A Cave, Crutches And A Captain

By Tim Headly

I remember visiting Carlsbad Caverns, in the American Southwest, when I was a boy. The caverns were very cold and damp. There were lighted paths to walk on, but at one point when we were deep in the cave, a tour guide shut off all the lights. The underground chamber was pitch black! It was so dark that I could not see my hand in front of my face. They left the lights off for only a short time, but it was long enough to get a very uncomfortable feeling. It can be fun to explore a cave when it is safe to do so, yet it is not a place where I think most people would want to live for any length of time.

In 1 Samuel 22 we see that David did just that when he was running from King Saul. While there the LORD used the cave of Adullam to break David down in order to build him up again and use him to strengthen others. The LORD would fulfill His purposes in David’s life. Likewise, it is sometimes in the darkest caves of our lives when God does His deepest work in us so He can use us much more.

The Pathway To The Cave Of Adullam
David went from obscurity to prominence when the prophet Samuel came to David’s home and anointed him as the next king of Israel. David’s fame grew greatly after he defeated Goliath. That victory gave David a place in the palace of King Saul, where the king kept a close eye on him. David became a very successful commander and his name was well-known (1 Sam. 18:30). His best friend was the king’s son Jonathan. He even married one of Saul’s daughters. David’s success and popularity caused Saul to become very jealous – even to the point of trying to kill David.

David fled for his life. Of all places, he went to Gath, the city of the people he had defeated when he killed the Philistine giant Goliath. Because of fear, David pretended to be insane. This was a very low point in David’s life, and it was a time when he lost everything that meant anything to him.

The Crutches Removed
In fleeing from Saul, David lost his relationships – at least for a time – with his wife Michal and his family. His job as a commander in Saul’s army was gone. Samuel, a spiritual counselor who meant much to David, died while David was on the run from Saul. He also lost his best friend Jonathan, his self-respect and his security. David found himself alone, discouraged and scared.

The LORD had removed everyone and everything that David leaned upon so He could begin to work in His servant. David didn’t realize when he ran into the cave of Adullam that he was running into the school of God, where He teaches His own.

At one point David called the cave a “prison” (Ps. 142:7 KJV), but the Lord used it as a closet of prayer for David (see Mt. 6:6). Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), a respected British preacher, wrote: “Had David prayed as much in his palace as he did in his cave, he might never have fallen into the acts which brought such misery upon his latter days.”

The Closet Of Prayer Precedes The Chamber Of Praise
God allowed David to experience difficult days of discouragement and despair to draw him to Himself. While David was going through the experiences of the cave he wrote at least two psalms: Psalms 142 and 57. Psalm 142 seems to be the first for it is filled with a sense of despair. Psalm 57 was likely written second as it contains more hope and confidence.

David had already been anointed king, but we may wonder why it took so long for him to take the throne? Scripture teaches us in the life of our Lord Jesus, whom David pictures, that suffering comes before glory (1 Pet. 1:10-12). Before the crown there had to be the cross! So it is in our lives: Before God can use us He must prepare and teach us to rely on Him.

David ran to Adullam, which means “justice,” “a testimony” or “a refuge.” But God had to teach David that, instead of the cave, He was his refuge – the place of protection, security and secrecy. We read: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say ‘Destroy!’” (Dt. 33:27 NKJV). This is what David had to learn.

The Cries From The Cave
Like us, David got discouraged. What did David do in his despair? He cried out to the LORD! Looking at Psalm 142 we see that this cave was for him one of:

  • Complaint (v.2). David poured out his heart to the LORD, begging Him for help and deliverance.
  • Trouble (v.2). His heart was full of anxiety and distress, but he was talking to the LORD in prayer!
  • Fainting (v.3). The word here for “overwhelmed” means “fainting.” David was ready to give up, and he had nowhere else to turn.
  • Snares (v.3). When we feel trapped in a corner there are many snares that wait for us. But the Lord has promised a way out for us if we trust Him (1 Cor. 10:13).
  • Loneliness (v.4). David felt all alone – like no one understood his situation.
  • Despair (v.6). David said that he is brought very low, discouraged and depressed.
  • Bondage (v.7). He described his feelings as being in prison.

