The red poppy became a symbol of bloody conflict after the Great War of 1914-18 had claimed so many young lives on the poppy-carpeted fields of Europe. But also during that war white poppies had been imposed on conscientious objectors by women in the street because they had not volunteered to go to The Front. They were viewed as cowards, even though they had abstained in moral protest at the taking of human life. For them, too, the war years were painful. They were despised and, either shunned in public, or confronted, spat upon, denied employment, and even sent to prison. And if any soldier came home on leave as a newly convinced C.O., he would be court martialed and shot dead for desertion.
‘David of Bethlehem, C.O.’?
Although young David willingly killed lion, bear and Philistines, like a C.O. of deep conviction he refused to assassinate reprobate King Saul (who had continuously attempted to exterminate him}, even when he found His Majesty defenceless and accessible. On one occasion Saul entered his cave to relieve himself, laying aside his royal coat from which David cut some material. And one night David discovered Saul and his bodyguard sound asleep under the stars with a spear conveniently planted upright by his pillow (see 1 Samuel 24:1-23; 26:1-25).
Saul receives two memorable gifts of bread and wine
When David was sent by his father to become a court musician, to relieve Saul’s demonic attacks, he brought with him ‘a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat’ (1 Samuel 16:20). This gift may well have caused Saul’s heart to miss a beat by recalling the day when he was unexpectedly called by the Lord to be Israel’s first king. ‘Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head … and said, ‘… you shall reign over the people of the Lord … And this shall be the sign to you’ – among several successive encounters, ‘Three men … will meet you…, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread and another carrying a skin of wine. And’ not only that, but ‘you will meet a group of prophets … with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre … prophesying. Then the spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man’ 1 Samuel 10:1-6).
But all that initial dynamic had been lost through his presumptuous disobedience to the Lord’s directions: ‘Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit … tormented him’, while ‘the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David’ when ‘Samuel … anointed him in the midst of his brothers’ (1 Samuel 16:13-14).
Saul’s tragic end
Eventually Saul died in disgrace on the battlefield as a suicide. ‘Bread and wine’ did not convey God’s blessing on him. He was like one who ‘eats and drinks judgement on himself’ as did ‘many’ partakers of the Lord’s Supper at Corinth who became ‘weak and ill, and some … died’ (1 Corinthians 11:27-34). And Judas Iscariot went from ‘the last supper’ and ‘hanged himself’ (Matthew 26:5).