ALIVE: Chapter 85 The King’s Nemesis

The next chapter in David’s life, after he was captured by Saul and sentenced to the palace, after he saved Israel from slavery by killing a giant with a slingshot, and long after he was anointed by Prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as king, he was put through the mill. The mill turns wheat berries into flour to make nourishing bread, the staff of life. The spirit-mill turns crisis into wisdom. 

This anointed young shepherd, the youngest and shortest son of  Jesse, of the poor little village Bethlehem, who asked for nothing but his lyre and his sheep learned quickly that being chosen by God can  easily be confused with being cursed. Bad things happen to good people to make them better people. 

This is why Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Our enemies purify us if we let them. Only a child of God, born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13) can love someone who is mean to him, who steals from him, or insults, or tries to kill him.

Asceticism, i.e. fasting and vigils, and other difficult self-imposed exercises allow us to discipline ourselves, in a desire to be purified of self-indulgence. Self-suppression opens the soul to God’s will. Practicing asceticism says, “I love you so much that I am happy to deny myself, my will for comfort, even health to yield myself to You my Lord.” Happy are the ascetics, martyrs and other saints, who are blessed by danger; their asceticism allowed them to face what others would see as evil with an eye focused on God, the all knowing, all loving Father.Humility. Peace.

Ask young Mary as she appeared to be a lose woman to her betrothed, when in truth she was an innocent virgin, or as she bobbed up and down rocky roads on a donkey in her ninth month of pregnancy, only to find no room at the inn, to give birth in a smelly barn. A manger may sound like a quaint word, but it isn’t quaint. Or the agony of witnessing her son dying on the shameful cross. An ordinary person would wonder how a loving God could allow her to endure the heart-wrenching hours of a slow public murder of her beloved holy boy, her only child.

Go back; ask Joseph in the ditch where his jealous brothers threw him to die, or in prison where his master’s wife sent him when he refused to lay with her. Ask him about the value of tragic circumstances endured with calming faith.

It wasn’t what happened to these people that meant anything at all, it was how they reacted to what happened to them. They were not being punished, they were being formed by God. Misery seared through layers of filth to expose the golden core.

Sweet son of Jesse’s wife, had to be sure that the King of Israel really and truly hated him and want to kill him. He couldn’t believe it, so over and over again he tested the waters. Over and over again Saul proved to be his enemy.

One day David was given an opportunity to show that he had no intention of hurting Saul. 

Saul walked into a dark cave to relieve himself.  David who had been hiding in there was surprised to see the king enter. David never considered harming the Lord’s anointed. Instead, he raised his knife and stealthily cut a corner of Saul’s cloak while he was grunting to empty his bowels. David was that close to the man who was hunting him. The doe nibbled the hem of the hunter and withdrew. Saul never noticed. David could easily have seized the moment to shock and kill his enemy. In fact he had to keep his small army from harming Saul.

After David stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak he was stricken to the heart. David even felt badly that he cut Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed to raise my hand against him. So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. 

After Saul got up and left the cave, David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, “My Lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of those who say, ‘David seeks to do you harm? This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave; and someone urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed. See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 

Saul stood dumbfounded. The contrast between himself and this boy startled him. He mumbled words of astonishment while weeping. But all David heard clearly was when Saul said, “Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.”

So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

David wasn’t trying to supplant Saul as king. God was. God didn’t  try, He just did it, slowly and methodically. Saul couldn’t escape God’s judgment on him, and neither could David escape God’s plan for him. 

The hatred from Saul, the threats on his life, in fact all the scenes of hide-and-seek David went through were simply a layer of frenetic activity over a smooth path to David’s forty year reign as King of Judah and all of Israel. It was background noise, car horns, airplanes, people shouting, sirens blaring during the symphony.

Saul could never have what he was grasping for because fear and greed and pride were the slow destruction of his own desires. Suicide. He couldn’t escape his own ugly soul. Saul became one of the walking dead. 

To be truly Alive is to focus on the symphony, to use one’s inherent power as made in the image and likeness of God to demand of all the lower powers that make the world the chaotic place it is, that God’s Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is the path that leads, like the seed of Jack’s beanstalk, from deep within the rich soil of planet Earth furlongs up to the land of immortality.

