God Whistles

I can whistle. And not just a pleasant little tune, though I can do that too, but an ear-drum piercing wolf whistle that turns heads and stops traffic. And I can do it without putting my fingers in my mouth.

Yeah, it’s a gift.

Quite useful too. Several years ago I was chaperoning a youth group on a trip to Toronto, Canada. A handful of the kids were a few yards ahead of me deep in conversation and nearly walked right past our destination until I whistled. Their response was nearly Pavlovian. As one their heads popped up, they stopped mid-stride and turned around. I nearly fell on the ground laughing and they talked about that moment for the rest of the weekend.

But I’d never really considered being able to whistle across three counties as something Divine until I stumbled across this verse in Isaiah. The setting is a divided Israel at war with itself. Each half of the nation had made alliances with neighboring pagan nations – which didn’t please God at all. So he sends a message to King Ahaz of Judah, a decendant of King David and ruler of Judah, the southern half of the nation David had fought so hard to unify.

“In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes.” Isaiah 7:18-19

Whether literally or figuratively as representative of enemy nations – the thought of God whistling, pointing at a disobedient nation, and saying “sic ’em” is a startling image. God whistles and a plague descends.

And yet, God’s anger at the betrayal his people have shown yet again is tempered with mercy. In the paragraph just above, verse 14, is one of the most famous prophesies of the Old Testament. “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

See that? In the midst of their worst behavior God didn’t say, “knock it off or I’ll tell Santa.” He said something more like, “the consequences of your actions are going to be miserable, and I’m not going to step in this time. But soon you will receive the most precious gift ever – the ability to walk away from your sins and walk with me as children.”

When we turn to Matthew 1 we see how the generations of the Old Testament piled up, son after son after son, from Abraham, to David, through Ahaz to Jesus – and we see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy in a way even Isaiah probably couldn’t even imagine.

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:’The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.'” Matthew 1:22-23.

So this week, as we wind down (or ramp up) to Christmas, is it the buzzing of the flies and bees you hear? Or, is there something else hidden in the white noise that surrounds us? In the midst of your chaos a promise is given. Christ is born, he has died and lives again. He stands at your door and knocks, open the door and welcome him into your heart today.