“Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place” (1 Samuel 21:1-2).
This chapter reveals a David who was not living according to God’s standards. We find him behaving in ways that are disturbing and foolish. His fear caused him to lose sight of God’s presence, so his conduct followed the wisdom of the world rather than that of the Lord.
After leaving Jonathan, David went to a town called Nob which was the home of several priests who ministered in the tabernacle and was situated just north of Jerusalem. The chief priest, Ahimelech, was puzzled at David’s presence in the town, and on questioning him received a deceptive answer. Is lying ever justified? Does God ever turn a blind eye to lying?
The word “afraid” literally means that Ahimelech shook with fear at the sight of David. Why was he so fearful of his presence? The fact that David was all alone gave the priest cause for concern. In fact David had somewhere along the way attracted a few followers who travelled with him, or it is possible that Jonathan arranged for men to meet up with him. They were probably hiding out of sight of Ahimelech. “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?” (Matthew 12:3-4). For David to be alone looked suspicious. “A person of David’s rank to be travelling unattended was a strange and unusual thing” (Frederic Charles Cook). Though David did not mean the priest any harm, the way he went about it caused him to be extremely worried.
As high priest, Ahimelech would have been informed about what was happening in Saul’s household, and how David was being ill-treated. He probably feared, and rightly so as we shall see, that the king would kill him if he assisted David. So David‘s presence made him feel very uncomfortable. David was putting Ahimelech in an awkward situation. He would later repent of the sin of lying. “Remove from me the way of lying” (Psalm 119:29).
David’s cover story
David, instead of owning up and explaining what was going on, decided to tell a series of lies. He claimed to be on a secret mission that the king had sent him on, and it was so urgent that he did not even have time to pack any food, weapons or clothes. “It is painful in the last degree to see one whose faith towered to such lofty height in the encounter with Goliath, coming down from that noble elevation, to find him resorting for self-protection to the lies and artifices of an impostor” (William Garden Blaikie). In fact he was multiplying his own problems, and of those any way connected to him, by lying.
David knew that the priest would be too afraid to assist him, so the cover story would deceive him into helping him. If David was indeed commissioned by Saul, then Ahimelech would be punished if he did not give him what he wanted. Like so many today, David lied to get what he needed. Though we often have great needs, it is never acceptable to obtain them through fraudulent means, because once we are found out, our character will be tarnished.
David was telling lies to God’s high priest and under the shadow of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant which symbolised the presence of the Lord. Therefore he was being deceitful on sacred ground. David had forgotten, just like Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament, that he was lying to God. “Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:4). Truth is the characteristic of God, “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19), but lies originate with the devil, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). By lying we are displaying the nature of Satan rather than God. We cannot make things better through deceit. “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22).