36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 1 Samuel 17:36
David’s whole body tensed. It was not the roar of the young lion that made David freeze in his tracks, rather it was how close he was. David was unsure if the lion had even noticed him yet. He had watched him stalk his sheep for the last couple of hours. The lion would pounce rock to rock and then kneel down almost motionless while his eyes scanned the flock for the best meal that he was about to take. David was on guard. He was ready for the challenge. As he slowly added his rock into his sling he remembered his first training from his brother Eliab.
“Eliab, come here” Jesse shouted across the field. “Today, I want you to teach David how to use the sling.”
“But Dad, that could take all day. He doesn’t even own a sling.” Replied Eliab. “Why do I have to teach him? Is it just because I am the oldest?”
“You are the best teacher and you have the most patience with young David. Ya, will guide you. I have gathered the materials for you to help him make his first sling.” Jesse’s voice was confident and assuring. He was also determined which meant that Eliab would have to teach David.
It was a cool spring morning and mom had packed a small lunch of some bread and a little cheese for David and Eliab. They walked a short distance to an empty field, but stopped underneath the shade of a sycamore tree.
“When did you make your first sling? Who taught you how to make it? Have you killed anything with it?” David wanted to know everything at once.
“I was about your age when grandfather Babed taught me the art of making slings. He had the ability to make perfect braids which is part of the secret of a good sling. Yes, I have killed a wild dog that was after the flock. You can learn to be very accurate with a lot of practice.” Eliab was indeed a good teacher and David was a fast learner.
Eliab taught David how to make his first sling using 3 pieces of leather. He weaved a pouch to hold the small stones. The he added the two strands to make the sling. One was used as the hold which had a loop in the end of it and the other strand was used for the release. They had to unwind and start the braids over up a couple of times because David was not making the braids tight enough. Eliab taught David how to tie off the braids to make the sling strong.
David was so proud of his sling. He was a natural at learning the motion of twirling and releasing the stone. The hold loop is placed over the ring finger. Then the release end of the sling is held between the pointer finger and the thumb. A small rock is placed inside the pouch. The circular motion is started with the other hand slinging the pouch behind the head. About 3 revolutions are needed for a good speed. Accuracy comes from releasing the sling at the exact moment, which can be a challenge when you are a beginner. It is best to practice with no one around. Even Eliab hid behind the sycamore as David learned to control the flight of the stones.
They took a short break for lunch and continued conversations about using the sling.
“I’ve heard it said that a sling is a poor man’s weapon. Is it really a weapon or more of a toy for a boy?” David really wanted to know.
“Yes, it’s true that it is a very simple weapon. True warriors use swords and spears. But the best warriors are the one who have learned the skill at being an expert with their weapon of choice. I have heard that some of the best archers are those who are left handed. Your task is to be the most accurate sling thrower in our family. Ultimately it is Ya, who controls the flight of the stone. We give him our best and he protects us.” Eliab’s words brought a confidence in David.
He would strive to be the best in the family with a sling. Eliab had taught him that courage comes from practice, but also from encouragement from Ya.
“Thanks Eliab.” David was grateful for the instructions, but now he was returning to his playful childhood play acting. “Watch me Eliab! Ya has given me strength. I can bend a bow of bronze. Watch me as I run through all of the troops of the enemy. Look at me as I jump over a wall. Who is taller than me? I stand upon this rock. Ya is a rock that will be my salvation.”
Eliab was slightly annoyed. “David let’s get back to practicing with your sling. You will need to be much better than just throwing a rock. You will need to be able to hit a small object over 50 feet away if you are to be better than me. One day, you may have to defend the flock.”
David breathed in slowly and exhaled again. Under his breath he prayed for Ya to give him courage and to guide his sling. David knew that if he missed the lion, he might become its prey. He had one chance to wound the animal and then he could kill it.
He placed the rock in the pouch as he had done thousands of times before. Almost effortlessly he started the circular motion over his head. He could hear Eliab’s voice of instruction about finding the place of perfect release. The tension increased as he knew that the sound of the whirling stone would also get the lion’s attention.
The lion tensed and looked directly at David. His eyes narrowed and mouth widened as he wanted to let out a roar before he pounced in David’s direction. David released the stone and it was a direct hit on the lion’s head. Immediately the lion went limp. David raced toward him. Still cautious that he may only be stunned he approached him with a skilled stealth. David landed the final blow into the lion with his knife. Ya had given him victory.
David thought to himself, “I may be young, but Ya can use me to do great things.”