This was originally posted on my church’s blog. You can see the original post here.
First Samuel contains one of the famous stories of David running from Saul as Saul attempts to kill him. This is one of the epic stories with so many lessons to learn from. I want to focus in on 1 Samuel 20 and the story in the chapters that follow.
In 1 Samuel 20, Jonathan comes up with a plan with David, plans to talk to his father to figure out his intent toward David. When Jonathan sees the anger of Saul, Jonathan sends the signal to David of Saul’s intent to kill him. Immediately David is on the run. That brings us to 1 Samuel 21, where David comes to the city of Nob and meets with Ahimelek, who is the priest.
Upon arrival, Ahimelek sees David traveling alone, and you have to wonder if Ahimelek had some concerns. Sometimes we encounter situations that make us feel weird, like something is off, and I bet that was one of those situations for Ahimelek. He asks what David is doing, and instead of telling him what is going on, David lies and tells him that Saul sent him on a mission. And because of the haste by which he departed, he left without food. Ahimelek, trusting David’s intent, tells David he’d love to give him food but only has the consecrated bread meant for the temple.
You almost wonder if Ahimelek offered it up thinking David wouldn’t take it. But David takes the consecrated bread. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Alarm bells had to be going off when David took that bread, that God was sending him a signal of “Stop in your tracks, seek my guidance.”
Next, not deterred by the bread, David asks for a weapon. He tells Ahimelek the mission was so urgent he made off without one. Ahimelek only has the sword of Goliath, which had been kept in remembrance of a great victory for the nation of Israel. You wonder if he offered it up thinking David wouldn’t take it. But, just as David took the bread, he took the sword.
If you read on to 1 Samuel 22:6-23, Saul figures out Ahimelek helped David. I’ll let them tell their story…
Saul said to him (Ahimelek), “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and inquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?”
Ahimelek answered the king, “Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.”
But the king said, “You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.”
Saul is incensed by the help given to David by Ahimelek. When confronted, Ahimelek’s response is that he knew nothing of the feud and that David is respected. Since he was respected and trusted, he trusted David’s words… how was I supposed to know?! Despite Ahimelek’s pleading that he did not know the situation, Saul has no mercy. Ahimelek and 85 others are killed because of their connection to David.
We don’t know what David was thinking when he told Ahimelek the untrue story. He could have been trying to protect him by giving him deniability. He could have been trying to ensure he got what he needed, doing it within his own power instead of seeking out God’s counsel. We don’t know, but what we do know is that David’s deception resulted in the death of 85 people.
The response from David is understandable, and one I’m sure we can relate to. We can definitely learn from it. First, when we rely on our own knowledge instead of God’s wisdom, we can ignore the clear signs of God along the way. Ahimelek only having the consecrated bread and Goliath’s sword? You know that probably would have set off David’s alarm bells in a normal situation. But in this desperate situation, David ignored those bells. We don’t know if that was because he didn’t hear them or heard them and plowed forward, but we do know the signs were missed.
And next, our sin has consequences for others. When we look through a personal lens, we don’t often think of the consequences sin has on those around us. The signs we ignored result in pain for someone else.
If you are that someone else, know that sometimes the consequences we face aren’t because of our sin but the sin of others. It’s easy to see the difficulty you’re having and think that God is punishing you. Sometimes our struggle has nothing to do with us.
But if you are the someone who is hearing the alarm bells and are deciding to pay attention to them or not, take a page from David’s book. Pause, listen to the Holy Spirit, and make the right choice.