“David answered the priest and said to him, ‘Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!’” 1 Samuel 21:5
Have you ever told just a little lie? One little fib that no one will ever discover. No harm, no foul. What’s the worst that can happen from one little lie? I offer you the example of David in Nob. Please take a few moments and read 1 Samuel 21:1-7.
Allow me to set the scene for you. David is on the run from King Saul, who because of jealousy, is hunting him down like prey. He goes to the city of Nob, to the priest, Ahimelech, there in the place of worship. He is hungry and he knows that the Levites place fresh bread before the Lord as an offering every Sabbath, and the previous week’s bread is then theirs to eat. He tells the priest that his men, who are camping in another location are hungry and he asks – almost demands – bread. The priest is uncomfortable with the request, but this is David, the mighty commander of the King’s army. His victories are the stuff of legend. So, in an attempt to take some of the sting off of his conscience, he asks David if he and his men have remained pure. David answers with a resounding yes, they have been sent by the king and theirs is a holy and secret mission. Of course they have kept themselves pure! Ahimelech acquiesces and surrenders the consecrated bread to David.
There are two big no-no’s here. Ahimelech knew that because this bread had been offered to the Lord it is considered holy, and cannot be eaten by anyone except the Levites (think church staff) and must be eaten only in the holy place. (See Leviticus 24:5-9) God did not offer any exceptions. By not standing on the Levitical law, the priest was wrong.
But David was also wrong, his entire story was a lie. The Scripture indicates that he was alone, there is no mention of a company of men with him, as he told the priest. He was not on a secret and holy mission for the king, he was running for his life from the king. As to his declaration of purity, there is no indication one way or the other, but at this time he is married (to the king’s daughter!)so it is likely he may not be. But he is far from home and no one knows him here. What’s the worst that can happen with one little lie?
But someone was there who knew him. One of the king’s servants, Doeg, was there in the tabernacle, and he witnessed the entire episode. We don’t know if he realized David was lying, but the implication is that he did, because, knowing the king was hunting David down to kill him, he returned to report that he was in Nob and had gone to the priest there. Now the little lie that David told morphs into a great tragedy. 1 Samuel 22:9-23 tells the rest of the story. With Doeg’s report, Saul sends for Ahimelech and his entire family, who were all priests. The king confronts the priest and accuses him of conspiring with his enemy, David. Ahimelech pleads his innocence, saying he did not know David was lying. But Saul ordered the entire company of priests – eighty-five men of God – be put to death. Because of one little lie. One man escapes and reports to David the slaughter of the priests, and he realizes he is to blame. He says “I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family.” (1 Samuel 22:22).
David learned the high cost of a lie. Perhaps that is why, very shortly after this incident, he wrote, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” (Psalm 34:13). And near the end of his life he prayed, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity” (1 Chronicles 29:17). Proverbs 12:22 says “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.”
The God we love and serve is a God of truth. Numbers 23:19 tells us that God cannot lie. It is completely counter to His perfect nature. Jesus spoke only truth, and spoke of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit of God who would reveal truth. Followers of Christ should be known as people of truth. In every aspect of our lives, we should be seen as people of integrity and honesty. If I am known to tell lies, even “little white lies” and “innocent fibs,” how will anyone believe me when I tell them about Jesus? What does a little lie do to my witness? Here’s another thought: if my child hears me telling lies to others, will he believe me when I tell him “I love you”?
I am making a personal commitment to be a person of honesty and integrity. I will follow the example of Christ Jesus who spoke the truth, acted in truth and walked in truth. Will you make that commitment with me? Let’s start a “truth revolution” together.
Holy Father, I am Your child, and I want to live like my Father and like my “big brother,” Jesus. Purify my heart and my lips. Teach me to be a person of integrity in all I say and do. Amen.