Psalm 14:4 reads, “Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers who eat up my people like bread and do not call upon the Lord?”
And I wonder.
Who are these evildoers? I am inclined to say they are other people, not myself or people that I know.
But verse three tells us, “there is none who does good; no, not one.” So maybe it is me, at those times when I forget to seek God or when He seems out of my reach.
In the Old Testament story, there is no doubt that the evildoer is David as we enter into a dark moment in the life of a great leader.
Instead of going into battle against the Ammonites himself, David stays back and sends Joab to do a job that was meant for him. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us why he made this choice. Perhaps David was tired and needing some respite, this poet shepherd/king. Whatever the reason, David wasn’t where he belonged, which put him in a situation he wasn’t supposed to be in, which exposed him to temptation he would not have had, which led him to some awful decisions.
I believe there is a longing or hunger that runs through the scripture readings this morning. David, who has lost sight of God and forgotten himself, experiences a hunger. He is hungry and not sure how to have his hunger satisfied.
Hunger plus temptation is a dangerous combination and today’s reading tells a disturbing tale. David has reached a low point where God seems very distant from him. This David is “the David” who, in the service of the Lord, is a musician, a shepherd, a giant slayer, a conqueror, and a King. This is the David who God called “a man after my own heart.”
And David, being where he wasn’t supposed to be, with a feeling of emptiness, sees Bathsheba, another man’s attractive wife, and attempting to satisfy this emptiness takes her for himself. Bathsheba becomes pregnant. Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah, one of David’s loyal and steadfast top commanders. David, in his guilt, is desperate to cover up his terrible choice and sends Uriah home to his wife. When Uriah refuses to leave his men, David sends him to the front ranks of a planned assault to die. Uriah was a good and loyal man who, though he was not born into them, embraced the values of the people of God. Unfortunately, Uriah, a good man, was devoured like bread.
David was hungry but not hungry in the physical sense. Instead, he was spiritually hungry and couldn’t see what he needed, so as soon as temptation presented itself in his weakness, he sought to fill the longing with a woman that did not belong to him.
Think for a minute about the last time you were hungry, so hungry that you could feel it in the pit of your stomach.
Hunger, in the physical sense, is a signal that the body needs fuel. When we eat, we have more energy and more stamina to carry on the activities the day requires.
What David was experiencing here is another type of hunger. A spiritual hunger that sometimes we can also feel in our gut. It is an unsettling indicator that something is missing, but it is less clear what that might be.
In the Gospel reading, five thousand plus people gathered around Jesus to fill this type of hunger. This large crowd had been and continued to follow Jesus, hungry for knowledge and understanding. But, as time passed, Jesus recognized that physical hunger would also need to be addressed.
He chose this opportunity to teach Phillip how when looking to God and trusting, what you need to be satisfied in hunger, will be provided.
Remember David as a boy, too small to wear armor, defeats Goliath with five smooth stones. So we look now at a small boy with five loaves of bread and some fish and whose contribution feeds five thousand in the hands of Jesus. It says that the crowd was satisfied, but this satisfaction did not last long. They were fed spiritually and physically, but now they wanted to make Jesus king.
Wanting is another form of hunger. This hunger is similar to a longing for food and spiritual nourishment. But unlike spiritual and physical hunger, it is not true hunger and cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of what we want.
We, in our weakness, are easily moved by temptations and can find ourselves making poor choices to satisfy these pangs of hunger, especially when we lose sight of who God is and who we are in Christ.
What are you hungry for?
Peace, love, nourishment, understanding?
What are you wanting?
Something to think about, When was the last time you took something that you wanted but did not necessarily belong to you? This question is tricky because we can often justify the taking by convincing ourselves of our need for a particular thing. Understanding the difference between want and need can come from clues that our body gives us. When you have acquired the thing you wanted, did you feel satisfied, are you still uncomfortable, or did your discomfort increase?
I imagine David’s discomfort increased as long as he continued to pursue his wants instead of looking to God for his needs. We all experience wilderness times where our pursuit of God seems unnoticed by him; however, we must remember God is with us and remains with us. Jesus takes the weight of our hunger, reveals to us where our strength comes from, and carries the burden when we give in to our weaknesses and act as an evildoer.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us that our hunger will be satisfied when we remain in the presence of Jesus. When we know the fullness of God’s love, and we act from a place of abundance. We are enough, and we have enough when we allow Christ to fill our hearts.
And in the words of Paul,
“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Amen.