Sermon preached on June 28, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
When I taught school I had a student named B. He was a cute little guy who was smaller than most of the other students. When I had him as a student he would have been 11 or 12 years old. If he had been a brilliant student he would have been what we would have referred to as a 'nerd' or a 'geek'. He had that look about him—that he was different, a little odd. But one of the problems with B. was that he wasn't very bright. That's why he was in my class as I taught special ed.
One day I noticed that B. wasn't in class. I just figured that he was sick and didn't take any notice of it except to note that he was absent. He also wasn't in school the next day. I never thought much of it again. But later that day the principal come to my room and told me that B. had been found hanging out in the Post Office lobby. We didn't know it at the time but what had happened was that a boy in another class had threatened to beat up B. and B. was afraid to come to school. So he was skipping school and hanging around the Post Office. Someone who worked in the Post Office had noticed him hanging around there and asked him why he wasn't in school. B. told them that the teacher's had a workshop and that there was no school. They knew it was a lie and immediately called the school. As soon as my principal heard about it he came up with an idea to teach B. a lesson. The principal had a good friend who was a Mountie (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) so he phoned him up and found out he was working that morning and then he asked him to go to the Post Office, pick up B., and bring him to school in the police car. The plan was to put a good scare into B. so that he wouldn't skip school anymore.
So the policeman drove up to the Post Office is his police car, got out and walked into the Post Office lobby with the scariest scowl he could put on. When he saw B. he bellowed out to him,
"B.! Why aren't you in school!"
B. never batted and eye and answered,
"The teacher's have a workshop today, sir. I don't have any school."
The Mountie told us later that B. put on a good act. He acted confident, unafraid and normal when he was questioned. But the problem was that his lie was no good. The worker at the Post Office had seen through it right away. Maybe he had kids in school himself and knew right away because of that. Or maybe he had glanced out the window at the school that was not far from the Post Office and saw that it was open. B.'s lie was weak, not believable. It didn't fool anyone.
David's lies to Ahimelech were a lot like that. They're unbelievable. They weren't likely to fool anyone. David told Ahimelech a couple of whoppers. The first one was outrageous and pretty weak. He told Ahimelech that Saul had sent him on a secret mission and that he couldn't tell anyone it and that the reason he was alone was because his men were going to meet him later. But his second lie was even weaker. He asked for a weapon. He told Ahimelech that the reason he didn't have a weapon was because Saul sent him away in such a hurry. That's unbelievable. Surely there would have been a sword nearby that David could have borrowed. His lie was pathetic. I'm sure that Ahimelech saw through his lies. David's lies remind me of kind of lies that unsophisticated children would tell.
I think the lies show David's desperation. He thinks that he's in real trouble. I'm sure it seemed that he had no one left to support him, to save him. Jonathan had saved him once but he's now helpless to save David again. Michal had saved David's life as well, but he can't go back to his home. Saul would be sure to have it watched. Michal can do no more for David. Samuel had saved David once as well. When Saul came to get David there the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and his men and David was saved. But apparently Samuel had told David that he had to flee. The Spirit's taking over Saul was only temporally. David could not go to Samuel any longer. It seemed that David had used up all his help. He was now alone, without supporters, without food, without a weapon.
David's confused and it's like he's panicking. He resorts to very unusual and pathetic behavior. He lies to Ahimelech. By going to Ahimelech he puts him in jeopardy. Indeed, David's actions here led to the killing of Ahimelech and 84 other priests of the Lord. Not only that but the whole town of Nob was put to the sword—and the men, women, children and animals were killed. It was all because David went there. As David later said to Abiathar, who had escaped, (1 Samuel 22:22)
"I am responsible for the death
of your father's whole family."
What a section of Scripture. Although there are many things that are confusing about this passage—there are some clear lessons here—lessons that teach us about God, about ourselves and what our faith should be like.
The first thing we should see from our text here is that
it shows that God is faithful.
God had promised that David was going to be king and what we see in this passage is God taking care of David. God was not going to let David die of hunger and exhaustion. God provided him with bread from the priests of the Lord at Nob. Although the bread was only for the priests, David asked for it and it was given to him.
