“And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” 2 Samuel 5:24 ESV
In this passage, David was ordered by the Lord to fight the Philistines. David knew that this was going to be a tremendous fight so he asked the Lord for the strategy he would need to win this battle. The Lord told him to wait and to listen. Listen for the sound of the marching on top of the balsam trees. He told David that when he heard this sound it was time to move out, it was time to go into battle because the Lord would be before him striking down his enemy.
We can learn a few things from this passage. First of all, that the Lord is going to send us into battle. This is no surprise because for many of us it seems we are fighting some sort of battle every day. These battles may come in the form of illness, financial difficulties, marriage troubles, problems with our children, issues at work, unemployment and numerous other ways. Often times we feel like we are alone and that God isn’t paying attention. These battles may have us facing an intimidating foe who has us questioning our ability to win. This was likely how David felt as he was overlooking the massive camp of the Philistines.
The Lord understands our concern. He put us in the battle, so He will give us the strategy to win it if we ask him to and if we are willing to obey him. Most of us understand prayer, but we don’t always engage prayer in our battles. We get distracted, we panic, or we may even feel hopeless. We second guess the power of prayer, remembering that we have prayed many times before, and it didn’t seem that God answered, so we wonder if our prayers even work. Often times, it’s our expectation of how the battle should be won that gets in the way of our acceptance of Gods answer. Instead of praying for Gods strategy, we give him our own solution and then ask him to work it out for us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray for what we need, but at the same time, we need to be open to listening for and excepting Gods strategy, because it’s likely very different from our expectations. I’m fairly certain that David didn’t expect God’s answer to be to wait until he hears marching on top of the balsam tree’s. I imagine David’s thought was “Really God? I’m going to hear marching on top of the balsam trees? That’s my signal? That’s your answer?” That was a very strange strategy indeed, and certainly not one that David likely thought of.
At this point, David had a choice to make. He could wait and listen for the “marching on top of the balsam trees”, he could move ahead with his own strategy or he could turn his army around and run away from the battle altogether. Going back to his troops and telling them the strange answer God gave him must have caused him some distress as I’m sure many of his men questioned Gods response. David’s challenges weren’t much different than ours today. He was human. He had his own thoughts and outside influences that impacted the decisions he made. However, in this instance, even though the answer was strange, he decided to trust what God said and not on his own understanding. That is key to winning battles with God.
In the heat of battle, most of us want to avoid pain so we look for the path of least resistance. Our humanness will override our confidence in God, so in spite of what we may have heard from God, and even though deep in our hearts we want to trust him, we chose to take our own action. We do this over and over again, re-enforcing our own way of thinking. Which is why when we are faced with a fight where the victory is beyond our abilities, we become afraid. We are afraid because our humanness, our own way of thinking, cannot create a successful outcome without God’s help. But we haven’t practiced listening to God and trusting his ways enough to know that He is a good God and will show up for us. We may lift up a prayer, but we aren’t confident that God will respond, and if he does, we question his answer.
Confidence in God comes by practicing faith. David didn’t rise to become king without learning to trust in the Lord. He was given battle after battle, opportunities from God to make choices. To choose to pray, to listen and to obey. David made mistakes all of the time, he was often making decisions of the flesh that cost him dearly. But in this case, he chose to listen to God and wait for his signal. As a result, God fought the battle for him and his enemy was destroyed.
The sound of the marching was the evidence that God was moving. He had directed his angel armies to move ahead of David’s army into battle. What a sound that must have been. I have never heard marching on top of trees before, but I’m sure it was powerful. It must have been powerful enough not only for David to hear it, but also his army. Giving them all confidence that the Lord was moving on their behalf. You see, God wants us to experience his power. He wants us to know that he is mighty and strong and fighting on our behalf. He wants to build our confidence in his ways. He wants us to know that we should not rely on our own abilities but instead should depend upon his. But we can only experience this power if we practice surrendering our own ways, and instead, pray, listen and obey.
So the next time you are presented with a battle, try not to depend upon your own solution. Instead, pray and allow God to give you his unexpected answer. Move ahead only when he tells you to go, and then watch his power appear to destroy your enemy and to win your battle.