Archive for January, 2016

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 46

David doesn’t have a chance! Shimeah relived it again with Eliab.

Jonadab, Shimeah’s son, was spellbound by the story. “What did Goliath look like?”

“Goliath was a Philistine warrior, a giant of a man with skin the colour of sun-tanned leather and forearms the size of David’s waist. He wore armour over his huge frame and his voice boomed throughout the valley.”

With malevolent intent towards David, Goliaths words had trailed up the valley and echoed in Shimeah’s ears, “‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and animals!’” My stomach was in knots. Shimeah had seen some of the broken bodies that remained after hand to hand combat and against this experienced veteran of war.

“David’s voice was so clear and confident. But he seemed so naïve!”

“I remember. Almost arrogant,” said Eliab. “He said,‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.’ The Philistines laughed at his audacity.”

Shimeah said “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing. I turned to king Saul and said, ‘We have to stop him, sir! Can’t you command him to return?’ but he said, ‘I have no intention of interfering, nor will you.’ I couldn’t save him. I just had to watch.’” One of Saul’s guards had moved menacingly close to Shimeah. Why did I freeze up? I didn’t do anything. Only his eyes had revealed the desperate fear he had felt for David.

Shimeah and Eliab could see it all before them. Shimeah said, “As the Philistine moved closer, David ran quickly forward to meet his attack. He reached into his bag, took out a stone, and placed it in the cradle of his sling. In the same action, it was thrust into a swinging arc, centrifugal force stretching the leather slightly with the weight of the stone.”

After three sweeping turns, it had begun to sing in anticipation of release and David had snapped the sling in a deft movement that shot the stone from the arc of its swing in a deadly tangent towards Goliath. “It caught Goliath in the temple. It was a dull crack, like the sound of a sun-dried clay water pot being broken”. Goliath had swayed indecisively before his legs buckled. “He went down like a fallen tree.”

David is an expert marksman. “The stone sunk deep into Goliath’s forehead.” Goliath’s eyes had glared with unseeing astonishment. “His body convulsed for the last time.” The sling David had used was capable of letting a stone fly with incredible velocity and accuracy, though it had never before been used as a weapon of warfare.

“Did you see how he reached into his pouch again?” said Eliab, “He was even prepared to face Goliath’s armour bearers! But they were so shocked that they simply turned and ran for their lives.”

The whole Philistine army, seeing that David’s God had really done what He said He would do, also began to run, with superstitious fear flowing through their veins.

“David then ran, stood over Goliath’s huge frame, drew the enormous sword from the scabbard of this man and cut off his head. Goliath’s sword was so big that he had some difficulty in wielding it properly.”

The silence in Israel had exploded as every man in Israel came to life and surged forward with a shout to pursue the Philistines. “David was still holding the Philistine’s head as king Saul approached him.

‘Whose son are you, young man?’ he asked him.

David said, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.’”

Shimeah and Eliab remembered these events so clearly. Shimeah looked at Jonadab We brought home much plunder that day. That’s the same day that you were born.” Shimeah had called him Jonadab because his name meant The Lord is bountiful.

David had taken the weapons of Goliath and placed them in his tent. Shimeah said,“That sword was so masterfully made. Did you see it’s hilt? It had that unusual carving of a lion and a wolf in mortal combat with each other.

“Yes, the workmanship was beautiful. The blade was iron of course, but it must have been tempered by an expert smith. I doubt if even Barzillai could have created something to match it.”

Now, years later, as Shimeah thought about Goliath and those weapons, he still felt a little resentful and jealous towards David. It seemed that Shimeah had been passed over while God had destined David for greatness.

Shimeah’s son, Jonadab, was now a young man, “But all that is a long time ago. And now, you mix with David’s sons in court.” Shimeah had taught him to be shrewd but some of his attitudes towards David had also been passed down. Never-the-less Jonadab had become good friends with Amnon, his cousin, one of David’s sons.

Perhaps it had something to do with the unresolved jealousy of Shimeah that Jonadab, his son, influenced the course of events of the kingdom and triggered the fulfilment of another part of Nathan’s prophecy to David.

