|From the Editor -
Kenny Paul Clarkson
||Through Their Eyes
"King Saul." Achish bowed his neck in contempt. "The mighty King of Israel."
God Save the King
By Kenny Paul Clarkson
The dry sound of a desert breeze offered little comfort to Seti. Born in slavery, he had been abandoned by his Egyptian owner; left to die along the highway that leads from Alexandria to Damascus. His only possessions were a flask of water and a tattered robe to shield him from the sun. He would spend his final hours of life lying in a field of sand and stone; dreaming of a better life that never was.
* * *
David stared into the darkness; drank in the familiar songs that echoed so faintly from afar. Fires of the Israeli army dotted the hillside; like shining stars in the night sky, he thought. He pondered the moment. The image of a man emerged in the darkness. Blinded by the black of night, David stared intently. But even at a distance, the figure was familiar. The man's bold strides; the arrogance of every gesture – David wondered what thoughts possessed his mind.
The sullen sound of footsteps arrested his attention. David turned to meet the eyes of Achish, leader of the Gaths.
"Do you see him?" David pointed into the night. "Standing by his tent?"
This One Was Different
By Brenda Kern
Today was the Sabbath, so I made my way to the local synagogue as usual. I do not spend much time in public settings, and I know well enough that people consider me to be a sinner because of my hand, but attending the scheduled teachings at the synagogue on the Sabbath is one exception to my rule. I've found that if I keep to myself, and sit toward the back, no one pays me much attention, especially if my hand remains well hidden in the folds of my cloak.
I learned to hide my hand and shrink into the background at such a young age! These techniques have served me well, but, of course, there have been times when I forgot to hide my hand, and have been mercilessly taunted and jeered for my forgetfulness.
As I arrived at the synagogue today, a day like no other, I learned that it was unusually crowded, and I found myself unable to sit in the somewhat shadowed seats in the rear.
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"We will do battle at dawn," Achish added, placing his strong hand on David's shoulder. "Take a look, my friend. Never again will your eyes gaze upon this man, Saul. The morrow's fate will be his last. An archer's dart to pierce his breast? Or the thrust of a swordsman?"
Achish paused to smile. "Perhaps his heart will fail from fear. Only the God of the Hebrews can spare their king."
He paused again. "But the giant slayer will not be among us."
David offered a sigh of frustration.
"The council …" he began.
"The council fears," Achish interrupted, "that in the heat of the battle you and your gallant men will have a change of heart; that you will turn your sword on the Philistines to regain favor with Saul. They will have none of it."
David nodded, then returned his eyes to the figure of the man on the hill. "So tomorrow you die," he whispered. "Tomorrow you will die."
It was a peculiar sight. David, the man whose eye for accuracy had sent the Philistines to flight was now standing among the very army he defeated. Hardly a year had passed since he crossed into Philistia. Having befriended Achish, one of five ruling chieftains, David's small army found refuge from Saul's jealous pursuit in place called Ziklag.
The eerie sight of Philistine soldiers trudging though the early mist haunted David. He mounted his stead and mused as a brigade of soldiers mustered for their march to Jezreel. Though farmers and merchants, they were also battle-hardened fighters. Today Israel would be defeated. The thought was disquieting; not that Saul's army would suffer loss, but that David would have no part in the conquest.
A whip to the hindquarters; his stallion bolted. Six hundred loyal men followed on horseback. They were a noble band. Some were debtors, some thieves; some fearing for the lives. But all were bound by allegiance to David and disdain for the evil spirit of King Saul.
Hours passed with talk of home. Would Saul really be defeated? Hebron, David said, would be their new home. His captains savored the thought of crowning David king.
Ribbons of smoke billowed on the horizon. It was a welcoming sight to David's brigade; a reminder of home. But thoughts of flaming hearths were soon driven from their minds. The rising plumes were too dark and much too dense. Without a word, David lashed the flank of his mount. The horse responded in kind and surged ahead at full speed. The hooves of six hundred stallions thundered across the countryside. David and his men imagined the worst.
What they found were ashes. Their homes were gone, their possessions stolen and their loved ones nowhere to be found.
"So you are the King of Israel?" the voice echoed in his mind as he knelt in the ruins that were once his dwelling. His hands caressed the ashes as he wept.
"There's talk of stoning you." This was an audible voice; the voice of Abiathar, the priest.
At first David said nothing. His mind was blurred by stark reality of defeat.
"But I'm not defeated," he answered his own thoughts aloud; then turned to Abiathar. "I am a man of courage."
"Courage?" his friend asked.
The prophet Samuel has died, he thought. Israel is defeated, the Amalekites have taken his family from their home; he owns nothing but his soul.
He marveled at David's valor.
"Courage in what?" The question begged to be asked.
"Courage in that which will neither betray nor be stolen," David stood and looked toward the south, the land of the Negev; the home of the Amalekites. "Courage in that which cannot be defeated, courage in He who is there when all else is gone. Courage in the Lord."
"We can be at the brook of Besor by sundown tomorrow," Abiathar advised. "The Amalekites can't be far ahead."
"It is the will of the Lord?" David asked.
No words were spoken; no command was given. David simply mounted and headed southward. His men followed.
The rippling sounds of the brook of Besor settled in David's mind. Its cool waters quenched his thirst and refreshed his soul. He paced along its banks thinking, wondering; praying.
"Look," Abiathar pointed.
David gazed toward the west. Nothing but the shades of evening shadows blanketed miles of fallow fields.
"And see?" he asked.
"There is a man."
In the distance David could see the form of an arm extended upward. Someone was lying in the field. An Amaletkite? He wondered.
"An Egyptian slave," someone offered as they brought the man to David. "A slave of the Amalekites. He fell sick and was abandoned by his owner."
"And what does he say?" David asked.
"He knows where the Amalekites camp," another answered.
David considered the slave's tattered clothes and worn body. He watched as the poor soul fed his hunger with a cake of figs.
"Imagine," David said. "Today the Lord sent a slave to save a King."
The slave gorged himself with a cluster of raisons; then replied, "Today the Lord sent a King to save a slave."
Kenny Paul Clarkson (Kenn Gividen in real life) is the author of The Prayer of Hannah. A father of two grown children, he and his wife, Donna, are the proud grandparents of three children. He owns a direct marketing firm in Columbus, Indiana. You can write to Kenn care of the Letters page of this Magazine.