Lust in Time
The noonday sun beat harshly on David's back, drawing sweat from his pores and sending it rolling into his eyes. The lamb lay on a rocky ledge, just out of reach, and bleated in fear of its precarious position. Ignoring the yawning drop below him and adjusting his grip on the spiny juniper branch, the young shepherd stretched over the cliff's edge. Further... almost... just a... little... more--Yes! Grabbing a hold of the little sheep's coat, David dragged the lost animal up to safety.
"Off you go!" He scooted the lamb toward the rest of the flock and wiped his brow on his tunic. "And there'll be no more wandering down the hill!" Retrieving his staff, he returned to the shade of the nearby olive tree and swallowed greedily from his water bladder. He took up his lyre from where it leaned against the tree and plucked its strings, trying to recall the melody he'd been constructing when the lamb went off the edge. Humming to himself, he strummed and began to play.
Rich chords, sounding larger than the small harp from which they sprang, filled the dusty afternoon air. A melody, light and lyrical, intertwined amongst them, cavorting with first one chord and then another. Running up and down scale, the notes floated around him, hanging in the hazy light. The youth's fingers flew across the strings, dancing lightly over the instrument as they wove the enchanting music. Even the sheep stopped to listen.
Lost in the melodies his hands created, David rocked in the cool shade, dreaming of a place away from his flock. His elder brothers fought in the army of King Saul and, when they visited home, regaled the family with stories of life beyond the dusty confines of Bethlehem. Tales of far-off lands and strange peoples, accounts of great battles against the Ammonites and the Philistines, all fired the young shepherd's imagination, and he yearned for a life of his own, a life different from the day-to-day stink of sheep.
"David!" A piping voice broke into his thoughts. "David, where are you?"
Letting a final chord fade in the burning sunlight, he sighed and opened his eyes. "Over here, Eitan!" Standing, David stepped out of the deep shade and waved to the young boy who loped gracelessly over the hill top.
"Cousin," panted the child. "Your father bade me find you and desires that you return home. I'm to watch the sheep."
"Why? Has some ill befallen him?"
"No! A stranger has come. Miriam says he is from Gibeah!"
From Gib--! Fear for the safety of his brothers clutched David's heart, making it race. He gathered his staff and lyre and, without a backward glance at Eitan, raced up the hillside to cross the fields with long, ground-eating strides.
O LORD, keep them well! He prayed at he ran, begging not so much for his own comfort or that of his brothers, but for his father's peace of mind. Jesse's life numbered four score years and his health seemed to flee from him more each season. A son's death would surely be his undoing.