“Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt,
and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him.”
What happens in chapters 21 and 22 especially is one of the most important events in the entire history of 1 Samuel. Yet for all of the catastrophic tumult and tragedy brought about by Saul’s establishment, if we blink, it might miss the real important development. In this sermon, I hope to bring the important things to your attention.
The great tragedy in these passages is evident. Recall that in chapters 19 and 20 we discussed how Saul had failed objectively in each of the covenantal spheres. The civil sphere was obvious, as was the family sphere in that narrative. For the ecclesiastical sphere, we noted that Saul’s failure there began in chapter 13, but would be more explicit in these chapters here. Indeed it is: Saul murders the entire priesthood. This is bad enough in itself, but it is even worse, as we shall see, that it was performed based on trumped-up charges, and against only one of the priests at that. At this point, Saul has become a crazed man, absolutely drunk with power, and bankrupt ethically.
Just as Saul failed in all three of the covenants on a grand scale, we will see David succeed in all three on a small, even seminal, scale. Yet despite their size, these successes are based on big faith. As such, they become the seed for the rebirth of the entire nation of Israel. In David’s faithfulness throughout this period and God’s providential blessings, we will see a lesson for us today as well. Does God intend to advance His kingdom amidst national, multi-national, and global corruption today? Yes? We shall see how that begins in these chapters.
The King’s Business
David has departed from Saul and even from Jonathan, and now needed to find somewhere to go, somewhere to stay. He had no prospects at this point, but apparently thought the city of Nob offered some temporary sanctuary since the entire population of priests resided there.
Ahimelech the priest was actually startled by David’s arrival because David was alone. Normally the king’s officers traveled with an entourage or an army; surely David being alone meant his army had suffered some defeat and only David escaped, or perhaps there had been some trouble at the palace and David fled.
Actually, the latter explanation was true, but David sidestepped the issue in a way that also kept the priest from being legally implicated with him. He told what appears on the surface to be a lie, but was actually a clever trick by David. David said the king has charged me with a matter and required David to remain silent about it. Ahimelech surely would have though this came from Saul though it had not. But this was not a lie. David actually had been anointed king, if we recall (16:13), and so David was rightly making a self-referential statement which he allowed the priest interpret differently. David was indeed about his own kingly business. Had he told Ahimelech, however, the priest would have been culpable before Saul, and even though that would not do him much good (as we shall see), David’s tactic was to spare the priest from been dragged into Saul’s war against him.
This “king’s” matter, however, had only a few objectives. David needed to buy himself some time to discern his future. This would require a small stock of food and a means of self-defense, just in case. These are the two things he moved to procure from Ahimelech. After a brief negotiation about personal purity, Ahimelech gave David the “face bread” which was dedicated to the Tabernacle, but was replaced weekly. This was twelve loaves, and would probably have lasted David alone that many days at the most, being already a week old. Then, David inquired about a sword. He was told there was only one available to him in the city. Ironically, it was Goliath’s sword which David had obtained in that victory. It was stored behind the priests’ ephod. David was only too happy to get it now.
David’s plan to buy some time and think matters over seems to have gone off without a hitch. And indeed it would probably have remained quiet had not there been one small catch: one of Saul’s other officers, Doeg the Edomite, was in town and happened to witness the affair. The Edomite—a son of that ancient antagonist-brother of Israel, Esau—would do nothing but make trouble.
So while all of this seems very providential for David, and rightfully was, it was also providential in what calamity was about to come of it. For this Doeg is said specifically to have been detained in that spot before the Lord. So often does God set up both blessings and judgments in such ways. We shall observe and explain both in a moment.
Perhaps seeing Doeg, David realized he could not stay in Nob. He fled once again, but the question of where to go still loomed. At this point it does not appear that David had resigned to stay in the wilderness, though that day was near. For now, he sought the fortification of a city. But where could he go? Any city in Israel would likely turn David over to Saul, out of fear of Saul. The surrounding lands, then, seem to have been the only options. David chose the one nearest to him: the Philistines.
But what an odd choice this seems to be, and we are not given the rationale for it. David not only goes into the land of the Philistines, but heads directly into the city of Goliath himself, Gath. Now consider the setting: Here comes David, the guy who killed Goliath, the guy who had routed the Philistines in battle often since then, walking into Goliath’s home town, and carrying Goliath’s own sword with which David killed Goliath. What do you think the inhabitants of Gath would be thinking? You can only imagine they were expecting an attack and preparing a defense. Perhaps they even remembered the subjection to which Goliath had promised them if he lost the showdown. Perhaps David was coming to collect on that promise.
