This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER RELEASED FROM CUSTODY PENDING APPEAL
1 Samuel 21:1-15
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
David at Nob
21 [a]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 have you to 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 to 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[b] 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.
7 Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.
8 David asked Ahimelek, ‘Don’t you have a spear or sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.’
9 The priest replied, ‘The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.’
David said, ‘There is none like it; give it to me.’
David at Gath
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”?’
12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he feigned insanity 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.
14 Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’
This story shows David living by his wits as a fugitive from the king. His story would not have convinced Ahimelech but it gave him an excuse for assisting someone who might be under royal disfavour. The incident of the bread shows both David’s blithe confidence-he will not being a curse upon himself by eating consecrated bread- and the way in which his doubtful enterprise is blessed by God- the availability of this bread is a secret sign of God’s care for him.
The incident of the sword gives the same message: it’s as if the sword has been waiting for its true owner.
The trickster aspect of David’s character is to the fore in his response to being recognised by the courtiers of King Achish of Gath, who might have had him killed or used to gain advantage with Saul. His imitation of a demented person is not very pc but it is effective. The words given to Achish are a marvellously swift evocation of his character, “Am I so short of madmen….?”
The message is not that God helps those who help themselves – and David helps himself to quite a lot in his life-but rather that God delights in the fullest possible use of the powers he has given to humanity. The God envisaged by this author is not in jealous competition with human beings; rather he takes pleasure when they flourish and enjoy his gift of life. “The glory of God is the living man, the living woman,” wrote Irenaeus, the first and one of the greatest of Christian theologians. Nothing is further from this theology than the picture of human beings as miserable sinners. They can be miserable but they can also be splendid even in their sinfulness. Martin Luther wrote to his friend Melanchthon, “Sin boldly; do something worthy of God’s mercy!”
Well yes, that needs some qualification, but it chimes with the image of God in the story of David.