as each did his part of the wall, they were all quite scattered around the city. If the enemy presented himself at any one point, he would find very few people there to resist him. That was why Nehemiah said, "The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another." v. 19. The solution to this was the trumpet. Every builder was to listen for the sound of the trumpet, and wherever they heard it, they were to gather there to face the enemy. "In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us." v. 20. What is the instruction for us in this use of the trumpet? What does the trumpet represent? One of the values of the Old Testament is that it gives us important truths in picture form, making them easier to understand.

Read Numbers 10:1 - 10. There you have the law concerning the use of the two silver trumpets. I believe that those trumpets speak of the Word of God. The fact that there were two of them may refer to the fact that the Word is composed of two parts: Old Testament and New Testament. It also reminds us of a basic Scripture principle that a testimony always requires at least two witnesses. Those trumpets were used as the means of giving God's directions "for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps." v. 1. They were to be used "if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you," (v. 9) and also, "ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over your sacrifices of your peace offerings." v. 10. You can imagine that the camp of Israel, with approximately 2 million people in it, was scattered over a large area. When God had directions to give to His people in these things, He did so by means of the two silver trumpets. 1) Their assembling, 2) their journeying, 3) their warfare, and 4) their worship, were all directed in this way.

What a picture, what instruction this contains for us! God has a people in the wilderness of this world at the present time, and we are part of that people. He has directions to give us 1) as to how He wants us to gather together in assembly. He has directions to give us 2) concerning our journey through this world and how we should conduct ourselves in it. 3) He wants to lead us to victory in the warfare that we have to carry on, a spiritual warfare against the powers of evil. And then, also, 4) He gives us instructions as to our worship: what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to Him. How does He give us His directions in all of these things? All is found in His Word. Just as Israel was to listen to the sound of the trumpet and act accordingly, so we are called to heed the directions given to us in the Word, and to act accordingly.

Read Jeremiah 6:16 - 17. Jeremiah prophesied many years before the time of Nehemiah. Through him the Lord said to His people, "Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." They answered, "We will not walk therein." He said to them, "Hearken (listen) to the sound of the trumpet." They answered, "We will not hearken (listen)." This was a bold and deliberate refusal to listen to, or to obey the Lord's will. For us likewise the Lord sets before us the "good way," the way of blessing and rest for our souls; He asks us to listen to the warnings that He gives us in His Word. Are we listening; are we giving heed? Have you ever thought of patterning your life on the directions of the Word of God? Our lives take certain directions according to decisions that we make. We make these decisions either through self-will, influence of others, or the pressures of the way things are in the world. God has a "good, and acceptable, and perfect will" for each one of His children. He wants our lives to follow the directions of His Word so that we can be found in the path of faith, obedience, and blessing. Now, I know that following the Bible as a guide for our lives is not in style; it is not the way of the world, and is considered old-fashioned, "Victorian", or just downright foolish, good only for feeble-minded people. Nevertheless, the path of faith and obedience is the only right path, the only happy path; it is the only path of blessing.

In speaking of following the Word, I speak in a very general way. To follow the Word you have to know what it says, and to be able to discern the Lord's will in it. That is not always easy. In some cases the Lord has not made it easy, on purpose, in order to exercise our faith. We would like some easy recipe to go by with no exercise of heart. Sometimes we drift away from Him, and then wonder why He doesn't show us clearly what He wants. The reason is that we have gotten away from Him, and He withholds His directions, saying as it were, "Do you really want to know My will? Then, come closer to Me, and I'll show you."

The message for us in all of this is, "Hearken to the sound of the trumpet." Would you not like to have your life and ways directed and formed by the directions of the Word of God? "The old paths" of the Word of God is "the good way" where we find the help, the happiness, the contentment, and the peace of God. May these thoughts encourage each one of us to realize the truth of this, and to do what Nehemiah directed the people to do in his day - to listen for the sound of the trumpet, and to respond to its message. S.L.