As David’s boyish body gradually morphed into a muscular manly one, his soul was ripening like a sweet and juicy pear from days and nights of communing alone with God. His active mind sprouted words of love nurtured by the rich soil of his soul, the most exhilarating poetry the world has ever known.
One refreshing spring day after Passover he composed:
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
In green grass He will make me encamp.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the path of righteousness for his Name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil,
For Thou art with me.
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Thou annointest my head with oil.
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
David’s companions were the sheep. He had two favorite sheep that came up to him often and with smiling eyes spoke to him silent words of animal love, without expectation of anything more than the subtle joy of experiencing life and the generosity of nature. Only these two sheep among the herd recognized the spirit of their shepherd as warming as the sun and as luminous. The sheepdogs all recognized it, but only two of the sheep. Their lack of human intelligence didn’t keep these animals from bonding to their young shepherd.
Day after day, some long and still, some shortened by dramatic moments as when a lamb fell into a ravine, or when they were all thirsty and didn’t know when or where they would find water on this first trek to Hebron. For this flock was being lead by a novice and so sometimes they had to suffer together.
One day many months into his solitary role as shepherd, as the sunset dimmed the definitions of day, a blur was spotted by a sheepdog. The shock caused dogs and sheep to emit a cacophony of loud harsh blasts the likes of which this serene wilderness rarely contained. David scanned the vista for the source of such fear and spotted the lone lion stealthily approaching his sheep. Great fear like the man-child had never known ignited in his heart as he grappled for instruction from his inner Mentor. Seconds passed like days as the lion nabbed one of his two lamb-friends and was hungrily eating it alive oblivious to the piercing sounds around him and the hardness of its bones in his mouth.
David’s grief turned into controlled fury. While the lion chewed, David leaped upon it and with his dagger stabbed the lion in his chest. The lion, not immediately affected by the wound thrashed at David with its inborn sense power and dominance. David wrestled the lion with his own sense of responsibility and managed to pull the dagger out for one more stab which penetrated so deeply that it stuck in the craw of the lion’s armpit. The rapid blood loss gradually slowed the lion down, but not without first tearing at David’s skin with the nails of its paws. David squirmed out of the lion’s weakening grasp. With sheep parts still in its mouth the strong lion jaw could not engage in the battle with the boy.
With sheep dogs still barking ferociously David released himself from the weakened lion. The dogs formed the second line of defense and went in for the kill, knowing they would reap the spoils of this battle with enough meat to keep their bellies full for days.
The sheep corralled themselves into one mass of wool and looked on the fray sheepishly as they were unable in any way to protect or defend themselves. When He made them God gave lambs no sense of malice, hot anger, or retaliation. And it was for this reason that they were chosen among all the animals made on the sixth day of creation to receive the sins of others.
Following that incident David was in desperate need of rest. While most of the dogs were gorging themselves on the lion’s body, two others licked David’s wounds as he lay resting and praying.
“My God Who saved me from the jaw of the lion, You are indeed a mighty God, a mighty and powerful God, more powerful than the lion, mightier than death. You sacrificed my precious lamb to show me how able you are. You saved me from the mouth of the lion, and from doubt of your love and your abilities. I will always trust You, I will always from this moment forth serve you. Never let me stray.” David fell into a deep and healing sleep surrounded by his sheep who out of either respect or fear needed to be near their savior.
That star-filled night was particularly warm. A thick breeze swirled around the brave young man embracing him with the earthy spirit of nature. David slept soundly, so soundly that his mother visited him in his dreams to comfort him and let him know how very proud she was to have a son who didn’t run away from the lion devouring his sheep. In his sleep David heard his mother chanting a lullaby. Warm as the breeze and melodious as chimes.
David woke refreshed. By morning the trauma had morphed into a harmless tale, like a piece of iridescent quartz that the boy could drop into his pocket and feel from time to time for the pleasure of its sparkles. The light of that stone shined through his fingers in the darkness of the pocket and radiated into his heart and comforted him, and the comfort was restorative.
It took about a week before David stopped trembling over the memory of the lion that grabbed one of his favorite lambs. Both he and the remaining lamb grieved their loss together. The memory of the sight of his playful and lovable companion in the lion’s jaws tormented him. David decided it was time to go home. He had been out long enough.
The mass that was David and his dogs and his sheep, like a mass of bees moved slowly back to Bethlehem chewing its way through pastures and fields, and walking more quickly across the wadi.
One hot afternoon in the distance David saw a spot approaching quickly. Whether on horse or camel I cannot say. Eventually the spot was close enough for David to recognize his brother Aminadab.
“What are you doing here Aminadab?! Is mother well?”
“Mother is well. A prophet name of Samuel has come to Bethlehem, to Father. They sent me to fetch you. The prophet brought a heifer to sacrifice and he wants all of the sons of Jesse and all the elders to gather for the sacrifice. Let’s go!”
