Our first family doctor used a buzzer to call his patients. He pressed a button, the waiting room intercom buzzed, and his crackly voice summoned the next person.
God used a trumpet (shofar) to call people to approach Him on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-25; 20:18-21). The people stood at a prearranged distance and watched while Moses went up to meet with God.
The trumpet sound was one of the signs of God’s presence—the people witnessed several. Clouds are common in mountains, so are thunder and lightning. However, fire, smoke, trembling ground, and the trumpet blare make the scene on Mount Sinai extraordinary (Ex. 19:19). The passage reads like a description of a volcanic eruption, except that God spoke to Moses and gave him the Ten Commandments—all the phenomena are signs of God.
During the mountain encounter, the people stayed at a safe distance in obedience to God. After the tabernacle (tent) had been erected, “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting” (Exodus 33:7-11). God designed that tent as a place to meet with His people. However, the majority of the people held back. They stood at their doors and worshiped there while Moses entered the tabernacle, pitched under the pillar of cloud. Only Joshua went near God’s tent. The multitude chose the easier, safer way—watching from a distance while their leader took the risks and reaped the benefits that come from seeking God.
The temple functioned like the tabernacle. Then, with Jesus, all the arrangements for meeting with God changed. Hebrews 12:19-25 says we are no longer at Mount Sinai, with its trumpet and other fear-inducing phenomena. Today we are at Mount Zion and the city of God. Jesus made the difference; He mediated a new covenant relationship by His sprinkled blood.
The author of Hebrews wanted to ensure that his readers understood the new arrangements and the appropriate response. Are we clear? The first part of the chapter tells us we are God’s children, subject to His discipline for our own good. He goes on to warn us not to reject what God says to us. As children, we can approach the throne boldly, without terror, because our faith is in what Jesus did.
God didn’t dispense with the trumpet. Like so many items in the Old Testament, the trumpet pointed to something in heaven. Revelation 1:10 and 4:1 suggest that the trumpet foreshadowed Jesus’ voice. Now, Jesus’ trumpet-like voice calls us, “Come up here”. While we should be reverent, fear must never keep us from His presence. We are not to stand back expecting someone else to approach God for us. Jesus’ blood dealt with our sin—all we have to do is to ask forgiveness.
The trumpet calls us into God’s presence to listen to His voice.