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WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 45

“He seemed so careless.” Jesse’s three oldest sons had gone with Saul to the war. Shimeah and Eliab were recalling to Jonadab, Shimeah’s son, the sense of excitement and fear as they had set out. Shimeah said, “As the youngest son, David’s main responsibility was to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem but our father was always anxious to know how we were, so he had David visit us from time to time with rations.”

Eliab took up the story, “Then one particular day David arrived at just the wrong time. He reached the camp just as we were going out to our battle positions, shouting the war cry. All our forces in Israel and the enemy’s forces had drawn up the battle formations facing each other.

We were looking down at the Philistines from the safety of a hill. David ran right up to the battle lines to greet us without any regard for the battle that was about to take place. He was either brave or ignorant of what was happening,” said Eliab.

So irresponsible, thought Shimeah. “Neither of us thought it was being brave. I told him ‘Get back out of the danger area!’”

“That’s when Goliath appeared. The Philistine champion from Gath stepped out from his lines and shouted out a defiant challenge that David heard.”

Although they were on a hill looking into the valley, the Israelites were pulling away from this man and there was a general sense of fear in the ranks. “I grabbed David and pulled him back.” Didn’t he see the size of that man? Why didn’t he run like I told him to?

“David just looked at Goliath and said ‘Why isn’t someone taking up his challenge?’ I told him ‘Someone will have to eventually. Do you remember that the king had promised great wealth to the man who killed him.”

Eliab said, “Yes, I remember. Saul promised his daughter in marriage and to exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel, but I must admit, I thought you would have to be half-mad to fight that giant of a man.”

Shimeah said, “That didn’t stop David. He was outraged that no-one had taken up the challenge. He even challenged me to fight Goliath. He was saying ‘What are you waiting for? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’”

“So heroic,” said Eliab. So conceited, thought Shimeah. It was embarrassing.

“You didn’t think that he was so heroic then.”

“No, I didn’t. I thought he was conceited. I regret that now. When I heard him speaking with the men, I said, ‘Why have you come down here? Who’s looking after our sheep in the desert?’”

Shimeah laughed. “A shepherd boy giving us orders.”

“That just made him even more annoyed and determined.” Like Shimeah, Eliab had noticed the change in David since Samuel had anointed him with oil. “I said, ‘Don’t start showing your indignation to us. I know how conceited you are. The fact that you’re here shows how wicked your heart is; you came down here so you could watch the battle. Now go home where you belong and watch the sheep instead!’But he wasn’t at all discouraged by this. He just kept on urging other men to fight this Philistine.”

“When one of the commanders heard what David was saying, he took him aside and both of us decided to let our little brother receive the reprimand he deserved.” Shimeah thought, We left him without support. I thought that would be the end.

Jonadab was on the edge of his seat, not saying a word. The rest of the story was burned into their memories. Shimeah said “The next minute, to both our horror, David was running down into the valley by himself. I called to him to come back but one of the commanders ordered me to be quiet. He told me, ‘He has the authority of king Saul himself to go.’”

Shimeah sat, words flashing through his memory, “I said, ‘But he has no armour, just a staff in his hand!’ He said ‘Saul had offered him armour and he refused to wear it.’” David, what were you thinking?

Eliab broke in, “I saw David choosing stones from the stream, placing them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approaching the Philistine.”

Shimeah had been too shocked to move or speak. “It was so silent in that moment. No-one moved.”

Goliath’s eyes were hungry and Shimeah and Eliab, standing near king Saul, would never forget the next few moments.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 44

“I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me.” Samuel had said.

Shimeah was in a melancholic mood as he spoke with his older brother Eliab in the presence of Shimeah’s son, Jonadab, who listened with avid interest as they remembered the day, long ago, when Samuel the prophet arrived at Bethlehem.

“The elders of our district wondered why this prophet of the Lord had come. Samuel made a point of consecrating my father, Jesse. And then each of my brothers.” Why did my knees begin to shake when he came to me? “We had all been invited to the sacrifice. No-one asked why. The authority of this man was too great to ignore, so our father obeyed without a word of argument.”