Who hasn’t experienced caves like this in their own lives? Maybe you are experiencing one right now. Although he felt that he was alone, David was not – and neither are you. David hurt enough to admit his need before God, and he was honest and humble enough to cry for help and learn from Him. The Lord allows us to get to such a point in order to transform us, and then we can fulfill His plan.

Lessons Learned Alone With God In The Cave
The Lord is glorified when we trust Him in the darkest hours of our lives. It is then that we begin to learn and enjoy:

  • Intimacy with the Lord. David verbally communicated with the LORD during this dark time in his life. We too have access into the Lord’s presence to cast our cares upon Him (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Pet. 5:7).
  • His sufficiency. David had lost everything, but as he poured out his heart to the LORD he learned that He was his portion (Ps. 142:5). Prophetically, this is what the Lord Jesus said in Psalm 16:5: “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” When we realize that all our resources and all that sustains us are found in Him, we actually begin to act the way the Lord Jesus did when He was on earth as a man – when God the Father was His portion. He is not only our resource for life, He is our life (Col. 3:4) and our portion. He is enough!
  • His Character. David began to learn what God was like and who He was, and he praised Him (Ps. 142:7). David’s focus was no longer on who or what was lost, but it was on the LORD! This point comes out even clearer in Psalm 57. There we see David as one whom the LORD strengthened and prepared for what was next.

The LORD had changed David’s heart from being discouraged to one encouraged by His presence and power. Let’s look briefly at Psalm 57 to learn more about David’s heart:

  • A Humble Heart (v.1). Having humbled himself in the presence of the LORD, David’s perspective became totally different. He saw the LORDas the One who is full of mercy and completely trustworthy. David had learned that the Lord was willing to take him under His wings, being a refuge until calamities pass.
  • A Prayerful Heart (v.2). He was willing to depend on the One who is above all others in His person and power.
  • A Realistic Heart (vv.4,6). Without denying the difficulties, David acknowledged that God was greater than all his problems.
  • A Trusting Heart (vv.5,7-11). David gave the LORD all the praise and emphasized again that his God was above everything else.

Having learned total dependence upon God while in the cave of Adullam, David was ready to be used by the LORD.

From Isolated To An Insulator
Discouraged, David had gone alone to hide in the cave. The LORD worked in David, and David learned to trust Him fully. Having been prepared by the LORD, He sent people to him who needed to be encouraged. David’s family arrived first, even his brothers who once called him prideful (1 Sam. 17:28).

We are told the number and type of men who came to David in the cave: 400 who were in distress, in debt and discontent. This word “distress” has the idea of “those under pressure.” It reminds us that before we came to Christ we were under the burden of sin, but coming to our “David,” the Lord Jesus Christ, the burden was lifted. “Everyone who was in debt” has the thought of “having many creditors.” We were bankrupt and owed more than we could ever repay, but we came to the One who has paid it in full. “Everyone who was discontent” means “to be in bitterness of soul.” This reminds us that nothing could ever fill the God-shaped vacuum that was in each of our lives before we came to Christ.

The Captain Of The Cave
These 400 men were unhappy with Saul, the man after the flesh, and sought out David, the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). They left Saul and the city and went out to David. Here we have a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church. We are told to go “forth to Him outside the camp” and that He is “the Captain of [our] salvation” (Heb. 13:13, 2:10). Flesh of any kind cannot satisfy, no matter if it is sinful flesh or religious flesh. Only Christ can meet the needs of the human heart!

We learn from 2 Samuel 23 that these men came from all over Israel. Some were from Benjamin, which was Saul’s tribe. Others came to David from the tribes of Judah, Dan and Ephraim – and some were even Gentiles. This reminds us that the Lord Jesus will have those around Him who are “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

These men came to David just as they were, and the LORD satisfied them through the man after His own heart. They came to David when he was rejected and in exile, but he had won their hearts. Later, their aim in life would be to please their captain and to fulfill his every desire, as we see in 2 Samuel 23:8-23. This ought to be our aim today. The apostle Paul stated this in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “Therefore we make it our aim … to be well pleasing to Him.”

The cave of Adullam became a place of training for David and his mighty men. Everyone experiences cave-like circumstances in life. Your cave can be a dark, cold and lonely place – or it can be a classroom in the school of God where you learn that He is your refuge and all you need!

By Timothy P. Hadley