Massacre of Ministers

I Samuel 21-22

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
October 2020

We are studying the Book of I Samuel.  We are going to try to cover two chapters today.  We are looking at the life of David. His life is fascinating.  David was one of the greatest men in the Bible.  He was a spiritual giant.  He was an ancestor of the Messiah.  He was Israel’s greatest king.  He was the only man in the Bible who was called “a man after God’s own heart.

David had amazing faith.  He had incredible courage in the midst of danger.  He faced Goliath without fear, when no one else in the army would dare to face him and when he was not even old enough to be in the army.

Some of our heroes seem to be larger than life, but, in reality, they are just like us.  James says that prophet Elijah was just like us (James 5:17).  He was a man of like passions.  David was a lot like us as well.  He had flaws.  He had sins.  He had problems. In I Samuel 21, he tells a lie and goes completely crazy.

David wasn’t perfect.  He had some flaws and the Bible does not cover them up or hide them.  It describes the good and the bad.  Aren’t you glad the Bible does not have a few chapters about your life?  Aren’t you glad that it does not describe you at your best and you at your absolute worst, your strengths, as well as your weaknesses?  That would be embarrassing.

David was a believer.  David was saved.  David had the Holy Spirit on him.  He was anointed by God.  He was a man after God’s own heart and yet, in this chapter, he acted crazy.  He started foaming at the mouth and acting insane.  God’s man acted like a mad man.

The man we see in this chapter does not even seem like the same David earlier in the book.  That David was full of faith.  He had no fear.  He faced danger without fear.  He lived for God.  He was a man of absolute integrity.  That raises some interesting questions.

How could a man after God’s heart act like a complete lunatic?  How could the one who not only wrote Scripture, he wrote the largest book of the Bible (Book of Psalms) act like a complete madman?  How can you be saved, filled with the Spirit, on fire for God, serve God one moment and go absolutely crazy the next moment?  How is that even possible?

It was possible for David and it is possible for us today.  We are all sinners.  We have a sin nature.  After we get saved, we don’t lose our sin nature.  Believers can sin.  Believers can backslide.  They can do some terrible things.  They can do some dumb things.  They can do some wicked things.  The same one who walked on water one day, denied Jesus another day.

In previous chapters, King Saul went crazy.  He acted completely crazy. In this chapter, David goes crazyDavid acts like Saul.  In fact, David does it by choice.  David does it without an evil spirit.  Saul had an evil spirit.  He was demonized.  David was not demonized.

Why did David act this way?  Fear.  Fear will get you to do some crazy things.  It will get you to do some stupid things.  David is on the run in these two chapters.  He is running from a madman.  He is running from a psychotic killer, like in the horror movies.  He is running for his life.  The king is hunting him like a dog.

David never stays in any one place very long.  He is always moving around. He goes to five different places in these two chapters.  He goes to Nob.  He goes to Gath.  He goes to the Cave of Adullum.  He goes to Mitzpah, and he ends up at the Forest of Hereth.

When David left King Saul, the first person he went to see was the Prophet Samuel.  Samuel lived in Ramah.  That is in I Samuel 19.  The second place he went to see was the high priest who lived in Nob in I Samuel 21.  Everyone pronounces it “Nob” but in Hebrew it is pronounced know-v.  In Hebrew this b sound is a v sound.

David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”

2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.”

5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him 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. (I Samuel 21:1-6 NIV)

The very first person David went to see was the prophet.  The second place he went to see was the high priest.  He went to church.  Nob was a center of worship.  It replaced Shiloh as the center of worship after Israel’s defeat in battle in I Samuel 4:1-11.  It was where the Tabernacle was located.  It sounds like the right place to go but he did not go there for spiritual help.

He went there for physical help. He went to church to get some bread.  He is not there to worship.  He is not there to pray.  He is not there to hear from God.  David was only about five miles away from where Saul was, but he was one the run and he was starving.  He had no food, so he makes a pit stop at the Tabernacle.

He did not see any McDonalds near him.  There was not any fast food available.  There were no grocery stores either.  Food was not as accessible three thousand years ago as it is today, so he went to the Tabernacle.

Many go to church today for the same reason.  They do not go to hear the voice of God.  They don’t go to learn the Word of God or to pray or to worship.  Some go for potluck meals, bake sales, flea markets or for baby showers or wedding showers.  Some go for social reasons or for a handout.   Some go to meet people.  I have met some salesmen who go to church to get business contacts.

David comes to the Tabernacle for bread.  He talked to the high priest.  His name was Ahimelech.  Ahimelech was the great grandson of Eli (I Samuel 14:3). He was the grandson of wicked Phinehas.

