In the Cave of Adullam
1 Samuel 22
At the close of the preceding chapter, we saw the backslider restored to communion with God. As David then wrote, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous"ómost of them brought upon themselves through sinful follyó"but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Ps. 34:19). Yet, in His own good time. The hour had not yet arrived for our patriarch to ascend the throne. It would have been a simple matter for God to have put forth His power, destroyed Saul, and given His servant rest from all his foes. And this, no doubt, is what the energetic nature of David had much preferred. But there were other counsels of God to be unfolded before He was ready for the son of Jesse to wield the scepter. Though we are impulsive and impetuous, God is never in a hurry; the sooner we learn this lesson, the better for our own peace of mind, and the sooner shall we "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Ps. 37:7).
"God had designs other than the mere exaltation of David. He intended to allow the evil of Saul and of Israel to exhibit itself. He intended to give to David some apprehension of the character of his own heart, and to cause him to learn subjection to a greater wisdom than his own. He intended also to prove the hearts of His own people Israel; and to try how many among them would discern that the Cave of Adullam was the only true place of excellency and honour in Israel" (B. W. Newton). Further discipline was needed by David, if he was to learn deeper lessons of dependency upon God. Learn from this, dear reader, that though Godís delays are trying to flesh and blood, nevertheless they are ordered by perfect wisdom and infinite love. "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come" (Hab. 2:3).
"David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam" (1 Sam. 22:1). Still a fugitive, David left the land of the Philistines, and now took refuge in a large underground cavern, situated, most probably, not far from Bethlehem. To conceal himself from Saul and his blood-thirsty underlings, our hero betook himself to a caveóit is probable that the Holy Spirit made reference to this in Hebrews 11:38. The high favorites of Heaven are sometimes to be located in queer and unexpected places. Joseph in prison, the descendants of Abraham laboring in the brick-kilns of Egypt, Daniel in the lionsí den, Jonah in the great fishís belly, Paul clinging to a spar in the sea, forcibly illustrate this principle. Then let us not murmur because we do not now live in as fine a house as do some of the ungodly; our "mansions" are in Heaven!
"David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam." It is blessed to learn how David employed himself at this time; yet close searching has to be done before this can be ascertained. The Bible is no lazy manís book: much of its treasure, like the valuable minerals stored in the bowels of the earth, only yield up themselves to the diligent seeker. Compare Proverbs 2: 1-5. By noting the superscriptions to the Psalms (which, with many others, we are satisfied are Divinely inspired), we discover that two of them were composed by "the sweet singer of Israel" at this time. Just as the 34th casts its welcome light upon the close of 1 Samuel 21, so Psalm 57 and 142 illuminate the opening verses of 1 Samuel 22.
The underground asylum of David made an admirable closet for prayer, its very solitude being helpful for the exercise of devotion. Well did C. H. Spurgeon say, "Had David prayed as much in his palace as he did in his cave, he might never have fallen into the act which brought such misery upon his latter days." We trust the spiritual reader will, at this point, turn to and ponder Psalms 57 and 142. In them he will perceive something of the exercises of Davidís heart. From them he may derive valuable instruction as to how to pray acceptably unto God in seasons of peculiar trial. A careful reading of the fifty-seventh Psalm will enable us to follow one who began it amid the gloomy shadows of the cavern, but from which he gradually emerged into the open daylight. So it often is in the experiences of the believerís soul.
Perhaps the Psalm 142 was composed by David before the Psalm 57: certainly it brings before us one who was in deeper anguish of soul. Blessed indeed is it to mark the striking contrast from what is here presented to us and what was before us as we passed through 1 Samuel 20 and 21. There we saw the worried fugitive turning to Jonathan, lying to Ahimelech, playing the madman at Gath. But vain was the hope of man. Yet how often we have to pass through these painful experiences and bitter disappointments before we thoroughly learn this lesson! Here we behold the son of Jesse turning to the only One who could do him any real good. "I cried unto the Lord with my voice I poured out my complaint before Him. I showed before Him my trouble" (vv. 1, 2). This is what we should do: thoroughly unburden our hearts unto Him with whom we have to do. Note how, at the close of this Psalm, after he had so freely poured out his woes, David exclaimed, "Thou shalt deal bountifully with me"!
