READ: 1 Samuel 21-23
BACKGROUND: By Verse –
21:4 – consecrated bread = The Bread of the Presence which is 12 cakes of bread set before God which represent the 12 tribes of Israel (described in Exodus 25:23-20).
7 – Doeg being “detained” means that he needed cleansing, likely that he had leprosy.
9 – The ephod is a garment worn by the priest when approaching the altar.
10 – Define irony: David fleeing to Philistine territory for safety while wearing Goliath’s sword.
13 – The second time in this chapter that David hasn’t just trusted God. He lied to the priest about his “mission” from Saul and then acted like an idiot because he was afraid.
22:7 – Saul was a Benjamite. He is appealing to tribal jealousy and loyalty.
22 – David accepts responsibility for his role in this horrific incident.
23:17 – Jonathan was a highly skilled commander and warrior. And the son of the king. He could very easily have been a serious rival to David. But Jonathan knew the Lord and trusted him, and he believed that God’s will was best so he was a great friend to David.
THINK: The story of the priest Ahimelech taking care of David and his men when they were hungry and in need is a really cool story because it’s one that Jesus referred to specifically in his teaching. When the Pharisees confronted Jesus about the fact that his disciples weren’t properly keeping the Sabbath, Jesus reminded them of this story. The disciples were committing the heinous crime of gathering some food to eat (which, in fact, was not against the Law but only against the extra laws that the Pharisees had added). And Jesus recalled how, in a time of hunger and need, Ahimelech fed David and his men sacred bread that only the priests were allowed to consume. This was technically against the law (and certainly a deeper violation of the letter of the law than what Jesus’ disciples were doing) and yet Jesus held it up as an admirable act that reflected the heart of God.
On the surface that seems odd. At least it does to me. Why would Jesus look to the story of someone who broke the law as an example that the Pharisees ought to learn from? The answer is found in another passage from the Old Testament that Jesus references in his discussion with the Pharisees, Hosea 6:6. Here, God says “I desire chesed and not sacrifice.” So what is chesed? It is this amazing word in Hebrew that doesn’t really have a great English cognate. It is often translated as mercy, faithfulness, love, or lovingkindness. It is all of these rolled into one. It is ultimately an enduring and loyal and deep love which shows kindness and mercy to its object. Jesus is saying that chesed is a critical part of who God is and how he acts and that when our actions line up with that – when they display chesed – we are reflecting God’s heart.
The problem that the Pharisees had was that they ignored God’s heart and instead attempted to self-righteously follow the letter of the law so that everyone could see how good they were and so that they could earn their way into God’s grace. I think we often do the same thing. It may not play out in the exact same way as it did with the Pharisees, but the result isn’t much different. We reduce faith and Christianity to a set of rules that must be followed instead of a relationship that must be engaged. And we judge ourselves (and others) based on our ability to avoid breaking the letter of the law instead of based on how we reflect and share God’s love with those around us. It is really easy to slip in to this! To make Christianity simply a list of don’ts. And to pat ourselves on the back when we “don’t.” But when we allow ourselves to slip into that type of thinking then we, like the Pharisees, miss the point completely. God is calling us to be like Ahimelech – to be more concerned with showing compassion on those in need than we are with our own self-righteousness. God’s greatest concern isn’t that we master the art of not doing bad stuff, it is that we align our hearts with his and show his love to the people around us that desperately need it!
PRAY: Ask God to help you show his chesed to those around you – to open your eyes to those in need. Confess the times when you have self-righteously reduced your walk with God to following a list of rules while ignoring the chance to reflect his heart to your world.