The Land of Never

The Land of Never

Have you ever been so clever 
You visited the Land of Never? 
“Never will I eat the foods that make me fat, 
Never will I say those awful words 
Like Heckedy Schmekedy drat,” 
Or in a moment of practiced pique 
When your bottom’s fallen in the creek: 
“Never ever will I do that again, 
No horse could drag me through that glen,” 
Or when your friend and you 
have a falling out, 
A spat where you cross your arms and shout, 
“That’s it, never will I be your friend! 
Never! Never! Never! The End!” . . . 
But 
 it’s not the end, 
  now is it?     
You’ll eat the pie despite the pounds and zits, 
You’ll say some awful things 
Because they have a righteous ring, 
You’ll take that trip to somewhere far away, 
Smiling as you wipe off spray, 
You’ll call your friends 
And make amends, 
You’ll say, “Did I say ‘Never’? 
For me that’s far too clever. 
Let’s take a walk 
Around the block, 
Pluck a dandelion on the fly, 
Pick out Orion in the sky. 
Whatever we may endeavor 
Let’s steer clear 
Of the Land of Never.” 
 ~Day

SECOND SAMUEL CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

SECOND SAMUEL CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE:

The Last Words of David

1 These are the final words that David spoke:

              ‟The oracle of David, Jesse’s son,

              David, the man on whom the Lord bestowed

Such wonderful success. King David, man

              Anointed by the God of Jacob, known

              As Israel’s sweet singer of her songs.

2 The Spirit of the Lord expressed Himself

              Through me. His word was on my tongue. 3 The Rock

              Of Israel disclosed to me: ‛When one

Rules over men in righteousness, when he

              Commands in fear of God, 4 he’s like the light

              Of dawn, a cloudless sunrise when the grass

Springs forth upon the earth, as sunshine soon

              After the rain.’ 5 Is not my family right

              With God? Has not the Rock of Israel

Produced an everlasting covenant,

              Arranged and guaranteed in every part?

              He’ll constantly look after my success

And safety, bringing my salvation to

              Fruition, granting my desires to me,

              6 But evil men are cast aside like thorns,

For these men cut the hand that cares for them.

              7 Whoever touches thorns is armed with tools

              Of iron or a spear shaft. They are burned             

To ashes and forgotten where they lie.”

              8 These are the names of David’s mighty men:

              The chief was Josheb-Basshebeth who came

From Tah-chemon, who had another name:

              Adino, who once killed eight hundred men

              In one encounter. 9 Next in rank to him

Was Eleazar, the son of Dodo and

              The grandson of Aholi, who was

              One of the three men who, with David, kept

The Philistines in check when all the rest

              Of Israel’s combatants ran away.

              10 He stood his ground and killed the Philistines

Until his hand became too tired to hold

              His sword, and God gave him a victory.

              The troops returned to Eleazar, but

Only to strip the dead of swords and gold.

              11 The next was Shammah son of Agee from

              Ephraim’s hills, who during an attack

Of Philistines, when all his men had fled,

              Deserting him, 12 he stood alone within

              The middle of a field of lentils, where

He overcame the Philistines, and God

              Accorded him an awesome victory.

              13 Once, during harvest time, three mighty men

Came down to David at Adullam’s cave,

              While in the valley of Rephaim, bands

              Of Philistines had camped, and Bethlehem

Was occupied, 14 and David’s stronghold was

              His home, protection from the Philistines.

              15 Longing for water, he remarked, ‟Oh, that

I could have some of that good water from

              The well beside the gate of Bethlehem!”

              16 So the three mighty men broke through the lines

Of Philistines, drew water from the well

              Beside the gate of Bethlehem, and took

              It back to David, who was overwhelmed

By such devotion, and refused to drink

              The water, so instead he poured it out

              Before the Lord and he exclaimed, 17 ‟No, God,

I cannot do it, for this is the blood

              Of men who risked their lives to quench my thirst.”

              18 Of those three men, Abishai, the brother

Of Joab and the son of Zeruiah,

              19 Was chief, for once he fought three hundred men

              All by himself and killed them all, and by

Exploits like these became as famous as

              The Three, although he was not one of them.

              20 Another hero was Jehoiada’s

Son, Benaiah, from a city in

              Southeastern Judah, Kabzeel. He killed

              Two giants, sons of Ariel of Moab.

Another time he climbed down in a pit,

              And though the ground was slippery, he took on

              A lion caught there and he killed the beast.

21 Another time, armed only with a staff,

              He battled an Egyptian warrior who

              Wielded a spear. He wrenched the spear away

From the Egyptian’s hand and stabbed the man

              To death with it. 22 Such were the deeds that made

              Him as renowned as the three Mighty Men.