"And Jonathan loved him as his own soul . . . all Israel and Judah loved David" (1 Sam. 18:1, 16). Now their love was tested, now an opportunity was furnished them to manifest their affections for him. This was the hour of Davidís unpopularity: he was outlawed from the court; a fugitive from Saul, he was dwelling in a cave. Now was the time for devotion to David to be clearly exhibited. But only those who truly loved him could be expected to throw in their lot with an hated outcast. Strikingly is this illustrated in the very next words.
"And when his brethren and all his fatherís house heard it, they went down thither to him" (1 Sam. 22:1). Ah, true love is unaffected by the outward circumstances of its object. Where the heart is genuinely knit to another, a change in his fortunes will not produce a change in its affections. David might be, in the eyes of the world, in disgrace; but that made no difference to those who loved him. He might be languishing in a cavern, but that was all the more reason why they should show their kindness and demonstrate their unswerving loyalty. Among other things, this painful trial enabled David to discover who were, and who were not, his real friends.
If we look beneath the surface here, the anointed eye should have no difficulty in discerning another striking and blessed type of Davidís Son and Lord. First, a type of him when He tabernacled among men, in "the days of his flesh." How fared it then with the Anointed of God? By title the throne of Israel was His, for He was born "the King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2). That God was with him was unmistakably evident. He too "behaved Himself wisely in all His ways." He too performed exploits: healing the sick, freeing the demon possessed, feeding the hungry multitude, raising the dead. But just as Saul hated and persecuted David, so the heads of the Jewsóthe chief priests and Phariseesówere envious of and hounded Christ. Just as Saul thirsted for the blood of Jesseís son, the leaders of Israel (at a later date) thirsted for the blood of Godís Son.
The analogy mentioned above might be drawn out at considerable length, but at only one other point will we here glance, namely, the fact of the solemn foreshadowment furnished by David as first the friend and benefactor of his nation, now the poor outcast. Accurately did he prefigure that blessed One, who when here was "the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Trace His path as the Holy Spirit has described it in the New Testament. Behold Him as the unwanted One in this world of wickedness. Hear His plaintive declaration, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" (Matthew 8:20). Read too, "And every man went unto his own house; Jesus went unto the mount of Olives" (John 7:53; 8:1); and it is evident that Davidís Lord was the Homeless Outcast in this scene.
But were there none who appreciated Him, none who loved Him, none who were willing to be identified with and cast in their lot with Him who was "despised and rejected of men"? Yes, there were some, and these, we believe, are typically brought before us in the next verse of the scripture we are now pondering: "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him" (1 Sam. 22:2). What a strange company to seek unto Godís anointed! No mention is made of the captains of the army, the men of state, the princes of the realm, coming unto David. No, they, with all like them, preferred the court and the palace to the cave of Adullam.
Is not the picture an accurate one, dear reader? Is it not plain again that these Old Testament records furnished something more than historical accounts, that there is a typical and spiritual significance to them as well? If David be a type of Christ, then those who sought him out during the season of his humiliation, must represent those who sought unto Davidís Son when He sojourned on this earth. And clearly they did so. Read the four Gospels, and it will be found that, for the most part, those who sought unto the Lord Jesus, were the poor and needy; it was the lepers, the blind, the maimed and the halt, who came unto Him for help and healing. The rich and influential, the learned and the mighty, the leaders of the Nation, had no heart for Him.
