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King on the Run (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
April 23, 2024 4:00 am

King on the Run (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 23, 2024 4:00 am

Is it ever okay to lie—like when you’re in danger or if no one will be harmed? Is deception acceptable if the needy will benefit? Hear the answer to this question on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines some questionable decisions that David made.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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Is it ever okay to tell a lie? What about if you're in danger or if no one will be harmed by it?

Is it okay to deceive others if somehow the needy will benefit? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg answers this question as we examine some questionable decisions that King David made. And just the first nine verses. The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly, outside the veil of the testimony in the tent of meeting. Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly.

It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly. You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it. Two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf, and you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion, as a food offering to the LORD. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly. It is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever, and it shall be for Aaron and his sons. And they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD's food offerings, a perpetual dew.

Amen. Again from the Bible, this time again from this morning, in 1 Samuel and chapter 21—and I won't read the whole chapter, I'll only read to the ninth verse. First Samuel chapter 21, and reading from verse 1. Then David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David, trembling, and said to him, Why are you alone and no one with you? And David said to Ahimelech the priest, The king has charged me with a matter, and said to me, Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you and with which I have charged you.

I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever is here. And the priest answered David, I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread, if the young men have kept themselves from women. And David answered the priest, Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy, even when it is an ordinary journey.

How much more today will their vessels be holy? So the priest gave him the holy bread. For there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord. His name was Doig the Edomite, the chief of Saul's herdsmen. Then David said to Ahimelech, Then have you not here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste.

And the priest said, The sword of Goliath of Philistine, whom you struck down in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is none but that here. And David said, There is none like that.

Give it to me. We pray along with the song we have sung that the Holy Spirit will be at work, keeping us on the right track, helping us to speak and listen and understand and live in the light of your Word. This is our humble and earnest prayer in Christ's name.

Amen. Well, we this morning essentially had a long introduction to this text, recognizing the peculiar challenges that are represented in it. And we realized that in coming to this particular section and to essentially the concluding third of the book of 1 Samuel, we are dealing with a repetitive situation with David, the anointed king, on the run pursued by his enemies and fearful of his one-time boss, namely Saul. And we ended this morning by recognizing that the picture has dramatically changed.

The conquering hero, in all of his resplendent glory, in chapter 17, has now been reduced to a hopeless and a helpless fugitive. And he has made his way, as we discover here in the text, to the town of Nob. You will remember from our early studies that it was to Shiloh that everybody went. Shiloh was the place of the priests.

But along the way, as a result of the invading forces, that has now shifted to Nob. And later on in the text, into subsequent chapters, we discover that Nob is described there as the city of the priests. Now, David on the run has gone a number of places and still has a number of places to go. He ran away, first of all, you will remember, at the beginning of chapter—in the middle of chapter 19, to find refuge in Samuel the prophet.

He then ran from there into the custody of his friend Jonathan. He is about to run, before the chapter is concluded, into the context of the enemy camp, quite surprisingly. And in this section, in these first nine verses, he has run to the custody and to the potential security of Ahimelech the priest.

And here we have the record of his coming. He came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest, and Ahimelech came to meet David, trembling, and said to him. Now, I don't think any of us would have been surprised if we looked down at that first verse and found that it was a description, when it comes to trembling, a description of David.

After all, he is the one who is being pursued. He is the one who is fearful for his life. But there is something about this strange encounter that causes Ahimelech to tremble. Ahimelech himself was actually a great-grandson of Eli. And for those of you who are on the honors course, you may even have the faintest recollection of the fact that the last we saw of Eli, before he tipped backwards and fell off his chair and died, was a trembling Eli who was trembling before the presence of the Lord. And now here his great grandson, in the encounter with David, trembles also. There's actually a lot of trembling when you read the Philistines tremble and the Israelites tremble.

As I think I said in passing, there's a whole lot of shaking going on. And you find it again and again. We have to assume that there was something about David's appearance on this particular occasion. I say on this particular occasion, because if your Bible is open and you just have a chance to look at the fifteenth verse of the next chapter, there we discover that it was not a one-off occasion when he went to Ahimelech. And we'll deal with that in detail when we get to it, but you'll notice that Ahimelech answers the king, Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? He came to inquire of God. He came to seek refuge and so on. And at that point, later on, Ahimelech says, when he's being challenged on these particular verses here—verses 1–9—there he lets us know that it wasn't a unique experience for David to have come to inquire of him as the priest, thereby making it clear to us that there had to be something about this particular appearing of David on this occasion that caused Ahimelech this kind of distress, to get him shaking, as it were, in his shoes.