ALIVE: Chapter 84, The Goliath Effect

While his brothers ran to pursue the Philistines along with the rest of Israel, David quietly picked up the dripping head of Goliath and found a remote place to rest and collect himself.

He imagined going home. In his daydream David reached the house where his mother sat alone, fretting and praying. She looked up and seeing her son, she smiled a smile of gratefulness and relief. 

“Did you give your brothers the food? Was the fighting heavy? How many of our men were killed? Did you see all of your brothers?” In his fantasy David waited patiently for the questions to end, and replied to his mother, “Israel is well. Your sons will return. I am going to my sheep.” 

In his exhaustion David’s daydreaming plummeted him into a state of deep sleep. In that dark ethereal space angels came to minister to him. Like a mist of rose water on his hot dry face, like a hug from a beloved, like standing by the fire on a cold dark night, David received the comfort his tender heart needed. 

He saw in his dream a gigantic balloon filled with the air of pride and glory. An arrow flew in front of his eyes and pierced it! Instantly the balloon deflated. He looked down his arm at a handful of ashes clenched in his fist.

He looked up again to see a white cloud wafting two meters from  face. Deep within it pink sparkles of light pulsated like a beating heart. The moving cloud spread the fragrance of lilacs. 

The cloud spoke without words to David. Yet he was able to  translate the message into words he could understand. Without hearing, he knew exactly what the sparkling cloud was saying, “Goliath fell quickly didn’t he?”

David nodded clenching the ashes in his hand. He remembered how no force at all was needed. David did nothing. All he did was shoot his slingshot. How could a pebble pierce that rock-hard giant head? 

Then it occurred to David that God was the one Who killed Goliath. All David had in his quiver was his faith, and God’s will. In truth, God was not about to allow His people Israel to fall into slavery again. The sparkles grew brighter and brighter as if being nourished by Truth, so bright that David awoke with a sunbeam shining directly on his face.

He looked up at a looming figure of an army commander standing over him. “Wake up young man, the king wants to speak with you.” 

David picked up the head of Goliath by the long matted hair, then finagled himself and the head into a standing position and followed the man, Abner, to Saul. 

David stood straight and tall before King Saul with head in hand and waited for the king to speak. 

“Whose son are you young man?” 

David answered briefly and specifically, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” respectfully without adding, “Surely you know me, I played the lyre for you. You know my father. How can you not recognize me? I had to leave my sheep for you!” David resented being taken from his rest. He wanted, he needed the time to contemplate his dream. The moment was grabbed away from him, and replaced by this awkward exchange with the king who had forgotten the hours they spent together while he played his lyre as music therapy. Had the demons won after all?

Behind Saul on his throne David noticed a young man with the same shaped jaw, and light brown hair, and strong straight nose. He looked to be about the same age and build as himself. He assumed it was the king’s son who he heard about but never met. The young man was looking back at him intently. David could not read the expression on his face. But it looked as if the young man was studying him.

Jonathan had never seen the lyre player, so he only associated David with the demise of Goliath. Jonathan thought that there was something about David, perhaps the clear tone of his voice, or was it his handsome ruddy face, but in a flash the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 

King Saul never mentioned the reward for slaying Goliath. Although David thought that was the reason he was summoned, he didn’t dare inquire. David knew his place. He considered himself to be no more than a poor man, the youngest son of Jesse from the poor village of Bethlehem. The family from Ephraim was of the smallest tribe. Not even a tribe, but one of two sons of Joseph. 

Nor did David even seek the reward. That wasn’t why he slew Goliath. His reward was to defend the reputation of God. How dare that Philistine presume to enslave Israel because of his height and muscle? David could not allow that. God was honored and pleased by David’s effort to represent the God of Israel, and that was reward enough. 

But punishment?! David did not expect to be punished for slaying the giant. It was painful to hear the king say, “You will not return to your father’s house. You will live here.” And to his servants Saul shouted, “Find the boy a bed!” Then the king turned toward his son, “Jonathan, go with them.”

Jonathan was glad for the opportunity to be with David away from his father. He followed behind the servant and David, thinking of a way to endear himself to this special young man. 

When they arrived at the quarters that were to be David’s new home, not even near his old room, Jonathan said to the servant, “You may go. I will orient the young man myself.”

