1 Samuel 21:1-9 Holiness & Mandate

1 Samuel 21:1-9

1 David went to the town of Nob to see Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he saw him. “Why are you alone?” he asked. “Why is no one with you?” 2 “The king has sent me on a private matter,” David said. “He told me not to tell anyone why I am here. I have told my men where to meet me later. 3 Now, what is there to eat? Give me five loaves of bread or anything else you have.” 4 “We don’t have any regular bread,” the priest replied. “But there is the holy bread, which you can have if your young men have not slept with any women recently.” 5 “Don’t worry,” David replied. “I never allow my men to be with women when they are on a campaign. And since they stay clean even on ordinary trips, how much more on this one!” 6 Since there was no other food available, the priest gave him the holy bread- the Bread of the Presence that was placed before the LORD in the Tabernacle. It had just been replaced that day with fresh bread.

7 Now Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief herdsman, was there that day, having been detained before the LORD. 8 David asked Ahimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword? The king’s business was so urgent that I didn’t even have time to grab a weapon!” 9 “I only have the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah,” the priest replied. “It is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. Take that if you want it, for there is nothing else here.” “There is nothing like it!” David replied. “Give it to me!”


David’s arrival at Ahimelech’s premises awakes him to his state of deprivation, without food or personal belongings. Yet, what await him are signs that point him to a priestly and glorious ministry. The two items: holy bread signifies holiness that is being set apart for God, and the sword of Goliath, which is the mandate to rule. This passage teaches us the importance of being holy so that believers would gain the divine mandate to rule with Christ in His Kingdom.


Now, what is there to eat? After a hasty parting with Jonathan, David made his way to Ahimelech the priest on a pretext of a clandestine mission. Little did he know that his covert visit in the presence of Doeg would later result in the death of the priestly community. Ahimelech senses that something is wrong when David arrives unaccompanied: Ahimelech trembled when he saw him. “Why are you alone?” he asked. “Why is no one with you?” Has the young man fallen out with Saul? A story of a top secret mission and a rendezvous with others of Saul’s servant is enough to convince Ahimelech of the legitimacy of his visit. Ahimelech had nothing to offer David when he requested for bread, only the holy bread that is permissible only for the consumption of priests. However, Ahimelech is willing to release the bread for their consumption provided the men are ceremonially clean. Having full assurance of the men’s abstinence from sexual activities, Ahimelech gives the bread to David.

I only have the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of ElahIn addition to the request for bread, David asks for a weapon and he is aptly greeted with the sword of Goliath. Now, as a fugitive of Saul, the relic of the earlier success becomes a sign towards his ultimate triumph against what is now a different sort of giant.


  1. God appoints signs along our journey to serve as reminders of God’s faithfulness and His calling in our lives. During times of distress, these appointed signs could easily be passed up as insignificant or even coincidental. However, the Spirit quickens our faith through these signs to remind us of God’s faithfulness to bring us through dire circumstances. David stumbled into Ahimelech’s premises and left with two items that are not made available to common men: the holy bread and the sword of Goliath. God appoints signs for our reminder of His faithfulness over our lives as well as His sovereign calling. These signs come in the form of casual words and messages spoken, gift items from well meaning people, sightings of things that carry significance, and words of faith that pop into our thoughts bringing fresh insights and clarity. Hence, it is helpful not to dismiss these signs immediately, but ask the Spirit of their significance should they appear.
  2. We must put on holiness and the mandate to rule over creation and to establish God’s kingdom. Holiness as signified by the holy bread is the mindset of being wholly dedicated to God for His use. God cannot effectively use a person who is not wholly dedicated to Him. Our spirit, mind, and body must be holy given to God to serve His purposes on a daily basis. The priest alone is allowed to consume the bread because the priest is wholly dedicated to God for His purposes. As Ahimelech releases the holy bread to David, it prefigures David as a priest, wholly given to serve God and God alone. At the same time, God has called all believers a holy priesthood,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Believers are called and saved for the purpose of proclaiming God’s virtues and attributes to the world: …proclaim the excellencies of him. Through our daily work, we display the excellencies of God: wisdom, diligence, love and become a blessing to the world. It is not just through the process of speaking the gospel, but also through our attitude towards work itself that the gospel is preached. Therefore, the primary goal of work is not monetary gains, or fame, but to be a blessing to the world; monetary gains are but a by-product of diligent work.

The sword of Goliath symbolizes the mandate to rule that gives rise to courage and confidence. By presenting the sword of Goliath (the Philistine champion), David is symbolically restored to the calling of a giant slayer, but this time he is facing a significantly different giant. The mandate stands for authority, as well as God’s favor to rule and to destroy the enemies of God. One important point to note is one cannot gain the mandate to rule unless he is wholly and unreservedly dedicated to God for His purposes alone. The holiness of the heart is the prerequisite for the anointing of the Spirit.


  1. Could you recall some of the signs that God has shown you in recent months? Make it a habit to record the signs as they appear amongst the mundane or even dreams that contain instructions. Bring them to God and ask Him to provide the interpretation of these signs.
  2. Have you given yourself wholly Him to do His will on a daily basis? Or are you distracted by problems and the cares of life? Our responsibility is to fulfill the tasks for the day; it is God’s responsibility to provide for our needs. He will also embolden and strengthen us to overcome challenges that are beyond our human limitations.

Dear Lord, I make a decision today to dedicate myself wholly for your use. Anoint me with the mandate to rule over my area of work so that I can be a blessing to my company. Help me to make your presence and love real to the people at my work place. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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