Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom, I am confused about something King David did and then later what Jesus had to say about it. Jesus seems to be saying that when David and his men ate the showbread, it was unlawful; yet at the same time, he seems to be commending them for it. This can’t be right, but I can’t figure it out.”
Tom: Well, Dave, I think the best thing the best thing to do is to go right to Jesus’s words and then we will go back to 1 Samuel and give the example he is referring to. So, in Mark:2:23-28, I’ll read this: “And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the Sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house…and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord…of the Sabbath.”
But Dave, the reference, as I mentioned, is back to 1 Samuel, when David goes in and asks Ahimelech, the priest, for food. Let me pick up with 1 Samuel:21:3: “Now, therefore, what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread…but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth, women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the showbread, that was taken from before the Lord, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.” So, I could see some concern. Is this lawful, or was David doing something that was unlawful? Jesus said it was unlawful, so how can he be commended for that?
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s an interesting situation. David says, “In a sense, it is common bread.” And what he was saying is an important lesson for religious people to learn. There’s nothing sacred about the bread, and the fact that this was bread that was brought into the tabernacle to be offered to the Lord—it’s called the showbread, and it sat there, the twelve loaves actually, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel—did not sanctify the bread, did not give the bread some magical qualities. There are people who when they take the communion bread, they think this really turns into the body and blood of Jesus. You know, you were a Catholic, you were an altar boy. They would be very careful whatever happened to that—you wouldn’t want any to fall on the floor.
Tom: Right. And you had to make sure the communicant—either the priest places it on the tongue of the mouth of the communicant or that, now, if it’s put in the hand, that it goes from the hand to the mouth.
Dave: Right. So they think there is something sacred, something holy, about a piece of bread. And David was saying, “You know, this really is just bread, so there is no reason why we couldn’t eat it.” And then, Jesus is also saying, “God is not giving you laws that you must adhere to if it’s going to be a matter of life and death.” You could go to Jehovah’s Witnesses who got the wrong idea about blood transfusions and they will even die rather than have a blood transfusion, although that’s a wrong idea as well.
So David and his men—David was the anointed of the Lord. These guys were starving. They needed some strength. Saul was after them to kill them, and in that situation, it’s the same as when the disciples are going through the field on the Sabbath day and they are gathering some of the grains of wheat, I guess, or corn, whatever it was, and the Pharisees criticized them, and Jesus said, “Well, the Sabbath…man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.”
Tom:Right, it means it’s a Sabbath rest.
Dave: “…and the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath also.” So, I think it’s steering us away from legalism—that there are certain rules and regulations. Now I’m not talking about immorality. We’re not going to condone adultery or lying or stealing or whatever, but there are certain religious practices, and they are not holy. They are symbolic of something, but they do not have some power in and of themselves. Now, you could go to any number of groups—we could go to some Mennonite groups, we could go to the Hutterites—I’ve visited Hutterites where everything is legalism: how the girls braid their hair, what length of dress they wear, and so forth, and that is not godliness, and that is not how it works. It’s by grace through faith that we are saved, so that things that were given as symbolic of certain matters of faith are not in and of themselves efficacious.
Tom: Dave, yeah, and that’s a concern that we have. I find within those who sincerely love the Lord there is a tendency to push things too far, whether it be, you know, we just referred to a guy who sounds like he was in a cult. It was a false gospel, and they had religious beliefs, and if they didn’t live up to those religious beliefs, they were going to hell—practices and rituals, and so on and so forth; the sacraments and so on. Once we push that too far—miss what it’s about—that it’s to point to Christ, to the person of Christ, and it’s our relationship with Jesus Christ, that’s what’s efficacious, our personal…our walk with Him and our relationship with Him. That’s what’s going to make our lives fruitful and productive and glorifying to the Lord.