Practical Holiness

At the church where I have the privilege of serving as the Teaching Pastor, I lead a teaching team of incredible people who sharpen one another through our deep friendships and shared wisdom. This team just got done teaching a series that we entitled “Practical Holiness” — and these teachings continue to blow me away with their poignancy, their truth, and their grace. So much so I wanted to make sure I share them with you.

For this series, we took some of the main themes from the 22 New Testament letters and taught through them in six weeks. Together with a lead-in sermon on language and a night cap from Revelation, I challenge you to find eight weeks of more powerful, life-giving teaching than this! In these eight weeks, four of our seven teachers taught from the stage – but make no mistake, every member was integrally involved in crafting the messages and none of them would have been as good as they were without everyone’s perspective and wisdom.

I could not be more proud of our team, so I am shamelessly plugging our teachings here. If you’re looking for a good way to spend several hours, may I recommend the following:

Words – The Power of Life and Death
Matt Coulter, 9/29/13

Practical Holiness
Matt Coulter, 10/6/13

Spiritual Gifts
Matt Coulter, 10/13/13

Prayer
Adam Coop, 10/20/13

Baptism
Matt Coulter, 10/27/13

Holy Spirit
Matt Coulter, 11/3/13

Submission
Tanya Engel, 11/10/13

Once and Future Hope: Revelation
Heath Underwood, 11/17/13

Like Sheep Without a Shepherd

Mountain view with sheepphoto © 2005 Jule_Berlin | more info (via: Wylio)

On the Christian calendar, this week is Holy Week — the days leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. One of the more poignant moments in that story is when Jesus sits on a rock overlooking Jerusalem and begins crying.

He cries because he has come to give them peace, and they don’t realize it.

He cries because he knows what’s about to go down.

And he cries out of compassion for the everyday, normal folks walking around Jerusalem’s streets — folks who are, as Jesus puts it, “like sheep without a shepherd.” His heart breaks for them.

In memory of that moment and in honor of the Easter season, I am posting a few paragraphs from my book Torn Wineskins this morning:

It was enough to make Jesus himself cry, as he mourned that the people he loved “were like sheep without a shepherd.”

I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t mourn because the people were leaderless. They had leadership. They had people defining rules and interpreting the Law and explaining how to get into a right relationship with God for them.

They were not without leaders. They were without a shepherd – someone who cared about them and for them. Someone who would feed them and make them lie down in green pastures. Someone who could gently guide them into the heart of God.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus wouldn’t mourn the same things in the modern church as well. We have plenty of leaders who are anxious to describe, debate, and define doctrine – but what people need is a shepherd. Someone who has sacrificed the power of fear at the feet of Jesus and is willing to allow things to get really messy as they lean on the power of the Holy Spirit instead.

I pray that all of us will recognize this Easter season that Jesus is coming to give us peace. That in the midst of all our leaders, he is the shepherd. And I pray you find comfort in his compassion.

Of Peace, War, Victory, and Donkeys

Palmezel met Christus, Zuid-Duitsland, 1ste helft 14de eeuwphoto © 2009 André | more info (via: Wylio)
Next Sunday starts the Christian holy week, the period in the church calendar that commemorates Jesus’ final week here on earth before he is executed and then resurrected. That week begins with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, an event that has beautiful significance which is easy to overlook.

First of all, it is interesting that Jesus even chooses to enter Jerusalem in such a public way at all. His ministry has been marked by miraculous healings where he tells the recipients to not say anything to anyone. He has told his disciples several times over the past couple of years that it was “not yet his time”. He preferred doing ministry in Galilee, out of the religious spotlight of Jerusalem and Judea as much as possible.

But when we get to holy week, when we get to Palm Sunday, we find Jesus fully understanding what is about to happen. It is his time now. And so he resolutely sets off toward Jerusalem, along with the rest of Israel, for the Passover feast. Jesus is about to become the once-for-all Passover sacrifice and bring exodus from the oppression of worldly kingdoms.

When they reach the outskirts of town, Jesus stops and instructs his disciples to go into Jerusalem and bring back a donkey for him to ride into town on. This is, in part, to fulfill a Messianic prophecy from the Old Testament: “Rejoice greatly! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly, and riding on a donkey – on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

So it fulfilled prophecy. But why a donkey? Why this prophecy in the first place?

Many teachings I’ve heard and read about Palm Sunday say that riding in on a donkey (rather than, say, a horse) was quite ignoble or demeaning. It was a way of Jesus humbling himself.

