Ahimelek might have appreciated the concern of the Pharisees. They were obsessed with how people could maintain ritual purity before God, which included keeping numerous regulations around the Sabbath. When they saw Jesus’ disciples picking grain to eat on the Sabbath, they thought they had definitive proof that Jesus was in violation of the commands of God.
Jesus referred back to the story we read yesterday to reveal the spiritual truth the Pharisees were missing. David had clearly eaten the bread of the Presence that was designated only for the priests, yet it was provided as a means of his escape from Saul. Jesus understood that these instructions were put in place to strengthen the relationship between God and His people. They were never intended as a burden or as an excuse to deny mercy to others.
Jesus went further, quoting the prophet Hosea to explain that the Pharisees had missed the point about a relationship with God. Unlike the rituals of other religions, God did not set up the offerings, sacrifices, and the Sabbath as a set of rules and rituals that had to be done for their own sake. They were intended to remind the people of what God had done for them so that their hearts would be filled with love and obedience. God always desired the changed hearts of mercy, not the rote gestures of sacrifice (v. 7).
Finally, Jesus revealed that He was Lord of the Sabbath. He defined what was the proper approach to God. He exemplified what God desired—mercy and obedience. He was the only way to understand a relationship with God. Jesus could not violate the Sabbath, for He was the fullness of God on earth, and He demonstrated what God desires from His people.
Apply the Word
Are you going through the motions of serving God without the motivation of love and relationship? Church, Bible study, and service are not bad—in fact, they can be wonderful. But God wants our desire for closer communion with Him. Pray this verse: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (Ps. 51:12).