Does anyone remember Roger Whittaker? He was a very popular singer in the 60s and 70s, with his two biggest hits being Durham Town and I Don’t Believe In ‘If’ Anymore. What singled him out from other artists was his incredible whistling ability, which was really quite stunning. Unlike me, who can hardly make a noise, his whistle was strong and tuneful, a great enhancement to his singing voice.
There are different kinds of whistles. There’s the whistle while you work, used by my father-in-law, whose neighbours said whatever work he was doing outside, he always whistled. There’s the building site whistle, used whenever a pretty girl walked by, totally sexist and inappropriate of course. There’s the taxi whistle, two fingers in the mouth and a loud blast to stop a passing taxi. There’s the sheep dog whistle, used by shepherds and a complete work of art. There’s the normal dog whistle, used for recall. There’s also the dismissive whistle, used with a flick of the head to call someone over, letting them know who’s in charge. I never thought I’d be asking this question, but did you know that God whistles? It’s not something I’d ever considered, but I’ve discovered that God whistles to great effect, and he uses the dismissive whistle to say, ‘I’m in charge’.
Nations rise and nations fall, empires come and go. Kings, emperors, presidents, prime ministers, appear and disappear leaving a legacy behind them. We look through the pages of history and watch armies marching into war, ruthlessly destroying their enemies as men seek to dominate their fellow men. We’ve seen the Babylonian empire, the Medeo-Persian empire, the Greek empire, the Roman empire , the Ottoman empire, the British empire. Men pride themselves on their achievements, and none realise that God is in control, carefully ordering their paths to enable his greater purpose to be fulfilled, the rescuing of man from sin. It was so with the Assyrian empire. One of its kings, Tiglath-Pileser III created the world’s first professional army and conquered a huge part of the Middle East. In the time of the prophet Isaiah, the land of Israel had divided into two nations, Israel and Judah, and Isaiah spoke about God’s dealings with Judah. He tells of how sinful they were, how they had rejected God and how he would use the Assyrians to punish them and turn them back to him. We read this in the book named after Isaiah:
“He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily! … Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses’ hooves seem like flint, their chariot wheels like a whirlwind. Their roar is like that of the lion, they roar like young lions; they growl as they seize their prey and carry it off with no one to rescue.” (1)
Did you notice God’s whistle? This is the dismissive whistle of a God who is in control of the world directing the steps of men who think they are.
He whistles a second time:
“In that day the LORD will whistle for flies from the Nile delta in 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 thorn bushes and at all the water holes. In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River —the king of Assyria” (2)
This is Biblical imagery. God isn’t talking about flies and bees, he’s talking about armies from the Assyrian empire. The king of Assyria would be used of God to fulfil his purposes.
It’s so easy to assume that God has abandoned this world, but that’s not true at all. He is constantly working to bring an end to sin, and that means he will act in ways we may not understand to cause us to look at our own sin. That’s what he was doing to Judah. Their sin was so great they needed this awful reminder of what they were doing to turn their hearts back to God. If you need a reminder of your sin you will find it at a place called Calvary. It was there 2000 years ago that God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, suffered and died the most awful death as our sins were placed on him. Look there and see how bad your sin is and turn your heart to God.
- Isaiah 5:26-29
- Isaiah 7:18-20