David on the Run — David eats the Holy Bread & Jesus comments to the Pharisees.
Reading 1: 1 Samuel 21
Reading 2: Psalm 34
Reading 3: Matthew 12:1-8
Today we read about David on the run – he leaves his closest friend Jonathan and is forced to flee for his life, going first to Ahimelech the priest. David and his men have no food and no right to demand support of the people because they are outcasts from the king’s court, but they can seek nourishment from God, and that is exactly what Ahimelech gives them. The sacred bread, just removed from the Tabernacle, was reserved for priests to eat, but Ahimelech gives them what they are not allowed. This foreshadows God’s grace in Jesus, giving us forgiveness that we do not deserve and have no right to claim.
Ahimelech also arms David with the spear of Goliath, which had been kept since David conquered the Philistine giant earlier. And so David and his men escape to the territory of the Philistine king Achish. His presence there is very worrying to Achish’s officers because they know David’s reputation in the nation, versus Saul’s jealousy and bitter anger. So to escape from these suspicious enemies, David feigns insanity so the king sends him away.
Imagine David’s internal conflicts in the midst of his challenges: he has been anointed as the next king but the current king sees him as a mortal enemy, he is surrounded by pagan enemies who want to take advantage of the animosity between Saul and David, but who also oppose God’s people and want to see them all wiped out. All these conflicting demands and focuses are operating in David’s heart, but Psalm 34 shows us how he resolves those competing thoughts: he trusts God, depends on God’s provision and intervention, and refuses to turn his back on God’s standards.
Incidentally, scholars all agree that the introduction to Psalm 34 refers to the same incident as 1 Samuel 21. The Philistine king is called Achish in 1 Samuel, and Abimelech in Psalm 34 (intro). This is not a contradiction because Abimelech means “My father is king” or “I inherited my kingship” and is thus a generic title (like Pharaoh) rather than the name of the king.
In Matthew 12, Jesus refers to the incident where David and his men are given the holy bread as a rebuke to the Pharisees who think they are right to criticize Jesus for allowing His disciples to “break” the Law. Jesus is clear that the intent of the Law, and the Lawgiver, is to promote mercy more than rigid obedience. There is a deeper principle at work than “Can you keep all the detailed requirements of the Law?” The principle is “God wants you to experience His generous mercy, even though you can’t keep yourself holy by your own efforts.” And that is why Jesus came: “the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Have a great day!