So the priest gave [David] the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
1 Samuel 21:6 (NIV)
I once attended a local gathering of Jesus’ followers that belonged to a particular denomination. The denomination was hundreds of years old, and over those years the leaders of this denomination established a set of rules and regulations regarding everything from how the local gathering should be governed, how meetings were to be handled, and even how one goes about both personal and corporate worship.
There was in this particular gathering a man whose family had been members of this denomination for generations. He had the denominational rule book practically memorized, and he let everyone know it, all the time, by bringing it up whenever he sensed that one of the rules and regulations was being broken.
I confess: I found him annoying.
I have one vivid memory of him questioning something I did, pointing to the denominational regulation manual and expressing that I may have gone afoul of its religious code (as he interpreted it). I pointed him to the scripture that directly motivated my actions. It was obvious that he was zealously studying and following the denominational rules, but he was oblivious to God’s fundamental life principles.
In today’s chapter, David begins his life on the lam. King Saul wants him dead. David’s first stop is in the town of Nob. Nob is where the Hebrew’s traveling tent Temple, known as the Tabernacle (from the time of their Exodus out of Egypt) is set up. David talks to the high priest and expresses his need for food and a weapon. While it is not explicit in the text of today’s chapter, David will quickly be joined in the wilderness by his brothers and men who are loyal to him. They’ll need food. The sword of Goliath is there in the Tabernacle, which David takes. The only food available for David to take is the bread that has been consecrated to the LORD as part of the temple’s regular thanksgiving offering ritual. The high priest allows David to take it for himself and his men.
About a thousand years later after this incident, Jesus will be cornered by the religious rule-keepers regarding the fact that His disciples break the rules by picking grain to eat on the Sabbath day of rest.
Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Jesus’ point is that there are fundamental principles on which the laws were given. Chief among them are principles of love for God and loving others as you love yourself. There is also the law of life. David was in dire straits and the compassionate thing to do was give the consecrated bread to David for him and his men to stay alive as he flees into the Judean wilderness, even though it was going against the established religious ritual protocol. To put in terms of Jesus’ Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12) it was the “pure in heart” thing to do, and it was the “merciful” thing to do, and those things supersede ritual protocol.
One of the things I love about Jesus was the fact that He was constantly ignoring the religious thing to do in order to carry out the right thing to do. I endeavor to always follow in Jesus’ footsteps, even if/when it completely ignores religious rules and regulations.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.