“If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8 NIV
Through the Bible: 1 Corinthians 12-14
On my most recent trip to Israel, our tour guide was a trumpet player from Haifa named Yair. I love Yair. He’s brilliant and funny and full of energy. Wherever we went, Yair took his trumpet with him. When it was time to get back on the bus, he blew his trumpet. If we were spread out over an area and he wanted to call our attention to something, he blew his trumpet. Or if we were just exhausted and taking a rest break, Yair would lift our spirits with songs we knew from back home.
In Paul’s day, the trumpeter played a vital role in the army. The trumpet rallied the troops, sounded a warning, and encouraged the hearts of the soldiers.
As a pastor, that’s kind of my job description. I’m a watchman. I blow the trumpet. I warn the people. And if I sound a clear call, the people can prepare for battle. They can repent, or shelter, or fight.
But if I don’t blow the trumpet at all, that’s on me. If I’m afraid they won’t like the music, so I play a tune different from the one God gave me, that’s on me.
This image isn’t original with Paul. We can trace it all the way back to Ezekiel 33, where the prophet wrote,
“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” Ezekiel 33:6-7 ESV
So, three things:
- The trumpet must be sounded when the warning is given. No delays, no second guessing. God tells Ezekiel, “whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them a warning from Me” (v 7).
- The message must be what God wants to say, and not what the watchman wants to communicate, or what the people want to hear. Tara-Leigh pointed out that many scholars believed Ezekiel was mute except when he was prophesying. He literally couldn’t say anything except what God gave him (see Ezekiel 33:22).
- The message must be clear. The ESV translates 1 Cor 14:8 as “If the bugle makes an indistinct sound;” the KJV is “uncertain.” This means I’ve got to practice. I’ve got to study. A preacher doesn’t have to be eloquent or impressive, but he does have to be prepared. There’s a skill involved in bringing the message.
All of this to say, if you are a pastor, take your calling seriously, because we are accountable to God if we don’t. And if you are in a church as a member, please don’t stop praying for your pastors. This is hard.