Art by Otto Elliger
Last week we got to the point where David and Jonathan realized that as long as David was around Saul he was not safe. So now we are on a completely new journey that David sets out on completely on his own. David’s first destination is a place called Nob which was just south of Gibeah, the place that David came from. Nob is a city dedicated to the priestly caste which is more than likely why David begins his journey here. Upon arrival, David meets a priest named Ahimelek who finds it strange that David is in Nob without any of the king’s men. David does a very interesting thing here. Rather than tell Ahimelek that he is fleeing, David lies and says that he is on a special mission from the king and requests that the priest give him food. The only thing that Ahimelek can offer is consecrated bread, which simply means that it is holy bread. His condition is that David and his “men” have abstained from women. Again, David continues his lie and says that they have. Not only does he lie about the fact that he is on a special mission from the king, but continues that lie when the priest asks if his “men” have abstained from women. It is also important to mention that not only does David lie in this instance but it was unlawful for him to have eaten the bread which was consecrated by the priest. So what can we do with this?
There is seriously a question of ethics here.
On the one hand you could argue that the situation called for David to lie so that he could eat and that ultimately the plan of God could be fulfilled. Also, this seems like a white lie that does not hurt anyone. However, on the other hand, you could argue that any lie, especially to a priest, is unethical by nature. Now I do not have an answer for you. But these are important things for you to think through now before you are faced with a situation where the question of morality is immediately in front of you. I will say that this story comes up again in the New Testament. In Matthew chapter 12, the Pharisees are upset by the fact that Jesus and His disciples were picking grain on the sabbath. Jesus responds by saying,
“Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.”.
While this does not specifically address David lying about his reasoning for being in Nob, Jesus never condemns David for his actions. That does not mean that lying is good in the eyes of Jesus. One could argue that it would have made more sense for Jesus to lie about His plans in or His mission yet he does not. But I encourage you to think about these things. Read and learn about ethics as much as possible so that you can be confident in the decisions you make. The story goes on with David now requesting weaponry. Amazingly enough, the only thing that Ahimelek has is the sword of Goliath which David probably sent there as an offering to show how the victory belonged to the Lord. So David accepts the sword and takes off towards a place called Gath. Scripture does not tell us why David went to Gath, however as soon as he is recognized by one of the king’s servants he immediately becomes fearful. Again, scripture does not tell us why he becomes fearful but it is safe to assume that his reputation put him at risk of either being disposed of or turned over to Saul. So rather than risk his life any further, David pretends to be insane and the king dismisses him as crazy.
David would go on to write Psalm 34 after his experience in Gath. In this Psalm David presents an overwhelming tone of thankfulness and appreciation for the Lord guiding him through a seemingly impossible situation. At this point in his story, David has witnessed God come to his aid over and over again. David realizes that though his path is growing increasingly difficult, God is on his side.
So David sets off to his next destination which is a place called Adullam. At this point David is still on his own. However, we see that somehow his family learned of his whereabouts and they went to him…with four hundred other men. This is a turning point in David’s story. He goes from being all alone and pretending to be insane, to having an army. Albeit an army much smaller than Saul’s but going from an army of one to 400 is very substantial. So David and his new crew go to Moab where the king allowed them to stay. However, their stay is short lived. Shortly after their arrival, the prophet Gad warns David that they should leave Moab immediately. His reason for this warning…Saul is coming. Saul receives information that David has made his way through Nob and he is coming to end the threat. So again Ahimelek the priest is center stage. Saul accuses Ahimelek of treason for his support of David. This is where Saul shows his true colors. Rather than understanding that Ahimelek was tricked by David, Saul orders his men to kill all of the priests in Nob and their families. Strangely enough, Saul’s officials refused to do as their king asked. However, a man named Doeg saw an opportunity to win the king’s favor and did the terrible task of killing all of the people of Nob including the livestock. Luckily, one man, the son of Ahimelek escapes to tell David of what happened. Again, we see a clash or morality here. Remember that Saul is the king of the Israelite people. So it is safe to assume that both Saul and his officials understand the morality that comes with being a follower of God. Yet, he orders his men to do something horrible even by the standards of pagans. Imagine the internal conflict that Saul’s men must have had in that moment. On the one hand, their king ordered them to do something. On the other hand, what he asked them to do is horrific. What do you do? As much as I hope that this is not a situation that you find yourself in, it is not unrealistic to think that it could happen. You may have a boss one day who wants you to do something that you deem unethical or against your morals. Do you do it? Are you willing to face the consequences if you do not? Similar to chapter 21, I do not have an answer for you and I cannot tell you what to do in those types of situations. But, I want you to think about these things now. It is my hope that you will be able to work through these difficult things now so that when a problem comes up, you will be prepared.
I cannot imagine being David in this situation. Running without the slightest idea of when you will be able to stop running. It would be really hard to not let this discourage you or even feel as if God has left you on your own. However, this is not the attitude that we see David adopt. Rather, he almost does the exact opposite. In Psalm 62 David acknowledges that Saul is pursuing him and may stop at nothing. However, this does not discourage David. He still recognizes the fact that his refuge remains in God and that God has sent him on a journey that He will ultimately see him through. What a great example for us. When life comes at you with its problems, turn to David and see that God has not and will not leave you. He is our refuge, our strength, and our salvation.