2 Samuel 5:24 “As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army” (NIV).
Observation: Word of David’s anointing as king had reached the Philistines, who came against him in full force. In response, David sought God’s direction, which could hardly have come in greater detail. Astonishingly, God gave David both strategy and timing. “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army” (2 Sam. 5:23–24).
Application: One temptation in reading such an exchange is to grow intensely jealous of David’s ability to hear God’s voice. David’s prayer had not simply been words tossed into the night sky with an expectation to war if the dice came up “seven” or not to war if it was “snake eyes”.
No, this was instead the answered prayer of a man who had so practiced a passionate pursuit of God that he knew he should expect detailed instruction. The story grows even more amazing when we consider God’s signal for David to move out: the sound of the heavenly host in the tops of the balsam trees, marching to war. Which is more mind-bending, that God’s angelic army makes the sound of marching as it moves into battle, or that David should expect to hear and take his cues from it?
My heart longs to hear God’s voice thus. He has been faithful to guide. He does answer prayer. I am familiar with doors opened easily and doors that resist my every attempt to pass through. I have known His comforting presence in life’s night seasons, and have exulted in His presence on mountaintops. But David’s experience is something far more profound, more like an in-dash global positioning system. “Turn left now. In three blocks, just past the blooming lilac, slow for an elderly woman who will be crossing the street.”
That’s how David heard God. How much of life’s “stuff” must I put away to hear Him like that? I begin to suspect Him to be less like the distant dour monarch who rarely speaks, and more like the three-year old in a car seat who chatters constantly.
Prayer: O Lord, my heart longs to hear Your voice above all else. Show me how to cut through life’s clamor, that I might hear as David heard. Forgive me, Lord, for settling for mere shadows of Your presence.