The wind swept across the hills sending a shiver through the grass like a wave of the sea. Sheep lazily strolled through the fields, munching on whatever clump looked the greenest at that particular moment. David sat atop a rock, his back turned to the blistering sun as it beat down from the noonday sky. He twirled his staff, sleepily watching the sheep as they wandered about. His harp sat in his lap, and a lamb with the harp, but his mind was far away. Sighing, David bowed his head and stroked the lamb’s soft woolen head.
“Another quiet day, isn’t it?” the shepherd whispered.
The lamb looked up and bleated, as though to say, “Just the way I like it.”
David grinned and stretched his back, rubbing his neck as burns already heated upon the skin there. The corner of his eye caught movement; a sheep was wandering off, leading half the herd with it. Tucking the harp under the rock’s shadow, David lifted the lamb into his arms and chased after the sheep. “Hold on, silly, you can’t go that way. That’s Malachiah’s land. Stay over here where I can see you.”
The sheep stared at him for a moment before bleating in submission, prancing to his side as he guided them back to his father’s field. Placing the lamb across his shoulders, David rested his staff against the rock and pulled out his harp. He began to pluck the strings, letting the breeze carry the melody to the rest of the sheep. They all quickly came to his side, recognizing this tune as his call for their attention.
Once he counted all the sheep, David sat down again, letting the animals mill about in search for the crispest clump of grass. “Did you hear that?” the shepherd suddenly asked. The sheep nearest looked up at him in lazy curiosity. David turned his head, straining his ear for whatever he had heard. His eyes scanned the surrounding landscape, but no creature—there! Something was climbing the hill towards his sheep. David gripped his cane tightly, watching the movement in anticipation for it to attack his sheep. His grasp loosened when he realized it was only one of his father’s servants. Probably sent out by one of his older brothers to torment him.
“Ilai, what brings you here?” David asked coolly. He remained fixed on his rock, trying to maintain an air of indifference lest the servant tease him.
“David,” Ilai panted, “why must you always take the sheep to the farthest field your father owns?”
Shrugging, the shepherd waited till he had a smart answer. Ilai, however, did not wait, as he straightened and said, “Your father sent me to fetch you. The prophet Samuel wishes to see you.”
David started, frightening the lamb in his lap. “S-Samuel? The Samuel? As in the one sent by Jehovah to anoint the king ?”
“Is there any other Prophet Samuel?”
Letting out a slow breath, David fiddled with the lamb’s wool. Then he frowned and looked sharply at Ilai. “Are my brothers so petty that they’d stoop to such lows just to make a fool of me?”
“No, David, you don’t understand.”
“Whatever. They can mock me all they want. But when Father hears of this little trick of theirs—"
“It’s not a trick, David.”
“Will you watch the sheep for me?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good. I’ll be back soon.”
David half shoved his cane into Ilai's hands, gently set the lamb down upon the ground, and jogged across the fields to the thin dirt road that led back to his home. A few of the sheep started to follow him, but Ilai, although far less skilled than David, played the calling tune, and the woolly creatures raced back to his side.
The walk was about half an hour, even longer if David had the sheep in tow. When he mounted the last hill, he paused a moment to look down upon Bethlehem.
The mud brick houses stood tall against the sweltering sun, rays of heat masking the city in a wavy haze. The scent of bread and roast clung to the air, an underlying stench of sewage keeping one from inhaling too deeply. As he entered the city gates, the guards nodded to him, as though they expected him to come without his sheep. A slight twinge of guilt shot through his heart as he realized how foolish he was to leave his sheep with Ilai of all people. However, on the ever so slight chance that Ilai spoke the truth and the Prophet Samuel was indeed looking for him…
David shook his head. There was absolutely no basis for Ilai's claims. David was the youngest son of an average lord. Just barely turning thirteen, the gangly boy still watched sheep, too “untrustworthy” and “immature” to be tasked with any real responsibilities. Still, despite his youth, David wasn’t a pushover either. His seven older brothers made sure of that. After all, a shepherd must protect his sheep, even from lions and bears.
