The Heart Behind the Laws

1 Samuel 20–23

God’s Story

Jonathan, the king’s son, and David, the king-elect, are soul brothers. After Saul’s latest attempt to kill him, David is afraid to come into the king’s presence for the New Moon feast. Jonathan devises a plan to let David know if it’s safe to come to Saul’s court, and when he discovers his father’s intention to kill David, it nearly costs him his life. Jonathan warns David, saves David’s life, and reminds David of their covenant of friendship. Jonathan has vowed loyalty to God’s anointed.

David runs for his life. As he does, he and his hungry men stop to visit a priest who feeds them the bread of the Presence and arms David with Goliath’s sword. David hides in caves, and the down-and-out of society join him. When Saul finds out that the priest helped David, he has him murdered, along with his family and his entire city. The king is killing God’s servants. It is dark, evil. He has gone mad.

Saul relentlessly hunts for David. But God protects his chosen one from the crazed king.

The King’s Heart

God’s law was clear: Only priests were allowed to eat the bread that had been placed before the Lord inside the Holy Place (see Leviticus 24:5-9). But David and his men—who weren’t priests—ate it. They broke the law. And so did the priest who gave it to them.

Jesus talked about what David had done (see Matthew 12:1-8). The law-enchained Pharisees were criticizing the disciples for picking heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath. The Pharisees considered it harvesting—work. Work was a violation of the Sabbath—and God’s law.

Jesus explained that the foundation of God’s law is the highest law: love. When God’s laws are applied without mercy, without love, the letter of the law might be kept, but the spirit—the heart behind them—isn’t. David was hungry, the holy bread was the only food and God in his goodness did not want David to starve. The higher law of love trumped the law of holy bread.

God’s great love is behind every one of his laws. He gave his commandments to guide us to goodness, to guide us to experience and live in his highest law—love.


God wanted his people to celebrate the New Moon feast every month as a way of dedicating the coming month to him. Other cultures celebrated the moon too, but they had been seduced into worshiping the moon itself. God set up the New Moon feasts to take place during the phase of the moon where it wasn’t visible so that his people wouldn’t be tempted to misdirect their worship.

Copyright © 2014 by Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved.


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