David dropped the giant head and sat on the bed. More than anything he wanted to go back to sleep, to his dream. To the place where he was before being dragged to the palace. Wasn’t the reward for killing the giant to be free? Instead he was to be a prisoner of the palace. 

David watched the king’s son stripping himself of his armor, which because of the heat was understandable, but then he continued to undress by taking off his robe which perplexed David.  Jonathan said, “These are yours now. Here, take my sword, and my bow and my belt too. You are more worthy than I, and more able than I to be the next king.”

“I don’t know what to say.” replied David. “I am a shepherd. I play the lyre. The Lord strengthened me to make a good shot with my slingshot.

Jonathan replied , “I think the Lord who brought you this far, and put Goliath into your hands to save Israel will continue to use you. I will step aside to make a way for the Lord’s chosen.”

Memories came to him of the oil of Samuel dripping down his head and face, and the explosion it made deep within his chest. Again, he did nothing to earn that moment, nothing that he could think of. He was merely his mother’s son who was taught to worship their mighty God. The God who made the earth and who destroyed it except for Noah and his family. The God who led his people out of Egypt after slaying all the first born, even Pharaoh’s son. How often David thought of Passover night and what it must have felt like to flee a home and the bonds of slavery and walk through the Red Sea into the unknown.

Jonathan broke in by saying, “I will leave you now, as I see you are tired. Your servant will fetch you for supper.” 

“Thank you Jonathan, my brother.” David stood up and the young men hugged before Jonathan departed feeling content with himself. 

Finally alone with his thoughts, David laid down on the bed and waited for sleep to come. 

Instead, words percolated up from his heart to his mind. In that dark cool lifeless room, which was actually the entrance to a new chapter in his life David said to himself: 

“The Lord is my shepherd.” And by saying this, he began to accept his new reality.  For years he had driven his sheep hither and yon. Never did they complain or whine. Nor would he. He would go to wherever the Lord drives him, even if he had to leave his pasture and become a warrior. 

“I shall not want.” For he knew that only with obedience and gratitude could he please his Maker and God. 

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Suddenly David felt the soft grass under him, as if the bed was transformed into a pasture, and in that moment he realized that he could be there in the pasture, in his soul whenever he needed to. It was his physical presence that was the illusion. 

“He restores my soul.” For God will renew his soul and heal him from every distress that the world brings, if only he would yield his will to his God. 

“He guides me in the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” Righteousness. Yes! holy righteousness was the key to the world of peace and confidence. No fear. He must keep the law before him always, for the law is life. 

“Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” David had a premonition that the days ahead would be consumed with death. He saw the darkness of war fill his waking hours as a blood red moon fills the evening sky. Killing was to be his calling. The thought frightened the young shepherd, until he told himself that God was his Shepherd and that he needed to go where he was driven. How then could fear accompany his way? What betrayal of his relationship to his Shepherd would that be?

“Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” How often had David needed to smack a lamb to save it from danger with a painful blow? David knew where to find water and where there was a ravine or a precipice. The lambs yielded to David’s will, by rod if need be. From shepherding David learned, like a sculptor learns his skill after years of poor attempts, to push away the anger and fear that strong and stupid willfulness yield to.   

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” What joy! My enemies are great. They seek my demise. They torment me with meanness, wishing only my harm, my misery. In the face of the storm of hatred I am weak. But God is strong. He is my Shield and my Provider. Those who want me crippled or dead, are watching as the Lord of Heaven and earth blesses me. They writhe foaming at the mouth behind a glass barrier. Unable to harm, but instead they must watch me dine on delicacies. I am content. I am grateful. I am safe. 

“Thou annointest my head with oil.” Holy olive. The first to rise from the Flood, to bring good news of survival and renewal to emaciated Noah. Like light to darkness. Holy olive squeezed. Its essence separated from its flesh, illuminates; olive oil feeds the flame that extinguishes darkness. This sacred means of light was first poured on the stone where Jacob lay his sleeping head and there met the Lord God in his dream, and generations later was poured on the head of Aaron to become the first priest. Sacred anointing. Transference. 

“My cup runneth over.” Abundance of light and blessings, more than my heart can contain.

