Thursday, January 30, 2014

Defiance


Continued from "Forty Days."
After forty days, the Philistines must have decided that Israel had had her chance. They made their move, putting their army in array along the hills across the valley. The threat of battle was looming, Israel had moved into place and was waiting, when an unassuming shepherd boy walked over the hill behind the army of Israel, a load of bread and cheese for his soldier brothers on his back. David’s father had sent him to bring them food and see how they did. The sight of the impending battle sent the blood rushing to his head. I can imagine how his eyes must have lit with the excitement, his cheeks red and his heart pounding. 
  He gave a shout of excitement at the sight of the impending battle, delighted at his timing. Leaving his burden with a camp keeper, he rushed down the hill into the army, to where his brothers were standing grimly at attention, watching the Philistines maneuver into position.
  David saluted his soldier brothers and greeted them with excitement. His smile must have been brilliant, his hair windblown, his spirit indomitable, and all of it must have been rather difficult for his brothers to take. They didn’t have time to begin crushing his spirit down to their level, for the Philistines were making their move.
  Once more Goliath of Gath pushed forward out of the ranks of the Philistines. So close this time, he must have towered above the army of Israelites like something from another world, his imposing bulk looming before them, his face twisted in a sneer.
  Once more he gave his challenge, once more his voice rang off the hills, and once more every man in camp turned pale.
  “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together!”
  But the armies of Israel responded to his challenge by beating an undignified retreat up the hill. David was swept along in the rush, Goliath’s derisive laugh echoing behind him.
  As the generals pulled themselves together and managed to stop the retreat, a livid shepherd boy emerged from the confusion of his brothers’ division and demanded,
  “What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel?” He looked around at the men around him and in every face he must have read the answer. No one was going to kill the giant Philistine, and there was no other way to take away this reproach to Israel. The army of Israel had been shamed, and there would be no reprieve.
         David’s eyes flashed. “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
  The men around him shook their heads and turned their faces away, but insistently, David asked again what should be done to the man that killed the giant champion.
  “So shall it be done to the man that killeth him,” someone said, telling this hot headed boy what had been repeated about camp. “The king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.”
  I would have given a great deal to know which daughter was in David’s mind when he heard that. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that a reward like that meant that no one was expected to kill Goliath. It was so unfathomable that even with that kind of incentive, no one had felt compelled to take the risk.
  David’s oldest brother Eliab heard the conversation and, understandably, got angry. He grabbed David’s arm.
  “Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness?” he asked roughly. “I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.”
  “What have I now done?” David replied coolly. “Is there not a cause?” He was right, of course. He had a good reason to be there. And ignoring his brother, he continued to question the men about the situation surrounding Goliath of Gath.
  A commotion like the one David was causing travels fast, and it wasn’t long before his questions were repeated to my father, and he was sent for.
  My father did not recognize his youngest armor bearer in the young shepherd standing before him with blazing eyes and righteous defiance. He wasn’t in the habit of noticing servants. Before my father had a chance to question him about his reasons for berating already beaten men and damaging camp morale, David said boldly, without bothering to use a respectful address to the king of Israel,
  “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
There was a dead silence in the king’s tent. The generals watched my father to see if he would take offense at this hot headed boy. My father stared at David, and David met the king’s eyes as fearlessly as he would meet Goliath. Then my father smiled, and the atmosphere relaxed.
  “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him,” my father said gently. “For thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” My father may have thought David was foolish, but he was a king, and a man of honor, and he appreciated bravery. But David’s declaration was not foolish boasting, nor did he imagine that his own strength or experience would prevail over Goliath of Gath. He didn’t hesitate, but his manner was more respectful to the king as he said,
  “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by the beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.” 
  My father looked at his generals with a flicker of amusement and they returned the private mockery. This youth thought that because he had been able to fight wild animals, he would be able to win against a giant enemy soldier? David saw their smiles and knew what they were thinking. His face serious, his voice steady and insistent, he said,
  “The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”
  Again, the tent was dead silent. My father’s generals looked ashamed, suddenly struck by the faith David showed that they did not have. My father avoided their eyes.
  “Go,” he said to David, “and the LORD be with thee.”