The priest had bread but the only bread he had was holy bread, the consecrated bread, what the OT calls “the Bread of the Presence” (I Samuel 21:6; Exodus 25:30).

He did not have regular bread but only special sanctified bread.  According to the Book of Leviticus, only the priests were supposed to eat this holy bread, and David was not a priest, but the priest gave him the bread anyway. He gave him bread and Goliath’s sword.  He said you can have some bread as long as long as you are ceremonially clean.

Did he do the right thing?  He was breaking OT Law.  Leviticus 24:9 says that the break “belonged to Aaron and his sons who are to eat it in the sanctuary area” (NIV).

Jesus says that he did the right thing (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28). Human need takes precedence over religious rules.  David was on the run.  He was starving.  He needed some food.  Mercy is more important than religious rules.

It is possible to have a religion without mercy, a religion without compassion.  That is what Phariseeism was.  It is what you see in some churches.  Rules are more important than people.  God desires “mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). Jesus quotes that passage in Matthew 12:7.

David’s White Lies

While David was talking to the priest, he told a lie.  What is the lie?  The priest asks him why he is there, and he says he is there because he is on a top-secret mission from the king.  That was not true.  He was not on a mission FOR the king.  He was running FROM the king.

Apparently, David had a little problem with honesty.  Not only does he flat-out lie, but he lies to the high priest.  He lies to religious leaders of the day.  That is like lying directly to the pastor.

David found it very easy to lie.  He lied in the last chapter and he lies in this chapter.  He was married to a woman who lied. Are you like David?

Christians should not be dishonest.  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25 NIV).  Lying comes from the devil.  He is “the father of lies” (John 8:44)

Today, everyone seems to lie.  Politicians lie, especially during election season.  They will say anything to get elected.  We like to make a distinction between big lies and little white lies.  A big lie is if we get on the witness stand and are asked if we killed someone and are not honest.

A little lie is when we say something that is not true, so we do not offend someone or when someone asks us how we are feeling, and we say fine when we feel miserable.

Why did he lie?  We do not know for sure.  He may have lied to get food and he felt if he didn’t lie, he would not get any.  There was a bounty on his head.  He was number one on Saul’s Top Ten List. He may not have helped him if he knew that he was a fugitive, an enemy of the state.

On the other hand, he may have lied to protect the priest.  It might mean death to anyone who helps him.  It would put at risk anyone who aided and abetted a fugitive.

David lied but he was not a good liar.  What David asked for completely contradicted his mission.  It proved he was lying.  The priest asked him why he was there.  He said he was on a top-secret mission but then he asked him for food and weapons.  It does not make any sense to go on a dangerous, top-secret government mission and not take any weapons with you or any food.

Did his lie work?  He did get food and a weapon but the priests all got killed.  A whole town got wiped out.  David felt bad.  He felt responsible.  He blamed himself.  He did not blame Doeg, the dirty Doeg.  He blamed himself (I Samuel 22:21).

If he never showed up there, the priest would still be alive but I would have blamed Saul.  He was the one who ordered the execution.  He was the one responsible, not David.  Saul would have killed the priest, regardless of whether David lied or told the truth, if he helped him in any way.

David’s Acting Career

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?”

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (I Samuel 21:10-13 NIV).

David first fled to Nob.  That was only a few miles away from Saul.  It was close to Saul.  He did not stay very long there.  He knew he had to go somewhere else where he would be safe, so he decided to go to leave the Promise land and go to another country.  He fled to Gath.

Gath was thirty miles away and it was in another country.  It was not just any country.  It was a country that was an enemy of Israel.  David thought he would be safe there.  Saul would not think to look there.

David ran to the Philistines for help.  He went to the world for help.  That is like Christians today turning to their unsaved friends for help, for spiritual counsel for support.  Do you turn to the world for help?

David thought that no one would know him.  He thought he could just blend in and be anonymous.

The problem was that David was famous.  He did not know how famous he was.  Everybody knew him.  Not only was he famous in Israel.  He was famous in other countries.

There was a song about him and people in other country had heard it.  That tune really got around.  It shows the power of music.  On top of that, David enters the country, goes to Goliath’s hometown and carried Goliath’s big sword on his belt.  That tipped him off right away.

David killed two hundred Philistines.  He killed their hero Goliath.  He was their hero and David killed him.  That is like someone killing Abraham Lincoln or George Washington.  David knows he will not be popular there and he is afraid and he acts crazy.

Fear got David to flee the country.  Fear of Saul got him to leave.  He gets to Gath and now fear gets him to act insane.  Fear causes people to do crazy things.  It can cause us to do crazy things.  Fear of the coronavirus gets some people to do crazy things.  They won’t even come to church.  They are too afraid.

