1 Samuel 21:1-15 - David flees to Nob and Gath
At some point in life, all human beings face desperate situations. Sometimes the circumstances are so distressful that they cause unbearable pain and agony and there seems to be no way out, no solution or answer. The hardship, the adversity just erupts and we feel helpless and hopeless. Emotionally we may suffer anguish, anxiety, and all kinds of physical and emotional difficulties such as headaches, ulcers, heart attacks, depression, and other disorders. Our lives become dramatically changed and are often left devastated and in ruins.
From this point on to the end of First Samuel, David was to live a life of severe hardship and adversity. He was now a fugitive, fleeing for his life. The king himself was charging David with a capital crime and was fiercely pursuing him, determined to execute David. This is the beginning of David's flight as a fugitive, an exile that would last about ten years.
A. David Flees to the High Priest (v.1-9)
1. The place David flees to (v.1a).
a) ‘…David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest…’ (v.1a).
(1) Ahimelech was a priest, and he was where a priest should be - at the house of God, the tabernacle of the LORD, where the sacred altar and Ark of the Covenant were.
(2) Psalm 73 – David didn’t write Psalm 73 (it is a Psalm of Asaph), but he had the same heart Psalm 73 shows. In that Psalm, Asaph describes how troubled he was at injustice and the prosperity of the wicked.
It really troubled him, and didn’t make any sense at all. He says, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. (Psalm 73:16-17).
(3) Nothing made sense to Asaph until he went to the house of the LORD, then he could understand things in light of eternity. That is how it should always be for us when we come to God’s house.
(4) So, David begins his days as a fugitive in a good way – he comes to the house of the LORD.
(5) We have a High Priest whom we can go to:
Speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says that "He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God…” (Hebrews 2:17)
And he goes on to say in Chapter four "Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NASB95)
2. The fear of Ahimelech (v.1b).
a) ‘…Ahimelech was afraid when he met David…’ (v.1b).
(1) It seemed unusual to Ahimelech that a prominent man like David would wander around the villages of Judea all by himself. It made Ahimelech think something must be wrong, so he asked David, Why are you alone, and no one is with you?
(2) As the story unfolds, it seems that Ahimelech knew nothing of the conflict between David and Saul. In fact, he knew that David was Saul’s son-in-law. It seemed strange, and dangerous to him, that David was traveling alone.
3. The lie of David (v.2).
a) ‘…So David said…the king has ordered me on some business…’ (v.2).
(1) Essentially, a lie is a statement of what is known to be false with intent to deceive.
Lies may be expressed in words. One of the things the Lord hates is "A false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:19, NKJV)
Lies may be expressed as error. Paul writing about the end times says "And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie," (2 Thessalonians 2:11, NKJV)
Lies may be expressed in a false form of religion. Paul said that there are those "who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:25, NKJV)
And, above all, a lie is incompatible with the divine nature. “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? " (Numbers 23:19, NKJV)
(2) So what David said was a plain lie. David has come to the house of the LORD, but when he came he lied to protect himself. David elaborated on his lie when he puts false words in the mouth of Saul to establish an environment of secrecy (Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you), and when he refers to my young men (David was all alone).
(3) The lie of David lead to tragic results (1Sam.22:6-23). Sin is expensive! God may forgive you and restore you but the consequences of your sin may involve not only you but others who are innocent. Perhaps the results may continue for years to come.
4. The request of David for food (v.3-4).
a) ‘…what have you on hand…?’ (v.3)
(1) David was on the run from Saul, and didn’t have time to properly prepare. When he came to the tabernacle in Nob, he was hungry, and knew he needed food both now and later.
b) ‘…there is no common bread…but holy bread…’ (v.4a).
(1) Consecrated bread was set apart for use in the tabernacle to be eaten only by the priests (Ex. 25:30; Lev. 24:5–9). The tabernacle of the LORD had a table which held twelve loaves of bread, symbolizing God’s continual fellowship with Israel.
(a) What did the showbread mean? Why would God have a bakery rack in the tabernacle? The importance and meaning of the showbread is found in the name. Literally, showbread means “bread of faces.” It is bread associated with, and to be eaten before, the face of God. To eat the showbread was to eat God’s bread in God’s house as a friend and a guest of the LORD, enjoying His hospitality. In that culture, eating together formed a bond of friendship that was permanent and sacred. Eating the showbread was a powerful way of saying, “LORD I love You and I seek Your face. I’m in Your presence and I want to be transformed by seeing Your face.”
c) ‘…if the young men have kept themselves from woman…’ (v.4b)
(1) What does he mean “kept themselves from woman”?
