Two Trumpets of Zion

Leviticus 23:24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.”

Every year, Israel celebrates their New Year with a two-day affair that’s called Rosh Hashanah. This holiday starts what is known as the Days of Awe, or the Ten Days of Repentance. The 10-day period is supposed to be used for reflection and remembrance leading up to the Day of Atonement, or what they call Yom Kippur. During the ten days people are to examine their sins of the previous year and repent. According to Talmudic tradition, the Ten Days of Awe is the time in which God determines the outcome of each human being. On the Feast of Trumpets—the first day of the New Year—the wholly righteous are supposedly inscribed into the Book of Life, while the wholly wicked are written in the Book of Death.

Let me mention quickly a few things about the use of these New Year trumpets. There are two types of trumpets found in the Old Testament. The first were two silver trumpets[1], these were used to mark the beginning of the New Year; the second were trumpets made of ram’s horns—known as the loud trumpet[2]. These were used the tenth day ending the New Year celebration, marking the beginning of the Day of Atonement. The point being, not only was Israel’s celebration of the New Year a great festival of rejoicing, but also it was a time for reflection, commitment and promise. Now I want to turn the topic to the book of Joel, chapter 2 where we’ll find the use of the Ram’s horn trumpet in action.

Very similar to the Jewish New year, the New Year we face comes with decisions and choices. Let’s see if we can discover a way to make better choices from looking at Joel 2. We’re going to see in this chapter the Israelites were faced with options of extreme consequences. This whole text is an illustration of the choices Israel faced at their New Year; and this sounding of the ram’s horn is what I’ve called, The Two Trumpets of Zion. I think it’s an amazing representation of their situation. Let’s read quickly the options these two trumpets signify in Joel 2:

The First Trumpet in Zion: 1 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!

The Second Trumpet in Zion: 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.

The first trumpet is the sound of an alarm; the second is a call to extreme consecration—two trumpets of great excesses. The extremes are necessary because God’s people had ventured into such deep apostasy from the Lord. At this point in Israeli history only one of these two options would work recovery for them. Their only remedy—fall on the sword in judgment by continued apathy or fall on their faces in repentance by congregational fasting. These two ultimate options are the proverbial lines in the sand with God. He had to be extreme as year after year Israel had made incremental bad decisions. The only remedy was elimination or illumination. They had before them either a day of darkness, or a day of fasting—two very different selections. With the sounding of the Two Trumpets of Zion, there very existence hung in the balance.

The important thing to remember here is Israel didn’t find themselves in this predicament overnight. This New Year of reckoning had to come because many of their former “New Years” had passed by making incrementally poor choices. Year after year they lived compromising God’s calling until one New Year celebration/festival they were faced with the consequences of many years of apathy and disobedience.

The same with us! We begin at one spot and drift away so slowly and imperceptible that by the end of the year we wonder how we got where we are. When I used to surf, one of the places I’d to go at times was the Huntington Beach pier in Southern California. I really didn’t like this location much as it had a bunch of locals who were always grabbing my board and yelling at me to get off their wave. The only way to get around this problem was to surf further out then anyone else. Consequently I ended up floating more than surfing as the best waves were closer to shore. The amazing thing about Huntington Beach is the current around the pier. I’d start close to the pier and within a half hour drift north up the beach. When you’re just doing your little thing and trying to stay alive away from all the local surfers, you gradually and imperceptibly drift. One time I was so focused on looking out to sea to catch a wave that by the time I turned around to locate myself, I was I was way north by the cliffs. I had drifted way out of position. Now I was faced with a choice. Either I paddle back up current into position by the pier or suffer the humiliation of walking up the beach! Humbly I chose getting out of the water; that was the best remedy for me in that situation. By not paying attention to my surroundings I had allowed myself to drift and that created one of two extreme choices; paddle back and be physically wasted by the time I returned to the pier; or be humble, paddle to shore and walk back—it was a nice embarrassing walk!

As we look at Israel we see every New Year was a choice for them. Make steps forward towards God, or stop paying attention the the Lord’s plan and drift away from Him. What I learn from Israel behavior is that if I become careless it will only cause me to be faced with the Two Trumpets of Zion—judgment or humiliation. Joel 2 teaches that it’s much wiser to choose for God in every New Year by reflection, commitment and promise. The things that make for reconciliation are really amazingly easy if I will pay attention to my surroundings and stewardship and not allow the world to lull me to sleep and drift towards the cliffs of insanity!

Listen, verse 11 tells us “the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?” That’s meant to put the fear of God into me. However, I must not stop there—that would be discouraging!

12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?

There are really two simple things that we can do every New Year that will get God’s attention—He says, “return to me with all your heart…and rend your hearts…” No matter how far you’ve found yourself adrift—and the thing about this kind of drifting is you don’t know you’ve drifted—God gives opportunity each New Year to hear the blowing of the two trumpets in Zion so you can return; making it easy to return! This is what Israel was presented with every New Year with the feast of the Blowing of the Trumpets. It was an occasion for a new commitment and beginning, it was the start of new choices—better choices! So, at the beginning of our New Year, let’s commit to making spiritual choices of services to Him! It could be as simple as morning times and prayer—the key is just to do it.

23 “Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.”

J. Robert Hanson

[1] Numbers 10:2 “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp.”

[2] Leviticus 25:9 “Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.”



  1. thanks for the reminder of how even small choices that are bad can add up, and that a new year can be a reminder for us to start over and start off clean…at least that is what i took away from a few of your paragraphs 🙂

  2. Thanks Jay! That was exactly the point. I hope the church fellowship received as much from it after preaching on the topic Sunday. Hope your holidays went well. I’ve enjoyed reading and keeping up on your blog with what you’ve written! Thanks again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s