From the Chronicles of David, King of Israel and Judah, 966 A.D.
I have often noticed curiosity on the faces of my guests when they first see my private garden outside my chambers within the palace. I suppose it would be expected that a king of Israel would prefer a formal, well tended garden, rather than the tangle of native bushes and desert grasses along the meandering pebble and sand footpath that surrounds the irregular pond at its center. My royal garden tenders would much prefer pruned and shaped shrubs, evenly spaced, with perfect symmetry and complimenting colors of foliage and flowers. Try as they may, they have never achieved the wild beauty of the place I hoped my garden would capture.
In every life there is a crossroad, a turning point, after which everything changes. The place where we experienced that pivotal moment is forever etched in our memory, and were we able to return to it, the echoes of the experience would linger still. That singular event may be so powerfully embedded in the place, that in returning, we are swept back in time. So vivid are those events rendered in memory, that we may stand in our own footsteps, and live it all again.
That place for me is En Gedi.
En Gedi is an oasis of wild, stunning beauty and serenity. All the more so, in contrast to the stark desolation which surrounds it. En Gedi is hidden just within the eastern edge of the sheer, cave-riddled sandstone walls of desert mountains that stretch to the north and south between Jerusalem and the great salt sea.
In the heart of the oasis, water plunges from high above into a pool, it’s depth deceptive, so pure is the water. Time-smoothed stones strewn across the bottom may be counted from the mouth of the caves above. I know, for it was to those caves, to En Gedi, that I fled when my king’s heart turned against me, and he became determined to take my life.
It was there in the pools beneath the falls at En Gedi, and in the caves above, where I pondered my fate and evaded capture. It was there that I cut a remnant from the king’s robe as he slept at my mercy in one of those caves. I hoped my gesture would prove to him that I held no malice toward him. Rather, my mercy further inflamed King Saul’s wrath.
In my confusion and despair I prayed to Almighty God, and His Spirit came upon me and comforted me, nurtured me, and protected me. The wounds to my heart were bound up and their sting soothed under the gentle breath of Holy God the Spirit.
At En Gedi my life changed course. It was there at the lowest point in my life, at the lowest place on the face of the earth, that I began my ascent to the throne of Israel. It was surely a destiny not of my own design, but by the will of Almighty God.
My ambition had been something quite different. My heart’s desire was to serve Jonathan, the eldest son of Israel’s first king, whom all believed would be the one to take his father’s place on the throne. Jonathan was near to my own age, and was a brother to me in every way but blood. Closer than most brothers, truth be known, and in my long life, I have had no other friend like him. We were of one mind and heart. He made me desire to be all that he believed me to be, and I can but hope that I inspired the same in him. We pushed one another to strive for excellence in all things, and therefore were both better for the friendship we mutually cherished.
As it came to pass, it was that very excellence, which Jonathan so inspired in me, that placed my life in such peril.
Jonathan’s father was Saul, who was Israel’s first king. My solemn hope was that when Jonathan ascended to the throne of his father in the course of time, that I would have proved myself worthy to be his champion, his defender, and his most trusted advisor among the clamor of self-serving sycophants that were certain to surround him as king. He and I had observed those who swarmed about his father, and had made a solemn pact between us that, when the time came, I should serve my king with honest candor, and with the will of God the good of the kingdom always foremost in my counsel.
It was not to be.
Through no design of my own, but only through the blessing of victory in battle in service to Saul the king, and father of my friend, that I grew in favor with the people.
King Saul’s heart turned against me, as he came to believe that my ambition was to usurp him and take the throne for myself. He set his men upon me, ordering that I should be slain. I was forced to flee for my life, pursued by the king’s soldiers, among whom I had, until then, been held in high esteem.
In hiding at En Gedi I discovered the joy of the Lord. It was there, counseled by the Spirit of the Lord, that I came to understand that a path had been laid out before me which would lead me to the throne of Saul.
It is from the demands of that throne that I so often escape to the peace and tranquility of my garden. I throw off my royal robes, and dressed only in the rough tunic of a soldier I take my harp and stroll in my garden. I sit on the smooth stones and play, my feet immersed in the cool pond, and try to travel back in my mind to En Gedi. To a time and a place where I bore no regret. My faith had not yet faltered. My honor was intact. The Spirit of God walked with me and I rejoiced.
En Gedi was unbridled, wild, and pure, as I also was once unbridled, wild, and pure. So when you see my garden, look beyond what is but an imperfect representation of the true beauty and power of that place…and when you look upon King David of Israel, know that I too, was but an imperfect representation of the true beauty and power of the Spirit who guided and counseled me. And be merciful to me, as our Heavenly Father has been merciful.