Oh, how I dread the coming dawn.  The sun draws near to reveal us to our enemies.  Those who seek to take our lives stretch out before us, lying in peaceful sleep, hiding the war they bring.  And we stand upon this hill as a man who places himself in the jaw of the lion, waiting for the beast to wake.  We are shadows upon the starcast hill, a few small weary trees upon the silhouette of the ridge.  I clutch my cloak, for the cold of my body and spirit wracks me.  One hand to our spears, one to our cloaks, we await the coming light that shall reveal us as the slender few tasked against a throng. This morning shall be our end.  And you, son of Jesse, stand there unashamed.

The night-thief not bent by fear, you stand.  You stand over your spoils, a spear and a basin of water, as if they would fend off our death like the holy relics of our fathers.  This night of all nights you forsake the spear and the blood.  You who have slain thousands: tens of thousands, so we hear.  I cannot see your face from where I stand upon your left, but I know your eyes, seeking out the man who pursues you across the wilderness, the man who has sworn to kill you.  The man you stood over this very night, and spared from Abishai’s spear.

You stand a spear’s reach before me, foremost of our company, eager.  How do you not despise yourself for those you have sentenced to death?  Where does your brash assurance come from?  I can see your lips moving, singing or composing one of your songs of praise as everyone you hold dear stands to die this day.  

“Why do you tremble, brother,” your soft words tear our silence though your gaze does not falter from the camp.  Why?  Why do I tremble?  We die this morning!  You have slain us all, outlaw prince.  My rage grows to confront your maddening calm.  

“It is cold,” is all I speak...

“To wait on the sun is to wait on the Lord.  The night’s chill wind would despair us our warmth, and dawn stretches, but the sun comes.  Be heartened.  We shall be warm again.”

I see a smile on your cheek.  Another tremor seizes my body.  Can you not see their spears, their swords?  Their horses, their armor?  We will be warm as our lifeblood drains upon the ground.

The courage of anger feeds me, “Why do we not retreat to our camp?  We stand here exposed... to the winds... what does standing here profit us.”

You take your time answering my whisper.  “I must be here when the first man wakes amidst the camp.  I audience with our king this morning.”  

“Our king... would kill us...”

“He will turn away his wrath.”

“Because you did not slay him?”

“Yes.  He will remember me.”

“I know King Saul relented the last time you spared him, but he yet again seeks your life.  Why would he not be steadfast this time, my prince?”

“This is not merely the second time our king has tried to slay me.  He will remember me.”

I hold my tongue from speaking forth, and you gamble our lives on this trust?  You trust a mad man to re-find his love for you?  And the lives of 600 hang on that fool’s hope.

“Do not fear, friend.”  

Did you say those same words to my brother the last time when you held a small piece of cloak in your hand rather than a stolen spear, oh, son of Jesse?  Did you promise my brother the same safety you now give me?  Did he stand at your left hand and feel strengthened?  But I have seen the cost of trusting you, noble prince.  I have held the cost as life seeped out of its destroyed body.  

I cannot breath.  I suffer the wash of all the pain anew, the scene is alive before me again.  His choked attempt at words is in my ear.  The hand, his last motion, pushes against me, staining me.  And my brother dies.  For the name of a man who will not protect those who love him.  

And you stand there, a spear’s thrust away.  You who let my brother’s murderer walk free this night.  

Into the silence I speak, “What... what about the men he has killed?”  I fail to hold my voice, it breaks and shudders with my emotion.

Finally, I see your gaze fail.  Your head falls.  

And my passion takes me, “How are you not to blame if Saul kills more in the name of slaying you?  How can you let his evil persist?  Does not his guilty stain reside now... on you?”  I realize my accusation.  Perhaps it will not be at the hands of Saul’s men I die...

“I know the sorrow of your brother’s murder at the hand of the king’s men.  I remember well the hands that struck him down for his service to me. That sadness has not left me.  “And in your voice, son of Jesse, I hear the weight of leadership upon your heart.  You continue, “I do not belittle your grief, but greater still is the hurt I feel when I see Abiathar son of Ahitub amongst us.  The only priest of Nob to survive King Saul’s retribution for their aid to me.  They fed us when we hungered, and for their crime they died.  Harmless, defenseless, Saul killed them: every last one, save Abiathar who escaped and came to us.  Eighty and more men.  Abiathar’s presence reminds me every day of the blood on our king’s hands.  It is Abiathar who holds first right to call for our king’s death or to turn his finger upon me.  But you will never hear of it from him.  For he knows Saul is the Lord’s anointed, and it is for His hand and His alone to strike His chosen.”

My guilt and anger begin to mingle into an uncontainable storm.  “How could the Lord anoint such a man?”

“How?  Because we asked for it.  We were warned, we were told the consequences, and as a wayward needy people we desired an earthly king.  And so we got one.  He was the greatest we had.  He was everything we wanted.  And now we reap the benefits of our desires.”  Your voice has grown weary, while your eyes stare at nothing at your feet.

“But you could be king.  Why do you not take up your crown?  Why do you not begin to heal the wrongs of this mad man? Why do you delay your kingship as good men suffer?  Every evil that he commits from this day forth, why does the guilt not fall on you?  Every one of us who dies under your name, any more priests of Nob who lose everything for sheltering you, it is your sword that slays them.  From this day forth.”

You do not quaver at the height of my rage.  Neither do you turn.  “The Lord will take Saul’s life as He wills.  It is for us to live righteously and trust to Him for our protection.”

“Where do you see our safety?  Saul,” I point, “It is Saul who is safe.  I see the lives of the righteous crushed and the fortunes of the ungodly made safe.  Who threatens Saul?  Only you, and you would not take his life.  Where is the Lord’s avenging arm, if not you?  He wraps Saul in His shield while we stand here ready to die this dark morning.”  

Your head lifts, looking once more into the center of the camp.  And the raw hurt in your voice breaks my heart.  “That is not a man who is safe.  Saul is a man destroyed.  Fear and envy rule his heart.  He lives out his days in the decay of despair;  all of his hopes bound up in pale lies.  He has cast out all peace.  If that is the safety you desire, then let this fear rule you.  This fear that is taking hold.  This bitterness that is planting seeds deep in your heart.  To trust in aught but the Lord is to weave death’s vine through your life.  It will crush you.  Your strength will avail you nothing against the whelming tide of the future.  It is for us to trust in His might to save.  It is for us to obey and worship He who alone can stem the driving current.  

“The man who trusts in the Lord is safe as he stands under the sword.  He is protected in the captivity of his enemies.  He is in peace under the greatest affliction.  The king may assail me yet again and further to the end of this world, but never shall he destroy the Tower I stand upon.  If you give your fear to that which is lesser than our true King, then your safety is all the substance of the wind.  

“Come brother, repent your doubt.  The sun begins to wash the sky.  I hear the waking of the camp. Here, take up one of my spoils.  Choose you the spear or the water.  We shall meet our king.”

1 comment:

David S said...