His question to David is an obvious one. Why are you alone and no one with you? That in itself is interesting. I think the linguists among us would probably say that this bears testimony to this sort of use of parallelism. Because what does it mean to be alone except for no one to be with you?

And so, it's very interesting. Why are you alone and no one with you? Why are you here alone and not a soul with you? It just wasn't normal.

It just wasn't normal. Ahimelech would know that David, given his status, given the approbation of the people and so on, would almost inevitably be traveling with an entourage. He would have those who would be around him not necessarily to protect him but certainly to accompany him. And as I read this and thought about it, I thought about Marcellus in Hamlet, remember, when Marcellus at one point sees the ghost of the king, sees the ghost of Hamlet's father. And it is to Marcellus—the great line is given by Shakespeare—"something is rotten in the state of Denmark." And I think that this is the kind of encounter that takes place here.

And Ahimelech is aware of the fact that something now is rotten in the state of Israel, or in the cities of Israel. And if we'd had occasion to ask him, tell me, what was it really like? I think he would have said something like, Well, there was just something about the way he showed up out of the blue. He was disheveled. He sort of stared in front of himself with a faraway look, and frankly, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

I think that's the kind of encounter. And it causes us to say, Could anyone have looked less like the anointed king—the one who'd been the toast of the nation, the one who'd been the subject of their songs? Well, David's answer comes then, directly, and in verse 2 and 3 we have it. Whether his answer was premeditated or whether it was spontaneous, he tells the priest that he is on his majesty's secret service. And he creates the notion in the mind of the priest that there are actually people in his group, and he has a rendezvous planned later on.

This, of course, is a fabrication. And it is an indication, I think, of what is becoming in David's life something of a disturbing pattern. Because we've already seen that when Michal, his wife, did her little cover-up story, he was clearly part of that cover-up too. We have already learned that he was the one who came up with the useful lie to be given by Jonathan, in the company of his father, to explain his absence from the table.

And we looked at that last time. And now, once again, in confronting Ahimelech, it appears that his new default position is actually to tell lies. Now, somebody challenged me on this after the service this morning—not immediately, but by text. At least I took it as a challenge, and it seemed to me that the inference was, you're just allowed to do this. You just can tell lies, given the situation. And so, in passing, let's just be clear that we do not believe in situation ethics.

We do not believe that the situation transmutes what is bad into something that is good because of the context. A lie is still a lie is still a lie. And although I may lie, for example, if someone comes to the front door of my house and says, I've come to kill your wife and your children, are they all in the house? I may well lie at that point. But it is a lie. And it remains a lie. And I am committed to tell the truth. Therefore, unlike the situational ethicist who says, Don't worry about it, that's the only thing you could do and should do, the Christian believer says, That was the only thing I was prepared to do.

But when I knelt by my bed in the evening, I asked forgiveness for having broken the law of God and telling lies. But David here is now on a run. And it made me think—and it's just conjecture on my part, but I'll pass it on for your own consideration if it's helpful—it made me think about the fact that in his great collapse, which we then get in 2 Samuel, when everything hits the fan, if we might put it colloquially, with Bathsheba… You know, people look at situations like that and they say, How did that happen? It came out of the blue.

You know, all of that deceitfulness and everything, and what he's doing with Uriah and trying to make sure he can cover everything up. Well, he's started to get a little bit of practice here. You remember what we were all told at Sunday school? So a thought, reap an action. So an action, reap a habit. So a habit, reap a character. So a character, reap a destiny.

It is never right, and it is never good. And in actual fact, when we get to chapter 22, we will discover the impact of this lie on the lives of many, many people who died at the sword because he didn't tell the truth. He could have told the truth. He could have. He could have trusted God and told the truth. But he trusted himself and told a lie. Well, he wants to suggest, you see, to Ahimelech that everything is fine and dandy.

But it isn't. And the question, of course, that is inevitable as we look at the text is, well, why does he actually do this? Is he telling a lie here, as some people suggest, to protect the priest by screening him, as it were, from the responsibility of having granted refuge to a known outlaw? In other words, does he do it because he wants to be nice to Ahimelech? Or does he do it, which I think is more likely, because he felt that he couldn't trust Ahimelech?

There was no way that he could necessarily bring him into his confidence. So what we have before us then is this collapse. Courage and faith have given way to cowardice and fear.

He has stood tall against a giant, and he now shrinks before a priest. Again, I say to you, as I said this morning, let us not be too quick to sit in judgment. And let us remind ourselves at the same time that the text is not interrupted by any kind of ethical comment on the part of the narrator. In other words, the issue of the lies are not addressed—not because it's unimportant but because the narrative is actually simply reporting what has happened.

