Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
August 19, 2007
2 And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
3 And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;
4 How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
5 And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
1901 ASV Translation:
2 But certain of the Pharisees said, Why do ye that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath day?
3 And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read even this, what David did, when he was hungry, he, and they that were with him;
4 how he entered into the house of God, and took and ate the showbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests alone?
5 And he said unto them, The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.
- I. The Arrogance of the Pharisees.
- A. The Pharisees did what all arrogant men do: they made their words the equivalent of God's.
- B. Jesus, on at least one occasion, did take this issue on (Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7). He denied true "worship" status to those who claim "the commandments of men" are the Truth.
- C. But, He decided on a different approach on this occasion: He ridiculed their study of the Scriptures by quizzing them on David's behavior -- a man in their history that they would have been extremely cautious about criticizing.
- II. The Answer of Jesus.
- A. He chose an example out of Israel's past wherein the most revered king did something that was proscribed by "Law".
- 1. This choice of an Old Testament example is not without its problems. It comes from 1 Samuel 21-22 and records that even David blamed himself for the deaths of the priests of the Lord that occurred as a result of his actions. Also the record is pretty much an account of David deceiving the priest in order to get food and a weapon. So, if Jesus was looking at giving the Pharisees a "pristine" example of the legitimacy of His disciples' behavior, He did not do it.
- 2. However, Jesus' choice of the example does deal directly with the slaughter of the priests of the Lord by a renegade king and that, alone, would have prejudiced the Pharisees against finding any fault with David. The Pharisees were masters of seeing only what they wished to see.
- 3. The question is this: why did Jesus choose to use the example of David in His answer to the accusations of the Pharisees?
- a. Is the only example of "legitimate" law-breaking available in the Old Testament one of deception and self-recrimination?
- b. It is typical of God's wisdom to set forth what men cannot see as "wisdom". Men have a penchant for accusing God of "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:18) and God has a habit of turning their "wisdom" on its ear (1 Corinthians 1:25).
- c. There is a snare in the Truth for those who intend to oppose it. It "pleases" God to save those who "believe in His foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:21). There is a critical issue involved here: the arrogance of man is his major fault and without humility there is no salvation. When men refuse to acknowledge their need, God refuses to meet it. The major manifestation of this pride is the abandonment of the Word of God and the substitution of It with the "wisdom" of men. Everywhere one turns, there is a bold refusal to actually acknowledge any ignorance and the study of the Bible is actually ridiculed or, worse, hypocritically pursued. When the study of the words of men is called "Bible Study", (as in, "What are you studying in your Bible Study? O, we are studying so-and-so's book, __________ .") this hypocrisy is evident. But, some might object, "Is not all 'Bible Study' the study of a man's interpretation of God's words?" That is a fair question, but it boils down to one issue: is the Bible actually being studied? It is one thing to have the Bible at the root of the study; it is altogether another thing to have some uninspired book at that root. The difference is subtle, but critical.
- d. Jesus responded to the Pharisees with the equivalent of "Have you not even read what David did?" This was a blast to their egotism; it suggested that if they had so much as read the account, they would have had a better understanding of the truth about the Sabbath than they were manifesting.
- 1) Jesus' "example" did not directly address the "Sabbath" issue in that it was not about a "Sabbath" issue. David's behavior was about a "law" that did not touch on "Sabbath" issues, except indirectly. Indirectly, all law is about Sabbath issues because the observance of the Sabbath was all about loyalty to the Law-Giver.
- 2) There was a near-history (sort of) issue of which the Pharisees would have been aware: the debate over whether Jewish soldiers could fight on the Sabbath had been a national issue during the Jewish revolt against their oppressors after the Babylonian captivity because the inevitable slaughter of Jewish soldiers loyal to the Sabbath was more than they could put up with and it was finally decided that they could fight to defend themselves even if it was the Sabbath. This national/historical example had traces of Jesus' use of David in it because David, like the loyal soldiers who did not wish to fight on the Sabbath, was being pressed by an ungodly ruler so that he did not have the "luxury" of "following the rules" as they were understood by most men.
- 3) The issue, which they were supposed to have surfaced by a mere reading about David, is this: what is the true nature of "Law"? Is it, as the vast majority of humanity thinks, a demand-system from God that is to be obeyed as a matter of proving loyalty to Him and, thus, gaining His loyalty in return? Or is it really a description of how committed God is to men in their vast ignorance? If men do not know how to live, is not instruction (including prescription and proscription) a tremendous advantage to them? Was the Sabbath given to require "loyalty" of men; or was it given to provide "rest" for men? There are those who see it as a "loyalty" issue which will bring them into blessing. But, there are also those who see it as a "rest" issue which imparts blessing to them and, as a consequence, creates "loyalty" because of the manifest love of the Rest-Giver. The issue is this: does "loyalty" lead to "rest", or does "rest" lead to "loyalty"? Subtle, but crucial, is this difference. It is not unlike the question: Do we love God so that He will love us, or do we love God because He loves us? On this hangs all of the theological conflict of all of the ages. Who is the source of the love that makes the Kingdom a possibility? Is it man, or God?