Then David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David, trembling, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” 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.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)
What we have here is a desperate David spinning a yarn in order to get food out of the priest. Ahimelech asks him why he is alone, and David essentially claims, "I'm on a secret mission! Yeah, that's it. I'm a spy, and I'm meeting up with some other spies, and we are going to be doing some spy stuff. Shhh! Don't tell anybody. Do you have any thing to eat?" So, David is engaged in bearing false witness, because he is desperate, but that should not be an excuse. Remember Abraham lying to the Egyptians about not being married to Sarah, and what happened? A plague hit...the Egyptians! This is not karma, this is something else.
Ahimelech responds with a sin of his own. He takes an incidental command from Exodus 19 and applies it to eating consecrated bread that is only meant for the priests. There is no situation in which David is allowed to eat the bread, and so Ahimelech has violated the law of God. What's more, because David is a likable and famous individual, having killed his ten-thousands as the song goes, Ahimelech is ready to violate God's law, and David has given him a tremendous opportunity.
Now, there's the chief of Saul's herdsmen, Doeg, an Edomite by birth, and it says in the passage that he was "detained before the Lord" at the same location. God wanted this man there for a reason, and it is clear why in the next chapter. Doeg tells Saul all that has happened, Saul confronts Ahimelech, and then Saul has Doeg himself kill all the priests and destroy the entire town of Nob, including women, children, and livestock. Once again, this is not karma, for none of this is happening to David, and the punishment on Nob is overwhelming in comparison to David's crime. This is something else.
Let's look at another David transgression. We will look closer at this in the future, but the taking of Bathsheba for his own and killing her husband involves not just being dishonest but literally lining up all the commandments and shooting them. This makes lying to Ahimelech a boy's prank. However, there is much destruction due to David's secret agent yarn. There is much more destruction due to Bathsheba, too, as we read:
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” (2 Samuel 12:10-14)
Once again, this is not karma. The world is not under a karma system. Karma does not exist. We are under a curse caused by the original transgression of Adam. This is important, because the illusion of karma permeates everything that happens in life, including the history of David, as we see. We get sucked into the idea that our actions cause direct consequences back at ourselves, and so we find ourselves in situations where we are watching our every move. We find ourselves in a covenant of works, where every transgression of God's moral law manifests itself as an injury to self or loved ones, as if God is waiting for us to "mess up" so he can afflict us or our families. But the truth is, the curse mankind brought on ourselves IS the affliction. This is the natural state of things due to the fall, and so God doesn't need to afflict us with sickness and disease. We've done it to ourselves already. God's glorious job is to deliver us from the curse by grace.
I have been confused by certain verses for years. When Jesus heals a 38-year invalid, he later tells him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14) The wording made me think that one could lose God's grace by sinning again, and so one had to be constantly on our guard against sin to prevent his soul being lost. This is a plunge into legalism fueled by karma. Here is another way of looking at what Jesus said:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
One is unable to repent unless the Holy Spirit draws him to repentance. Repentance is the immediate and first seed of a true faith. Faith is given to us by God's grace, which he exerts over us to deliver us from the curse. So, what Jesus is telling his disciples and those with them, is that only those with a true faith will escape the curse that has been in effect since Adam sinned. David repents in both of his situations. In Psalm 32, David writes:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (1-5)
And we know the deep repentance of Psalm 51, which David wrote directly after Nathan convicted him. Remember, this exchange: David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die." We know that God forgave David his lying to Ahimelech, because Jesus justifies David to the Pharisees in Mark 2 (see last sermon).
Now, as Christians, we do continue to sin, and trials befall us, but this, too, is not karma, but God allowing his children to be disciplined by the curse without us being still under the curse. As Paul writes in Hebrews,
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11)
We are delivered out of the curse by Jesus Christ taking the curse upon himself on behalf of God's children. In an astonishing exchange at the end of 1 Samuel 22, David takes on the role of both the first Adam and the second Adam for the sake of the last surviving member of Ahimelech's family:
But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. And David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house. Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.” (1 Samuel 22:20-23)
In these four verses we have the fall of mankind through Adam, the curse, and even both the serpent and Judas in the actions of Doeg. But then the second Adam rises up and takes charge when David proclaims, "Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping." The grace of God in Jesus Christ appeals to us, "stay with me, do not be afraid. Those still under the curse hate you because they hate me, and they will try to destroy you, because they hate all that I stand for, but put your full trust and faith in me, for with me you shall be safe forever."