Indeed, this is exactly how they received David, and more. They recalled the song of the Hebrew women, exalting David over Saul as a great warrior. They even considered David the king of the land (21:11). So they were not taking any chances with this man. While the text does not make it absolutely clear, they did in fact take him into custody, and thus he was in their hands (21:13).
It was either at this time, or in recollections of this time, that David wrote two psalms: 34 and 56. The text makes it clear what David’s situation and motivations were. First, his situation was one of being hunted and trapped by men:
Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly (Psa. 56:1–2).
Yet even in the midst of these very enemies, David did not fear. He continues:
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me? (Psa. 56:9–11).
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned (Psa. 34:18–21).
Indeed, David feared nothing men could do to him, but he did need to get out of this jam. And yes, affliction would slay the wicked, but David decided to inject a little of his own affliction in this scene. He pretended to act insane, scribbling upon the doors of gates of the city and drooling upon himself, perhaps even pretending convulsions. It was an ingenious device. By acting mad, David would have been sending two signals. First, David is now incapacitated and is no threat to the Philistines. This would assuage any hostility or fear Achish would have toward him. They would no longer see him as a dangerous enemy. Second, however, David’s “madness” told Achish that if he kept David around, it would be as an extreme medical dependent, likely requiring constant monitoring and attention. Achish decided he did want that responsibility. So David’s device ensured that Achish would treat him as neither an enemy nor a friend. David would most likely be left to go his way—but with the advantage of having his enemy believe he would be harmless from now on.
The Great National and Conciliar Convention of Adullam
Yet David still had nowhere to go, no place to lay his head. All fortified options had failed him. He was forced once more to turn to a stone cut out without hands: a cave in a rock high up on a mountain side, the cave of Adullam. It was a last resort, almost a resignation in total. It was certainly a picture of man’s devices failing to shelter and protect in the end. It is also a picture of death: of David being buried in a tomb inside the earth. But as we know in hindsight with God’s anointed, tombs have a way of giving birth to new life. It this sense, David’s flight to the wilderness seems to shows he was at his wits’ end, yet this end was not one without hope. For David did not rely upon his wits, but upon God alone.
It is here that the most important development in 1 Samuel, and perhaps the most important lesson throughout, starts to come together. Somehow, word gets out that David has taken up residence in Adullam. Probably travelling only across friendly grapevines, the word reaches David’s family first. Whether out of a show of support, or from missing David, all his brothers and all his father’s house (22:1) leave their own lands and houses and go to be with David in the wilderness. (This means, as an aside, that the very brothers who chided and mocked him back in chapter 17 had now come around, and were willing to leave behind their more solid lives to join David in hardship.) In short, without any effort on David’s part, God reunited David with his family. But it didn’t stop there.
The next verse is one of the most remarkable to me in the whole book: And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them (1 Sam. 22:2). This force constituted about 400 men, the text says. Why is this verse so remarkable? Consider the context going back to 1 Samuel 8. Recall the judgment that would come, and did come harshly, through Saul’s administration: confiscation, taxation, conscription, arbitrary law. Saul had turned it into a pure dictatorship, run in part by his own family members. What we see emerging now is a remnant, but a very odd one. It’s not just a remnant purely of faithful people. Some of these had other primary motivations: they were oppressed, in debt, and bitter. This was Cromwell’s New Model army; this was the Liberty movement of today—the Paulbots, misfits, libertarians, sovereign men, and perhaps even a few occupiers. Who knows who else? They came to David not mainly out of principled exegesis of God’s Law, or some pure ideology otherwise, but because they were bitter in soul. In short, they hated their government. And did David scorn them and drive them away? No, he accepted them, and became a commander over them. He would teach them and lead them. Most importantly, these people wanted change badly enough they were willing to change their lifestyle—indeed, sacrifice and move into the wilderness—in order to regain their freedom. But God still was not done.
After David had secured a safe haven for his parents (likely elderly at this point), he met another important figure God had brought into his midst: Gad the prophet. Gad told him not to remain in Adullam, but go into Judea. So David did, surely by this point marveling that here he was a king trying to bide his time in a cave, waiting to learn what God will do for me (22:3), yet God provided him a 400-man army out of nowhere, reunited him with his family, and had now sent him also a prophet. It had all the makings of a little nation—born right there in that cave. Indeed, a covenant nation, with an anointed king, prophet, and. . . . Was there yet one thing missing? But God was still not done.