“But even me? Why?”
“Don’t ask any questions. Let’s get these sheep home. No more grazing. They are fat enough for now. Can I help you carry anything?”
David, curious and calm looked at his sheep and his dogs and gave the signal to step it up. Aminadab gave David no further reason for his immediate return.
When they arrived the next day Aminadab said, “Go inside, I will coral the sheep.”
David walked into his home and saw a stranger talking with his father. The two men looked up and in unison smiled and greeted him with a spirit of joy and respect that David had never known. He looked beyond the men and spotted his mother beaming and smiling. He sensed that he shouldn’t run to hug her as he wanted.
“David, this man is Samuel. He is a prophet. In fact, he is the prophet that anointed Saul king over us.”
Samuel looked upon David and noticed how handsome he was. His grief over Saul was supplanted by joy. Samuel noticed that David’s face was ruddy and that he had beautiful blue eyes. The Lord spoke to him saying, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Samuel’s heart swelled within him. The historic significance of the moment for Israel and for the world flashed from God’s heart over to Samuel with such concentration and such speed that it could only be perceived by the human prophet as confusion and a warm afterglow. Samuel looked down with furrowed brow trying to grasp the message but was forced immediately to return to the place and his mission looking up at the young shepherd boy.
David greeted the man with a polite handshake. He felt the prophet pierce his soul with clear green eyes.
Jesse announced, “Samuel has come to sacrifice to the Lord. While we waited for you to arrive the elders gathered and we sacrificed the heifer he brought. But before he leaves, the prophet asked me to bring you here. He wanted to meet all of my sons.”
David wondered why the prophet waited for his return being the youngest, most insignificant member of the family.
Samuel revealed his primary mission to the family. “My son,” said Samuel, “our Lord God has chosen you among all of Israel to replace Saul as king. I have come to anoint you.”
Jesse and his wife and his seven sons gasped in unison.
David looked at Samuel and then over to his father in shock. “Anoint me?! For what? We already have a king.”
The brothers murmured. No one noticed that David’s mother’s face turned white and then filled back up in a bloody blush.
Samuel didn’t allow any more conversation as he reached into his satchel for the horn and oil.
Meanwhile Jesse said to his son. “This must be the Lord’s doing. We shall not question the Lord.”
Samuel obeyed the Lord and took the horn of oil, and anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David.
Tears flowed like a stream from David’s eyes. He was not sad, but rather overwhelmed by a pure Spirit the likes of which the young man had never experienced. Though appearing weak he was purified and stronger as the Spirit, whom he recognized as his inner Mentor and Protector bloomed like yeast in his soul.
When the young man settled down, and the tears stopped flowing, Samuel with wet eyes of his own hugged him.
“I must be off now to Ramah.” announced Samuel to Jesse and his family.
“Wait my Lord!” said David’s mother. Let me prepare a meal for you first. Please don’t go. It is evening; you ,just stay the night and leave in the morning.”
“Yes,” added Jesse to Samuel. “We have so many questions. What will happen now? How will the people recognize that Davis is their new king? How can this child be king?”
The seven brothers sat silently each with his own muffled thoughts, not as much out of reverence but rather each young man was dumbfounded that their baby brother might become king of Israel.
“I have already eaten plenty from the Lord’s table this day. I must go. Say nothing about the anointing. Only this can I say: David, my son. You will be tried and tested. Before you will act as king you will become a king, the shepherd of our people Israel. Just as you were born a babe and took many years and much to learn to become a man, you were born this day an infant king. Keep your heart as pure as you sense that it is at this moment and you will be safe. Hardship and grief will not depart from your house in this life, because of your own sinfulness and because of the sinfulness of the world. Yea, just as the scepter did not pass from the house of Judah, but was handed to you on this day, so will it stay in your house into eternity. Learn well my son. Farewell.”
As the sun was setting, Samuel walked out of the home of Jesse and through the village into the wilderness with his head bowed in thought. As he passed villagers in Bethlehem they turned to ask each other why he had come to Bethlehem and to the house of Jesse.
David wished only to rest. The day was as a new birthday. He felt himself to be a different man, no longer a boy. And yet his brothers refused to regard him differently. He withdrew into his bed, exhausted and exhilarated, and drew the blanket up over his head to create for himself a cocoon in which he hoped to emerge as a butterfly in the morning.
Life returned as normal to the house of Jesse except for to David and his mother. She tried to find an opportunity to speak with him, but now that he was a man with work to do, he was always either eating, sleeping or leaving as all the others. So she spoke to God instead. She thanked Him for the honor and asked Him questions about the future that God did not answer. In humility she settled on simple praises and gratitude. Would that she would have had just one daughter, but that was denied her.