In Leviticus, the Lord said "If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening. And any garment and any leather on which there is semen, it shall be washed with water, and be unclean until evening. Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.” (Leviticus 15:16-18)
(2) Ahimelech was only concerned that those eating the bread be ceremonially clean according to the standards of Leviticus 15. Among other things, that chapter speaks of ceremonial cleanness as it relates to marital relations.
(3) Though this was not a spiritual mission or religious journey, David and his men were ceremonially clean.
5. The sanctified vessels (v.5-9).
a) ‘…truly, women have been kept from us and the vessels of the young men are holy…’ (v.5).
(1) The word “vessel” means “container” or “pitcher.” In the Old Testament, vessels contained wine for a drink offering to the Lord (Numbers 15).
(2) In the New Testament, it is used frequently in a literal and general sense, (Mark 3:27; 11:16, Acts 27:17 of the sail of a ship). It is also used, metaphorically, of men:
When the Lord told Ananias to “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine (the NASB reads “a chosen instrument” “a man of quality”)” (Acts 9:11-15, NKJV).
(3) Paul makes it clear that we ourselves are earthen vessels, containing the treasure of Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:7). Paul tells us we are to keep our vessels—our bodies—pure.
(4) In Daniel 5, we see what happens when a holy vessel is used in an immoral manner.
The year was approximately 539 B.C. Belshazzar partied in Babylon as thousands of Medes and Persians besieged the city. “Hah! I’m not afraid,” Belshazzar boasted. “After all, Babylon is surrounded by walls three hundred fifty feet high, eighty-seven feet thick.” As the party continued, Belshazzar decided to drink from the holy temple vessels Nebuchadnezzar had taken when he conquered Jerusalem.
In the midst of the revelry, a hand appeared and wrote on the wall, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” which meant “You’ve been weighed in the balance and have been found wanting. Tonight your kingdom will crash down upon you.” Sure enough, after damming the Euphrates River, the Medes were able to crawl beneath the wall surrounding Babylon and into the city. Once there, they were able to capture Belshazzar’s kingdom right out from under him.
(5) As a pastor, one of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “How can I know God’s will?” I’m glad I can answer that question with real certainty, God’s will is:
(a) God desires all men to be saved. Peter wrote that God is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV)
(b) God commands us to be filled with the Spirit. Paul said "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit," (Ephesians 5:15-18, NKJV)
(c) God’s will is that we continually give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). "in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. " (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
b) The commandment: God’s will is your sanctification (1Thess.4:3-5).
(1) It is God’s will that his children are “sanctified” or “set apart” from sexual immorality. Believers are to “gain mastery over their sexual life” it should be “holy and honorable” before the Lord.
(2) Abstaining from fornication (v.3) — The word “fornication” means all kinds of immoral sexual acts: adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and all forms of sexual deviation.
(3) The believer’s body belongs to Christ, which means that we are to honor Christ with our bodies. We are to take the sexual drive and energy of our bodies and use them as He has instructed: either we…
(a) dedicate our bodies solely to Him.
(b) marry and build a family with the dynamic virtues of love and care, trust and loyalty.
(4) Knowing how to control your body (v.4) – the believer in Jesus Christ is to know how to control his or her body.
As Paul was writing to the believers in Rome he said "I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” (Romans 6:19, NASB95)
Speaking about the husband and wife, Paul says "The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (1 Corinthians 7:3-5, NASB95)
Because we are children of God and have His promises, Paul says "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1, NASB95)
Joseph knew how to possess his own body (Genesis 39:7-9)
(5) Resisting lustful passion (v.5) – The passion of lust is the way of the world. It is not the way of God. It is the life-style of those who do not know God. Paul says that we are to resist those lustful passions.
(a) The source of our lust.
Speaking about temptation and lust, James says "Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." (James 1:13-16, see also Matt.15:18-20; James 4:1-4).
(b) Believers must resist lust.
Because we are a royal priesthood, and God’s own possession, Peter urges us to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1Pet.2:11).
In his chapter 4, Peter is writing about living for God an d says "So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning. And you won’t spend the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. Of course, your former friends are very surprised when you no longer join them in the wicked things they do, and they say evil things about you." (1 Peter 4:1-4, NLT)
Don’t put yourself in a place where you know that you will be tempted. Paul says "Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Romans 13:13-14, NKJV)
c) Characteristics of an honorable Vessel (2 Tim.2:20-22).
