Holy God, may I look at the past with thanksgiving, the present with faith, and the future with hope.
Read 1 SAMUEL 21
David at Nob
21 [a]David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”
2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”
4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.”
5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever[b] I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
7 Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.
8 David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.”
9 The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”
David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”
David at Gath
10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”
12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.’1
Many commentators harshly condemn David for his lies, especially for bringing death on the priests of Nob in the next chapter. Yet it is difficult to know what he could have done differently. Perhaps he could have avoided the priests altogether, but he needed help. If he had told Ahimelek the truth, the man could not have helped him without being accused of treason, while David’s lies at least gave him a cloak of innocence. David also could not have foreseen Saul’s ruthless massacre of the priests: the holiness of the priesthood made this a particularly heinous act. Nevertheless, we feel some discomfort about David’s attitude and it is a good reminder that he is not perfect and has some growing to do. Yet God sees the potential, even behind false starts and mistakes, and he gives David (and us) the benefit of the doubt. David under pressure acts differently from Saul. Whereas Saul usurped priestly rights by offering a sacrifice despite being told to wait for Samuel,2 David asks – he does not forcefully take from the priest (vs 3,8).3
Although God is not mentioned, there are hints that he is providing for David. Despite his initial suspicion (v 1), Ahimelek bends over backwards to help David, even breaking the law by giving him consecrated bread (v 4) that only the priests are permitted to eat.4 As so often before, God’s favor on David elicits loyalty and help from others. Additionally, there is a symbolism in his receiving bread from a priest and the sword with which he fought God’s battle against Goliath, hinting at divine support. Likewise, David is rescued when he makes an error of judgment about going to the Philistines. God is generous in his provisions.
Thank God for being generous in helping us out of trouble, even when our mistakes landed us in it. Pray for growth in godliness as we learn from the past.
Gracious Father, may I serve you loyally. In situations where sorrow, shame, and pain abound may I point others clearly to you.
1 Ps 34:8 2 1 Sam 13:9 3 SB Chapman, 1 Samuel as Christian Scripture, Eerdmans, 2016, p175 4 Lev 24:5–9
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.