Since I will be standing in a cave for the next two weeks I decided that we would look at some cave stories. The geography of the holy land is such that there are caves everywhere. Caves were important because they provided some of the only shelter for people in the desert. Caves can provide relief from the heat and cold, protection during storms as well as safety for both people and livestock at night. When I was in Bethlehem we huddled in a cave to hear the story of the shepherds and the angels on the night Jesus was born because it makes sense that the shepherds out in the fields that night watching over their sheep would have taken those sheep into a cave so that they only had to watch the open door.
Caves where homes for people and caves were graves for people, it’s where they lived and died and were buried. So caves were important and yet there are not as many cave stories in the Bible as you might think, but there are two important ones that we are going to look at and the first one is the story of David hiding out in a cave in the region of Ein Gede, which is along the Dead Sea. This is a true wilderness area with lots of caves tucked up into the hills, in fact the picture you see here is from that general region and you can see a couple of caves which would have been similar to where this story takes place.
David was hiding in a cave because things had not been going well for him. While the prophet Samuel had anointed David as the King of Israel and David had amazing success as a military leader, there was already a king in Israel name Saul and Saul was not giving up his throne and authority to David. Saul had become very jealous of David so set out to kill him. Because of Saul’s pursuit, David had lost connection with his family, been separated from his troops and had to flee from his home. David had lost his wealth and power and friends and ended up sitting alone, hiding from Saul in a cave.
There are times when all of us have felt like we were sitting alone in a cave. Maybe it was when we lost a job or had a financial setback so were forced to downsize or even leave our home and friends. Maybe it was when gossip spread about us that wasn’t true but there was nothing we can do to defend ourselves and we were feeling left out and alone. Maybe it was when our dreams for the future were crushed or when someone said no to our ideas or ended a relationship. There are times we all end up alone in a cave and find ourselves in a dark and hopeless pit of frustration and despair.
Caves are a REALITY of life for all of us. We all end up there at times. We all feel empty and alone and with nowhere else to turn we feel like the best thing we can do is sit down and pout. We might have every reason in the world to feel the way we do and we might be justified in our complaint to God and others and if we need to, we can speak this reality to God. While he was sitting in a cave, David shared his reality with God. From the cave David cried out to God and we hear his cry from Psalm 142:1-7. There is an introduction to the psalm that tells us that this was written while David was in the cave. David was hurting and broken and frustrated and he shares his reality with God.
It is important to know that it is always ok for us to share our reality with God. We don’t need to pretend everything is ok, we don’t need to act as if we have no problems. We can be honest and real with God. David was frustrated and tired and was at his wits end and he shares all of that with God. When we are sitting alone in a cave we can be real with God. What would your cry to God be today? What reality do you need to share with God and what pain or frustration do we need to be honest about? Whether it is a situation beyond our control or a mess of our own making, we can share our frustration with God. If we are angry or frustrated or feeling hopeless because of the injustice, hatred and violence we have seen this week, it is ok to share that with God. Whatever is it, we can share our reality with God and trust that God will not forsake us but forgive us and that God will not reject us but revive us.
David cries out to God and made his reality clear and while he is frustrated and feeling vulnerable he was clear that God was his refuge. Psalm 142:4-5. If the cave is our reality then we need to take REFUGE in God. For David, taking refuge in God didn’t mean hiding in a cave unit the danger was over, it wasn’t about being in a secure location it meant David was trusting God to act on his behalf. David was taking refuge in God and asking God to save and redeem him. We know this is what David meant when he talked about a refuge because there is another psalm David wrote while in this cave which goes into more detail about God being his refuge and it is Psalm 57.
Psalm 57:1. David is looking for God to be his refuge but he isn’t talking about the strength of the cave but the strength of God himself. The refuge isn’t the physical rock but the shadow of God’s wings. The refuge that gives David strength is the power of God, a power David experienced at other times in his life and a power David knows will be there for him now and into the future. David knows God loves him and he knows God has fought for him in the past and so he is trusting in that love and power to save him now. This is where we need to take refuge as well.
In the midst of our own problems and pain we need to make God our refuge, which doesn’t mean running to a secure location to hide but trusting in God to help, trusting God to help us through. We need to keep living and moving forward, but with the faith that God is on our side. David could look back to his many victories given by the hand of God to help give him confidence to trust God moving forward and we need to do the same. We need to look back in our lives and identify God’s faithfulness in the past so we can trust God for the future. David marked many of his victories with psalms and then he used those psalms to remind him of God’s love and power, maybe we need something similar. It may not be that we write songs or psalms but can we make a list of all the ways God has shown us his love and power and then turn to that list when we are in need. That’s part of what it means to take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings.
David not only took refuge in God but his faith and trust allowed him to make a REQUEST of God. Psalm 57:2-3. David cries out to God and what he asks for is success. He is asking for help. He is asking God to physically help him in the situation he faces which means turning his enemies away, but he is also asking God to fulfill the purpose God has for him. Other translations say in V.2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. God’s purpose for David was for him to be the king of Israel.
