An odd chapter...David and a few of his loyal compatriots have escaped from Saul who is plotting to kill him. They get to Nob and meet up with the Priest, Ahimilech who has no food to offer them except the Holy Bread (aka the Bread of the Presence). David uses deceit to reassure Ahimilech that nothing is wrong. They trick their way into some grub, even though the grub is not lawful for them to eat.
At first glance, it is easy to get caught up in the sinfulness of the story. David lies to a priest, then the priest, who seems fearful of the whole scene decides to give the men bread that is not to be eaten by anyone but the priests. Then David uses deception again pretending he is a madman to avoid hostile confrontation in Gath. Lies, deception and disobedience...all without reprimand?
Then we check out the gospel parallel to this passage and Jesus is picking grain on the sabbath to eat with his disciples. This is again a forbidden act and what does Jesus due in response to the inquisition? He cites 1 Samuel 21. It seems like he justifies his 'sin' by pointing the pharisees to another sin. It's like if I said, "Well, the reason I commit adultery is because David did with Bathsheba back in 1 Samuel!" The line of thinking seems odd.
But then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter..."I desire mercy, not sacrifice." In other words, if someone is hungry, they need to be fed, and that trumps the rules and regulations that we have in place. David was malnourished and Ahimelech did the right thing by helping him (even if David was not entirely truthful).
I think one of the biggest challenges for Christians is to get past the stigmas and seek to help. Oh you have AIDS? Oh you've been divorced 4 times? Oh you're gay? Christians want to see the ailments and sins fixed before they seek to reach out a hand. But that is not God's Mode of Operation. He reaches out to the hopeless, the fatherless, the needy and meets them in the midst of their need. We are called to walk across the room to the ugliest, unloveliest and offer irrational love and grace...
because we are simply beggars, called to tell other beggars where we have found bread.