It's interesting that this passage contain a parallel to what happened to Saul after he had been anointed king by Samuel. When Saul left Samuel, he was presented with loaves of bread by three men who were going up to God at Bethel. (1 Samuel 10:3-4) Something similar happen to David here. David leaves Samuel and he is given bread to sustain him on his journey. The point in both instances is that God provided sustenance for His anointed king. God was going to provide for the one He wanted to be king. Dale Davis writes, (p. 27)
"in the confusion and danger and fear David received daily bread."
God was not going to let David perish. When David was deprived of ordinary food—God provided him with sacred food.
In a way our passage teaches us the same lesson that was taught to the people of Israel in the wilderness when God provided them with manna to eat. God will not let His people perish. We are taught the same lesson in the provision that God made for Elijah and the widow of Zarephath when Elijah told her that the jar of flour would not be used up and the jug of oil would not run dry until the Lord gave rain on the land. God will provide for His people.
This is also what Jesus taught us when He was confronted with hunger and the temptation of Satan to turn the stones into bread. You'll remember that Jesus was hungry after 40 days of fasting and the tempter came to Him and urged Him to stop trusting in His Father, take things into His own hands and turn the stones into bread. Jesus refused and rebuffed Satan and said, (Matthew 4:4)
"It is written:
'Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word
that comes from the mouth of God.'"
The source of our lives is not in food, but as John Calvin says,
"the secret blessing of God."
Calvin writes about Satan's temptation and Jesus answer,
"You advise me to contrive some remedy, for obtaining relief in a different manner from what God permits. This would be to distrust God; and I have no reason to expect that he will support me in a different manner from what he has promised in his word. You, Satan, represent his favor as confined to bread: but Himself declares, that, though every kind of food were wanting, his blessing alone is sufficient for our nourishment."
Thus we should see here that God was providing for David. He was not going to let him starve.
Indeed, it is clear from the New Testament that God approved of David taking the sacred bread. In Mark 2 we read that the Pharisee saw Jesus' disciples plucking some heads of grain as they were walking through the grainfields on the Sabbath Day. They spoke to Jesus about it and said that they were doing what was not lawful on the Sabbath. Jesus replied, (Mark 2:25-28)
"'Have you never read what David did
when he and his companions
were hungry and in need?
In the days of Abiathar the high priest,
he entered the house of God
and ate the consecrated bread,
which is lawful only for priests to eat.
And he also gave some to his companions.'
Then he said to them,
'The Sabbath was made for man,
not man for the Sabbath.
So the Son of Man is Lord
even of the Sabbath.'"
Jesus quoted this incident and used it (in part) to justify what His disciples were doing. Jesus approved of David taking the consecrated bread. It was part of God's care for David.
There are two important lessons in this for us.
The first one is very simple lesson yet it's one that we often overlook. It's this:
If you're eating—that's a sign that God is being faithful to you and that ought to be a sign to you that He's going to sustain you and see you through to glory.
David was headed for glory. God had promised him that he was going to be king over Israel. God was not going to let David starve to death. Dale Davis writes, (p. 218)
"One may be under a heavy load, boxed in and pressed down under various vocational, emotional, spiritual, or circumstantial pressures. But am I still eating every day? At least once? Doesn't God's small provision in my big problems tell me something? Doesn't it assure me that God has not yet cast me off?"
God's faithfulness to you in a thing like eating should assure you that God is going to sustain you.
A second lesson about God here is that
God will do what He has threatened.
Ahimelech the priest was Eli's great grandson. King Saul killed Ahimelech because he helped David. Ahimelech was cut down in the prime of his life by the sword of Doeg the Edomite.
But what we must not miss in all this is that this was this was to fulfill the Word of the Lord. God carry out what He has threatened.
You'll remember that because of Eli's failure to restrain his son's in their sin his whole family line was cursed. In 1 Samuel 2:30-33 a man of God came to Eli and delivered God's message to Eli. God said,
"Those who honor me I will honor,
but those who despise me
will be disdained.
The time is coming when I will cut short
your strength and the strength
of your father's house,
so that there will not be an old man
in your family line
and you will see distress in my dwelling.
