David is on the run from Saul. He leaves town so quickly that he didn’t have time to kiss his wife goodbye. He didn’t even have enough time to grab a weapon, a change of clothes, companions, or food. So he stops by Ahimelech’s house to see if this priest has any food.
Remember the old nursery rhyme?
Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.
That’s just about what happened here. Ahimelech said, “The only bread I have is the holy showbread.” This consecrated bread was 12 loaves laid out each Sabbath in God’s presence. When this bread was replaced each week, it became food for the priests. Ahimelech recognized he has a moral obligation to save David’s life which superseded the ceremonial rules.
Jesus used this incident as an example when the Pharisees accused Him of breaking the law concerning the Sabbath day. Jesus and His followers had been walking through a wheat field, plucking some pieces of grain on which they could munch. The rule-keeping Pharisees said this amounted to work, and a violation of Sabbath rules.
I think sometimes we get so caught up in keeping the rules (or following tradition, or preserving decorum) that we forget the meaning behind the rule. Or, more accurately, we forget God’s design behind the rule.
Every rule God gives is to keep us in a place where we can experience His presence. Rules are not life, but they are boundaries that keep us on the path to life.
Ahimelech kept David alive with showbread. Jesus and His disciples sustained themselves with wheat kernels. Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath to bring life and wholeness.
Following rules just to follow rules misses the point. What is the point? Following God’s rules to find God’s heart is THE point.
Do you get the point?