Ahimelech

People Who Shaped David:  Ahimelech

I Samuel 21 & 22

 

1.   Edgar Guest, the famous American writer, told of a neighbor by the name of Jim Potter.  Mr. Potter ran the neighborhood drug store. They would smile at one another on the street, but their friendship was a casual one. Then came that tragic night in the life of Edgar Guest when he lost his first baby. He felt lonely and defeated. These were dark days. Guest went to the drugstore one morning to pick up something. When he entered Jim Potter stopped what he was doing and asked Edgar Guest to step to the back. “Eddie,” he said, “I really cannot express to you the sympathy I have for you in my heart. If you need anything, you can count on me.” Many years later Edgar Guest recalled that incident. He wrote: “Just a neighbor across the way, a passing acquaintance. Jim Potter may have long since forgotten that day when he extended his hand to me, but I shall never forget it. Never in all my life. To me it stands out like the silhouette of a lonely tree against a crimson sunset.”

2.   From time to time, we all need people in our lives like that...people who will befriend us, stand beside us, and help us through some great difficulty in life...in our continuing study of people who impacted the life of David, going to see someone who helped David at a crucial time in his life...most of the people we have met so far in this study are rather well-known OT characters – Samuel, Saul, Goliath, and Jonathan...and we have focused on a couple of lesser known characters as well – Mephibosheth and Abigail…in this session we are going to focus on another lesser known character, a man named Ahimelech...Ahimelech made the pages of the Bible because there was a time when he was a tremendous help to David...story is found in 1 Samuel 21 & 22...

3.   David was in trouble...was being pursued by Saul who fully intended to take David’s life...Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s friend, warned David of Saul’s plot, and David quickly fled...his get-a-way was so sudden, he did not have time to take proper provisions...he made his way to Nob, a small town about 2 ½ miles south of Gibeah, the hometown and headquarters of Saul...there, he asks Ahimelech, the priest of Nob, for help...first he asks for food...look at v.6 to see Ahimelech’s response...then he asks for a weapon...look at v.9 to see Ahimelech’s response...it is reported to Saul that Ahimelech helped David...Saul summoned the priest into his presence...look at what happened in 21:13-16...

 

T.S. – There are many themes and sub-themes in the story of David and Ahimelech which we could explore...but want to focus on two important things we can learn from this story...first, the story teaches us that...

 

I.    You can tell a lot about a person by where that person turns for help in times of need

1.   When your back is against wall...when faced with some great need in your life...when there is difficulty or danger or distress on every hand, where do you turn for help?...that’s the situation in which David found himself, and I think it is significant where he turned for help...

2.   He went to Nob, the city of priests...its population was made up of 85 priests and their wives and their children and their livestock ...when arrived in Nob sought out the leader of the priests, Ahimelech...this person was a representative of God...so by inference, in going to Nob, the city of priests, David was turning to God...and this wasn’t something unusual for David...at an earlier time when David was being pursued by Saul, David sought help from the prophet Samuel at Ramah...

3.   It was the pattern of David’s life to turn to God for help in time of need...and that is a pattern we all need to learn in our lives...

 

  1. I know much has been said and written in derogatory way about people who turn to God only in times of trouble...writers refer to such activity as fox hole or death bed religion...and while we certainly shouldn’t turn to God only in times of trouble...and while we should nurture our relationship with God all the days of our lives...I cannot think of a better place to turn for help than to the One who loves us fully, completely, unconditionally, without limit...

2.      One of the great statements of the Bible is the first part of Psalm 46:1...”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble...”...the word translated “trouble” literally means “hard place” or “tight spot”...point of statement is that it is in the very nature of God to help us in time of trouble...and the statement says God helps us in two specific ways:

--He helps us by becoming our “refuge”...the idea behind this word is shelter...place of protection...

·         Just as we seek a physical shelter to defend us from the storms of nature, so God provides spiritual shelter from the storms of life which inevitably come our way...

·         Just as a child dealing with some hurt can find protection and comfort in the arms of his/her mother or father, so we can comfort and protection in the arms of God during the hard times of life...

--He helps us by becoming our “strength”...it is important to see that the verse does not say God is our source of strength...it says He is our strength...our ability to stand and to even move forward in times of hardship is the result of God being in us...

3.   When understand that “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble...” it makes perfect sense to turn to Him for help...