“When he looked at each of us,” said Shimeah, “… it was something about his eyes. They seemed to look into your soul. When he came to Eliab it was as if he was just about to speak some great word of prophecy.” What made him hesitate? He seemed confused.

“Samuel looked to our father, Jesse. Jesse called Abinadab, the second eldest of my brothers and had him pass in front of Samuel. I heard him say very clearly, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’”

“It was only then, at that moment that I realised Samuel was here on a mission, and that I was next in line. I thought, ‘If it wasn’t Eliab or Abinadab, then it must be me he wants’. I really thought he was going to choose me”. He laughed. Why did he pass by me? “After all, the three of us had been chosen for king Saul’s army recently, but that didn’t seem to make any difference to Samuel.” He simply dismissed me. ‘Nor has the Lord chosen this one.’ “I am relieved in a way, I suppose,” But why didn’t he choose me? His heart sank again as he remembered how his father continued to parade his sons before Samuel.

Eliab took up the story, “I remember it like it was yesterday. Each time Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’

“But David wasn’t there, was he?” said Jonadab. He knew the story well but loved hearing it again since his father and uncle had actually been there.

No. Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’

Our father replied, ‘No. My youngest is still tending sheep.’

‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.’ Jesse had obeyed.

 “David looked so bewildered when he saw Samuel,” Eliab said. “Somehow they seemed to recognise each other but I’m sure they had never met. David had an air of expectancy and excitement like someone who has come home after a long time away. Samuel had looked into the handsome face of David and finally knew. “He reached for the horn of oil that he carried and anointed him in the presence of us all.”

“I did not understand fully the implication of what Samuel was doing all those years ago. It all makes sense now, of course,” said Eliab. Does it? thought Shimeah.

Shimeah knew that it had been Samuel who had once anointed Saul as king and although he too did not quite understand the significance of what Samuel had been doing that day with David, he felt a pang of resentment rising up towards his younger brother. Why did the Lord choose him? “He was not experienced in warfare in Saul’s army. He just tended sheep, which of course has it’s challenges,” but hardly enough to qualify David to be chosen by God to be king. “But it’s true. David was somehow different from that day on.” A difference that showed up when Shimeah had been at war with the Philistines.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 43

“Tell me about this legend,” Absalom repeated.

“The story begins with the lion god,” said Obed-edom as the story of his childhood flooded back into his memory. “It is said that one day the lion, filled with pride, roared so loud that all of Canaan could hear, ‘I rule this domain!’ it said, ‘None can challenge me!’ But it’s roar was answered by the howling cry of the wolf high in the hills, ‘I will challenge you! Stay away from here or you will know the teeth of the wolf that devour even the strongest of foes!’

The lion was so annoyed at the arrogance of the wolf that that it stalked through the long grass and up into the hills until it finally came upon the lair of the wolf. A terrible battle took place and the wolf was killed by the powerful lion. The lion also killed the wolf’s mate and all but one of its cubs who hid itself in the back of the lair.

The wolf cub hid in the hills until it almost starved to death. But Molech, the god of war and strength, who was a master iron-smith, helped the wolf cub until it was fully grown, giving it teeth of iron. The teeth of the wolf are still made by the Philistines today in the kiln of Molech, in the form of daggers such as the one you hold today.

Then one day the lion heard the howling cry of the wolf, now fully grown, as it mourned over the loss of its family and vowed revenge. With teeth of iron, it came down from the hills to the plains where it continues to track down the lion to this day.

The lion and wolf still remain bitter enemies and the roars and snarling of lion and wolf can still be heard in Canaan during times of battle. One day it is said that the battle will be resolved, but in the meantime, the Philistines fight their enemies with the iron teeth of the wolf and the roar of the lion.

The lion and wolf god are the Philistine gods of war because they are two of the strongest of the predators. It is believed that when the Philistines fight, they gain favour with the wolf god and he will not raid and kill their flocks.

Of course, the Philistines also have many other gods, but the image you see on this hilt is the favourite mark of the iron-smiths. This dagger came from the kiln of Molech, where to my shame, a child was sacrificed to the god of war. I witnessed this murder and thought little of it at the time. When the Philistines fight they are supposedly fighting to avenge the death of their children.