It’s a nice idea, but there’s something even deeper going on here.

In that time, if a visiting king or dignitary entered a town on a horse, it was a way of them declaring violent or oppressive intentions. This was the way Emperors and generals rode into town – men who crushed dissent with their armies. Emperors who brought about the famous Pax Romana — the peace of Rome — with their violent domination.

On the flipside, if a king or dignitary rode in on a donkey, which was not uncommon, they were announcing intentions of peace.

By prophesying that the Messiah of messiahs would ride into town on a donkey, Zechariah was predicting him to be a man who would achieve a kingdom via means of peace rather than violence. And by fulfilling that prophecy, Jesus was embracing that distinction.

There was a different way to defeat the kingdoms of this world other than violence. God’s kingdom would spread through peace. Subversive, loving peace. That was the message of Palm Sunday.

And what about the palms? Laying palms before a ruler entering town was a declaration of victory. It was generally what folks did when the king or general or Emperor rode in on a horse. After a great military triumph, leaders would be honored with palm branches.

Instead, here we see palm branches being laid at the feet of a man riding in on a donkey.

Not victory through violence or war. Not victory through domination or oppression.

Victory through peace.

Victory through love.

It was a remarkable declaration that day by both Jesus and the crowds who acclaimed him. So a couple Sundays from now when you listen to the Palm Sunday stories, I encourage you to consider that deeper, richer symbolism in the narrative. Reflect on what Jesus’ kingdom is all about. Ask yourself what you can do to live out victory through peace today – because living the message of the Kingdom is what we should be about as well.

The Kingdom, the Law, and Life

This past Sunday morning, I was given the honor and opportunity to teach in a corporate church setting again. I taught on Matthew 5:17-20 (I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it) and spoke about the Kingdom of God, our relationship to the Law, love, and abundant life.

You can listen to it here.

It felt so great to be up there teaching again! The pastor of the church, who is one of my good friends, told me before and afterwards, “You need to be teaching. This is your gift and we can’t let it go unused.”

There’s something really incredible about doing what you were made to do.

Random Thoughts on Baptism

I heard a sermon on baptism the other day. It wasn’t bad, but it was pretty much exactly like every other sermon on baptism I’ve heard in evangelical churches over the past 15 years. It prompted some random thoughts on the subject that I’d like to dialog with you.

First: baptism is an outward profession of an inward faith. Heard that one so many times, or some variant of it, that you’d think it’s some major verse repeated in the Bible in bold font. Except it isn’t. This is usually followed up with some cute story about branding cattle (hey, we live in Wyoming, bear with us) or relating it to circumcision in the Old Testament (although evangelicals are always quick to make sure we know they’re not talking about infant baptism – heaven forbid!) or some other “marking” or “branding” scenario. We get baptized so folks know who we belong to, and we belong to Jesus. But here’s my question: if that’s the case, why in the world didn’t Jesus pick a rite that was a little more… well, permanent? I certainly can’t tell who’s been baptized and who hasn’t. It sure doesn’t work like a mark or a brand for me. I doubt somebody can look at me and say, “Oh, yes, he belongs to Jesus. I can tell because he got baptized.” If baptism really was about being marked or branded, Jesus should have got Sharpie in on a sponsorship deal for the whole thing. Think about it: exclusive sponsorship for the next 2,000 years+ of a rite that over half the world more or less has to participate in? What permanent marker company wouldn’t pay through the nose for that deal?

That leads into my second thought: baptism is a public confession of faith. This is another staple of evangelical baptismal teaching. My immediate thought when somebody says that, though, is this: if that’s the case, why do 99% of baptisms take place in a church building? Where the ‘public’ isn’t around? Where it’s mainly just other Christians who have ‘publicly’ declared their faith in the same way? And what about the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts? When Phillip baptized him, it wasn’t a public ceremony. It was just the dude (minus his dude-goods) and Phillip. The jailer that Paul and Silas converted while they were his prisoners got baptized at midnight, immediately upon his conversion — not quite the “let’s talk about this to make sure you really understand what baptism is, and then schedule a baptism service for a few weeks from now” you see these days in churches. And most definitely not a public ceremony or a public confession of faith.

