David has now departed from his wife, his home, his military position, and his best friend. Saul’s rage against him could not be kindled neither by prophet (Samuel), nor prince (Jonathan). Where has he left to turn?
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” 2 And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” 4 And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” 6 So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.
7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord. His name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s herdsmen.
8 Then David said to Ahimelech, “Then have you not here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” 9 And the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down in the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here.” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me.” ~1 Samuel 21:1-9
David runs to the tabernacle and turns to Ahimelech the priest.
Many a good man will seek refuge in the house of God when none can be found in his own house.
Unfortunately, likely due to all David has been through at the hands of his superiors, he acts out of character in his interactions with the godly man. David lies to the one man who was certain to better help him if he’d told the truth. Why would such a faithful and truthful man resort to this kind of behavior?
David was hard pressed on every side. His faith was weakened by it. Matthew Henry observes this: “People should be free with their faithful ministers. David was a man of great faith and courage, yet now both failed him, and he fell this foully through fear and cowardice, and both owing to the weakness of his faith…Oppression makes a wise man do foolishly.”
Nevertheless, God’s grace, mercy, and sovereign will protects and provides for David despite his deceitful words and lack of faith. David requests two things of the priest – bread and a sword.
The bread David was given was holy. The only reason he was able to receive it was because he was holy. Surely, he could not have eaten of this bread had he not kept himself pure from the world. But how was he holy if he was lying to the priest?! Hebrews helps us:
14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. ~Hebrews 10:14
Secondly, the sword David was given was Goliath’s. There were no swords to be found in God’s house, save the one David himself had fought so valiantly for. Why?
This sword was a reminder of God’s help and provision to all of God’s people. It was a booster for the faith of the godly. This sword was proof of God’s goodness as well as his gracious miracles delivered to his needy children. The sword that was once held against them, now works for their good. How much more of an encouragment must it have been to David himself, who actually overcame that enemy personally!
As all of this takes place in the tabernacle, Doeg, an enemy-traitor, lurks beligerently in the hosue of God contrary to his own will. The text tells us he is “detained” there.
What a picture we have here of a godly man’s struggle. How closely we can relate to his fears, his needs, his failures, and God’s faithfulness.
Often, in distress, the godly will go to the right places. We will turn to the right people. Yet the temptation to disobey God in the details is often great – especially after a long, oppressive battle with the enemy. Like David, we want desperately to believe and trust in other godly people, but our past experiences with corruption in leadership have weakened our faith to a place of sinful doubt.
Nevertheless, God’s faithfulness remains. His grace, mercy, and sovereign will protects and provides for our good despite our deceitful words and gross lack of faith. He gives us the bread of life and the sword of the Spirit to sustain us for the remaining battles to come.
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself. ~2 Timothy 2:13
If we expect to be able to eat of the holy bread from heaven, we must first be holy. Like David, we must know God and honor his law – knowing full well we do often fail to carry it out perfectly, yet clinging to the promises in those times.
Finally, the only weapon we possess as God’s people is our sword – the Word of God. Like David with Goliath’s sword, the only way we will obtain it’s help when we are in desperate need is if we first have had the courage and initiative to fight valiantly for it when our faith was strong and our confidence was great.
Let us not forget that the enemy-traitor is always lurking, even within God’s house. But God is faithful to his children. Therefore, be holy. Eat the bread of heaven when the bread of adversity sits on your table. And never, never forget about your sword.