Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Wind In the Mulberry Trees

I love the so very human story of David. It is a rags to riches story with side trips into disasters and misfortune. During the worst times of his life he simply held on and for me, that is inspiring. I never read about him that I don't learn something new to encourage me.

A few weeks ago, I was reading 1st Chronicles 14 where David had already been anointed as King. The story tells that when all Philistines heard about it they went looking for him. They raided the Valley of Rephaim. David was upset over the attack and inquires of God about what to do. He says, "Shall I go up against the Philistine? Will You deliver them into my hand?"

David had to ask? David? Had to ask if God would? Where was his faith? Don't you hate it when people say that to you. "Where's your faith, sister! Just believe God is going to do it! That's all ya gotta do!"

David didn't jump up, grab a sword and go racing off with him men into battle. He had to ask.

And God answered. "Go up, for I will deliver them into your hand."

I love the King James Version of the Bible. It is the first thing I research when I'm looking for scriptures. The Bible Gateway site allows you to set your preferred translation. Mine is KJV. However, about four or five years ago, before Jerry died, I bought a  New King James Version Chronological Study Bible. I had already bought a  Chronological Bible set up to read in a year. However, this new Study Bible has lots of "extras" in the form of notes that give information related to archaeology, history, art, politics, government, and culture for the time period you're reading about. I just love it. What I really love is that some times it translates the KJV in an unexpected way. At least for me. It doesn't change the meaning but what I've found is a clarity that I often didn't know was missing. It has helped me see some things in very new and exciting ways. But back to my story.

After God told David to go, he did and his army defeated the Philistines so badly that they left their gods behind! David promptly burned them. If you study the cultures from this period and in this region, you know they never traveled without their "gods". These were small idols that could be easily transported in saddle bags or sacks.  During this period people firmly believed that they had to have their gods with them to be successful in any venture. So for them to run off and leave them behind for the enemy was a real victory indeed.

I suppose they didn't like having their gods burned. The Philistines made a second raid on the valley. David, once again, asked God if he should pursue them. God told David to go but this time he specified the battle tactic he was to use. He told David not to follow them but to circle around them and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. Very specific plan. I've read this story lots of times over the years but never saw this battle in just this way until now.

Here is the next verse in the KJV :

15 And it shall be, when thou shalt hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt go out to battle:  for God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines."

Sounds simple, right. When you hear the wind in the treetops start the battle. But here is how my Study Bible translated it.

15. And it shall be, when you hear a sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then  you shall go out to battle, for God has gone out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines."

Do you see it? This was my ah ha moment.

Have you ever heard mulberry leave rustle in the wind? I have. Mulberry leaves are rough on the top and have jagged edges and they make a noise when they move against one another. Imagine a troop of angles moving through the top of them, the motion of their feet creating a marching sound in the trees.

David and his men stood in front of a mulberry forest. I wonder if David and his men looked up at those trees in shock when they heard it? The Philistines army faced them - a nation who never traveled without their idols facing a small army and who carried none. But then they hear the sound of marching coming straight toward them. God told David that when he heard that sound he would know "God has gone out before you." The sound got ahead of David's army.

The results were profound. "...they drove back the army of the Philistines from Gibeon as far as Gezer. Then the fame of David went out into all lands and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations."


David always carried his God with him. He always asked directions. And he listened.