David was God’s chosen king, the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. But for a time he had to live hiding in his own kingdom. While he did a few unlikely characters joined him, and were molded into the future heroes of Israel.
The rightful King of this world, Jesus, is here incognito, so to speak, and he calls us to join him in a campaign of rebellion against the usurper, Satan.
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1 Samuel #20. 1 Samuel 22:1-2
Last time we saw how David took the time to make one last stop to worship the Lord. He almost certainly lost a chance to go home to Bethlehem one last time. He did this because he wanted to be in the presence of the Lord once more. He wanted to hear what God had to say to him in this difficult circumstance. Those things were more important to him than home, family or even the certain help he would have received in Bethlehem. After stopping at the temple, he spent some time in Philistine territory. Realizing he’d made a mistake, he fled from there, and ended up hiding and living in a cave near a place called Adullam.
Pause for a moment and consider how low David has fallen. He was anointed to be God’s chosen instrument, ultimately, to be the king. He served as a feared and honored warrior – he was, in fact, a national hero. He was the son in law of the king. He had lived in comfort and honor. Now he is hiding for fear of his life, in a cave. Caves are not known for their comfort. There is nothing soft to sleep on. There is no natural light. There are no bathrooms, so after a while of living there, it would smell pretty ripe. And yet, David’s heart didn’t falter. He did not appear to think he was somehow too good to live that way. Arthur W. Pink commented on this:
“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 lions’ den, Jonah in the great fish’s 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!”
Sometimes I think we Christians in the Western world are a little soft. God loves to bless his people, but his main purpose for us in this world is not that we merely feel comfortable. David was God’s chosen instrument, just as we Christians are today. And the Lord was with him in the cave, perhaps even more potently than when David finally lived in a palace. We need to take the long view, the view of eternity. What happens here and now is not the end. I like where I live right now, but it is a dump compared to my permanent home in heaven. David knew that was true for him as well.
There are two Psalms that show in the title that they were written by David “in the cave.” Unfortunately for David, he spent time hiding in several different caves, at different periods in his life. So we can’t know for sure that these were written in the caves near Adullam. But there’s a good chance that either one or both of Psalm 57 and 142 were written at this point in his life. Remember, the Psalms are not collected in chronological order, so 142 could easily have been written before 57.
Both Psalms start with David expressing fear and anguish at his dangerous and uncertain situation. But both end with him declaring his trust in the Lord, and his praise to him. The last line of Psalm 142 says, “The righteous will gather around me; because you deal generously with me.”
This is a declaration of trust. It is also an optimistic take on what actually happened shortly afterwards. David’s brothers and his father’s whole family came to live with him in the cave. He was no longer all alone – his family shared in his hardship and persecutions. In addition, more men joined him until there were about 400 altogether. The text says that these men were all either “desperate, in debt or discontented.” It doesn’t sound exactly like “the righteous.” It sounds more like a ragtag band of malcontents and ne’er-do-wells. David’s family aside, these sound not like the cream of the crop, but rather the sludge of society.
However, they all agreed upon one thing – David was now their leader. This was actually a pretty big deal. As we will learn in a moment, Saul the King felt that anyone who helped David was committing treason, and he sentenced them to death. So when these men gave their allegiance to David, they forfeited their lives. There was no going back. If David failed to vindicate himself, they were dead men.
In the Old Testament, sometimes we encounter people or events that theologians call “a type of Christ.” What they mean is, sometimes God used historical events or individuals to show the world what Jesus was like, even though Jesus had not come yet. It is a foreshadowing – a partial picture of what the real messiah will look like. These “types of Christ” serve two purposes. First they were for the people in Old Testament times, to help them understand what God is really like, and how he really saves people. Remember, Romans 3:25-26 tells us that even people in Old Testament times were saved through Jesus, as God looked ahead to what he was going to do at the cross. And so there are these shadows and parts of pictures that gave people a sense of what was to come. Second, these “types” are there to strengthen our faith. Even the Old Testament is all about Jesus, and so when we read it, we should be looking for Jesus and how it shows Him to us.
