A Tale of Three Kings

CHAPTER ONE

A Tale of Three KingsThe youngest son of any family bears two distinctions: He is considered to be both spoiled and uninformed. Usually little is expected of him. Inevitably, he displays fewer characteristics of leadership than the other children in the family. He never leads, he only follows, for he has no one younger than he on whom to practice leadership.

So it is today. So it was three thousand years ago in a village called Bethlehem, in a family of eight boys. The first seven sons of Jesse worked near their father’s farm. The youngest was sent on treks into the mountains to graze the family’s small flock of sheep.

On those pastoral jaunts, this youngest son always carried two things: a sling and a small, guitar-like instrument. Spare time for a sheepherder is abundant on rich mountain plateaus where sheep graze for days in one sequestered meadow. But as time passed and days became weeks, the young man became very lonely. The feeling of friendlessness that always roamed around inside him was magnified. He often cried. He also played his harp a great deal. He had a good voice, so he often sang. When these activities failed to solace him, he gathered up a pile of stones and, one by one, swung them at a distant tree with something akin to fury.

When one rockpile was dissipated, he would walk to the blistered tree, reassemble his rocks and designate yet another leafy enemy at yet a farther distance.

He engaged in many such solitary battles.

This slingsman-singer-shepherd also loved his Lord. At night, when all the sheep lay sleeping, and he sat staring at the dying fire, he would strum upon his harp and break into a concert of one. He sang the ancient hymns of his forefathers’ faith. While he sang, he wept, and while weeping he often broke forth in abandoned praise until mountains in distant places picked up his praise and tears and passed them on to higher mountains still, from whence they eventually were cast up to the ears of God.

When he did not praise and when he did not cry, he tended to each and every lamb and sheep. When not occupied with his flock, he swung his companionable sling and swung it again and again until he could tell every rock precisely where to go.

Once, while singing his lungs out to God, angels, sheep and passing clouds, he spied a living enemy: a huge bear! He lunged forward. Both found themselves moving furiously toward the same small object, a lamb feeding at a table of rich, green grass. Youth and bear stopped half way and whirled to face one another. Even as he instinctively searched into his pocket for a stone, the young man realized, “Why, I am not afraid.”

Meanwhile, brown lightning on mighty, furry legs charged at him with foaming madness. Impelled by the strength of youth, he married rock to leather and soon a brook-smooth pebble whined through the air to meet that charge.

A few moments later, the man, not quite so young as a moment before, picked up the little ewe and said, “I am your shepherd and God mine.”

And so, long into the night, he wove the day’s saga into a song. He hurled that hymn to the skies again and again until he had taught the melody and words to every angel that had ears. They, in turn, became custodians of this wondrous song and passed it on as healing balm to brokenhearted men in every age to come.

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