David, newly ascended to the throne of Israel, is under attack from the Philistines. He seeks God's direction as he and his army face this formidable enemy, spread out before them in the Valley of Rephaim. "Shall I go up against the Philistines?" David asks.
God answers David, "You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. 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." And David did as the LORD commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer. (2 Samuel 5:23-25)
Have you ever prayed for guidance and direction from the LORD? "Lord, should I apply for/accept this job?" "Lord, what do you want us to do in this relationship?" "Lord, what role do you have for me in my church?" "Lord, should we move to Obion County?" If you're like me, you've probably prayed something similar too many times to count. And if you're like me, you've probably also felt like God has often been very soft-spoken, indirect, even vague in His answers.
Look at the above passage again. Reading through it, you get the feeling that David and God are sitting face-to-face, looking at each other eye-to-eye across the table. David asks something like this: "Should we charge into the Philistine camp and take them out? Are you with us?" He's straightforward, blunt, direct.
And God is equally straightforward in His reply. "No, don't go directly up into battle. Go around behind them, and come at them from opposite the balsam trees...." You can almost imagine God sketching out the details of His battle plan on the table with His finger. Could God have been any more direct? His answer, any clearer?
Now that's the kind of prayer dialogue I'm wanting - God talking to me about balsam trees. Or whatever the local variation would be...sycamore trees, cornfields, the Hornbeak BestWay. Something clear, obvious, unequivocal. But folks, it just isn't happening. God hasn't spoken to me like that. He hasn't said, "Camille, on such-&-such day, at such-&-such time, I want you to drive the F-150 to the square in Troy. When you hear Dixie playing from Jethro's jacked-up pickup as he lays on his horn at the four-way stop, I will meet you beside the tower with the giant Christmas star and will do great and awesome things for you..."
Sigh. If only things were so obvious, so easy.
But I'm not writing to bemoan the fact that God doesn't talk to me about balsam trees. I'm writing because, having read that passage in 2 Samuel yesterday, I awoke this morning with renewed zeal and focus in my prayers for my pastor and the elders at my church. I am not David. I am not called to shepherd the nation of Israel, to lead them in battle and govern them in peace. But my pastor and elders do have callings rather like David's. And today, I pray that God will give them clear direction, unified vision, unshakable faith, deep and abiding love for Christ, for each other, and for the church. I pray that God will indeed talk to them of balsam trees.
And, I pray as God directs our leaders, that we who are the body at Grace Community Church (and at Unity, because you are so much in my heart!) will rouse ourselves and march out to see what the LORD will do as He goes before us.
3 weeks ago