Summary: These sermons served as the foundation for Max’s newest book, Facing Your Giants. God wants to give us bread for our souls and a sword for the struggle.
1 Samuel 21: 1-9
These sermons served as the foundation for Max’s newest book, Facing Your Giants.
THEME: God wants to give us bread for our souls and a sword for the struggle.
Introduction: The desperate man sits in the corner of the church assembly. Dry mouth, moist palms. He scarcely moves. He feels out of place in a room of disciples, but where else can he go? He just violated every belief he cherishes. Hurt every person he loves. Spent a night doing what he swore he’d never do. And now, on Sunday, he sits and stares. He doesn’t speak. If these people knew what I did…
He could be an addict, a thief, a child beater, a wife cheater. He could be a she – single, pregnant, confused. He could be a number of people, for any number of people come to God’s people in his condition – hopeless, hapless, helpless.
How will the congregation react? What will he find? Criticism or compassion? Rejection or acceptance? Raised eyebrows or extended hands.
Transition: Our Hero, David, is also desperate.
I. David Is Desperate
David is on the lam, a wanted man in Saul’s court. His young face decorates post office posters. His name tops Saul’s to kill list. He runs, looking over his shoulder, sleeping with one eye open, and eating with his chair near to the restaurant exit.
What a blurring series of events. Was it just two or three years ago that he was tending flocks in Bethlehem? Back then the big day was watching sheep sleep. Then came Samuel, a ripe-old prophet with a fountain of hair and a horn of oil. As the oil covered David, so did God’s Spirit.
David went from serenading sheep to serenading Saul. The overlooked runt of Jesse’s litter became the talk of the town, King Arthur to Israel’s Camelot years, handsome and humble. Enemies feared him. Michal married him. Saul hated him.
After the sixth attempt on his life, David gets the point. Saul doesn’t like me. With a price on his head and a posse on his trail, he kisses Michal and life in the court good-bye and runs.
But where can he go? To Bethlehem and jeopardize the lives of this family? Into enemy territory and risk his own? That becomes and option later. For now, he chooses another hideout. He goes to church. “Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest” (1 Sam. 21:1).
Scholars point to a hill one mile northeast of Jerusalem as the likely site of the ancient city of Nob. There, Ahimelech, the great-grandson of Eli, headed up a monastery of sorts. Eighty-five priests served in Nob, earning it the nickname “the city of the priests” (1 Sam. 22:19). David rushes to the small town, seeking sanctuary from his enemies. David is desperate.
Transition: David is also seeking food.
II. David Is Desperate For Food.
His arrival stirs understandable fear in Ahimelech. He “was trembling” when he went to meet David. What brings a warrior to Nob? What does the son-in-law of the king want?
David buys assurance by lying to the priest. David tells him that he is on the king’s business and needs food (1Sam.21:2-3).
Desperate, David resorts to mistruth. This surprises us. So far David has been stellar, spotless, stainless – Snow White in a cast of warty-nosed witches. He stayed calm when his brother snapped; he remained strong when Goliath roared; he kept his cool when Saul lost his.
But now he lies like a mob don at confession. Blatantly. Convincingly. Saul hasn’t sent him on a mission. He’s not on secret royal business. He’s a fugitive. Unfairly, yes. But a fugitive none the less. And he lies about it.
The priest does not question David. He has no reason to doubt the skedaddler. He just has no resources with which to help him. The priest has bread, not common bread, but holy bread. The bread of the Presence. Each Sabbath the priest placed twelve loaves of wheat bread on the table as an offering to God. After a week, and only after a week, the priests, and only the priest, could eat the bread. (As if anyone wants week-old bread.) Nonetheless, Ahimelech’s options and clerical collar shrink.
David is no priest. And the bread has just been placed on the alter. What’s Ahimelech to do? Distribute the bread and violate the law? Keep the bread and ignore David’s hunger? The priest looks for a loophole: “There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread, if the young men have at least kept themselves from women” (1 Sam. 21:4).
Ahimelech wants to know if David and his men have been behaving. Blame it on the smell of fresh bread, but David responds with lie number two and a theological two-step. His men haven’s laid eyes, much less hands, on a girl. And the holy bread? David reasons, that it is oven baked and wheat based. Bread is bread.