I have no doubt you are familiar with most of the Bible biographies. And you may remember the incident in David's life when he came weary and dispirited to the little village of Nob. The future just then looked very forbidding to him. He had forgotten the anointing oil which the prophet Samuel had poured upon his head in his native town of Bethlehem not far away. This was a sure pledge that he would wear the crown of Israel, but that day fear possessed his soul. There is but a step between me and death, he said to Jonathan, for he was persuaded that Saul would slay him.
This fear of man brought with it a snare for David into which he ignominiously fell when he entered Nob. His deceitful artifice when Ahimelech spoke to him was a blot on his own character as a man of God, and indirectly it caused the destruction of the whole of that small town.
Nob was one of the Levitical cities, and eighty-six priests dwelt there with their families. When Ahimelech the high priest questioned David why he came there alone, he concealed the fact of Saul's anger with him, and gave an untruthful reply to the representative of God.
Whether Ahimelech was really deceived or not by the reply does not affect David's guilt. In his dread of the vengeance of the king, the fugitive may have thought it a trivial matter to pretend to be about Saul's business. But God is not mocked. What a man sows that shall he reap. We are to remember what a great conflagration a little spark will cause. The scripture says, "As a madman who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?" (Prov. 26:18, 19).
The minister of the sanctuary treated David graciously, and he went away from Nob with the holy food of the priests in his scrip, and the sword of Goliath in his hand. Nevertheless, he was, in spite of the false words on his tongue, fleeing for his life in fear of Saul (1 Sam 21:10).
Moses said to the children of Gad and of Reuben, "Be sure your sin will find you out;" wrong-doing cannot be long concealed. David was to discover that the evil seed he had planted in Nob would produce its evil fruit, and that very quickly. The unfriendly eye of Doeg, the chief of the royal herdmen, saw him there, and he carried the news of the befriending act of Ahimelech to his master. The king was furious, and issued the cruel order for the wholesale massacre of the inhabitants of Nob, men, women, and children. Of the retinue of Saul, none would obey him and lift up their hands against the defenceless priests of the Lord, except Doeg himself, his Edomite servant.
There was a solitary survivor of the priestly household. Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, fled from Nob to David, told him the fearful news, and he was stricken with remorse.
David had sinned at Nob. But he surely confessed his guilt to God, as he did to the grief-stricken Abiathar when he said to him, "I have occasioned the death of all the persons in thy father's house." The confession was from an honest and good heart, for he took the whole blame upon himself without attempting to make any excuses for himself. But he could not restore life to the dead Levitical families.
The incident at Nob is one of dark failure on the part of one whom God called "a man after Mine own heart." The record is however given in scripture that we take warning lest we should be drawn into deceit of any kind. Even if there is apparent success at first, this is only short-lived, for it is written, "The lip of truth shall be established for ever; but a lying tongue is but for a moment" (Prov. 12:19). Moreover, falsehood invariably brings trouble upon oneself, and often upon others also.
Nob then speaks with a voice of solemn warning against any deceitful words or actions, particularly in the circle where God's name is honoured, worshipped, and served. Nod too has its lesson, though in another connection.
Nod was the country to the east of Eden into which Cain, the slayer of his brother Abel, wandered after he went out from the presence of the Lord with hands stained by his brother's blood (Gen. 4:16), and an accusing conscience within him.
There Cain and his descendants, such as Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-cain, cultivated the arts and sciences. They followed the pursuits of both city life and rural life. They sought recreation in poetry and music. By such means the family of Cain endeavoured to find in the refinements of life compensations for the loss of sinless Eden and of the society of their godly relatives.
Cain therefore originated in the land of Nod a system where God and His revealed word were not recognised. His organised defiance of the authority and judgment of God and his hatred of his brother Abel made Nod, the land of his dwelling-place, the earliest type of the "world," as it is called in the New Testament, which by wisdom "knew not God." Peter calls the state of things before the flood "the world of the ungodly" (2 Peter 2:5), and they were "ungodly" because they excluded God and His claims from due consideration in their lives.
While the great mass of mankind at that time lived "without God in the world," there were exceptions. Enoch and Noah, for example, were men of faith in those antediluvian days, and while others walked "without God" they walked "with God," apart from those represented by the land of Nod.
These men by the principles of truth which, governed their lives illustrated, even in that distant age, the exhortations of the apostle John to the young men of the family of God, for they stood aloof from the land of Nod and its things.
John, in words you should remember every day of your life, wrote, "Love not the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
The apostle strengthens this exhortation by the warning of what will be the dread consequences to the world in its reckless disregard of God and His word. He adds to the words just quoted: "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (1 John 2:15-17). In those ancient days God sent a flood of waters upon the land of Nod, and "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." The doers of the will of God did not perish, but were preserved in the ark to people the new earth.
The end of the land of Nod with its amusements and intellectual pursuits contains a grave lesson for the children of God for all time. They are to be separate from the world and its things which are doomed to perish eventually, and which often perish in the using. The alluring pleasures and the exciting occupations of the world are apt to deceive the unwary, especially when the eye of faith is not resting upon the things which are unseen but eternal. Complete avoidance of the world is the only safe pathway.
I therefore beseech my young friends to walk uprightly in Nob, and to keep their garments unspotted from Nod.