Every believer should have that compelling desire to be used of God in whatever way He chooses. The flow of 2 Timothy 2 moves from the call to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2:1) to being “a workman who does not need to be ashamed” (v. 15) in order to be “useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (v. 21).
The illustration: “vessels of honor or dishonor” (v.20). The honorable vessels represent believers who are faithful and useful to the Lord. They are the good soldiers, the competitive athletes, the hardworking farmers mentioned in (v.3–6). By contrast, the dishonorable vessels are the cowardly soldiers, the lazy athletes, and the slothful farmers, defiled people fit only for the most menial, undistinguished purposes. Honor and dishonor therefore refer to the ways in which genuine believers are found useful to the Lord in fulfilling the work to which He has called them. In this sense, all believers should be, but are not always, vessels of honor. In (v.21–26), Paul sets forth some characteristics that mark the faithful, godly believer who is the vessel of honor.
(1) A cleansed life (v.21a) – Cleanses means “to clean out thoroughly”, to “completely purge”. Vessels of dishonor are defiled people in the church, and Paul’s exhortation is therefore for godly believers to separate themselves from the fellowship of impure believers, who are not clean, not obedient, not submissive to the Lord, and not eager to serve.
The writer of Proverbs says that "He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm." (Proverbs 13:20, NASB95)
Paul explained to the believers in Corinth, "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, NASB95)
Paul says "Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals. " (1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB95)
(a) Faithful service of the Lord requires separation from those who can contaminate you. Refusing to associate with sinning believers is also for their own benefit.
(b) If they are not disciplined and are readily accepted into church fellowship, they will become more comfortable in their sin.
Being ostracized from the church, on the other hand, may help them become ashamed and repentant. “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter,” Paul instructed the Thessalonian church, “take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame” (2Thess.3:14).
(2) A sanctified soul (v.21b) – A Christian is sanctified, set apart, in two ways. Negatively, he is set apart from sin. Positively, he is set apart for God and for His righteousness. Sanctified is a condition that already exists.
When we trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He immediately “became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1Cor. 1:30).
Every believer has been chosen by God “from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2Thess. 2:13; cf. 1 Peter 1:2).
Salvation itself is a sanctification, setting us apart to God. But it also is the beginning of a lifelong process. It is both a reality and a progressive experience.
(3) Useful to God (v.21c) – Paul wanted to be useful to his Master Jesus Christ.
This was a deep desire of Paul, he said "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown." (1 Corinthians 9:24-25, NKJV)
On the other hand, it was Paul’s greatest fear that he would lose his usefulness to his Master because of sin. “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim,” he continued; “I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (vv. 26–27).
(4) Prepared for every good work (v.21d) – What is it that will prepare us for good work?
The Word of God prepares us "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV)
Paul declares that "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NKJV)
d) ‘So the priest gave him the Holy bread…’ (v.6).
(1) Ahimelech sought the Lord and received approval (22:10) when he recognized that his spiritual obligation to preserve David’s life superseded the ceremonial regulation concerning who could eat the consecrated bread (see Matt. 12:3, 4; Mark 2:25, 26).
(2) Ahimelech put David’s need and life ahead of religious ceremony and fed him the consecrated food. This upheld a higher law of love (Leviticus 24:5-9; Leviticus 19:18). Centuries later, Jesus would refer to this incident to show that God’s laws should not be applied without compassion. To do good and to save life is God’s greater law (Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5).
e) Controversy to the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8).
(1) Sabbath observance was the heart of the Jewish legalistic system, and when Jesus violated the traditions as to how that day should be honored, He struck a raw nerve.
At the end of creation “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Gen. 2:3).
In honor of that day, the Lord declared it to be a special time of rest and remembrance for His people and incorporated its observance into the requirements of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:9-11).
(2) As travelers walked along, they passed within an arm’s length of the crops on either side. Inns were rare even in small towns and villages and were nonexistent between them. If a traveler did not take enough food with him or found his trip extended for some reason, he had to live off the land.
The Lord recognized such need in a provision of the Mosaic law: “When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, then you may eat grapes until you are fully satisfied, but you shall not put any in your basket. When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain” (Deut. 23:24–25).
(3) The disciples were not reaping on the Sabbath, which was forbidden by Mosaic Law (Ex. 34:21), but simply satisfying their hunger according to the provision of Deuteronomy 23.
