October 28, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“But, if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life [or those peoples’ lives] will be taken because of the sin of the watchman: I will hold the watchman accountable for that person’s [or those peoples’] death.” (Ezekiel 33.6)
What does the trumpet, the shofar, sound like today? If the watchman, watchmen, watch-persons, were to sound the trumpet of call to arms would we even know it? And if we knew it, would we truly believe it? Belief, mind you, speaks to right thinking and right action. Perhaps the question is “Dare we truly believe in the sound of the shofar?”
First, in the modern Church, and I grant this is opinion based on personal observation, the verbage “trumpet of the Lord,” almost immediately throws the disciples’ thinking to The Last Day. There is a favored hymn which declares such truth in the words “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more. When the morning breaks eternal bright and fair. When the “called” of earth shall gather over on the other shore, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.” But, that trumpet sound is not a warning that an enemy is approaching and we need to be prepared for an attack. That trumpet declares to the enemy that its conqueror has returned as King of kings and Lord of lords and no manner of preparation will protect them from their defeat. That trumpet moves believers to the sidelines to watch as the long-awaited battle of righteousness versus evil is waged and God’s people are set free from the bondage of this world and ushered in, at the end of the “game,” to the New Jerusalem in the New Israel in the New World. Is our belief, that right action and right thinking, sufficient to place us in the stands to cheer the victory that is being won? Or have we allowed ourselves to believe our image is good enough for Heaven instead of pressing into becoming more fully the image of Christ which God is attempting to transform us into? I am sorry, the Church was never intended to hug the sidelines or fill the stands. If the members of the Church, the body of Christ, are more fully becoming the image of Christ regaining their first love of life given completely to God, then the army of the Lord will not be limited to the heavenly host. The army of the Lord would include those faithful members of the body serving their part in the whole effort to declare the goodness of God’s presence in awe and wonder. The magnitude of the glory of that army’s praise and worship will illumine the darkness so that no corner is unlit or invisible. All will be revealed, including those who will find themselves face to face with the King of kings and suddenly realize “I am on the right side of this battle.” What happens after that is left to God’s mercy and grace which leads me to the second point.
According to the story Jesus told concerning “that day,” He said “it would come like a thief in the night.” No, Jesus did not intimate that He was a thief. He only used that image to indicate that there was no time to assuage the thief’s breaking into the home, office or recreational venue. It would come as a complete surprise or else the thief would be a robber. In another story, Jesus turned the attention of those seeking to be His disciples to the traditional wedding plan. Once the pledge for marriage had been offered and accepted, the engagement, there was actually “no engagement,” would begin. The prospective groom would leave to his father’s house and prepare a place for him and his bride to live. They were not going to live “in” his father’s house but alongside his father’s house. He went away to build on to his father’s house so that there would be “many rooms which seem like mansions.” In truth, the son was building up the community of faithfulness to his father’s witness which would have been built upon his father’s witness and his father before him and so on and so forth. This was intended to be a true “family faithfulness affair.” And when the father saw that the work was sufficiently completed and blessed it with “this is good,” then the word was given for the son, the groom, to claim his bride, and the two would be as one. But, the story which Jesus told spoke of the wedding party, in particular the bridesmaids. There were ten of them. As the story goes, among the ten were five wise bridesmaids and five foolish bridesmaids. From the time of “engagement” until the actual wedding, the bridesmaids look exactly like that, like bridesmaids. No one would think they were a group of potential bridesmaids. But, among them were those who took the honor more seriously and understood the tradition of readiness. Nothing was more important than being ready for “that day.” But, some were less spartan in their desire to fulfill the obligation of being a bridesmaid. They had other items on their personal agenda. They spent time on things which seemed important to them alongside of the opportunity to be a bridesmaid. They didn’t listen for any updates on how the groom’s building project was progressing. They may have been in pursuit of other interests or in another’s interest. Regardless, they did not use their time or resources wisely. And “a bad decision results in a tragic consequence.” That consequence was being left out of the honor of attending the wedding party. You see, when the trumpet sounded in the middle of the night or in the early hours before the sun rose, the groom and his groomsmen and his father and his father’s family arrived at the bride-to-be’s house to claim her as his lawfully wedded wife. Those who did not tend to their lamps daily found them with a dying flame for lack of oil. The lamp was the key to their gaining entrance. It allowed them to see “the way, the truth and the life” that was intended for all who believed in the integrity of the “engagement for wedded life.” In their haste to find oil, but all the stores were closed, they arrived late and looked far from being bridesmaids worthy of the bride and the groom. The door was closed and the darkness of the hour literally and figuratively consumed them.
