It is spring. “The season when kings go off to war.” Our king has sent us to capture a city and destroy a people. In this season, our king is not with us. He has chosen to remain in his palace and send us, his army, to fight without him. We serve at the pleasure of the king.
I serve under a commander I greatly respect. He has led us to victory to many times to count. When I was young and joined the kings army, my father had recently died and the commander became much more than a commander to me. I look up to him as a father and he considers me his son.
Three days ago my commander said He had a message from the King. To my surprise, he told me the message was for me. He said that the King had summoned me and I was ordered to go to the kings palace immediately. I gathered a few things and started to run. It was a days journey by foot to the palace. I arrived late in the evening. I approached the entrance to the palace and told the guard who I was and that the King had summoned me. He instructed two of his fellow guards to escort me to the king. They led me to a large room. They announced me. From behind a curtain appeared the king. All of us bowed and the King dismissed my escort. The king walked across the room and sat on a finely made sofa and motioned for me to sit beside him. He was a very impressive looking man, made more impressive by what I had witnessed him do in battle and the many stories I had heard regarding the many brave and heroic feats he had preformed over the years. I sat and looked at his face, but respectfully, I did not look directly into his eyes.
He asked me questions regarding how the war was going and how the men were doing. Then he said, ” I have a task for you, but it’s late and I’m tired. Go home tonight, get cleaned up and I will send for you in the morning”. Then he rose from the sofa, turned and left the room. Right after he left, the two guards that had escorted me earlier came in and escorted me out of the palace. When I got outside, I was about to start walking towards home when a thought came into my mind. I can’t go home. My commander and the army were out on the battle field. How could I go home and sleep comfortably knowing they were out there. I turned around and walked back to the entrance of the palace and asked one of the guards that was warming himself by a fire if it would be all right if I found a corner out of the way and rolled my mat out to spend the night. After giving me a puzzled look he gave me his permission. So I spent the night among the kings servants.
When morning came. I got up, rolled up my sleeping mat and looked around thinking about what I should do next. I saw one of my escorts from yesterday across the courtyard and walked over to him. When he saw me approaching he turned to me and asked, ” Where have you been? We went to your house this morning to bring you to the King. Your wife told us she hadn’t seen you and thought you were still with the army.” I told him I had slept here last night. After another puzzled look, he again escorted me to the King.
When we arrived at the room, he left me at the door and walked to the other side of the room where the King was standing. They spoke to each other for a short time and then the guard left the room. The king pointed to the same sofa we had sat on yesterday and we both sat down.
He asked me, where did you spend the night last night. I told him I slept in the entrance of the palace. He asked me why I would sleep there rather than go to my house to sleep. I told him the reason and he gave a quiet chuckle. Then he said to me, ” Don’t be concerned about that. No one would consider you spending a night at home with your family a betrayal to your comrades in the field. Tomorrow you will leave for the camp. I will have something for you to deliver to the commander. In the mean time, I am gathering with a few men on my staff tonight. I would like you to be there. Come back at sunset. Again, he left the room and my escorts came to show me out.
I spent the day at the market and with a longtime friend. He was surprised when he saw me, knowing I was away with the army. We speculated as to why the King had summoned me but came up with nothing.
Just before sunset, I returned to the palace and joined the gathering of men, trying to make conversation but finding it difficult. I felt out of place. For some reason, I started to feel like the goose that had been invited to dinner.
From the time I arrived, the servants started serving many different types of wine. All evening there were toasts to everything imaginable. The king seemed very insistent that I keep my glass empty so the servants could continuously fill it. It wasn’t very long before I discovered I was getting very drunk. When the evening came to an end, I think I remember my escorts having to carry me out of the palace.
I awoke in the middle of the night and found myself lying on the stoop in front of my house. I remembered what the King had said earlier in the day about not feeling I was betraying my friends, but I couldn’t get past the thought in my heart that I was. So I turned from the front door of my house and slowly made my way back to the entrance of the palace. There I found my sleeping mat where I had left it, rolled it out and went to sleep.
The next thing I remember is someone shaking me and talking very loud. My head was pounding and I had a hard time opening my eyes. When I did get them to open, the face of one of my escorts slowly came into focus. He was telling me to get up. I slowly got up and gathered my things. The guard watched me as I put myself together. In his hand was a sealed couriers bag. He handed it to me and instructed me to deliver the bag directly to my commander. He told me that this order came from the King and time was of the essence.
Without hesitation I started to run. I knew I could make it back to our camp before dark. The day went by without incident.
When I arrived at our camp I went straight to the commander’s tent. I announced my presence and he invited me in. He was standing over a table reviewing a map with three of his officers. He welcomed me back and offered me his hand in greeting. I acknowledged the other men and handed the bag to the commander. He took it from me and then returned his attention to the map. I quietly turned and left.
That night as I tried to sleep, my mind kept replaying the last few days trying to figure out what had happened and why the King had summoned me.
The next morning, the army prepared for the days battle. When we were ready, the commander stepped forward and announced that I would be given the honor of leading the charge. As we formed our ranks, I took the forward position. This must have been the message that I had delivered from the King. But why was I awarded this honor. I looked to see if I could find my commander. When I found him, he was looking straight at me. I was taken back by the look on his face. This man I love as a father had the shadow of fear on his face and what appeared to be tears in his eyes.
We heard the blast of the enemy’s battle call. We took our positions and started to advance towards the opposing army. I could see the force that was coming towards us was formidable. When the call to charge was given, I pressed forward and felt confident because of the honor given to me by the King and the commander.
Just before we were about to engage the enemy, I gazed to each side of me and then behind me to draw strength from my fellow warriors. But instead of drawing strength, I felt hopelessness and despair. For at that moment I discovered that I was completely alone. My commander and my fellow warriors had turned back and abandoned me to face the enemy alone. Almost immediately I felt the pain of two arrows piercing into my chest. I stumbled and fell to my knees.
I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face and I see it’s brilliant light shining off the sword that is whistling through the air on its straight and true path to cut off my head.
I believe these are the last words I will utter in this world,
” I serve at the pleasure of the King!”
2 Samuel 11 : 1 – 17