I was the one who fashioned the blade and carved the image on the hilt personally. It was originally for a Philistine prince or king to carry into battle but I was captured before I had time to present it. It has a curse of vengeance upon it, my lord. So you see why it would be better to destroy this weapon. It has been dedicated for evil.”

Absalom was fascinated by the old man’s story and had no intention of destroying the dagger.

“Your story was superstitious nonsense, old man, but you have been most helpful.” said Absalom.

Obed-edom was quiet and prayerful for the rest of the day. Only Barzillai had noticed the change in his mood and after an hour of working with him in silence, he said,

“What troubles you, old friend? Has Absalom brought you bad news?”

“Absalom showed me a weapon that I formed just before I was captured. I have been responsible for making many weapons that have been dedicated to Molech over the years. I have made the smallest iron talisman that warriors wore into battle, as well as weapons of immense size and weight. Barzillai, you have heard of Goliath?” Barzillai nodded.

“I was responsible for forging the weapons he used,” said Obed-edom “and dedicating them to Molech to be used against Israel.”

“My friend, those days are now over. God has brought forgiveness to you and your family,” said Barzillai.

“That’s not my concern. I know now that God has forgiven me and I stand clean before Him,” said Obed-edom, “but the weapon Absalom showed me was the finest of all daggers that I have made. It is a thing of vengeance. A child was sacrificed in the kiln it came from and it is cursed. I am afraid that it will bring harm to whoever carries it.” Obed-edom did not realise it, but already the dagger had been used as a weapon of vengeance.

“I have learned that things such as your dagger have no power in themselves to hurt anyone, my friend,” said Barzillai, “It is only metal. It can be used for good or evil purposes.”

“But what about the curse upon it?” said Obed-edom.

“It seems to me that the curses of vengeance will only have an effect if there is first a foothold in a person’s life.” said Barzillai, “every one of us is susceptible to allowing a curse to have power in our lives, but with God’s help, we don’t have to open the door to it’s evil.”


 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 42

Absalom was directed to an old man who was instructing Ammonite slaves about kiln making. He seemed very cheerful and pleased to meet Absalom and bowed down with his face to the ground when he realised that he was in the presence of royalty.

“My lord, I am your servant.” said Obed-edom.

“I have been told that you are a Philistine.” said Absalom.

“I was once a Philistine, my lord.” said Obed-edom with a smile on his face. “For many years now I have served your father the king and now I also serve the living God of Israel.”

Absalom ignored the comments and said, “I have something to show you that has the carvings of Canaanite origin. I want you to tell me what it means.”

“I will try to help you in any way that I can, my lord.” said Obed-edom. Absalom directed Obed-edom to move under one of shelters so that no-one else could overhear their conversation or see what they were doing.

He took the dagger from beneath his coat and handed it to the old man. Obed-edom stood transfixed for some time as he looked at the weapon. All the memories of demon gods and talisman came flooding back into his mind. He remembered the day of the birth of this dagger in the kiln of Molech and when he thought of the gruesome child sacrifice, he suddenly dropped the dagger as if it were red hot. Absalom reached for it immediately.

“Be careful, old man. I don’t want it damaged!” said Absalom.

“Why have you brought this weapon to me?” said Obed-edom. His face was white at the shock of seeing the dagger that he had once made. For a fleeting moment he thought perhaps that Absalom intended to punish him in some way.

“I want you to tell me what the images and symbols mean?” said Absalom. He was intrigued at the reaction of the old man. What hidden secrets does this dagger hold?

“You must destroy it immediately!” said Obed-edom, “It can only lead to harm. It came from the fire of Molech and was dedicated to the demon gods. It doesn’t belong here.”

“I’ll decide whether or not to destroy it. But first I want you to tell me all you know about it.” said Absalom, who was beginning to get a little frustrated.

“Yes, my lord. Of course.” said Obed-edom. He was dry in the mouth and needed to lick his lips and swallow several times as he recalled the ancient story, filled with superstition and demonic power to bring harm upon others, that he had heard many times as a child.