We know, of course, or at least we should, that the Church is the “bride of Christ.” The Church is not the groom nor is the Church the bridesmaids. The designated expectation is clear. All human relationships were given with the intention of modeling this marital relationship in “spirit and in truth.” It is imagery found throughout both the Old and New Testaments. It is significant because the purpose and proposal of God is “authentic love.” Authentic love creates right relationships which both support and encourage humanity and brings honor and glory to God. Authentic love images the intent of God to draw near to His people and to draw His people near to Him. Authentic love bears witness to the intent of the people to draw near to God and desire for God to draw near to them. It is the relationship of righteousness. It is the purpose, design and focus of the believers in God to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord of their lives, their households and their community. In truth, what image should be more visible in and by the believers than that which promotes Jesus as the Christ and the Church as His beloved. I offer this train of thought because in this world, while Jesus has departed to prepare a place for us to dwell with Him forever in His Father’s House which has many rooms like mansions, we are assigned the duty of waiting in preparation for His return. We are called to be the bride-in-waiting, the bridesmaids who are attending and the representatives of the groom as groomsmen who rise up to the wall of the community of faith and fill the gap. It does not mean that Jesus has forsaken His first love that the gaps exists nor that He is not at the ready to defend the earthly home from the world. He has given us the full responsibility and resource by His Holy Spirit, to do the “authentic waiting.” What is that “authentic waiting”? It is the service and worship rendered to God by His people as a lamp set on a hill where His Word is a light to the path and a lamp to the feet of those who proclaim the truth of God by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Far too many are preparing for the long haul of living in the world as if Jesus is never coming back. They have begun to live a faded image of what they once believed with fervor and vigor. The colors of faith, hope and love begin to merge with the dark colors of a broken world intending to make their own “light” and their own “path” and their own “home.” They become married to the darkness and to the lie which says “God didn’t really mean you would die, right?” And those who pursue the authenticity of the gospel as the rubric for their lives are intended to sound the trumpet on such questions and debates and proposals. It is an alert that the enemy is drawing near. Think of it in this way, that as the fire in the center of the camp begins to burn out because it is not tended, the cold draws near and so, too, does the wolf and the lion and the bear which loom in the shadow just beyond the ring of firelight. If the fire is not tended, all hope is ended. There is a reason why the Hebrews were ordered to camp in a circle around the “Holy Fire,” the Presence of God. By day, God went before them and behind them like a mighty storm. By night, the storm was seen as a pillar of fire. His ring of fire surrounded the encampment and was sufficient to keep the enemy at bay as the people pursued the return to the place which had been prepared for them to dwell forever. Yes, God was their groom and they were His holy Bride. And when the enemy approached, it was the trumpet of the Lord, the shofar, which called the peoples’ attention to the task at hand. What is that task? It is nothing short of “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; trust in the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and obey His commands teaching them to others so that they, too, might come to know the “Way, Truth and Life” of believing in God and Him only for their salvation for all their days.
So, let me ask again? What is the sound of the shofar, the trumpet of the Lord? Is it being sounded today so the fire of faith and faithfulness can be tended and brought to the fullness of its flame of truth and righteousness? Is it a call to arms for the mighty ones to rise up to the wall of authentic community and fill the gaps? Is it a declaration that we are like those who are wise enough to know we are waiting for the return of the King and focused on His Word and His Word alone? If not, then “a bad decision will result in a serious consequence.”
Until tomorrow, shalom.
Father, we stand at the ready in the light of Your love, mercy and grace. We stand as those who wait upon the Lord and who serve Your people with gladness. We bow in honor of the King of kings and Lord of lords who is the righteousness groom preparing to claim His Holy Bride, the Church, and to dwell with Her forever in Your eternal presence. We shall be “the trumpet of the Lord” today. AMEN.