Wednesday, September 20, 2006

And Another Bone!

Here's another excerpt from my story:
Three days after my brothers came home, I saw a servant from my father’s house race to my pasture. I met him as he approached our flock.

“Your father needs you at home,” The servant said.

“Why? What’s happened?”

“The Seer, Samuel, has come to Bethlehem to sacrifice to the Lord. He will not begin the banquet without you, he has said.”

“Without me?” I stared hard at the man.

He waved me on. Leaving him in the care of my father’s flock, I returned to Bethlehem. The elders and their families, including mine, had gathered with Samuel in the principal square of the city. Servants of the elders had hastily prepared tables for the sacrificial banquet after Samuel’s arrival. The fires lapped high toward the sky. Only the wood beneath the altar that had been prepared for the sacrificial heifer remained unburned.

An old man in a traveler’s robes stood before the assembled elders. His piercing hazel eyes defied the seeming frailty of his aging body. They shone from within his weathered and wrinkled face. No one could mistake Samuel, the last judge of Israel, for any other man. Though I had never seen the prophet of the most high, I knew him in an instant.

“David, son of Jesse,” the seer said as I approached, “we have waited for you.”

He approached me with a ram’s horn in his left hand. When he stood before me, I trembled. Even when I had faced the lion, I had never felt such fear as I did before Samuel. His fiery gaze seared right through me. I could not face them.

“Bow your head,” He said.

I obeyed.

The oil from his horn poured over me. He uttered a blessing to the Lord, our God. I can’t remember his words. As the oil anointed me, I felt an incredible warmth through me. My trembling in the presence of God’s holy man became a delight, not a dread. I found that through this fear, my heart discovered a torrent of courage I had never experienced before. I need never fear any man so long as I feared the Lord.
Samuel lowered his horn. I looked up. My brothers looked at me in utter disbelief. Eliab glowered as though I had offended him anew. My sisters looked shaken. Even my father Jesse appeared shocked. They had witnessed my anointing by El Adonai’s own prophet. What could this mean?

The Seer ignored their dismay and signed to his servants. They led the sacrificial heifer to the altar at the center of the square and prepared it for slaughter. Samuel stood before the Altar, his back to the people, and offered praise to God. Then he slaughtered the animal and lit the wood beneath the altar.
During the banquet, I approached Samuel. He sat at the head table with the Elders.

“Sir, may I speak to you?”

One of the Elders frowned and signaled on his servants to dismiss me. Samuel waved him off. “Of course, David bar Jonah.”

“Why did you anoint me?”

The elders gasped. No one in the city had ever dared to question one of Lord’s own servants before. I, myself, might never have done so, before Samuel had anointed me. Nevertheless, there I was.

Samuel did not appear insulted or nonplussed by my question in the least. He alone understood that I intended no disrespect. I simply wanted an answer to a question that burned within all of our hearts.

Instead of answering me, he asked me a question. “Why did you kill the lion, David?”

I looked at my father. He shook his head once. No one in our family had spoken of this to the seer. He may have heard of my exploit from someone else. Or he may not have.

I swallowed hard. “I wanted to protect our lamb.”

“You put yourself in harm’s way for only one lamb?”

“Yes, sir.”

He rose up before me. “You would lay down your life for only one lamb of your father’s vast flock?”

“Yes, sir.”

His eyes locked on mine once more. Then he smiled. “The Most High himself does no less for us, David. That’s why he called upon me to anoint you.”

He walked away from his place at the elder’s table. When he had taken three paces from me, he looked over his shoulder. “Will you wait until I reach the city gate before you attend me, David bar Jonah?”

I stumbled after him. The Elder’s rose from their places. Without turning around again, he said, “I will speak now only to him whom I have anointed.”

When he had me at his side, he turned down a side street off the gate road. No one appeared to be there. Drawing me close to himself, the seer whispered in my ear.

“Tell no one outside of your city what has happened this day, David.”

Of course, sir, but how will a city keep silent?”

“Trust me, Anointed. They will not utter a word even among themselves after I have left.”

“I don’t understand.”

He smiled at me again. “You will soon, David. For now, let me say this: a time comes soon when Israel will need you to shepherd them as you’ve shepherded your father’s flock. He strengthens you to that purpose this day. Have faith in that.”

I pleaded with him to tell me more, but he spoke no more. We returned to the banquet, where our sudden departure passed without comment. When the banquet concluded, Samuel and his party took their leave of our city. We escorted them to the city gates and watched them depart for Ramah.

Only after Samuel had left did I remember the voice that had spoken within me the day I killed the lion. I realized with a chill that Samuel had echoed that same voice.

He told me I would Shepherd our people.

How, when God’s own anointed sat upon the throne of our nation?