23 One of the greatest of the Thirty Men,

              He was not one of the three Mighty Men,

              And David designated him to lead 

His bodyguard. 24 Another in the Thirty

              Was Asahel, the brother of fierce Joab,

              And others were: Elhanan, son of Dodo,

From Bethlehem, 25 and Shammah and 26 Elika,

              From Harod, near Gilboa’s mountains; Ira,

              The son of Ikkesh from Tekoa; then,

                            Mebunnai, Helez

From Anathoth, 27 Abi-ezer; from Ahoh,

              28 The warrior Zalmon; and Maharai             

              29 And Heleb, son of Baanah, who both

Came from a city in Judea close

              To Bethlehem, Netophah, ‟falling drops,”

              And Ittai, the son of Ribai, from

The tribe of Benjamin, from Gibeah;

              30 And Pirathonite Benaiah; then

              Was Hiddai, called also Hurai, from

The brooks of Gaash; 31 Abi-albon from

              The Arabah, a barren wilderness;

              Azmaveth, a Barhumite, whose name means

“As strong as death,” 32 Eliahba, whose name

              Means ‟God conceals,” for it’s God’s glory to

              Conceal a matter, from Sha-albon; next,

The sons of Jashen; Jonathan. 33 Next were

              The Hararites named Shammah and Ahiam

              The son of Sharar; 34 and Eliphelet,

Ahasbai’s son, from Maacah; Eliam,

              The son of David’s able counselor, Ahithophel,

              From Gilo; 35 Hezro from Carmel; and next,

From Arba, Paarai; 36 then Igal, son

              Of Nathan, from the Aramean land

              Of copper, Zobah; then a Gaddite, Bani;

37 An Ammonite named Zelek; Naharai

              From Be-eroth, the armor bearer of

              The general Joab, son of Zeruiah;

38 Ira and Gareb, both from Ithra; 39 last,

              Uriah the Hittite, of David’s fall,

              With thirty-seven Mighty Men in all.

SECOND SAMUEL CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR:

David Counts the Fighting Men

1 Again God’s anger burned against the men

              Of Israel, and He provoked the king

              Against them, saying, ‟David, go and take

A census of the nation: Israel

              And Judah.” 2 So the king told Joab, his

              Commander of his army, ‟Go throughout

The land, from Dan to Beer-sheba. Take

              A census of the fighting men, so I

              May know how many men I have for wars,”

3 But Joab said, ‟God grant that you may live

              To see the day when God has multiplied

              Your troops a hundred times more than you have

Today, but why do you my lord the king

              Delight in such a thing?” 4 The king did not

              Reply, but what he ordered overruled

The remonstrance of Joab, so he left

              The king, and with his officers he went

              To count the fighting men of Israel.

5 At first they crossed the Jordan, and pitched camp

              Near Aroer, south of where a city sat

              Within a gorge of Gad, near Jazer, 6 then

They went to Gilead and to the land

              Of Tahtim Hodshi, then to Dan Jaan,

              And then around to Sidon, 7 then went toward

The fortress, Tyre, and all the Hivites’ towns,

              Then all the towns of Canaanites, and south

              To Judah, far as Beer-sheba. 8 When

The men had gone throughout the land, they came

              Back to Jerusalem. It took nine months

              And twenty days to finish counting men,

9 And Joab told the king how many men

              There were: eight hundred thousand fighting men

              In Israel, five hundred thousand in

The land of Judah, able-bodied men

              Who handled swords. 10 But David’s conscience struck

              Him when the census was completed, which

Made him exclaim to God, ‟I’ve sinned in what

              I’ve done. O Lord, I beg you, take away

              Your servant’s guilt. I’ve done a wicked thing.”

11 Next morning Gad, the prophet, David’s seer,

              Received a word from God: 12 ‟Tell David, ‛This

              Is what the Lord says: I am giving you

Three choices, and you must choose one of them

              For me to carry out against you,’” 13 so

              Gad journeyed to the king and asked him, ‟Shall

There come upon you famine, seven years

              Long in the land, or fleeing for three months

              From enemies, or to submit to three

Days of the plague across your land? Now, think

              This over and decide what I should tell

              The one who sent me.” 14 David said to Gad,

‟This is a hard decision, but let us

              Fall into God’s hands, for his mercy’s great.

              But do not let me fall into men’s hands.”

15 And so the Lord that morning sent a plague

              On Israel which lasted for three days.

              Seventy thousand people were struck dead

Throughout the land, 16 but when the angel stretched

              His hand to decimate Jerusalem,

              The Lord was grieved due to the misery

And told death’s angel, ‟Enough! Hold back

              Your hand.” The angel of the Lord was by

              The threshing floor owned by a Jebusite,

Araunah, 17 when the king saw him and told

              The Lord, ‟I am the one who’s sinned! These are

              But sheep. What have they done? Lord, let your hand

Fall on your servant and his family.”

              18 That day the prophet Gad came to the king

              And said, ‟Go up and build an altar to

The Lord upon Araunah’s threshing floor.”

              19 So David heeded God’s command and went,

              20 And when Araunah saw the king and his

Officials coming towards him, he went out

              And fell upon the ground, his face in dust.

              21 ‟Why have you come?” Araunah asked. The king

Replied, ‟To buy your threshing floor, so I

              Can build an altar to the Lord, and He

              Will stop the plague that devastates this land.”             

22 ‟Use anything you like,” Araunah told

              The king, ‟for I have oxen you may use

              For the burnt offering, and you can use

The threshing sledges and ox yokes for wood

              To build a fire upon the altar. 23 I

              Will give it all to you, and may the Lord

Your God accept your sacrifice, O king.”

              24 But David told Araunah, ‟No, I will

              Not have it as a gift. I will buy it,

For I don’t want to sacrifice to God

              Burnt offerings that cost me nothing,” so

              He paid Araunah for the threshing floor

And oxen, 25 then he built an altar there

              To God and sacrificed burnt offerings

              And offerings of peace, a fragrant smell,

So God then stopped the plague on Israel.