The narrative switches to a scene in which Saul’s wickedness rises to the point of madness. While David had pretended to be mad, Saul’s behavior shows him to have been thoroughly mad indeed. At first, Saul is merely exalting himself and chiding those around him—to which we are accustomed. But his war-lust against David, and very likely his irrational paranoia that David was leading a coup, is about to push him over an edge we have not yet witnessed. We have seen him act murderously, even against his own family. But we have not been prepared for what is about to take place.
First, we find Saul sitting, once again, under a shade tree. He has not changed much in this regard since chapter 14. He learns that David’s whereabouts are discovered, and he launches into a diatribe with his servants. His comments reveal his fear that David is preparing a coup. Saul apparently fears his men will defect, but he manipulates them easily.
“[W]ill the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, that all of you have conspired against me? (22:7).
Note a few of the dynamics at work in Saul’s argument. First is the assumption that governments buy loyalty. This would likely be a tactic for anyone leading a coup to pick off some talented leadership from the establishment. But we know this was not the case with David at all. It is revealing, however, that this is where Saul’s mind went first. Why? Was it because this was how he ran his government? Was he afraid these young men would jump at a better offer? Or was he saying that David, in the pitiful condition he was currently in, could provide them nothing like the cushy jobs Saul had given them. Who’s your daddy? So don’t even think about it.
Second, associated with this view is the assumption that these men could so easily be bought. It was an implicit insult. Saul was so consumed by his sin that he demeaned and insulted those most loyal to him.
Third, the whole argument was a big guilt trip. Saul leverages this in order to polarize the men against David, and force them into loyalty out of fear.
“No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day” (22:8).
Why did none of you tell me this? Why am I finding out only now? You must be on his side. They, of course, would have hastened to deny this. “Oh no, sir! We are loyal to you!” Those in the employ of corruption and coercion are often so easily manipulated.
Then Doeg came forward. He told Saul what he had seen in Nob: Ahimelech gave David provisions and arms, and he inquired of the Lord for David. The last part of that is almost certainly not true. We are not told in the narrative above that Ahimelech inquired of the Lord for David, though we are given more intimate details than that about all else that he did. Doeg likely assumed this was the case because Ahimelech had gone into the Tabernacle to get the showbread, and maybe because they had gone behind the ephod (but this was only to get Goliath’s sword). While some commentators and translations assume from Ahimelech’s testimony in 22:15 that he did in fact do so, I do not think this is correct, as I will explain in a moment. I think Doeg was bearing false witness here, based upon unfounded assumptions he made.
The slaughter of the priests
Saul wasted no time in calling the priest—and all of the priests for that matter—to account for themselves before him. This was an impromptu court trial. We have seen Saul do this before (chapter 13), and David will bring the same thing upon Saul himself later. But this is perhaps the worst kangaroo court ever assembled. It begins with an assumption of guilt: why have you conspired against me? (22:13).
Ahimelech’s reply, as I said, is often construed as an argument that inquiring for David was a normal thing, as if he were saying, “Did this only begin today? No. I’ve been doing this for a long time, as you know, it is not out of the ordinary.” When he subsequently begs Saul, Let not the king impute anything to his servant (22:15), he is referring to any conspiracy with David against Saul. I do not see it this way. While the Hebrew is difficult here, I believe Ahimelech is denying ever having inquired of the Lord for David. As if he said, “Do not impute this to me, Saul, I have never done this, and have not begun to do so today.” Inquiring of the Lord through the priest and ephod seems to have been a kingly prerogative. Had Ahimelech done this for David, he would have been giving David a kingly privilege behind Saul’s back. Saul was thus condemning Ahimelech of conspiracy to commit treason through that means. Ahimelech vehemently denies it, and attests to his loyalty and to David’s.
Saul does not acknowledge Ahimelech’s testimony at all. He presumed guilt, ignored testimony, and now pronounces guilt and punishment: you shall surely die, you and all your father’s house (22:16). This was pure arbitrary and lawless government on Saul’s part. The law required two witnesses for any matter to be established. Saul only had one, and even that witness was contradicted by Ahimelech. Saul had no reliable evidence at all. Nor did he follow anything that could be considered a legitimate court procedure.
The death sentence here, therefore, was not only open murder on Saul’s part, but it was open mass murder! For Saul declared that the entire house of the priesthood should be executed. What can be said except that Saul’s envy and paranoia had driven him to pure madness: cold-blooded mass murder. And it was merely in order to eliminate political opposition that did not even really exist.