Although good will be done to Israel,
in your family line there will never be an old manÖ
all your descendants will die in the prime of life."
Ahimelech was soon going to be put to death by Saul. God's threat was soon going to be made real in Ahimelech.
This is something that you who are not Christians should pay close attention to. If you don't do what God says He will bring to pass in your life what He has threatened.
As Jesus said in Matthew 7:26-27,
"But everyone who hears these words of mine
and does not put them into practice
is like a foolish man
who built his house on sand.
The rain came down, the streams rose,
and the winds blew and beat against that house,
and it fell with a great crash."
Don't fool yourself. If you don't believe in Jesus you're going to be lost. As the apostle Peter said in Acts 4:12,
"Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."
You must believe in Him. You must follow Him in order to be saved.
You must be in Jesus. You must do His will. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:21,
"Not everyone who says to me,
'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will
of my Father who is in heaven."
The second major thing our text shows us is that
your faith needs to be multidirectional.
What I mean by that is that your faith needs to protect you from all sides. In Ephesians 6 we are told to put on the whole armor of God faith is likened to a shield. Paul wrote, (verse 16)
"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one."
The thing about a shield is that it is supposed to move to meet different attacks. If an arrow is coming from the left side, the shield should move to meet that arrow and protect the person. If the arrow is coming from high above, the shield should go up to meet it.
Your faith needs to operate like that. Our faith is in Jesus Christ and having Him our faith is be able to protect us from all directions. If you have Jesus your faith should not waver at any point. Jesus is able to protect us in all and every circumstance. But the point is that you need to move it to meet the oncoming threat—wherever it comes from.
Consider David. Before Goliath he was strong and courageous. I mean, wow, what an example of faith. It was his finest moment. He did not waver at all. His words and confidence were absolutely amazing. What a testimony he gave before all the people there. Because of David's faith there all the people came to know how great God's power is. They came to know how devoted He is to the safety and protection of His people.
But look at David before Ahimelech. He's not strong and courageous here. He's pathetic. He's like my little B. in the Post Office.
I think what happened to David was that he thought that his enemies would be only foreigners—Philistines and other peoples like them. So he prepared himself for that. He was ready to meet them head on without wavering. He was able to stand in front of Goliath and give such glory to God.
But he was not that way before Ahimelech. It's like he was not prepared to meet opposition that came from within Israel. He's ill prepared to have his own countrymen seeking his life. It's like he doesn't have his back covered. All of a sudden the attack is not coming from the front, from foreign enemies—but from Saul and his soldiers, and maybe even from some of the priests of the Lord. David needed to move his shield to cover his back. He should have been just as strong and confident in front of Ahimelech as he was in front of Goliath. But he wasn't.
And that's incredible. I mean, what he's facing in Abimelech is nothing compared with what he was facing when he was in front of Goliath. He passes the great test with flying colors. Yet he fails on the much easier test.
We see the same weakness in Abraham. Abraham's faith was so strong in some situations. When God told him that he was going to be a father and Sarah a mother—even though he was 99 and Sarah was 89—Abraham never wavered. He believed. When God told him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, he obeyed and made preparations to do it. He even took the knife in his hand to kill Isaac. As Hebrews 11:19 tells us,
that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking,
he did receive Isaac back from death."
But between those two episodes, there was an incident that Abraham was not prepared for. When Abraham moved to Gerar, he became afraid that he was going to be killed because of Sarah. So he told her to lie and tell everyone that she was his sister. King Abimelech took Sarah and was going to sleep with her. God appeared to Abimelech and told him that he had taken a married woman and that he was as good as dead. Abimelech protested that he hadn't known and God acknowledged that and ordered him to return her to Abraham. So Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, (Genesis 20:9-10)
"'What have you done to us?
How have I wronged you
that you have brought such great guilt
upon me and my kingdom?
You have done things to me that should not be done.'
And Abimelech asked Abraham,
'What was your reason for doing this?'"
Abraham told him that he did it because he was afraid that he would be killed on account of Sarah. He could also have said that he did it because his faith faltered. His shield wasn't in the right place.
What about you? Do you have your shield ready to move to wherever Satan's arrows come from? No doubt you're adept at placing it in one position. But are you ready to use it in another place?
