Wednesday, November 08, 2006

More bones for y'all!

The next part. Beware, it's all a little rough:
The Bethlehemites gathered at the square on the eve of the Sabbath. I checked my harp, offering a smile to the young girls that giggled in front. The men chatted among themselves about the affairs beyond our city. I caught snippets of their conversation.

“He rages all day, they say.”

“Meanwhile, the Philistines maneuver on the plains outside their cities.”

“I hear they hit another caravan headed south.”

“Loinless uncircumcised! Why don’t they take the field like men?”

I had heard portions of such conversations since Samuel had arrived some two weeks before. Each story sounded wilder than the one before it. One would swear on his mother’s grave that the Gazan Philistines had besieged Hebron. Others claimed that they’d taken Gerzer. No one knew what to believe.

All any of us knew for certain was that war would soon descend upon us all. That’s why the correspondence from friends of my brother troubled us all. A Danean herdsmen on his way home had delivered us word. Eliab had hurled the parchment to the floor when he’d read the contents.

“What is it?” my father had asked him.

“The Anointed has become plagued by fits of rage. He berates his captains in front of their men. Desertions are on the rise.”

“And the Philistines’ aggression becomes bolder every year,” My father had replied.

“If the Anointed continues to lose control, he’ll soon have only Jonathan to stand with him against the unchosen.”

Since that message arrived, rumors spread faster than ever. The consequent anxiety soon left everyone in the city on edge. They depended on my weekly songs more than ever.

Riders trotted to the edge of the crowd just as I was about to begin. They bore the Anointed’s banner on their pendants. I shuddered. Why would a party from the King come to Bethlehem at this hour of the evening before the Sabbath? There could be only one reason: me!

One of the riders dismounted and made his way through the audience. He stood in front, arms folded across his chest, an inscrutable expression on his face.

Running my fingers across the strings, I played my usual introductory arrangement and then sang:

Answer when I call, my saving God.
In my troubles, you cleared a way;
Show me favor; hear my prayer.

How long will you people mock my honor,
Love what is worthless, chase after lies?

Know that the Lord works wonders for the
The Lord hears when I call out.
Tremble and do not sin;
Upon your beds ponder in silence
Offer fitting sacrifice
And trust in the Lord

Many say, “May we see better times!
Lord, show us the light of your face!”

But you have given my heart more joy
Than they have when grain and wine
In peace I shall both lie down and sleep
For you alone, Lord, make me secure.

My nervousness at the strangers’ arrival vanished. When I sang praise to the Lord, nothing troubled my heart. The fire that Samuel’s anointing had kindled in my heart flared like a forest blaze whenever I lifted my heart in prayer or sang his praises, alone or in the square. I could face whatever fate these men from the Anointed brought me.

I soon found my conviction put to the test.

My special guest approached me after I had finished my performance. Several people still congratulated me with slaps on the back and compliments when he stepped toward me. I met his steady gaze. He looked older than my brother by at least ten years. The tunic he wore under his traveler’s cloak cost a hundred days wages. His gold rings and neck collars vouched for his wealth. Someone that wealthy would not squander it by impersonating an officer of the King.

“You are Jesse’s son, David, are you not?”
“I am, my Lord.”

“I am Jedekiah, and I crossed many furlongs to find you. I must speak with your Father this evening.”

“Of course, My Lord.”

I brought him to my father, who escorted Jedekiah and his guards to our home. My mother presented them with bread, cheese and milk. My father filled their cups. I unsaddled and groomed their horses, resting them with our own beasts of burden. The men---eleven in all—soon laughed over some amusing story my Father told. He beckoned me to his side.

“Your fame as now reached the ears of our King, my son.” He said.

“Indeed,” replied the King’s servant, “the Anointed has summoned you to Gibeah.”

My heart pounded within me in excitement and fear. “Who am I, that the Anointed would summon him to Gibeah?”

“A talented singer and player, whose music may sooth the tormented Spirit of our King,” Jedekiah answered me, “Your father has agreed. You will enter the service of the anointed as his court singer. However, you are a man and a musician, however brief your years. So I ask you, David bar Jesse: will you accept the Anointed’s invitation?”

My heart threatened to explode. I felt a sense of irrevocable change in his words. If I accepted, my life would never again be the same. I might never return home. Morever, this servant of the Anointed had confirmed the rumors of the King’s temper. I could face the wrath of God’s own anointed, and my only protection would be my own skill with the harp.

But how could I refuse the invitation of the King?

“I am honored to accept the Anointed’s call to serve him,” I answered.

“Good!” the messenger answered. “Very good! We will depart for Gibeah the day after the Sabbath, as soon as you are ready.”