For the intro to my teaching yesterday morning, I rewrote a portion of 1 Samuel 21 as a narrative and asked a friend in the congregation to read it. It was fun to write, and I think it turned out pretty decently, so I thought I’d share it:
He knew the law. This man, this hunted man, knew the law. He understood the law. He had written songs about how beautiful the law was. He understood God delivered the Law to his people, and understood the ramifications of breaking the Law. And now, standing outside the doors of this holy sanctuary, he was about to willingly and consciously break the law.
He was on the run. The people chasing him had seemingly unlimited resources, unlimited men, and unlimited food. He had nothing except what was on his back. He had been forced to flee quickly, almost with no warning. He had no weapon. He had no food. He had no hope. The men who were after him were led by the King, and they didn’t want to just capture him. They wanted him dead. Despite his current lowly stature in society, he posed a threat to them because of what some believed his destiny included.
But standing here, he felt little else but despair. His stomach rumbled, angry at going hungry for several days now. He couldn’t keep going. He needed something. He needed to survive.
And so he stepped into the holy sanctuary and approached the priest, prepared to severely violate the very law he would later swear to uphold.
This priest, this man of God trembled with fright when he saw the man walking toward him. He recognized him as a local and unlikely military hero, and as the man hated by the King. Only trouble could come from this visit, he thought – and he had no idea how correct that thought was.
The priest slowly asked the man one question, afraid at what the answer might be: why are you here alone? Wrapped up in that one question was a multitude of emotions: doubt, worry, concern, fear. In that one question, the priest was seeking many answers. Why was he here? Where was the king? What was going on? And so he asked, and he waited for the answer he did not want to know.
The man, this hungry, hopeless, chased man knew that to tell the truth would mean to confirm this man of God’s deepest fears. He had no desire to involve anyone else in his flight across the country, especially not this innocent man who oversaw a house of worship. So he began the game of lying.
“I am here on official business of the King,” the man stated, beginning a string of outright falsehoods. “It’s a secret mission of which I am not permitted to speak. I have told the rest of my men to meet me down the road a ways. I am here seeking food for our group – five loaves of bread, if you have it.”
The priest was entirely skeptical, but appreciated the game of deception nonetheless. And he desired to help – there was only one problem.
“I don’t have any bread here except the bread that has been ceremonially consecrated to God. Under our Law, only priests can eat it.” He glanced at the man standing before him, a silent and desperate plea rising from his face. The priest felt something inside of him give way. Pity and compassion filled him, and he looked around to make sure no one was paying attention. There was only one man off in a corner, a man serving as shepherd for the King who was sent to this house of God for cleansing and purity sake. The priest looked back at his visitor and whispered, “Your, ahem, men – have they kept themselves from women on this journey of theirs?”
The visitor offered assurance that they had, and the web tangled a bit more.
“Okay,” said the priest, breathing a sigh deep from the depths of a conflicted soul. He quietly turned, entered the holy room where the consecrated bread was kept on the altar, and picked it up. He mouthed a prayer for forgiveness to his God as he became an accomplice in this life-saving ruse, and returned with the food in his still-trembling hands.
The site of the bread instantly filled the man with hope and made his stomach rumble even more loudly. But he had one more request to make – one more lie to tell. “I haven’t any weapon with me,” he explained to the priest. “You see, the King’s business – this secret mission I’m on – was so urgent I didn’t have time to gather my equipment before I left. Do you possibly have a sword or spear or anything here I could take on my mission?”
As far as lies went, the priest and his visitor both knew this was about as far-fetched as they came. But they both understood something as well. Men’s lives and well-being were at stake here, specifically this man standing in the house of God, breaking the Law of God. And so the priest offered the only weapon he possessed – a sword that belonged to a foe that this very visitor had slain; a sword that had now been consecrated to God in worship as well. The priest carefully removed it from its sacred wrapping, and, praying yet another prayer of forgiveness, handed it to the man.
With that, the man turned and exited that sanctuary. He stopped for a short while to devour some of the bread and then continued on his way, a hunted and marked man who was now filled with a little more energy to carry him on his way. And as Ahimelech the priest watched him disappear into the distance, he could have not known the man he had just broken the Law to assist would one day become the greatest King in the history of Israel – King David.