4.   Jesus said much the same thing when he said in Matthew 11:28 – “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”...Leslie Weatherhead’s suggests that the Gospel can be put in six simple words. He writes: “I suppose to some that Christianity may seem a complicated thing. There are so many sects and creeds and theologies. Believe me, I am being very serious when I say that it can all be summarized in the words: Jesus offers his friendship to you.” [Sermon by Brett Blair]

5.   When you understand that, it is the most natural thing in the world to reach out to Him in times of need...and the fact that David sought out a priest of God for help tells us a lot about David’s understanding of God...that’s something can learn from David...but also something here we can learn from Ahimelech... from Ahimelech can learn that...

 

II.  You can tell a lot about a person by how that person responds to those seeking help

  1. Ahimelech seemed to know or perhaps sense that it was dangerous to help David...very first verse in chapter 21 says the priest “...came with trembling to meet David...”...and it seems to me that David tried to protect Ahimelech from the possible negative consequences of helping him by not telling the priest the he needed help because he was fleeing from Saul...however, in spite of that, Ahimelech’s helping David ended up costing him his life and the lives of 85 other priests and their families...that’s another whole story in itself...
  2. What want you see at this point is that at great risk to himself and others, Ahimelech stepped up and gave David the help he needed...notice what Ahimelech did for David—

--gave him provision – David was in need of food...he asked for bread...only bread available was what v.6 refers to as “the bread of the Presence”...this was the bread which was placed on the altar before God...when it was replaced with fresh bread, the bread that had been consecrated to God was consumed by the priests who were consecrated to God...it was not for the general population... Ahimelech gave this special bread, bread which was intended for him, to David...

--he gave David protection – David was in need of a weapon...he asks whether there was a spear or sword available...rather strange request of a priest because last place would expect find a weapon was in hands of a priest...but sword of Goliath, the Philistine warrior killed by David was on hand...not told how Goliath’s sword got there ...not told if David knew beforehand it was there...even though was prized trophy, Ahimelech gave it to David...

--he gave David direction – While not stated in ch.21, ch.22 makes clear that the priest prayed for David and sought God’s direction for David during this difficult time in his life...

3.   And what want you to see in all that is Ahimelech responded to David’s request for help by helping him...and that act alone tells us a lot about this priest of God...

 

  1. Cannot read NT without seeing that God calls us to offer help, encouragement, and support to others, and especially to those in need...that haunting statement in I John says it all:  “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”....and Jesus made it clear that the way to express our love for him is to care for those who are in need of food and clothing, who are weak and sick, those who are lonely and isolated...He reminds us that as we care for people who need help, in the process we are expressing our love and devotion to Him...
  2. Helping others is not optional for followers of Jesus...it is what Christians do...

 

  1. Read about a pastor who was last person leave church building after a Sunday morning worship service...as leaving saw a man walking up sidewalk toward church...while didn’t recognize the man, easily identified what he was seeking...as most pastors have, he had dealt with many a person like this one...was one of those transients, drifters who seemed to come from nowhere and be going nowhere...stories were different but really all the same...down on luck...trying to get to certain destination for some vague reason...could you help with tank of gas or motel room for night or some money for food...want you to hear what happened in this pastor’s own words:

I sighed as I watched the man approach. It had been a long day. I had a meeting to return for that night and I was anxious to get home. I would meet him at the door, head him off, give him the only cash I had -- a mere $15.00 as I recall -- and then send him, and me, on our way.

 

"What can I do for you?" I asked with some annoyance in my voice.

 

"I wondered if you might be able to help a fella' on the way South," he said. "I was headed down to...."

 

"Yes, yes," I said. "Well, I'm in a bit of a rush. So here is all I have. A five and a ten. That's all I've got."

 

The man took the money1 as I offered it. Looked at it. And without a word, he turned, and headed out toward the street.

 

Then he stopped, and turned toward me as I locked the church door. "I guess you think I'm supposed to thank you, to be grateful," he said with a surprising tone of defiance.

 

"Well," I said, "now that you mention it, a little gratitude wouldn't hurt."

 

"Well, I'm not going to thank you. You want to know why?" he sneered.

 

"Why?" I asked.

 

"Because you are a Christian. You don't help me because you want to. You have to help me because he [now thrusting his finger up into the air] told you to help me!" And then he left.

 

I stood there, stunned, angry. The nerve of these people!

 

On my drive home it finally hit me. He was right. Amen.

 

[Professor William Willimon (Duke University), Sermons: "Commanded to Love," May 4, 1997, Sixth Sunday of Easter, John 15:9-17.]

Conclusion

1.   What can we learn from David’s encounter with Ahimelech?...it’s simple, when we need help, turn to God...and when people around us need help, respond to them as God responds to us...

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