1 Samuel 21:1-9
This passage is one explicitly referenced by Jesus in three of the gospel accounts, so I don’t want to overthink this. The Mosaic Law forbade anyone other than the priests to eat the bread of the presence, but David leverages his authority in 1 Samuel 21 break this law and nourish his own need and the needs of his fellow soldiers. When Jesus references this story in Matthew 12, Luke 6 and Mark 2, it’s in defending the disciple’s from the accusations of the Pharisees for their having violated a technicality in Sabbath law. Jesus himself comes under fire in those passages for allowing his followers to undermine the law. He points the Pharisees to David in this passage.
The point for Jesus is two fold really… 1) The law exists to serve people and facilitate their needs, not the other other way around. Jesus is saying legitimizing David’s decision in this text, to break the law in this way in order to meet a real human need. 2) Jesus is the true and better David, who has all authority in heaven and on earth. If David and his followers could violate a technicality in the Mosaic Law to meet human need, how much more does the Sovereign Lord, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ have the right to apply the Law in a more liberal way that meets human need. David’s position in Israel gave him the authority to apply, or in this case, overrule the law, and Jesus’ position as the Son of God, gives him authority to apply the Law in a fresh way.
I wonder if there is any religious minutia or pet doctrines you apply narrowly or legalistically. I wonder if you have experienced the blunt end of other people’s legalism.
Is there any standard, practice, rule or “law” in your life personally, or within your family system or the people you walk closely with that is too legalistically or rigidly applied?
Framed differently, are there any rules that you adhere to or impose on others that are wise and intended to lead to life, but which in the enforcement of them, they are actually choking life out of you and others?
1 Samuel 21:10-22:5
I love this passage at the start of chapter 22. Look at the words of v. 2 again: “And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.” I love this. This is David. But this is Jesus.
Are we not those who are in distress about life and loss and uncertainty and turmoil? Are we not those who are in debt because of our sin and guilt? Are we not those who are bitter in soul over pains, disappointments, hurts, frustrations, and unmet longings and desires? And has Jesus not gathered us to himself? Has he not found us all in this place of need and desperation, this place of vulnerability and weariness? And he gathered us to himself, to one another, to give us a new start. He has repurposed us for glory. He is now our captain, our commanding officer from whom we take orders and whose authority we submit to and follow. David characterizes to these 400 men what Jesus represents and is to the whole world if only we’ll hold fast to him and throw our lot in with Him who has gathered us to himself and his kingdom. This is such beautiful gospel declaration.
Take today to recall what it is Christ has gathered you out of, the places from which he has called you, the state in which he found you and united him to himself.
Reflect and rejoice today in that he is your captain. Surrender to him yet again with glad and full hearts as you are privileged to join the ranks of the Risen Christ and take orders from one so loving, gracious, powerful and transcendent as he.
Look at this text and see beyond the Son of Jesse to the Son of God; beyond David hiding in a cave to our being hidden in Christ; beyond the anointed King of Israel to the enthroned King of Glory. Pause today to behold Jesus, the one who gives refuge to the weak, and significance to forgotten.
1 Samuel 22:6-23
Pride is really sadistic. What we’re seeing play out in Saul, the evil, vengeful, violent and murderous rage is the unchecked, ignored seeds of pride growing for a long time. Saul is willing to kill in order to protect his power and his ego.
- What are you willing to do to protect your cherished sins? What are you willing to do to protect your self-image and self-ideal?
On the contrary, we see what loyalty to something bigger than yourself creates. We see courage in the face of threats. Whereas Saul is willing to kill to protect himself, we see these priests, other than Doeg, willing to die to protect another from injustice and oppression.
- What are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of the vulnerable? What are you willing to suffer for the sake of Christ?
These are important questions to ask and answer honestly and regularly.
1 Samuel 23:1-14
David shows this dependent approach to leadership rather than a self-reliant approach to leadership in this text. It says that David know Saul's intentions, and he knew his own vulnerabilties, and yet repeatedly in this passage, David goes to the Lord for wisdom and direction. He doesn't depend on his instincts or experience or knowledge. He's mindful of them, but he doesn't just trust them overtly. Instead, he takes what he knows to the Lord in prayer and seeks God's leading. This may seem subtle or small, but to me this is huge. I tend to instinctively run to the Lord when I'm confused, or don't understand, or when I'm overwhelmed. But when I have a clear understanding of things, or I know and can anticipate something, I instinctively trust my gut and skip the step of seeking the Lord. I can easily fall into the trap of trusting my wisdom and thinking myself wise, rather than trusting in God's wisdom and knowing myself to be easily fooled.
David went to God expectantly and he heard from God, or received direction from Him explicitly. I don't know the mechanics of that in the moment for David, but this is the heart of our God. He wants us to run to him with questions and need, where he can speak and minister to us exactly what we need for where we are. I wonder if you are self-aware enough to know your need and God-conscious enough to run to him with your need. I wonder if you depend more readily on your gut and your instincts than on God's personal involvement with you.
1 Samuel 23:15-29
There are a number of subtle things that I'm aware of in this text.
Weariness - David is running and fleeing for his life and it's exhausting. As I'm reading the repetitive nature of these passages I'm just starting to feel the fatigue that David and his men were experiencing. Whether you're trying to avoid the attack of an earthly enemy who wants your death or demise; or whether you are experiencing the oppression of a very real spiritual enemy who wants you fearful and faithless; weariness sets in and threatens our souls. Sustained obedience to Christ just like sustained success in anything, requires dogged determination and perseverance through great pain and struggle.
Protection - We see God faithfully protecting David and his men over and over again. They are doing what is humanly possible to stay alive, to hide out, to keep moving forward. But apart from God's merciful and sovereign intervention, they're efforts would be in vain. God protects his own promises and he will protect his people. That doesn't mean that we sit passively by and wait for him to do everything. We do what we can. We do the impossible. God does what only he can do. He does the impossible.
Renewal - David is wandering and fleeing and hiding out in the wilderness. He's isolated. He's exposed. He's weakened mentally, emotionally, and no doubt, spiritually. And Jonathan shows up. The son of his pursuer, but his friend. And it says in b. 16, Jonathan "rose and went to David at Horesh, and stregnthened his hand in God." I love that. We don't know what Jonathan did. But we do know Jonathan went to him. He was present with him. Face to face. We do know that his presence and anything he offered renewed David's strength. That is David was re-energized and re-oxygenated. Brothers and sisters, this is what Christian friendship and community is all about. Weary, weakened and wandering people being present with one another in a way that replenishes. And notice that phrase... "strengthened his hand IN GOD." Jonathan didn't strengthen him with superficial or sentimental well wishing. He was a representative of God himself. Jonathan was a conduit for the power of God to refill David's depleted soul. Our encouragement of one another is not to be cheap and shallow... it's powerful and deep. We are positioned by God to bring his peace and grace to bear in mattering ways in the ordinary flow of life, through our presence and personal engagement with each other. That's an awesome privilege and responsibility.
Who has been a replenishing friend and presence in your life recently? Go tell them that and thank them. Whom has God positioned you to renew and encourage in a personal and present way? Go to them and be present and ask God to use you to pour his grace on them.