“The symbol on the top of the hilt is the Canaanite symbol for the god Molech and the symbol on the sides of the hilt is of the lion and wolf gods. Together they speak of avenging the enemy for the sacrifice of our children. The image that is carved is of the lion and the wolf in mortal combat. It comes from an ancient legend about these two powerful predators.”

“Tell me about this legend.” said Absalom.

Obed-edom tried to regain his composure.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 41

“I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. It is time now to gather the rest of the troops, besiege the city and capture it. If you do not wish to take the city, I will capture it myself, but it will be named after me.” Joab’s messages were always sharp and to the point.

Although David was now at peace with God, he was still at war with the Ammonites. Joab stood on the battlefield, waiting for David. He regarded himself as the sword that David wielded. He had fought hard and long and the victory was now almost complete.

It seems that the sword will never depart from David’s house. So much bloodshed. Many of my best men have died. His mind went back to a man called Uriah who had died in the thick of battle. Others had died that day because of David’s strange request. He had dispatched his message to the king so that no more would be lost unnecessarily.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

With the fortifications he was raising up against David in his heart, Absalom determined he would remain free of any domination. I will never be a slave to my father like Joab. Rebellion and jealousy armed him with small poison darts that he aimed at David. He was careful not to sound too sarcastic, “Let Joab take the city. He deserves honour for this victory. After all, you chose to remain behind in Jerusalem while he has been at battle.”

Voices in court immediately expressed their disagreement with Absalom’s suggestion and David was bewildered by his son’s disrespect, but he dismissed it from his mind and began to gather the entire army. Absalom’s advice did, however, prompt him to think again of Nathan’s words of prophecy, Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.

David proceeded to Rabbah, led the final attack and captured it.

Absalom accompanied him and watched as the crown was taken from the head of their king and placed on David’s head. Its weight was a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. It seemed to him that his father was getting all the praise for something he certainly didn’t deserve. For most of this campaign you have been absent and involved in bringing disrepute to our family. This public display is a charade, he thought.

David made a great show of the great quantity of plunder that was taken from the city and then in front of everyone he brought out the Ammonite people who were there and made them his slaves. Many would be sent to Manahaim, and consigned to work with Barzillai the iron smith and his servant Obed-edom, labouring with saws, iron picks and axes, and brickmaking for the kilns.

Absalom decided to go with the guards to Manahaim and enquire of the Canaanite iron smith about the carvings on his knife, while David and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 40

“You shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die.”

As the day came for Bathsheba to deliver her second child, the words of Nathan the prophet returned to taunt David repeatedly. He did not share his concerns with her. She looks so radiant. Will the Lord let this child live?

When David knew that Bathsheba had given birth to a son, his concerns only deepened. He spent much time in prayer. How can I ever hope to understand your mercy and judgments, Lord? My past weighs heavily upon my conscience. All I can ask is, in Your love and forgiveness, You might see fit to extend this little one’s life?

Then it seemed that his worst fears might be realised! A message came from Nathan! David froze as he anticipated what God might say through the prophet. The mercy of God’s Love or the justice I deserve? Will this son also be taken from me?

“The child that is born to you,” said the messenger. David winced noticeably, closing his eyes, “… is loved by the Lord, as a ewe lamb is loved by a poor shepherd.” Nathan’s message came with words of hope and destiny.

In that moment, David understood. Every life is a gift and precious in Your sight, Oh God. Only You can give life and only You can take it away. Your justice is hard to bear but Your mercy is born from it.

Bathsheba heard an exhilarated shout and then release of laughter. She walked through the open door and curiously looked for its source. David was standing by the window as the bewildered messenger took his leave. As she came to him, David was still laughing, but there was something strange about his laughter and when he turned to her touch she realised that his eyes were glistening with tears. He held her close as relief flowed over him like spring rain and the peace of the Lord descended upon him.

He knew then that he would call his son “Solomon,” because the name “Solomon” means “Peace”. It gives testimony to the peace that comes from God’s total and absolute forgiveness. Nathan would give him a prophetic name as well – “Jedidiah”, which meant “Loved by the Lord”. The prophet Nathan would also become Solomon’s personal tutor in the years ahead.