It is not recommending what has happened. Now, before Ahimelech has time for a follow-up question, if you like, David makes his request. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever is here. Why five loaves? Why five loaves? I'm sure there is somebody who has an answer for that.

I want you to know I don't. The best I can imagine is that he said five to keep up the pretense of having other people to share it with. And he said five, because if he had said much more than that, he wouldn't even have been able to handle it.

Beyond that, I've got no idea. But when it comes to this bread issue, this is where, as per our principle this morning, we are helped by referencing Scripture elsewhere. And so that is why I read earlier from Leviticus chapter 24, where the record is given of Moses setting Aaron to the task with a regularity and a fastidiousness and a humility and a sacredness of setting out on the table in the tabernacle every Sabbath day these twelve loaves, representative surely of the provision of God for the twelve tribes of Israel. So, if you like, there in that moment, in that ongoing process, the reminder of God's provision for his own was made clear. Now, is this day, then, the Sabbath? It may well be. If it is, then it ties in so wonderfully well, doesn't it, with Luke chapter 6 and the way in which Jesus makes reference to this incident?

We can't say that with any sense of confidence. But when the bread was replaced, as it was, according to verse 6, then the bread that was removed was now available to be eaten but only by the priests. They didn't take it out in the street and say, Do anyone need a loaf? But no, that was clearly how it was to be.

That is what makes it quite striking that a himalek then makes an exception. And he makes an exception here, and he says, I can't give you any regular bread. So, goodness, I don't know what was going on that he didn't have any bread except sacred bread, but those are the facts. I've got nothing I can give you except the bread of the presence. And I'll give that to you. If you can give me the assurance that your young men… Of course, there are no young men. But anyway, if you can give me… So it's going to be very easy to give the assurance. If you can give me the assurance that your young men are euphemistically kosher.

Okay? Kosher according, again, to this particular question of having kept themselves from sexual relations within the immediate proximity of this event. Now, we would need to turn again to the Levitical law in order to do justice to this. I don't want to do that tonight for a number of reasons, but I commend to you your own particular study in that area. And there you will find out why it is that the symbolism of the Levitical law made these kind of provisos. You know, it all has to do with being symbolic of death, with the outgoing of life, and in that post-outgoing-of-life period, then it symbolizes death, and in the symbol of death, then the individual is then rendered ceremonially unclean, and therefore, until that period of time has elapsed, they are now disbarred from any event such as this.

And so he decides that if they can give a reasonable answer to that question, then we can go ahead. No, says David, we're all good. It's always the case, our everything about us, our bodies, our backpacks, our things—they're all entirely kosher.

They're all in clean condition. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is, Alistair Begg with a message he's titled King on the Run.

We'll hear more tomorrow. In our current study in 1 Samuel, we're learning some important lessons found in the Old Testament. But it's essential to keep in mind that the most important lesson is that the whole Bible is a book about Jesus. That's why we're recommending to you a booklet called Does the Old Testament Really Point to Jesus?

This is a short 45-page booklet. It explains that if we fail to appreciate how the Old Testament points to Jesus, we will end up in error. If we're not reading the Old Testament in light of the Gospel, the Old Testament is reduced to a Christless moral code. This book goes on to remind us that when Jesus is absent from our interpretation, we begin relating to God apart from the only one who can bring us to God.

And that's futile. Let me encourage you to request your copy of this helpful booklet. It'll provide you with specific ways to see where Jesus is promised or foreshadowed or clearly predicted as you read the Old Testament.

The booklet Does the Old Testament Really Point to Jesus? is yours today when you give a donation to support the Bible teaching you here on Truth for Life. You can give a gift through our mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate. Or if you'd prefer, you can call us at 888-588-7884. If you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to us at Truth for Life P.O.

Box 398000 Cleveland, Ohio 44139. By the way, if you've not yet planned your 2024 vacation, how about studying the Bible as you explore New England and Eastern Canada in the fall? Alistair Begg will be the special guest speaker on a cruise hosted by Salem Media Group.

It's a seven-day voyage, departs from Boston, Massachusetts on September 21st and then travels up around Prince Edward Island, stopping in various scenic ports along the way and wrapping up in historic Quebec City. Throughout the trip, Alistair will be teaching from the Bible. It's a great opportunity to enjoy fellowship with other believers as you study God's word and view his beautiful creation. You can find out more about the trip at deeperfaithcruise.com.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. It can be disappointing when we see a hero of the faith succumb to cowardice and fear. Tomorrow, we'll find out why this strange episode we're looking at in the life of David can be an encouragement for us today. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-23 05:19:00 / 2024-04-23 05:27:41 / 9

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