But what is before us in the opening of 1 Samuel 22 not only typed out that which occurred during the earthly ministry of Christ, but it also shadowed forth that which has come to pass all through this Christian era, and that which is taking place today. As the Holy Spirit declared through Paul, "For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things which are: That no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
The second verse of 1 Samuel 22 sets before us a striking gospel picture. Note, first, that those who came to David were few in number: "about four hundred." What a paltry retinue! What a handful compared with the hosts of Israel! But did Christ fare any better in the days of His flesh? How many friends stood around the Cross, wept at His sepulcher, or greeted Him as He burst the bars of death? How many followed Him to Bethany, gazed at His ascending form, or gathered in the upper room to await the promised Spirit? And how is it today? Of the countless millions of earthís inhabitants what percentage of them have even heard the gospel? Out of those who bear His name, how many evidence that they are denying self, taking up their cross daily, and following the example which He has left, and thus proving themselves by the only badge of discipleship which He will recognize? A discouraging situation, you say. Not at all, rather is it just what faith expects. The Lord Jesus declared that His flock is a "little one" (Luke 12:32), that only "few" tread that narrow way which leadeth unto life (Matthew 7:14).
Second, observe again the particular type of people who sought out David: they were "in distress, in debt, and discontented." What terms could more suitably describe the condition they are in when the redeemed first seek help from Christ! "In debt": in all things we had come short of the glory of God. In thought, word, and deed, we had failed to please Him, and there was marked up against us a multitude of transgressions. "In distress"; who can tell out that anguish of soul which is experienced by the truly convicted of the Holy Spirit? Only the one who has actually experienced the same, knows of that unspeakable horror and sorrow when the heart first perceives the frightful enormity of having defied the infinite Majesty of heaven, trifled with His longsuffering, slighted His mercy again and again.
"Discontented." Yes, this line in the picture is just as accurate as the others. The one who has been brought to realize he is a spiritual pauper, and who is now full of grief for his sins, is discontented with the very things which till recently pleased him. Those pleasures which fascinated, now pall. That gay society which once attracted, now repels. O the emptiness of the world to a soul which God hath smitten with a sense of sin! The stricken one turns away with disgust from that which he had formerly sought after so eagerly. There is now an aching void within, which nothing without can fill. So wretched is the convicted sinner, he wishes he were dead, yet he is terrified at the very thought of death. Reader, do you know anything of such an experience, or is all this the language of an unknown tongue to you?
Third, these people who were in debt, in distress, and discontented, sought out David. They were the only ones who did so; it was a deep sense of need which drove them to him, and a hope that he could relieve them. So it is spiritually. None but those who truly feel that they are paupers before God, with no good thing to their credit, absolutely destitute of any merits of their own, will appreciate the glad tidings that Christ Jesus came into this world to pay the debt of such. Only those who are smitten in their conscience, broken in heart, and sick of sin, will really respond to that blessed word of His, "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Only those who have lost all heart for this poor world, will truly turn unto the Lord of glory.
Fourth, the spiritual picture we are now contemplating is not only a type of the first coming to Christ of His people, but also of their subsequent going forth "unto Him without the camp" (Heb. 13:13). Those who sought David in the Cave of Adullam turned their backs upon both the court of Saul and the religion of Judaism. There was none to pity them there. Who cared for penniless paupers? Who had a heart for those in distress? So it is in many churches today. Those who are "poor in spirit" have nothing in common with the self-satisfied Laodiceans. And how "distressed" in soul are they over the worldliness that has come in like a flood, over the crowds of unregenerate members, over the utter absence of any scriptural discipline? And what is to be the attitude and actions of Godís grieved children toward those having nothing more than a form of godliness? This "from such turn away" (2 Tim. 3:5). Identify yourself with Christ on the outside; walk alone with Him.
Fifth, "And he became a captain over them" (1 Sam. 22:2). Important and striking line in the picture is this. Christ is to be received as "Lord" (Col. 2:6) if He is to be known as Saviour. Love to Christ is to be evidenced by "keeping His commandments" (John 14:15). It mattered not what that strange company had been who sought unto David, they were now his servants and soldiers. They had turned away from the evil influence of Saul, to be subject unto the authority of David. This is what Christ requires from all who identify themselves with Him. "Take My yoke upon you" is His demand (Matthew 11:29). Nor need we shrink from it, for He declares "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."