He will go back to Gath a second time in I Samuel 27 and live there for over a year.  They were Israel’s enemies.  They were God’s enemies.  They worshipped idols.  If they accepted him and protected him, he would have to fight for them.  He would have to fight against God’s people.

One thing that we can say about David is that he had a lot of skills.  He was extremely gifted.  He was a shepherd.  He was a musician.  He was a harpist.  He was a warrior.  He was a fighter.  He was a giant killer.  He was a soldier.  He was a commander.

He was a writer.  He was a poet.  He was a politician.  He became a king.  Now, we see that he was an actor.  He knew how to act.  Beth Moore says, he would have won an Oscar for acting.[1]

David the Cave Man

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. (I Samuel 22:1-2 NIV)

David goes on the run.  He fled out of the country to Gath.  Now, he decides to go back to Israel.  He goes ten miles east this time to a cave.  He was not safe in Gath or Nob but he was safe in this cave and he gets all kinds of support from people there.  He gets some followers.  His brothers come down to see him.  His family supports him.

David is an outcast and four hundred other outcasts come to join him. The four hundred people are a picture of the church. They are a bunch of nobodies.  They were a bunch of losers.  They are a people with problems, people who could not pay their bills.  Those who follow David are like those who follow Jesus.

From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.

But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth. (I Samuel 22:3-5).

David now goes to another country (Moab).  David acts as a good shepherd.  He wants to take care of his parents and family and make sure they are safe, but a prophet speaks to him and tell him to go back to the land of Israel (I Samuel 22:5).  Even when we backslide, God can send people into our life with a word from the Lord.  He has ways to get our attention and David obeys the prophet.

Five Shocking Truths about Evil

The chapter ends really bad.  David is betrayed.  He is betrayed by a man named Doeg. Jesus was betrayed by Judas.  David was betrayed by Doeg.  Doeg tells Saul that the priest gave him food.  Saul orders the execution of these priests but his servants refuse to do it.

When they refuse to do it.  Doeg does it.  He not only does it, he kills all of their families.  He wipes out a whole town, killing “its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep” (I Samuel 22:19 NIV)

The chapter ends with a massacre.  It ends with a slaughter.  It ends with an atrocity.  Saul commits mass murder.  He does not just kill anybody.  He orders the execution of eight-five priests.  That is like killing eighty-five pastors today.

It is a massacre of ministers.  It is killing of religious leaders, some of the top leaders in the country.  They had not done anything wrong and they were massacred by Saul.

How do we respond when we are faced with incredible evil in the world?  I want to look at five shocking truths from this incident.  There are five truths that you are often not told in church.

1) Evil is a fact of life in this world

Evil in the world is real.  It is common.  It is shocking.  It is a fact of life because people are created with free will.  We are all created with the ability to do good or to do evil.  As a result, the innocent suffer in this world.  This does not fit the prosperity message but we live in a fallen world.  Bad things happen.  Terrible things happen.  All you have to do is to watch the news each night.

2) Some evil in this world is demonic in origin

Saul turns a corner here.  He does not just come after David.  He wages an all-out war on the priests of the Lord.  This is not just mental illness.  It is DEMONIC.  The Holy Spirit left Saul and an evil spirit entered him.  There is natural evil and there evil in this world that is so bad that it is demonically inspired.  The devil comes to steal, to kill and to destroy.

3) Believers are not exempt from evil

Some of us may have experienced it.  Pastors are not exempt.  They are not exempt from terrible things that happen.  Sunday school teachers are not exempt.  The godliest Christians on the planet are not exempt from evil.  They were not exempt in Bible times and they are not exempt today.  We do not have a guarantee in Scripture that nothing bad will ever happen to us or to our family.  Job did not have that guarantee.

4) Professing believers sometimes commit the evil

Bad things happen to believers from other people who claim to be believers.  Have you ever experienced evil from someone who claimed to be a Christian or perhaps from someone that went to the same church as you?

Saul claimed to worship the true God.  He did not worship idols.  Saul is the one who orders this execution of an entire village (men, women, children, animals).  Saul would not wipe out all of the Amalekites and then orders the extermination of an entire village of his own people.  He ordered a holocaust at Nob.  Satan sometimes uses even professing Christians to do his work.

5) God can bring good out of evil

God is sovereign over all of the evil that takes place in the world.  He can take the worst evil on the planet and use it for good.  He can use evil for His own purposes.  Hitler’s holocaust only led to the creation of the state of Israel a few years later.

Saul tries to wipe out all of the priests but one escapes and he flees to David’s side. God has completely left Saul.  He does not have any prophets.  he does not have the priesthood.  God is not talking to him.  At the end of the book, he has to go to a witch to try to get some revelation.

[1] Beth Moore, A Heart Like His, 76.

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