Absalom was quiet that day. He held the baby, and said all the right words, but felt uneasy by the presence of this little one, even threatened in some way. A twinge of jealousy rose up within him. No word from the prophet had come at his birth to say that he was loved by the Lord. Perhaps he perceived in the Spirit that this baby would one day… He handed the baby back to Bathsheba.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 39

Those in court seem to instinctively and collectively step back towards the door to distance themselves from the presence of God as Nathan speaks. The courtroom empties as David slumps forward from his throne with nowhere to escape but to his knees, tears streaming down his face, the full weight of months gone, now pressing upon his shoulders. Only Absalom and the amanuensis remain, but they are in the shadows. The spotlight of God’s presence rests heavily upon David’s conscience. He speaks, but the words are no more than a groan that comes from somewhere deep within,

“I have sinned against the Lord.”

Silence envelopes the room and it seems that God reaches down and touches David, for his body trembles as Nathan says, “The Lord also has taken away your sin. You shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die.” Absalom slips from the room unnoticed. Nathan is gone almost as quickly as he had come and David lies prostrate before the Lord for some time.

As predicted, the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David became very sick.

Grief-stricken, David retreated in prayer for his child; He fasted and lay prostrate before the Lord all that night on the ground. Friends and counsellors in his palace encouraged him to eat but he was unwilling. As kings advisor, Absalom came to David and said “Your people are waiting for you to judge their cases. Why won’t you listen to them?” David remained silent, prostrate before the Lord. He had lost the power to act at all on behalf of his people. Then he murmured with a voice of deep anguish, “How can I seek justice for my people when the judgement of God still rests heavily upon me and upon my innocent son? You don’t seem to understand that he is dying in my place. Now leave me.” Absalom left and pondered this situation to see if he could gain any advantage.

It seemed that David lost his interest in hearing the cases of his people in court from that time on. Absalom’s interest, however, increased. As one of the kings sons and advisors, he determined to judge their cases. It will be good practise for when I am king. For now, I cannot do it from the throne of course, but in time…

Each night the others who sat at the king’s table were quiet, waiting to see what would happen. David, absent from the table, continued his fasting and praying day after day while the child lingered. Then, on the seventh day, the circumstances of the child changed.

The servants were afraid to tell David at first. They were afraid that he might do something to harm himself. But David noticed his servants whispering together and understood that the child was dead.

When he knew for sure, he got up, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes; and went into the Tabernacle to worship the Lord. He accepted fully the consequences of his sin and thanked the Lord for His justice mixed with His mercy. His life had been spared yet forgiveness had come with so great a price. Then he went back to his own house, and requested food. When Absalom saw the change in David, he was confused. He asked the servants what had happened to bring the king back to his right mind. They related David’s words to him,

“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; because I thought, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”

For a while he had thought that his father may have lost his sanity. Certainly, he thought, he had completely lost his ability to rule. In David’s absence, it had been he who had been hearing the cases of the people. He felt that he was the only one aware of what was needed in the kingdom. In conceding that his father was well again, he said simply to David,

“Despite your absence, you will find your kingdom is still intact. We have not lost the war with the Ammonites and your people’s needs are still being cared for”.

David said “Thankyou, my son. I knew that I could rely on you.” The comment was fleeting as David left the room to be with Bathsheba in her time of need.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 38

Nathan brushed past Absalom that day as he strode into David’s presence with a message from the Lord. David was involved in hearing the various legal matters of his people. An amanuensis stood by the throne recording the various pronouncements. The people sensed something of the importance of Nathan’s presence and they parted as he walked towards the king. His eyes were fixed upon David and he wasted no time in bringing his matter to the king’s attention.

The Lord is a storyteller and Nathan is now His narrator. He weaves the message into a story that touches David’s emotions as no other story could. The story is of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man has many flocks and herds. David’s mind immediately relates to being a Shepherd and his interest begins to rise from the mundane issues that he has been dealing with.

