Summary: David fleeing for his life.
1 SAMUEL 211-15 DAVID.
My father loves ‘country’ music. We grew up with it playing in the house constantly, in the car – in fact it seemed to haunt our every move. One of the songs my dad used to sing along with, and unlike me he can actually sing, had these lines:
‘I never promised you a rose garden, along with the sun there has to be a little rain sometimes.’
You may even know the song. I always find it very intriguing how many people, Christian people, believe that when they repented of their sin and invited Christ into their life that life from that moment on would be all sunshine and no rain. It is almost like they think: I have become a Christian now God guarantees me health, wealth and happiness. Friends nothing, nothing could be further from the truth. And nothing could be further from our human experience. Turn with me to 1 Samuel 21 and together we will see a ‘man after God’s own heart’ in the depths.
Let me set the background to this passage for you. It is always vital that a passage in the bible is placed in its context and background. David, as we saw last Sunday, had been anointed king by Samuel, he has defeated Goliath in battle, and become chief harp player to Saul. In recognition of his victory over Goliath David has been given Michal, Saul’s daughter in marriage. He has struck up a close friendship with Jonathon, Saul’s son but has had to flee for his life because Saul has tried on two occasions to kill him. He initially flees to Samuel at Ramah and they go to Naoith. But David then flees from there to Nob and the tabernacle of the Lord.
You see each and every crutch in the life of David was being removed. He had a ‘good position’ in the palace and he lost it. He had a wife and he lost her. He had wise counsellor in Samuel and he lost him. He had a close and trusted friend in Jonathon and he lost him. And as we will see at the end of chapter 21 he had lost even his self-respect. One by one the crutches of his life were removed. Before we turn to chapter 21 turn back to chapter 20 and verse 3. The words spoken by David here are important – ‘there is only a step between me and death.’ Why are these words important? Because it was at this moment that ‘fear’ entered the heart of David and ‘faith’ in God and his Word to David began to crumble. This would lead him to flee from the palace to Naoith, back to Jonathon and then to Nob – where we meet him in 21.1.
Verses 1-6 – David has fled to Nob, which was about 1.5 miles northeast of Jerusalem. It was the dwelling place for the Tabernacle and it was served by 86 priests, of whom Ahimelech (The King [God] is my brother) is the chief. When Ahimelech meets David he ‘trembles.’ We are not told why but it is reasonable to assume that he ‘trembles because he knows of the anger of Saul towards David and the danger that David’s presence places them all in. So he asks David ‘Why are you alone?’ ‘Why is no one with you?’ David lies – he makes up a story about being on a secret mission for the king and that his men are waiting in a ‘certain’ place for him. The word ‘certain’ there is a word used when trying to avoid answering a question – is a means of evasion. Maybe David does not want to place Ahimelech in any danger but the Scriptures simply report his answer – they do not seek to condone or justify the answer David gives. The Bible is very honest about its heroes and their failings.
David then makes a request of Ahimelech – ‘give me bread’. David had to flee in such haste, in such panic that he had no time to pack provisions. Ahimelech informs him that the only bread which he has is the ‘bread of Presence.’ This bread was placed every Sabbath on the holy table. There were 12 loaves, one loaf for each tribe of Israel. The priests were allowed to eat the bread after it had been replaced. This bread symbolised the sustaining presence and provision of God for his people. David asks for this bread – interesting the ‘holy bread’ becomes David’s ‘daily bread’. Even in the midst of this trial for David God was providing for him. Ahimelech inquires of David if he and his men are ceremonially clean – because no one who is not ceremonially clean can eat of the bread of presence. David assures Ahimelech that not only have they kept themselves from women but that they have departed in such haste that women were kept from them. In the second book of Samuel we will encounter Uriah the Hittite and how he refused to sleep with his wife during military action – unlike King David at that time – but that is a story for another day.