David stroked the scar on his forearm as he approached his father’s house. The skin was still fresh and pink, a stark contrast to his ruddy olive complexion. A shiver ran down his spine as he recalled wrestling with the lion, barely pulling a sheep from the beast’s jaws before smacking it squarely across the head. It was certainly one of David’s more daring accomplishments.
"Father, I'm home!" the shepherd called as he stroked the scriptures etched into the door frame.
"We're back here, David," a deep voice called from further in the house.
David waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim house. It wasn't dark, as Jesse, David's father, had fashioned several windows throughout each room to allow in the light; the sun was simply far too bright. When he could see properly, David approached the room his father had called from. A servant produced a water basin for him, which he quickly washed his face and hands with.
"You called for me—" David stopped short as his eyes met the stranger's. They were deep pools of green light, staring at—no, into David. Those eyes saw beyond the dirt and dust, beyond the sunburnt olive skin, beyond the youthful and angular face, peering directly into the boy's very soul. David found himself standing a little straighter, his thoughts strangely quiet as he returned the stranger's gaze.
"Him?" the stranger whispered, seemingly to himself. "Are you sure?"
David swallowed and quickly scanned the man. He was dressed in a light tunic and breeches, a pair of worn sandals barely protecting his bruised feet. His hair, long and greying, sat plaited upon his back in a tight knot, while his long beard fell from his cheeks and onto his chest. He carried a thick wooden rod, and a horn of oil hung from his hip. When he stood, his stature was about the same as David's, but his stooped back made him peer up into the boy's face.
"Prophet Samuel?" David asked quietly.
He heard a snicker behind the stranger and, looking up, saw his seven older brothers stand in a line together. Eliab leaned against the wall, his arms crossed and his frowning eyes closed. Beside him, Abinadab watched the entire scene closely, with Shimma shadowing the older brother as if to emphasize his height. Nethaneel and Raddai sneered at their little brother, mocking expressions across their brows. Meshullam and Ozem stood beside one another at the end, their mouths contorted as they tried to contain their mocking amusement, unlike the twins.
Ignoring them, Samuel grabbed David's shoulders, pulling the boy's attention back to him. He felt the shepherd's muscles, lifted an eyebrow at the scar, and circled the boy at least twice. The more he examined, the less Nethaneel contained his snickering, leaving David to wonder if his face blatantly expressed his discomfort. Then the prophet stepped back and nodded.
"The Lord God in Heaven has chosen you, young David, to be the next king of Israel."
David didn't say anything. He couldn't say anything. He could only fix his wide-eyed stare upon Samuel while the prophet turned to Jesse as if seeking the man's approval. As if Jesse's approval could change Samuel's—could change Jehovah's mind. All seven of David's brothers mirrored his shocked and confused expression, but each quickly melted into other emotions, such as resentment, bitterness, and indifference.
Jesse stroked his beard, careful to choose his next words properly. Despite his composure, however, David could see his father's muscles tense. He wondered what emotion exactly the man felt towards Samuel's declaration.
"The next king," Jesse began. "Why not any of King Saul's sons?"
"Because the Lord has chosen David."
"But why?" David sputtered before he could control himself. His eyes fell after seeing Eliab's disdain to the boy's outburst.
"Why, you ask? Because the Lord has seen into your heart. He has seen into all of your hearts. And of all the sons of Jesse, you, David, are a man after God's own heart. You, David, will be our next king and will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel and will... well, I don't know exactly what you'll do, but you will rule someday."
"No more questions. Now, on your knees."
David obeyed, his head still spinning with questions. He bowed his head while Samuel took the horn from his hip, broke the seal, and poured the oil out onto the boy's head. As the liquid dripped into his hair, David found a strange peace befall his thoughts. He fought back tears as his questioned vanished, one by one, seeming so inconsequential as he realized. The Spirit of God was with him now. He could sense it. And for as long as the Spirit was with him, David knew he could do anything.