Which all leads to my final thought on baptism (at least for now): are evangelicals missing the boat on this whole baptism thing? (And I include myself in that question, since I began following Jesus in an evangelical church and am still currently attending one.) If our two major teachings on what baptism is are flawed, do we even understand what baptism is? And I can’t help but feel like we are missing some of the beauty in this rite with our sterilized teachings on the subject. We seem to be more concerned with whether baptism is a sacrament or an ordinance (honestly, all you “laity” out there – do you really care about that debate? At all?) or who is eligible to be baptized than we are with the beauty and symbolism it contains.

I wonder if we don’t sometimes sterilize something, like baptism, so much with our intricate doctrinal stances that it just loses meaning. And then our folks lose interest.

Baptism as a purification rite was practiced long before Jesus ever came to earth. In fact, pagan religions dating all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, and including Babylonian religions, believed in the cleansing and purifying properties of water and practiced water baptism. The Jewish people practiced water baptism. In fact, baptism meant different things to different sects within Judaism. To some, it was a purifying ritual, to others it was an initiation rite… but they all practiced it. In fact, it could be said that baptism is one of the common threads unifying incredibly diverse religions together.

In that, it is a shame that it has become such a divisive practice in the Church these days.

Should infants be baptized? I don’t know. I know what I’ve been taught my whole Christian life, because I’ve just hung out in evangelical circles for most of that time. But I also know that there were at least five times in the New Testament when a guy gets saved and then his whole family is baptized. Chances are at least one of those families may have had small children or babies. I do know that roughly 80% of Christendom baptizes babies, and that evangelicals would have to possess an immense amount of hubris to assume that we – and only we – have interpreted the Sciptures correctly. And I do know that many of the early church fathers and writers agreed with and encouraged the practice of infant baptism, and that “believer’s baptism” wasn’t instituted as a doctrine until the 1500s.

I don’t know if we should practice infant baptism or not… but maybe it’s high time we stopped devoting so much time in our baptism sermons to explaining why infant baptism is wrong.

Should we sprinkle or immerse? I don’t know. Again, I’ve been taught a clear dividing line my whole Christian life, and on one side of that line was truth and on the other side the people were WRONG. Now, that line looks really fuzzy from where I’m sitting. I don’t know if we should sprinkle, but I do know that in the Old Testament, cleansing and purification rituals were all done by sprinkling — whether that was sprinkling blood to purify the altar or sprinkling water to purify and cleanse people. I do know that God promised in Ezekiel as part of the coming covenant to “sprinkle clean water upon [us] and [we] will be clean.” I know that Jewish men were readied to hold priestly office by being sprinkled with water for purification – and that seems to be a pretty decent picture of what was going on with Jesus’ baptism… and I know that the Greek word for baptism that evangelicals are so sure only refers to immersion quite obviously means sprinkling in passages like Mark 7.

In the denomination our church is a part of, you can’t be a church member if you were sprinkled instead of immersed. Even if you were sprinkled as an adult. That’s just silly to me. And really, beyond all of this, I can’t help but wonder if God isn’t above these sorts of silly debates.

He’s gotta be looking down, shaking his head at us stupid humans and wishing he would’ve rethought the whole Sharpie thing.

Maybe it’s time we lighten up a bit about all our little quirky doctrines that man has built, extra-biblically, around the symbolic practice of baptism. Maybe we should talk about it a little less and practice it a little more. And maybe we should stop arguing about it and stand back to just admire the simplistic beauty of one of the few remaining ancient religious rites in Christianity.

Random Thoughts on Baptism

I heard a sermon on baptism the other day. It wasn’t bad, but it was pretty much exactly like every other sermon on baptism I’ve heard in evangelical churches over the past 15 years. It prompted some random thoughts on the subject that I’d like to dialog with you.

First: baptism is an outward profession of an inward faith. Heard that one so many times, or some variant of it, that you’d think it’s some major verse repeated in the Bible in bold font. Except it isn’t. This is usually followed up with some cute story about branding cattle (hey, we live in Wyoming, bear with us) or relating it to circumcision in the Old Testament (although evangelicals are always quick to make sure we know they’re not talking about infant baptism – heaven forbid!) or some other “marking” or “branding” scenario. We get baptized so folks know who we belong to, and we belong to Jesus. But here’s my question: if that’s the case, why in the world didn’t Jesus pick a rite that was a little more… well, permanent? I certainly can’t tell who’s been baptized and who hasn’t. It sure doesn’t work like a mark or a brand for me. I doubt somebody can look at me and say, “Oh, yes, he belongs to Jesus. I can tell because he got baptized.” If baptism really was about being marked or branded, Jesus should have got Sharpie in on a sponsorship deal for the whole thing. Think about it: exclusive sponsorship for the next 2,000 years+ of a rite that over half the world more or less has to participate in? What permanent marker company wouldn’t pay through the nose for that deal?