We see something of the different ways that Satan can attack in the story of Job as well. Satan's first attack involved Job's possessions. Job lost all of them. But Job was ready. He wasn't serving God because God made it worth his while. Job's faith stood strong.
Even when Job found out that all his children had been killed, Job was ready. A lot of people wouldn't be ready to move the shield there. But Job moved his shield and greatly utilized it. You'll remember what he did. We read, (Job 1:20-21)
"At this, Job got up and tore his robe
and shaved his head.
Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
'Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.'"
Then Satan attacked in a different place. He attacked Job personally. He made him sick. Job moved his shield there. Some arrows got through and they hurt Job. But Job used his shield.
Then, in the midst of that, Satan used Job's wife to try to get to him. She urged Job to curse God and die. Job moved his shield. That was a hard one. I'm not sure that all of us would be able to move it there. But Job rebuked his wife and kept trusting in God.
But Satan was not finished. He had Job's three friends come to him. What a trial they were to Job. They told him that he was a great sinner. How they hurt Job. In Job 16:2 Job referred to them as 'miserable comforters'. In Job 13:4 he called them 'worthless physicians'. But Job resisted their accusations. He moved his shield.
Yet in all this God seemed to have abandoned Job. Job looked for Him but couldn't find Him. Job was in trouble, but God seemed to have deserted him. Job had to move his shield there.
You need to be like that. You need to be ready to exercise faith in whatever situation God places you.
We need to remember that our faith is in Jesus Christ and that having Him we need not be afraid of anything. Having Him our faith should not waver at any point. You Christians don't have an Achilles' heel. Your shield of faith can protect you if you use it.
Lastly, this passage shows that the true way of faith in Jesus is the way of righteousness.
There are two things in our text that show us this.
First, David lied. One theory is that David lied in order to protect Ahimelech. But it didn't save Ahimelech. Saul had Ahimelech and the priests of the Lord put to death.
Some people will tell you that lies are sometimes justified and that if you have a good purpose they can achieve a good result. They will point you to the words of the Hebrew midwives after Pharaoh ordered them to kill the Hebrew boy babies. Thy will point you to the lies of Rahab of Jericho, and how she hid the Hebrew spies and lied about it, and so saved them.
But you can't take an example like that turns out okay to prove a point that lying is justified in some cases. But look at David's lie here. It has a bad result. It doesn't save the priests of the Lord.
The rule of our life is God's Word. He tells us not to lie. He tells us to be like Him. The way of true faith consist of being holy, being like God, putting lies and the characteristics of the old nature behind us. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:4-7
"as servants of God
we commend ourselves in every way:
in great endurance; in troubles,
hardships and distresses;
in beatings, imprisonments and riots;
in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;
in purity, understanding, patience and kindness;
in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;
in truthful speech and in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness
in the right hand and in the left;"
The second thing in our text that shows us that the true way of faith is in the way of righteousness is the example of Doeg.
Verse 7 tells us that Doeg was detained there before the Lord. It says,
"Now one of Saul's servants was there that day,
detained before the LORD;
he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul's head shepherd."
Doeg was 'detained' there before the Lord. We're not sure of the exact meaning of the word here. In postbiblical Hebrew it meant detained 'for religious reasons'. (Tsumura) It has been suggested that Doeg was at Nob for some ceremonial purpose—either he had made a vow or was doing an act of penance.
Whatever it was, it's very ironic. Later, when Saul ordered his men to kill the priests of the Lord, they all refused. So Saul turned to Doeg and told him to kill the priests of the Lord. Doeg did so. He killed 85 priests of the Lord that day. He also put to the sword the whole town of Nob, men, women and children. Doeg was a very ungodly man. He did what ordinary soldiers refused to do. Yet he's at Nob for some religious purpose.
This shows us that you can be very religious and still not be saved. You can do lots of religious things, like go church, doing good deeds, doing penance—and still be far from God.
Don't fool yourself. Christianity is a matter of the heart. You need to believe in Jesus, trust Him, give your life to Him, and follow Him—walk in His ways, ways of righteousness. May God gives us grace to do so.