“The poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb which he had spent all his money to purchase and he nourished it and it grew up with him and his children. It ate and slept with the poor man and obviously gave him and his family much joy. It was much loved, like a daughter.”

“Now a traveller came to the rich man,” said Nathan, “And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd to feed the traveller, so instead he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

David is furious. He is now in a just frame of mind, completely enraged by a man who would do this. As a shepherd, he could not see how such injustice could be perpetrated against the poor man. He says to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because of his lack of compassion.”

The air in the courtroom where David has been seeking to deal justly with the cases of his people suddenly becomes charged. Absalom waits by the door and listens carefully. He wonders why Nathan should advocate for such a case. Nathan looks directly into David’s eyes and with a voice of impending doom that only a prophet could use face to face with his king says,

“You are the man!” David’s eyes are wide and he stares with sudden realisation of his plight as Nathan the prophet of God continues. “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of your enemies.”

Absalom couldn’t help but admire the way Nathan was handling this situation. How clever a way to bring the truth of David’s actions to him. His disgust for his father, king David, returned and he listened for the sentence that Nathan would pronounce from God. God may even demand the death sentence!

Nathan continued, “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

No-one but Absalom and David’s servants know the full implications of what Nathan is pronouncing. Afterall, what is wrong with David taking a widow for his wife? But now Nathan’s words seem to fill every crevice of the room “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes, and give them to someone who is close to you, and he shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. Indeed, you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'”

Absalom saw the irreparable damage that was done in this situation and despised his father for bringing such disrepute to his family. It stood in his mind as a written testimony in history. Who would want an episode such as this for all to read?

This was not the first time David had forsaken the law concerning a woman. Once, David had married a Gittite woman for the sake of an alliance to a rebellious people. The offspring of this unwise marriage was Absalom. But here was another son conceived through direct disobedience to God’s law and whose life was to be short-lived.

The sin’s of the fathers…

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls 

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 37

Not long after Uriah returned to the ranks, he and a number of other valiant men found themselves in hand to hand combat with some Ammonite soldiers, but strangely, just as the battle reached its height the Ammonites had sounded a retreat. Uriah, not wanting to miss the opportunity, shouted for his men to pursue, pure adrenalin fueling their desire for victory.

It was as they approached the city gate that they realised they were trapped. Archers appeared on the walls. Someone sounded a retreat but for Uriah it was drowned in the turmoil that followed. A rain of shafts fell with deadly intent upon them. He was left exposed by the withdrawal and his men were being decimated.

“I can’t walk! Help me!” shouted a man close to Uriah. With an arrow in his back and one protruding from his thigh he was trying to drag himself out of danger. Another man lay dead beside him.

“Help me!” he said with eyes full of fear. Uriah took hold of him and began to drag him to the nearest tree but an iron-tipped shaft sliced its way through his arm. Recoiling in pain he turned, only to face another volley from the wall. With his arm flailing, he caught sight briefly of the arrow that pierced his heart.

A number of other men died with Uriah that day but a few escaped back to Joab. Looking at the crumpled message which lay nearby where he had thrown it, Joab knew that David’s request had been fulfilled. The message read,

“Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

David was not only responsible for Uriah’s death but in the days ahead, many widows would mourn. None of them would be taken into the palace except Bathsheba.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

“…and some of our men were killed when they came too close to the wall.” King David had looked at the messenger from Joab with fire in his eyes. Absalom was also listening intensely to the report of the war. As an advisor to the king he had to keep up to date with what was happening.

Then suddenly the messenger said to David.

“…and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.”

Everyone else ignored the comment except David and Absalom. It’s significance seized Absalom and he walked from the room, feeling sick with realisation and disgust. As he did he heard his father say with measured words, “Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you. The sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.” Finally rumours about David and Bathsheba would be vindicated by the death of Uriah. A twinge of remorse swept over David but then was gone.

Bathsheba mourned for her husband for the acceptable time, and then she became David’s wife, and bore him a son. No-one but Absalom and the guards and servants at the gate of the palace thought much about it.

David thought he had won the battle that had raged as guilt within his soul, but he had yet to face the One whom he had offended even more than Uriah.