Grabbing a skin of wine, I took a long drink to help me sleep, if you can call it sleep. Perhaps God would speak to me in a dream as He so often had in the past.
I saw the confident outline of a shepherd boy, tanned and strong with the lean and easy movement of someone who spends their days working outdoors. He moved with grace in his worn, hand-me-down clothing. His hands were nervously twisting the leather of the sling at his side.
Our ridiculous champion had come to kill a giant, and I suited him in heavy armor against my men's objections. He couldn't move, he wasn't strong enough to lift it, so carelessly, he left it behind. Then it began. The stones, the shout, the sprint, the throw, the fall, the roar of Israel in victory, the rout of our enemy and the boy again. Raising that terrible sword, the giant sword, he took the head of the one who dared mock the God of heaven. Turning back to me with those blue gray eyes, the sword he could barely hold, covered in blood, he raised the sword again.
Raising it over my head now. Why am I kneeling? How did I get here? His laughter rings as he leans into the cut ... I screamed and jerked violently ...
Awake. The sun was shining through the flap in my tent, and I was drenched in sweat. I could see tiny motes of dust coursing in the beam of light, floating, ever floating. Cursing, I sat and tried to shake the nightmares from behind my eyes.
David. How I hated that traitor, trying to take my kingdom away from me. Doesn't he know I am the anointed one? Doesn't he know I am the king? God picked me! A mealy little shepherd boy from a low house won't take this away from me.
I exploded in anger, grabbing a spear and with a maddened cry, I thrust the sharpened end at the lit brazier, spilling hot coals onto the tent floor. I watched them smoke and smolder, giving off a thick, dark, pungent scent. I wondered if the world would burn. I wondered if David would burn with it. As the blaze quieted, I came back to myself. Dressing quickly, I met my men for our counsel of war.
A battle was coming. Our enemies had gathered, and rumor said the traitor David was in their midst. We staged at Gilboa, at the foot of the mountains, as my captains and I went to a high place to look out over the Philistine host. They outnumbered us by thousands and when I realized our situation, my heart crumbled completely. Sudden terror gripped me as the icy hand of death ran his sinuous fingers down my spine. A cold wash of fear flooded over me and with tears in my eyes, I turned quickly to my tent, ignoring the calls of my men.
Lighting a lamp, the illumination seemed too dim, as if the light itself was somehow being swallowed up and couldn't escape. I hunched over to see if I could brighten it, but nothing worked. The very world was growing darker. I watched as the shadows began dancing evilly on the canvas, swallowing the feeble light of my hand. And I prayed, or tried to. I inquired of God if we should go and fight. Would He help us on the morrow?
But God is cruel. He doesn't answer when we need Him most. That made me angry, too. How dare He not answer me! I am the king! Does He not care about our kingdom?
Well, if God wouldn't deliver us, then I would take things into my own hands. My dreams were cold. My prophets were mute. Everyone was watching me, shaking their heads and wringing their hands around me. I needed Samuel. Samuel was dead. I needed him. I needed someone who could bring him to me.
I needed a medium. So we found one. She was a practicing witch from Endor, and she could speak to the dead. I needed to hear, I needed to know. I had her call Samuel and when the prophet appeared, she cried out in fear.
This wasn't what she expected.
As the holy prophet of God thundered away at me, I sank to the floor spent and terrified. My worst fears were realized, and the voices of my torment were right. It was too late, and I had gone too far to turn back.
In the morning light, the day of our death found me buckling on the armor of a king. I knew then what I did not know before. God's silence was to check me, to drive me back to Himself. He wanted me to wait, to fast, to pray and to seek Him again. He wanted me to rest in the truth I knew and to obey the Word I had been given. Even as I knew it, I rejected that path forward. I would go my own way. I would pay my own price. If Israel paid it with me, so be it.
It was pride. I was focusing on the power of my role, hanging onto it above all else. I held it above even my own relationship with God and His favor.
"And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as He spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David" (I Samuel 28:16-17).