Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
August 26, 2007
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:
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. When Is It Legitimate to "Violate" the Law?
- A. The Pharisees were accusing the disciples of violating Sabbath Law.
- B. Jesus did not argue that the action was not "really" a violation of Sabbath Law (a tack He could have taken since the Pharisees' "interpretation" of the Law regarding the Sabbath was significantly corrupt).
- C. Jesus, instead, set an example before them of David eating the showbread which was restricted to the priests.
- 1. In this example, Jesus acknowledged the fact that David's actions were "unlawful".
- a. By this, Jesus was accepting the Pharisees' concept of "unlawful" at least as far as the conflict was concerned. Accepting another's "definitions" in a debate does not mean, or even necessarily imply, that the acceptance equals agreement.
- b. There are two "levels" of "lawfulness": overt literalism and subjective intentionalism. Keeping the letter of the Law and wanting to accomplish the intention underlying that Law are not the same thing.
- 2. By doing this, Jesus raised the issue of when/whether it is "ok" to violate the Law.
- a. Clearly, it can never be "ok" to act in an ungodly or unrighteous manner.
- b. That seems to lead to the inevitable conclusion that it is never "ok" to violate the Law as the expression of the righteousness of God.
- c. The issue, then, is not really whether it is "ok" to violate the Law; rather, it is an issue of whether a given action is a violation of the Law.
- 1) At this level, both the statement of Jesus and the statement(s) of "Law" come into play: the issues of meaning involve two very important concepts.
- a) There is the concept of actual intent: what did the Giver of the Law actually intend to accomplish by His Law (what did Jesus actually mean by His statement that David did something "unlawful")?
- b) And there is the concept of verbal expression of the Law: what words shall be used to attempt to accomplish the actual intent?
- 2) At this level of the question of "just how well does the verbal expression carry the actual intent?", we understand a basic fact about language: words have a limited capacity to express Truth and people are highly susceptible to gross misunderstanding.
- a) Truth is a wholistic unity wherein every individual element is tied together to every other individual element.
- b) It is impossible for any verbal description of Truth to be verbally inclusive of all truths unless both speaker and hearer are united in omniscience: any user of words who is not omniscient is subject to the problem of misunderstanding.
- 3) The Bible speaks of the "letter of the Law" and the "spirit of the Law". Any time the letter of the Law is the issue in a disagreement, a "'T'heology" of the Law Giver is dominating the debate. By the same token, any time there is a debate about the "spirit" of the Law, there is a "'T'heology" of the Law Giver involved.
- a) One of the major subsets of this concept is the actual definition of the final intention of the Law Giver.
- b) Because the actual intention is, at root, what is really involved, that intention must be carefully sought out. Many times a person will look at the Law of God, recognize that they cannot "keep" it and also do what they wish to do, and, as a consequence, declare "God does not want..." some result that they do not want. I cannot be "happy" married to this person; God wants me to be "happy"; ergo "God's words about divorce do not apply to my situation." The issue here is an issue of both Love and Faith. A "Love" that values "my happiness" above that of others is fatally flawed, and a "Faith" that believes "my understanding of what actions to take in this situation is legitimate" is just as flawed if those actions contradict the instruction of God.
- i. So, what does God "really want"?
- ii. God really wants "fullness of joy" for His people.
- iii. But, in a fallen setting, "fullness of joy" is like a wet bar of soap -- only retained by a light grasp if at all.
- iv. And, because of the fallen world, "fullness of joy" is a future reality kept in store for those who trust in the God of fullness of joy. Anyone who exalts temporal "fullness of joy" over eternal joy is foolish and fallen. We are told that the Author and Finisher of our faith set the example of looking to "the joy set before Him" while going through a serious absence of joy in this temporal setting.
- 3. So, did David actually violate the Law when he sought food and weapons from the priest?
- a. What was God's "intent" in restricting the eating of the showbread to the priests?
- 1) The high priest indicated that one aspect of that "intent" was to feed the priests. God forbade others from eating so that there would be provision for the priests.
- 2) The high priest also indicated that another aspect of that "intent" was to set a standard of high respect for God. The priest's restriction upon David's use of the bread was "if the young men have kept themselves from women". There is an issue here of having a sense of enormous respect for God that would not treat Him as a toy, or a doting provider.
- b. Was David's "emergency" such that he needed to have the bread? We are not told. Surely a few loaves of bread would not make much of a difference over all, but it may well be that the flight had already taken so much out of David that without the nourishment he would simply not have been capable of fleeing.
- 1) The description of David as "hungry" involves a word that was used of Jesus "after" He had fasted for 40 days and nights. Jesus used the same word to describe those who "will be filled" (6:21) and to describe those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matthew 5:6). These settings describe "hunger" as an issue far beyond how a person feels after just missing a meal or two.
- 2) David's behavior was not that of a "man of faith"; it was that of a fear-driven man who was trying to escape for his life.
- 3) The issue is not whether David was properly motivated; it is whether it was a violation of the Law for him to eat bread that God had reserved for the priests.
- a) It is interesting that the high priest was willing to give David the showbread.
- b) There is also the question as to whether the bread was really the priest's once it had been replaced by fresh bread. If it was, could he not share it with his family? Of course, if it was not, he would have been able to eat it himself, but no non-priest could.