Saul called for sentence to be carried out on the spot. But the act was so extreme that even his servants would not carry it out. So Saul turned to Doeg. He was the one who seemed eager before. He was the star witness, false as his witness was. Saul poetically demanded Doeg bear the sword. Doeg was backed in a corner here, but probably did not mind. How eager he was is not told, but he was thoroughly obedient to Saul. He killed 85 priests in their immediate presence, on the spot, then continued to Nob, and slaughtered the entire city—all the families of the priests, man, woman, child, and all their beasts.
The tragedy is unbelievable and sickening enough, but the thorough nature of it must not be considered for a moment. Remember how we noted in the last lesson that those who quit fighting the Lord’s battles end up fighting against His people. Here we not only have a clear and extreme example of that, but we see an interesting contrast to Saul’s earlier failures. Recall that his crowning failure was with the Amalekites. He refused to obey God by thoroughly eliminating their civilization, including the cattle. Saul saved the cattle, allegedly for sacrifices to God. Here we see him doing just the opposite. In a murderous bought of self-gratification and autonomous fiat-law, Saul wipes out the entire city of God’s priests, including their families and cattle. He who could not obey God’s Word, asserted his own, and ended up treating God’s people as if they were the worst of God’s enemies, deserving the most extreme of His wrath. Further, Saul, who could not bring himself to destroy the real enemies, had no problem at all destroying every last vestige of the priesthood. He could not execute Agag, but Ahimelech was no problem. Thus we see how backwards, and how extremely backwards, sin drives men to act.
Now, Saul’s act was thoroughly wicked and unjustifiable in any way on his part, but before we get too sympathetic with the priesthood, we should recall that this tragic episode is actually the fulfillment of prophecy. Way back in chapter 2, God promised to cut off all the house of Eli (2:30–36). Recall that after the death of Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, that Phinehas’ wife had given birth to Ichabod. Well, Ahimelech is called the son of Ahitub (22:9). In 14:3, Ahitub is called Ichabod’s brother. This means Ahimelech was not only of Eli’s house by virtue of being a priest, he was a direct descendent of Eli. In short, then, God used wicked Saul to bring about the vengeance he had declared through Hannah and the man of God in chapter 2. Much like God used the Roman Empire, or Babylon, to punish Israel, so here he uses Israel’s own wicked government to punish the priesthood.
Ordo ab Chaos
God’s prophecy of the destruction of the priesthood had one peculiar grace: he would leave at least one priest alive to weep over the tragedy (2:33). That is fulfilled literally here: Abiathar, escaped and fled after David (22:20). He tells David what happened. David takes personal responsibility for the death of the priests, suspecting Doeg was a rotten apple. David welcomes Abiathar into his little assembly and promises to protect him.
Here is a picture of the death and resurrection into new life of the priesthood. And this is the final piece of the puzzle mentioned above: God had provided David a people and an army in the wilderness, and had provided that remnant with a king, a prophet, and now . . . a priest. What had God done? He was reconstituted the nation of Israel around her king, David, and that faithful remnant as provided a prophet, priest, and king.
God did all of this in the midst of absolute disorder, chaos, war, lawlessness, and priesticide. God created this new Israel, if you will, through that chaos and despite it. No matter how hard the wicked administration raged, all it did was carry out God’s will and facilitate the conditions for its own replacement. God truly used chaos to bring about His new order of things.
Indeed, this was a new birth. The escape of Abiathar can be seen as a little resurrection after the death of the wicked priesthood—now raised in new life to serve in the coming Davidic kingdom. Likewise, as we noted, David’s descent into a cave is a picture of death and burial from which he would resurrect. That the family, remnant, army, priest, and prophet all joined him there signal a rebirth of the entire nation—vicariously in that faithful remnant. And all of it had been accomplished entirely by God, in a way no man could have foreseen or orchestrated, and only after David had almost completely given up and fled to the wilderness. Such is the kingdom of God.
1. God preserves his society whole even amidst the worst social chaos.
When God called Samuel to go anoint David (chapter 16), we noted it was one of the most important lessons in all of 1 Samuel. Go, follow God’s command, and do your job. David has been doing that for a long time now. Despite even Saul’s attempts on his life, David remained faithful in performing his tasks anyway. Now we arrive at another one of the most important lessons throughout the book, and that is that God will perform His promises and preserve His faithful remnant through all adversity.
As we have noted already now, God essentially reconstructed the nation of Israel anew around David, without any effort from David or anyone else toward that end. All David did, essentially, was acquiesce. Granted, he did refuse to submit to any evil, and he fled from it until that meant he had to flee to the wilderness. He resigned himself to live in a cave, at a total loss for what to do. Of course, David was not in despair in this situation. In his own words, he was waiting for God to make it clear to him what to do. But the point is that it would be totally God’s work, and none of man’s. It was all of grace. God made this new creation without any help from man.
We need to learn this lesson for our own day. We have a mission from God. It involves kingship, the reapplication of man’s dominion over all the earth, and the discipling of the nations to become obedient to everything Christ commands. We are called and anointed for this task. And yet, as David surely felt, and as the writer of Hebrews could say in the first century, so it is yet today. Although God was “putting everything in subjection under his feet,” nevertheless, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb. 2:8–9). Indeed, they did not, and neither do we. And yet the fact of dominion is asserted in His Word, and we are assured that Christ shall not leave His heavenly throne until every last enemy is so subdued (1 Cor. 15:25, Heb. 10:13). So what shall we do? We should, like David, not waiver in the least bit in our faithfulness. We should not succumb in the least bit to the devices of wicked establishments. We should continue in our service and work, even if that means standing alone in the wilderness. We do not determine our theology or behavior based upon the circumstances. We determine these things based upon God’s Word, trusting that He is true, even when every man is a liar and the whole world seems to have gone to corruption.
All the while we do this, we must continue to trust that God will bring His promises to pass. What we see with David we must trust that God can do in any age. Even when evil seems to have total dominion, and we retreat to the small caves hidden among society, God is busy laying the foundations of His reconstructed society. He brings His people together, He provides the leaders and talents, He directs the way forward. It is all of Him and nothing of us, and yet we are so privileged to partake of it.
Furthermore, God did this despite the worst that man could do. Even the worst fury and murder of the enemy shall be turned to serve the good of God’s people. This does not mean that we are invincible and entitled to defy authorities. To flaunt our freedom and dominion would be to deny the lessons just covered—that it is His work, not ours. It would also show terrible ignorance and lack of wisdom in regard to how God is in fact working in the world. David had enough sense to know he had to retreat, and he had the humility actually to do it. There are times, therefore, when our proper dominion is to keep our mouths shut and heads down. For dominion and reconstruction are about His will, not ours—His glory, not ours. With that understanding, however, we still realize that no establishment and no authority will ever thwart the dominion of Christ in this earth. All war, tyranny, and holocaust to the side, God will bring His will to pass despite it, by it, through it, however He pleases.
Let us also be quick to note the types of people God used to reconstruct society: they were the weak, the distressed, the indebted, and the bitter. This is, of course, acknowledged as a generality by Paul in his day:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor. 1:26–29).
This openly defies everything practiced today in regard to political and social leadership. We need those head-taller leaders, we are told, the best and brightest, the richest, the most accomplished. Indeed, one political commentator railed against the modern-day liberty movement because it was filled with young people, students—people who have not “accomplished anything of substance” in life. Yet here we see a contrast between a leader like Doeg, who certainly had accomplished things in life, and the 400 men God provided David. Those 400 men absolutely refute the accomplishment-mongering of modern apologists for the establishment. They were not only not greatly accomplished leaders, or decorated military men, but they were backwards: they were in debt, likely to the establishment itself, they were oppressed, and some of them were just angry. These are the types establishment parties so easily dismiss and marginalize; and these were the types God selected to bring to pass his will for social reconstruction.
We should learn, therefore, that the work of dominion and Christian reconstruction of society will inevitably proceed, even when we cannot see it, often where we cannot see it, and usually by people in whom we refuse to see it. Therefore, we should not despair nor compromise, but remain faithful despite what we see. God is always busy preserving His kingdom, and preparing the next phase of it. That phase may be dramatic growth, or shelter from dramatic judgment. That is not our choice. It is our job to be faithful with what He puts in front of us, and to wait upon His lead in faith that He will do what He has said. And we are not to impede or ignore what He is really doing by imposing prejudices regarding whom He chooses to include.
2. Government corruption spreads
In previous lessons, we have discussed how unrepentant sin does not go away, nor does it simply remain still. It grows, it spreads, it entrenches itself and manifests in ever worse sins that affect our relationships. In this narrative, we see how this is true of institutions also—in this case, civil government. Once corruption has taken root, it grows and spreads. A corrupt leadership soon finds accomplices who are also willing to act corruptly. It manipulates inferiors and employees into compromising or at least tolerating corruption and looking the other way. Soon, the entire administration is consumed with wickedness of various types and degrees. It has become a machine fueled by sin, lubricated with corruption, and capable of producing all manner of tyranny and cruelty.
We certainly see the spread of wickedness in this story. Saul’s war on David now had spies: Doeg was willing to bear false witness and personally murder the priesthood and all their families. Where did Saul find such a guy? And even though the young servants surrounding Saul balked at the slaughter of the priests, they also were easily manipulated by Saul’s guilt trips and fear mongering, and they stood by idly while the mass evil was carried out, doing nothing to stop it.
Let us consider these parties for a moment. Who was Doeg? What motivated him? Was he merely a deranged mass murderer, a wild-eyed savage? Not so, he was the chief of Saul’s herdsmen—a high-level bureaucrat. Let us not think of him as merely a typical black hat put in this narrative to fill the role of the insatiable bad guy. How do you think he would have described himself? This was a man whose life was invested in government service, a life-long civil servant. He would have certainly seen himself as the most loyal of patriots, a proud member of a powerful and legitimate administration. He was a political leader in the greatest nation in history, the city on a hill, the land of the chosen and free, God’s country and all. Further, he would have believed wholeheartedly Saul’s version of the narrative: this administration was under imminent threat of terrorist attack from a rogue force following that evil, plotting, purist “freedom fighter” David. But we all know David is rebelling against legitimate government, and thus threatening anarchy and chaos, and is threatening our way of life. Ever since he disappeared from court, we have been on elevated alert against terrorist attacks. This is a matter of national security, and Doeg is nothing less than a national hero for taking the initiative in “see something, say something.”
Those servants who stood by are also not to be blamed, from this perspective. They simply remained loyal to their government. They know that the authorities above them know more than they do, and have access to intelligence to which they themselves are not privy. So they obey their government, even when it seems wrong. Granted, it seems that Saul did not follow the Fourth and Fifth Amendments properly, but in this time of heightened risk of terror, it is necessary to set aside certain rights in order to be safe. Once it was discovered by the government that the entire priesthood had committed treason, it was necessary to give them the requisite punishment, for national security purposes. It is clear that Ahimelech was an enemy of state, not a whistleblower. And while a large contingent of the country decried the loss of civil rights, our leaders all agreed that security is more important for the time being.
Now you see how easily such wickedness reigned right in the midst of the professing church. The people simply confused nationalism with patriotism. The result was virtual fascism. Fascists historically have never seen themselves for the tyrants they are—the people themselves included, I mean—for tyranny is always wrapped in a flag and bears the name of right, good, and national security. Every one of those Israeli people, along with every deceived fascist in history, not only could but probably did lay hand over heart and repeat, “One nation, under God, indivisible. . . .”
But with God’s Law set aside, they were pledging allegiance to tyranny and mass homicide. Once Saul began to set aside God’s Law in small things, that “purist” Samuel informed him that he was rejected. There is no room in civil government for even small infractions of Right. But Saul never repented, and disobedience in small things grew to become disobedience in big things. It recruited more rebellious men, and manipulated platoons of mindless drones into rebellion as well. So we see that if corruption is not rooted out of government quickly, a cycle of tyranny will set in, and soon social judgment may be the only means to see liberty restored.
And let us acknowledge that there are Doegs in every age, and there are those young dupes as well. They aided and facilitated all the corruption in every empire in history, whether Babel, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, or whatever. Let us not delude ourselves into believing we have none today, and let us not deceive ourselves into thinking they are not right in our midst. We have many conservatives and Christians—perhaps a majority in fact—who has set aside God’s Law in favor of some form of corrupt nationalism. In the name of national security, they call the liberty-minded dangerous “purists” and friends of terrorists. They do not mind setting aside Right in order to achieve their agenda—which was corrupted in small things two centuries ago, and has grown into a tyranny verging on national judgment and chaos. These professing Christians would have made great employees of Saul. Many of them would have been the first to rush forward with the sword, like Doeg, aloft the mighty steed of false witness and unfounded suspicion. They would have killed David, given the chance, and would have stood by approving of the slaughter of the priests as well. Let us only hope that in our age, there is no slaughter of the priests on the horizon before God reconstructs the kingdom and resets the land to right.
 This is the episode to which Jesus refers when answering he Pharisees for plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:3–4).