(4) Rabbinic tradition interpreted the rubbing of grain together in the hands (which the disciples were doing; see Luke 6:1) as a form of threshing; and they regarded blowing away the chaff as a form of winnowing. The Talmud said, “If a person rolls wheat to remove the husks, it is sifting. If he rubs the heads of wheat, it is threshing. If he cleans off the side adherences, it is sifting. If he bruises the ears, it is grinding. And if he throws it up in his hand, it is winnowing”
(5) Have you not read what David did (Matt.12:3-4)? An exception was made on behalf of David and his men, who were weak from hunger. God was not offended by that act, and He did not discipline either Ahimelech or David. The Lord was willing for a ceremonial regulation to be violated when doing so was necessary to meet the needs of His people.
(6) If God makes allowances for His own law to be broken under certain circumstances for the welfare of His people, Jesus said, He surely permits purposeless and foolish man-made traditions to be broken for that purpose.
(7) Jesus approved of what Ahimelech did, and Jesus honored him by standing on Ahimelech’s same ground!
6. The request of David for a weapon (v.8-9).
a) ‘…Is there a sword or a spear…? (v.8)
(1) David now is on a downward spiral. Yes, David is a lover of God but now he is trusting in his lies, in his plots and plans, turns and twists of his own creative thinking.
(2) When David was in the Spirit and close to the Lord, he wouldn’t take Saul’s sword, helmet or weaponry to fight Goliath. He told Saul, “I’ll just use a slingshot because God has given me victory in the past over the bear and over the lion, I don’t need this stuff.
(3) But now David is saying, “Oh, give me the stuff”, I need it.”
The Scriptures declare that "Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4, NASB95)
(4) But when we are in a carnal state, what do we do? We start depending on carnal weaponry. Previously David would not have taken that stuff, but now he is.
B. David Flees to the Philistine King (v.10-15).
1. David flees to Achish the king of Gath (v.10-11).
a) ‘…David fled that day to Achish king of Gath…’ (v.10).
(1) A good man in bad company. Why has a man of God who has been anointed by the Spirit of God, gone to live with a Philistine and unbeliever? Here is a truth that some of us would not like to admit, that sometimes a persecuted Christian gets better treatment from the enemies of God’s people then from his Christian friends.
(2) Jobs friends thought they had all the answers
b) ‘…the servants of Achish said to him, Is not this David…’ (v.11).
(1) Isn’t this the guy that Israel sings about?
2. David fears man (v.12-15).
a) ‘…David took these words to heart…’ (v.12a)
(1) David took the words of man and allowed them to affect his heart to the point that he feared.
But I love what the Psalmist says "Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11, NASB95)
In the New Testament, Paul said that we are to "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16, NASB95)
b) ‘…David…was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath…’ (v.12b).
(1) Again, when David was walking in the Spirit, not even Goliath as big as he was, could bring fear to the heart of David.
Listen to what David said to Saul about Goliath "David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine…” "And David said, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. …that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands." (1 Samuel 17:32, 37, 45-47, NASB95)
(2) And note that in (17:48) when Goliath ran toward David, David ran toward the enemy, not from him. But now since he is walking after the flesh, he fears man.
The writer of Proverbs says that "The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25, NKJV)
(3) The fear of man has cause great men of God to fail, bringing them into many compromising positions.
God is the One Whom we are to fear. Isaiah says "The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:13, NKJV)
The Lord says in Jeremiah 32 that "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.” (Jeremiah 32:39-40, NKJV)
c) ‘…He changed his behavior before them…’ (v.13)
(1) What would you say about a man who has become involved in such a mess like this? Judged from a human standpoint, he is hopeless, God’s done with him.
(2) From God’s view, He’s not done!
(3) The Bible tells the worst about its heroes, but it tells the best too, praise the Lord! At this point in David’s life he wrote two Psalms, (Psalm 56 & 34).
3. The blessings of God.
(1) Many of Gods blessings are conditional and often He cannot do what He wants to do for you because you will not do what you should.
(2) What is the cause of your fear or doubting today?
(3) It is amazing how men and women of faith can gradually become men and women of fear and unbelief. If we get in a hurry, trust people, and trust our own plans, before long everything falls to pieces and we find ourselves out of the place of God’s blessing and protection.
I. David flees to Nob and Gath (1 Samuel 21:1-15) 1
A. David Flees to the High Priest (v.1-9) 1
1. The place David flees to (v.1a). 1
2. The fear of Ahimelech (v.1b). 1
3. The lie of David (v.2). 2
4. The request of David for food (v.3-4). 2
5. The sanctified vessels (v.5-9). 3
6. The request of David for a weapon (v.8-9). 7
B. David Flees to the Philistine King (v.10-15). 7
1. David flees to Achish the king of Gath (v.10-11). 7
2. David fears man (v.12-15). 7
3. The blessings of God. 8