“Surely only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Safety, security, relief from suffering and fear. Joy, bliss, abundance. Every day.

“And I will dwell in the House of the Lord, forever.”  A prisoner of the palace, David sat on his bed that day imagining the Lord’s house and eternity. David realized at the moment of saying this inspired line for the first time, that his soul was immortal, that his essence would never dwell in the darkness of sleep but live and see, and dwell in a house much grander and more peaceful than this palace. 

Tears trickled down David’s young cheeks, and he thought about his mother’s moist cheeks, and he prayed for her peace of heart. How would she learn that he was safe, and alive?

Chapter 83 The David-Seed Buds

Never was a shepherd more content with his life than when young David returned to the pasturelands and to his innocents.

In those days he strummed his lyre for himself and for the Lord. Barely aware of the hot sun beating down on him, David entered a cooling world of tones deep as a canyon and sharp as broken crystal. The harmonies that he was creating joined fingered-strings to his ears and to his invisible heart, the triumvirate communicating purely with its Creator. There was no dissonance there, no haughtiness, no rancor, not even pride in his talent.

The moment when he spotted a stray sheep David spun out of that ethereal  place and gently set down the lyre to guide the lamb back to the fold. From the contrast of sudden silence David understood how and why the sounds of the lyre were medicine for the king.   

How Satan must flee from pure beauty and harmony.  How offensive it must be for the tormentor to be rendered impotent. 

Quickly David re-focused on his duty to his sheep. His own thirst reminded him to drive the flock to a pond, and for himself to find a shade tree. He knew just the spot and skillfully drove his party to relief from the hot sun.

The young keeper of the sheep was oblivious to the battles taking place furlongs past the sounds of them for the Lord being David’s shepherd fed him in still pastures. Here David was maturing from within as the grape evolves into a tawny port slowly and imperceptibly except to the angels.

When the blistering sun descended gently behind the mountains David gathered his satchel and lyre, picked up his staff, and called to his lambs that it was time to go home.

Oh how he loved Bethlehem. Would that he never had to leave it. Yet, the arrangement his father made with the king was that he could go back and forth from palace to pasture to tend their sheep. The next day, was to be a day of return to Saul.

After David had placed his sheep safely in their corral he rushed inside for supper. His mother appeared distressed as she was stirring the stew that she had spent her day preparing. Her hands trembled and her head bowed low in silent prayer.

“What is it mother? Where is father and my brothers? Have I returned too soon?” David respectfully did not question the trembling hands or trickling tears that moistened her cheeks.

“No my love, your father will be present shortly, but I cannot say if or when your brothers will return. The Philistine are on the rampage. Morning and evening since you left they come to take their stand. They would have us destroyed or become their slaves. Your brothers are on the field of battle now. I am troubled lest I loose one of my precious sons to Sheol.

Cheerfully David responded, “This means I don’t have to go to the palace tomorrow!”

David hugged his mother tightly and with increased solemnity added, “Mother, trust in God and do not fret. Shall we pray together as we did when I was a boy? How often you soothed me as I listened to you speaking with Yahweh as you would speak to your father.” David did not realize that  comparing Yahweh to a father had never been uttered, or even thought of before that moment. It was a concept born of the Spirit deep within David’s innocent core. Even his grieving mother did not notice. 

At that moment Jesse entered the room and the conversation quickly turned to the more pragmatic condition of the sheep and if they had had enough food and water. Father and son gravitated to the table for supper where mother was setting down bowls of her aromatic lamb stew. Together the family gave thanks and then dined in silence, solemnly awaiting the brothers return.

While chewing bread Jesse said, “If Eliab and your other brothers do not return by daybreak, I want you to take for them an ephah of parched grain and ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; also take those ten cheeses over there to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them.” Jesse said that to soothe his wife as well as to feed his sons.

“But where will I find them?” asked David.

“I will go into the village and inquire.”

“Yes father.”

That evening Jesse learned that Saul and all the men of Israel, were encamped in the valley of Elah.

David rose at first light, gathered the provisions into his satchel, and went as his father had commanded him. As he drew near Elah he first heard, then followed the shouts of the war cry to find the army going forth to the battle line between Elah and Ephes-dammin where the Philistines camped. The opposing armies thrust themselves at each other in the valley between two mountains.

Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left his satchel in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went to find and greet his brothers.

Just as he spotted a brother and was approaching him, David looked up to see a giant of a man who had emerged into the front from the camp of the Philistines. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at this monster in awe.

His height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat looked to be five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head looked to weigh six hundred shekels of iron.

Jaws of the Jews dropped at the site of this giant.

At the front, the giant stood like a greater than life-size statue. Sound of voices, even of heavy breathing suddenly stopped. The giant’s voice moved into the opening his form made for him and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “I am Goliath! Why have you come out to draw for battle? Am I not a Philistine and are you not servants of Saul?” The sound of his bellows wafted loud and clear for yards around so that every Jew and every Philistine knew exactly what he said. This giant and enemy was about to disarm them with the threat of his words before he crushed them like ants. 

“Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me,” he bellowed like thunder. Then the lightening of his words struck, “If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.”  The eyes of the giant scanned the ranks of Israel’s piercing wide eyes under furrowed brows and stabbed repeatedly at their hearts.

Saul and all Israel heard the words of the Philistine with dismay and great fear. 

Full of self satisfaction, Goliath turned around to leave, stomping through the crowd of cheerful Philistines back to his camp to rest-up.

Israel watched with relief this head above heads drift farther away from them. Goliath left his pathetic enemy to fret and to plan their response.

Once they saw the giant leave, Israel turned and fled back to the shelter of their own home base. Brothers in battle yielded to brothers in terror. All of their fighting was as nothing if just one man could lose the war for their entire nation. They had no giant to match this monster. Some men wondered what slavery would be like. Would they take their wives and children? No one spoke of these fears, they quietly chewed them over and over, like tough tasteless meat, in their anxious hearts.

A commander of Saul’s army passed through the camp loudly proclaiming, “The king will greatly enrich the man who kills Goliath and will give him his daughter and make his family free in Israel. Which one of you will fight for our freedom?”

Aminadab snickered and said to his brother, “As if anyone could. What good is a reward that is impossible to win? Why does he not offer us his whole kingdom?” Eliab nodded nervously.

David, who was looking for his brothers heard the offer and said to the men standing by him, “What did he say shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Two men shrugged and answered David in unison, “His daughter, and freedom shall be given for the man who kills him.”

His eldest brother Eliab spotted David and heard him.  Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. He said, “Why have you come down? With who have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle.”

David replied, “What have I done now? It was only a question?” He turned away from Eliab toward another and spoke in the same way; and the people answered him again as before.

When the words of faith in God that David spoke were heard, the relieved commander went directly before Saul to let him know that they had a volunteer. Saul immediately sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

Saul looked at his young shepherd and lyre-player, smiled and said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

David answered Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, I took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David added, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul carefully considered David’s argument and wondered if it could be true. Then he weighed his options. David or immediate surrender. Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

To this day no one knows whether Saul had faith that the living God could prevail through David, or if rather Saul figured that either he would surrender immediately and be enslaved, or that he could buy some time by sacrificing the shepherd, since no one, especially himself, the king, was willing to die at the hands of Goliath. For either reason, Saul put all of his chips on the child.

Let us believe the best, that by allowing the boy to fight Goliath, Saul showed as much faith in God as David did. Saul knew how high the stakes were because, if David was wrong and lost, all of them, even the king, would become slaves of the Philistines, their women defiled, their children made to worship idols.

With his own hands Saul carefully covered David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor and tried to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch. When done he picked up the sling and said, “Where is that giant Philistine?”

Eliazer ran ahead to the camp of the Philistine and told them that Israel was ready.

Goliath reappeared out of the mass of Philistines and drew near to David with his shield bearer in front of him. Goliath looked at David with disdain for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?” And Goliath cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “ Come to me and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.”

But David replied, “You come to me with sword and spear, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head, and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by the sword and spear, for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into my hand.”

Goliath ejaculated a hearty laugh. Then he drew near to meet David; in turn David bravely plunged toward the battle line to meet Goliath. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead, and he immediately fell face down on the ground.

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking Goliath and killing him. There was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over Goliath, he grasped his sword, and drew it out of its sheath, and killed him, then he cut off his head with it.

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. The troops of Israel and Judah rose up with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath.