Old Bread and Other Religions (1 Samuel 21:4)

1 Samuel 21:4 (ESV)


And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.”


When David was running from King Saul, he stopped by for a little visit with Ahimelech, the priest. David left the priest with the sword of Goliath and some day-old show bread.


Something ran through my mind when reading this passage that has nothing to do with the intent of the text. Yet, this giving of the holy bread to David demonstrates a genuine difference between faith in the God of the Bible and other world religions. Both the priest and David understood that David could eat the show bread.


Why is that reality interesting to me? Back when I lived in Korea, I recall learning about a particular festival that occurred every year. Korean families would visit the graves of their ancestors and would leave out food. In other celebrations, the families would share a meal together, and they would set aside food for their ancestors. When asked if they later ate the food that had been set aside, the Koreans remarked that they would not eat that food, because all the nutrients would be gone. They believed that their relatives received nourishment from the food, even though the food did not disappear. [Note that this is one explanation I was given. I’m sure that other Korean families would present this ceremony in a different way.]


The beliefs of the Korean families about feeding their dead relatives is little different than the beliefs of many ancient religions. Worshipers of idols would often burn food offerings to their gods. In some sense, the people believed that they were feeding their deity.


So, what struck me in a new way this morning was the fact of the difference. Biblical believers have never believed that we feed our God. Ahimelech and David knew that the bread did not lose any of its nutritional value simply because it had been used in a religious ritual.


I know, this is not that profound. But, it interests me. God is bigger and greater than the gods of other religions. He is beyond needing anything from us. He would not ask us for food. He does not need our money or our help. He allows us to serve him for our good, not for his. And, one little reminder of this fact for me today is the fact that David could eat day-old show bread.