When we are sitting in a cave it’s important to trust God but it is also important to ask God for help. Our faith and trust can give us confidence to ask God for the support we need. We need to pray and ask God to help us overcome the problems we face but we also need to pray and ask God to help us achieve our purpose in life, of course this means we first need to have an understanding of what God’s purpose for our life is.
For David, knowing his purpose was easy because God had anointed him king through the prophet Samuel. While Samuel was clear, the problem David faced was that there was already a king in Israel so how was God going to work this out. For many of us, we may have a sense of God’s purpose and like David not see how God could possibly work out the details, or we may not have a sense of God’s purpose at all. We may not have clearly heard the call of God in our lives or heard the direction of God’s spirit telling us where to go and what to do and who to be. If that is where you are and you want to have that sense of purpose then I would encourage you to make that request to God and if you have already made it and still don’t have a clear answer, then just keep asking.
While we often want to know our purpose and plan now, God often leads us to it in his time. I knew I wanted to serve God with my life in the fall of 1982 but it wasn’t until the spring of 1992 that I finally realized that God’s plan for me was in the local church. 10 years I walked and wandered and searched and prayed and while it took some time, God was faithful and answered my prayer.
David also had to wait for God to fully provide for him. Scholars believe it was 15 years between the time David was anointed king and then became King of Judah, which was only half of the kingdom of Israel. It would be another 7 years before all the tribes of Israel made David their king. I’m sure there were times David questioned and doubted and cried out to God like he did here, but God was faithful. We can question and doubt and cry out to God all we want but like David can we do it with faith and trust that God will answer us and redeem us and fulfill God’s purpose and plans for us.
One sign that we are waiting in faith is if we are able to REJOICE, even if we aren’t fully there. David wasn’t the king and he wasn’t even in a good place but he rejoiced in God, Psalm 57:7-11. David is doing all of this from a cave where he has had to run from the enemy and where he is questioning why God hasn’t helped him yet. Even from the darkness of a cave, David rejoices and he rejoices because he knows that God is faithful and powerful. Even when David is uncertain, he sings God’s praise which helps hold his heart steady and keeps his heart focused.
In our own times of darkness we need to rejoice. We may not feel like it, but worship isn’t about how we feel it is about who we trust and what we believe. My heart may not feel like singing God’s praise but if I can praise God and remind myself why God is worthy of praise, it helps keep me focused and faithful. The apostle Paul tells us that we need to rejoice in the Lord always, not just when things are going well. We can rejoice in a cave because God is there. We can rejoice in a cave because we know that the cave is not the end of the story, it’s not the end of God’s story and it is not the end of our story.
The cave was also not the end of David’s story. While David first arrived in the cave rejected and alone, slowly David got his support back. In time his family came to him and then his friends and supporters arrived. Eventually there were many people hiding out with David in this cave and in time Saul heard that David and his men were hiding out in this area so he went looking for him.
The story goes that as Saul was looking for David he entered into a cave to “relieve” himself and it just happened to be the cave where David and his men were hiding. If you ever wonder if the Bible is true, I look at stories like this and say to myself, you can’t make this stuff up. It must have been a big cave for Saul not to notice or hear David and all the people gathered with him, but while Saul was otherwise “occupied” David crept up and while he could have killed Saul in that moment, he didn’t. Instead, David cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. David spared Saul’s life because no matter how evil Saul had been to David, David knew that Saul had still been chosen by God to be the king. While Saul had disappointed God and God had now chosen another, David was not going to be the one to kill Saul; David was going to leave that in God’s hands.
After Saul left the cave and was getting ready to leave the area, David came out of the cave himself and showed Saul the corner of his robe. David told Saul that while he could have killed him, he didn’t and that David was not going to kill him. 1 Samuel 24:10-12
David now has the strength and power to leave the cave and in time Saul was defeated by the Philistines and David took the throne as the king of Israel. There would be more problems for David, more days where he felt abandoned and alone, more days when he felt like he was again living the darkness of a cave, but in those days David was able to turn to his own words which told him to find REFUGE in God, make his REQUEST to God and REJOICE in God. Perhaps David even used his own words and songs to rejoice, words that were written in a cave –
Be exalted O God above the heavens
Let your glory be over all the earth.
Cave Stories – David
For background on the story of David, read 1 Samuel 18-23. The story of David in the cave is found in 1 Samuel 24. The two psalms David wrote in the cave are Psalm 57 and 142.
1. David shared his reality with God.
What reality do you face today?
Are you living in the darkness of a cave or the sunshine of the mountain top? Somewhere in between?
How can you share the reality of your life with God?
2. David took refuge in God.
A refuge in God is a not a physical location but a confidence and trust in God’s power.
What specific power of God do you need to experience today? Healing, hope, direction, forgiveness…
What power of God have you experienced in the past?
How can you record and remember these so they can help you trust God for today and tomorrow.
3. David made a request of God.
What request do you need to present to God?
Do you know the God given purpose for your life?
If not, ask God to reveal that to you and then wait with faith until God will provide.
4. David rejoiced in God.
Read again Psalm 57:5-11.
Name 3 attributes of God for which you rejoice.
How can you help spread the glory of God in all the earth?
Take time in the morning and evening to rejoice in God’s love and power.