That leads into my second thought: baptism is a public confession of faith. This is another staple of evangelical baptismal teaching. My immediate thought when somebody says that, though, is this: if that’s the case, why do 99% of baptisms take place in a church building? Where the ‘public’ isn’t around? Where it’s mainly just other Christians who have ‘publicly’ declared their faith in the same way? And what about the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts? When Phillip baptized him, it wasn’t a public ceremony. It was just the dude (minus his dude-goods) and Phillip. The jailer that Paul and Silas converted while they were his prisoners got baptized at midnight, immediately upon his conversion — not quite the “let’s talk about this to make sure you really understand what baptism is, and then schedule a baptism service for a few weeks from now” you see these days in churches. And most definitely not a public ceremony or a public confession of faith.

Which all leads to my final thought on baptism (at least for now): are evangelicals missing the boat on this whole baptism thing? (And I include myself in that question, since I began following Jesus in an evangelical church and am still currently attending one.) If our two major teachings on what baptism is are flawed, do we even understand what baptism is? And I can’t help but feel like we are missing some of the beauty in this rite with our sterilized teachings on the subject. We seem to be more concerned with whether baptism is a sacrament or an ordinance (honestly, all you “laity” out there – do you really care about that debate? At all?) or who is eligible to be baptized than we are with the beauty and symbolism it contains.

I wonder if we don’t sometimes sterilize something, like baptism, so much with our intricate doctrinal stances that it just loses meaning. And then our folks lose interest.

Baptism as a purification rite was practiced long before Jesus ever came to earth. In fact, pagan religions dating all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, and including Babylonian religions, believed in the cleansing and purifying properties of water and practiced water baptism. The Jewish people practiced water baptism. In fact, baptism meant different things to different sects within Judaism. To some, it was a purifying ritual, to others it was an initiation rite… but they all practiced it. In fact, it could be said that baptism is one of the common threads unifying incredibly diverse religions together.

In that, it is a shame that it has become such a divisive practice in the Church these days.

Should infants be baptized? I don’t know. I know what I’ve been taught my whole Christian life, because I’ve just hung out in evangelical circles for most of that time. But I also know that there were at least five times in the New Testament when a guy gets saved and then his whole family is baptized. Chances are at least one of those families may have had small children or babies. I do know that roughly 80% of Christendom baptizes babies, and that evangelicals would have to possess an immense amount of hubris to assume that we – and only we – have interpreted the Sciptures correctly. And I do know that many of the early church fathers and writers agreed with and encouraged the practice of infant baptism, and that “believer’s baptism” wasn’t instituted as a doctrine until the 1500s.

I don’t know if we should practice infant baptism or not… but maybe it’s high time we stopped devoting so much time in our baptism sermons to explaining why infant baptism is wrong.

Should we sprinkle or immerse? I don’t know. Again, I’ve been taught a clear dividing line my whole Christian life, and on one side of that line was truth and on the other side the people were WRONG. Now, that line looks really fuzzy from where I’m sitting. I don’t know if we should sprinkle, but I do know that in the Old Testament, cleansing and purification rituals were all done by sprinkling — whether that was sprinkling blood to purify the altar or sprinkling water to purify and cleanse people. I do know that God promised in Ezekiel as part of the coming covenant to “sprinkle clean water upon [us] and [we] will be clean.” I know that Jewish men were readied to hold priestly office by being sprinkled with water for purification – and that seems to be a pretty decent picture of what was going on with Jesus’ baptism… and I know that the Greek word for baptism that evangelicals are so sure only refers to immersion quite obviously means sprinkling in passages like Mark 7.

In the denomination our church is a part of, you can’t be a church member if you were sprinkled instead of immersed. Even if you were sprinkled as an adult. That’s just silly to me. And really, beyond all of this, I can’t help but wonder if God isn’t above these sorts of silly debates.

He’s gotta be looking down, shaking his head at us stupid humans and wishing he would’ve rethought the whole Sharpie thing.

Maybe it’s time we lighten up a bit about all our little quirky doctrines that man has built, extra-biblically, around the symbolic practice of baptism. Maybe we should talk about it a little less and practice it a little more. And maybe we should stop arguing about it and stand back to just admire the simplistic beauty of one of the few remaining ancient religious rites in Christianity.

A Narrative

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.

A Narrative

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.