By the time Jesus walked the earth, even the Jewish Pharisees believed that many of the people and incidents in the Old Testament were pictures of the coming Messiah. In particular, the Jews felt that David’s life and character would help them to identify what the Messiah was like. David was anointed with oil and with the Holy Spirit to be God’s uniquely chosen instrument. Both the Hebrew word “Messiah” and the Greek “Christ” mean simply “anointed one.” Jesus Christ means “Jesus, Anointed One.” So some of the life of David, the anointed one, looks ahead to the ultimate Anointed One.
In this particular case, there are several significant comparisons. David was God’s chosen anointed one, and yet he was rejected by the leader of the nation. He lived with integrity and didn’t do anything wrong, yet he was forced to live as an outcast. Jesus was God in flesh, the Ultimate Anointed One, and yet he was rejected by the status quo of Israel. He too was an outcast. David accomplished miraculous things in battle against the Philistines. Once he and another warrior were surrounded by Philistines in an open field. They stood back to back and killed three hundred enemies that day.
Jesus also performed many miraculous signs – healings, driving out demons, calming storms and more. He destroyed demonic enemy strongholds.
There is one “type of Christ” in this passage that I want to dwell on a little bit longer, and that is the followers of God’s anointed. The men that followed David were of no account. They were shiftless and in trouble, the dregs of society. And yet mostly from these ragtag 400, came some of the mightiest names in the history of Israel. There was an exclusive trio of warriors, known as “the three.” One of these was the warrior that stood back to back with David when they were surrounded. There was a larger elite force of “thirty mighty men.” From what we can tell, they all started out among this group of no-name, no-account people.
In the same way, the important members of society did not join the ragtag band of Jesus’ disciples. Instead he got tax-collectors, prostitutes and smelly, calloused fishermen. He had his “three” – Peter, James and John. He had his twelve then beyond that, a few more.
The followers of David had to be kind of desperate to go to him. They were literally giving up everything to join him. If he didn’t come through, they were lost. There was no halfway commitment. This wasn’t, “I’ll go hang with David for a while, and if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back.” No it was an irrevocable alignment with David, breaking off the loyalties of the past.
Jesus calls for that kind of allegiance from us also. He doesn’t want us to come to him, keeping our options open in case something we like better comes along. Jesus talked to his disciples about this very thing, and Peter expressed the kind of commitment they made to him:
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69, ESV)
Just as David’s followers were desperate and poor, Jesus calls to the broken and poor in spirit. Let’s face it, it hard to really give ourselves over to Jesus unless we realize that without him, we are lost. Paul describes it like this:
26 Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one can boast in His presence. 30 But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us — our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord. (1Cor 1:26-31, HCSB)
Let’s be honest. Sometimes it seems like it might be more exciting to be one of David’s men than to follow Jesus. I mean, as I read this, I think this real history was likely the inspiration for the legend of Robin Hood, and even if Robin Hood was real, he might have been inspired to his deeds by this very story. There are battles, betrayals, secret hiding places, defections. It is all very well to say David is a type of Christ, but following Jesus might sometimes seem more boring. I mean we go to work or school and come home and do stuff, go to bed and then get up and do it all again. Sometimes we’re so bored, we make excitement for ourselves.
I think that is all because we fail to recognize the spiritual reality that exists with and alongside our world, hidden, but no less real. What David was involved with physically, we are engaged in spiritually. David was the king who was chosen by God, but rejected by many of the people. He lived almost as an agent in enemy territory, gathering those few worthless people who had nowhere else to turn to help him. In the same way, C.S. Lewis describes our life of following Jesus like this:
Enemy occupied territory – that’s what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.
–C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
You see, though the battle is more spiritual than physical, it is no less real for all that. We have a faithful, loving intrepid leader. We are undercover – living as part of society, but not living for the same purposes as the rest of the world. Sometimes perhaps we need to wake up, and open up our lives to be more engaged in this secret mission. We need to be more aware of how the Lord wants to work, to be more aware of the people he is bringing across our paths and into our lives.
Joining the Rebel King paints a target on our backs, a target his enemies would love to use. But if we trust him and submit to his leadership, he will mold us into mighty men and women of faith, significant in God’s kingdom forever.
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