So I got up this morning intent on posting the next segment in our series in Luke. After finishing, I went back and discovered that I had already posted a devotional about this passage! Chalk it up to old age. However, I said some things differently here, and came at it from a different perspective, so I decided to keep both articles. You can read the first one here. Incidentally, this passage motivated me to dive deeper into the life of David, which resulted in a series I am now doing in our Wednesday evening services, and which will probably also find its way to this site in the near future.
The smell of freshly-baked bread permeated the area surrounding the newly-constructed tabernacle. While the people in the general vicinity could not see it, they could most certainly smell the delicious fragrance. They knew that these twelve loaves – one for each tribe – were placed in the Holy Sanctuary – a table spread out in the presence of the Lord.
And there they sat. All week.
On the following Sabbath the priests removed the old bread, and new-freshly baked bread was put in it’s place. The week-old bread was eaten by the priests, while the new bread sat before the Lord – uneaten.
The bread was called “the bread of presence” (rendered “showbread” in some translations), and it signified God’s dwelling with the twelve tribes of Israel. But while the table was spread in the presence of God, one thing was conspicuous by its absence: the guests.
Fast forward roughly 600 years.
A desperate man approached the Tabernacle, now situated near the city of Nob, not far from Jerusalem. He was running for his life, accompanied by a motley crew of desperados and outlaws.
And they were all hungry.
He approached the chief priest and asked for food. News of the mad king who wanted the man dead had not yet reached Nob, and the priest wanted to help him. But the only bread he had on hand was the bread of presence…which they were not supposed to eat.
It is unclear what made the priest break sacerdotal protocol and hand over the bread, but the text tells us that he did (albeit under false pretenses) and David took it and shared it with his compadres.
And thus, under the strangest of circumstances, for the first and only time that Scripture records, someone was allowed to partake of the table that God had been laying out for centuries, and to share the meal with his friends.
Fast forward another thousand years.
Jesus is passing through some grain fields with his disciples, and some of them, being hungry, avail themselves of the grain. This greatly pains some nearby Pharisees, who quickly point out that such things are not lawful on the Sabbath. Jesus’ reply was not what they expected:
Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?
Then the kicker:
The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.
With this brilliant response, our Lord did three things:
He rebuked the Pharisees. How could they deny Christ’s disciples a little food when the that priest gave David and his men the actual bread of presence? Who did they think they were?
He compared himself with David. David was (and is) the bona-fide, prototypical hero of the Jewish people. In using this comparison, Jesus is not only make the connection, but putting Himself on a level above the legendary Hebrew king.
He preached the Gospel. It’s clear that he wasn’t just talking about food. His use of the incident involving the bread of presence, along with his phrase “and also gave some to those with him” is a beautiful image of what Christ has done for the believer: He has restored fellowship with God and reserved for us a place at the table. Indeed, the contrast is unmistakable. While the Old Testament saints had to be content with a table from which nobody could partake, Jesus offers bread and wine and says “do this in remembrance of me.”
Bonus: He may have given a subtle warning. After all, bread wasn’t the only thing that David took from the tabernacle that day.
Cover image: a medieval painting, the first panel of which depicts David receiving the sword of Goliath.
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