Below is a story by my wife that imagines what it was like when David was anointed as king of Israel. (1 Samuel 16)
The row of ants marched across the warm rock. The lead ant paused to take in the antics of a ladybug that the troop was about the pass. Every ant in the line momentarily stopped also, as it passed the bigger insect.
David mused, then he rolled over onto his back. He squinted at the bright afternoon light. He could see, far off near the eastern edge of a clear blue sky, the almost full moon. How far was it? David thought. How many days’ walk to reach the moon, if a boy could walk across the sky? What would that distance look like across the palm of Yahweh’s hand?
David sat up. He could hear someone calling his name. He stood and scanned the valley below. All his sheep – well, his father’s sheep – were grazing on the summer pasture. Beyond them a figure appeared and David recognised Abel, his family’s servant. He picked up the shepherds’ crook and his lyre and bounded off, past the sheep who momentarily stopped, not unlike the ants, to watch the boy rush between them.
“Abel, why have you come?” he asked the old man. “Has something happened at home?”
“Shalom” replied the servant. “Your father has sent for you. Go. I will stay with the flock until you return.”
David glanced at the crook and the lyre in his hands. He hesitated before handing the crook to Abel. Then he thrust the lyre towards the man as well. “Play for them. They love it.” Abel grinned.
The boy-shepherd turned and ran down to the homestead.
Before David got to his home another servant met him.
“Is my father ill?” he asked the man.
“No, he and your brothers are with the Prophet. They are making sacrifices to the LORD.”
“What has this to do with me?” asked David.
By now they were at the well in the courtyard.
“Wash your face and hands and put on these clean clothes.”
David’s mother then appeared. She took the cloth from the servant and began scrubbing at David’s neck, tutting about the grass and gravel smudges on his face and arms. Her son was taller than her now so she had to pull his head down to reach.
The boy tried to get out of her grasp.
“Mother, what is going on?” He pleaded.
But there was no time for answers. Soon enough David was escorted into Bethlehem and then to the place where his father and seven older brothers were standing. Another man was also there – the Prophet Samuel.
David could tell that his brothers were restless. Eliab, tall and strong, was the oldest, and he glowered when he saw the littlest of his brothers come tearing around the corner towards them. The boy-shepherd skidded to a halt a few yards from the group, took a deep breath, and calmly walked the final distance to stand before his father.
If I could run to the moon, he thought, I could get there sooner.
Jesse put his hands on David’s shoulders and forced him to pivot around to face Samuel. The Prophet seemed not to notice him; he was in a deep reverie.
“Your servant, David, Jesse’s son” David said, and he bowed. The Prophet was not physically tall. He was a full head-height shorter than the boy-shepherd. But David felt as if he was bowing before a someone of giant importance. He felt ant-sized.
Something – not his father’s hands this time- compelled David to kneel.
And then… and then, something amazing happened. The Prophet held a ram’s horn of oil above the head of Jesse’s youngest son, as the other seven sons looked on, and upturned the horn. Samuel proclaimed that David was the next King of Israel, anointed by Yahweh.
As the oil came first on his head and next dribbled down his neck and into his shirt, David took a sharp intake of breath. He held the air in his chest, unable to decide if there was something different about him. Unsure if this meant he should or could still be himself. Unsure if breathing was necessary.
His father and brothers came forward and, one by one, embraced him.
“Now let’s eat!” The Prophet declared loudly.
As the sun began to sink into the horizon, the shepherd-king tramped across the valley towards the sheepfold. Abel stood in the opening. “They’re all in there, present and accounted for,” he said. “And you’re right. They do love the music of the lyre.”
David drew his woollen cloak around himself and squatted in the opening as Abel started back in the direction that David had come. Some of the ewes nuzzled against him, sniffing at the strange scent of oil.
Not twenty yards away the old servant turned and shouted at him, lifting a thumb towards the sky:
“Full moon tonight!”