Have you ever felt like you were in a cave? Not a literal one, but an emotional or even spiritual dark place. What do you do in there? Have you discovered the best way to exit that enclosure? David, the man after God’s own heart knew about the cave of which I write. He found the way of escape. The way started with prayer and resulted in praise. Here’s the story.
David was in a bad way. He’s reached his lowest point thus far in his life. He’s been on run from the blood-thirsty king Saul, and David has traveled to the land of Gath. Having been recognized, David is brought before king Achish. In the presence of this foreign king, David feigns insanity. After all, Gath was the hometown of a man named Goliath. And we all know how the confrontation between Goliath and David ended. Achish is blunt and to the point. “Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:14-15). Simply put, Achish didn’t need any more insane people in his kingdom. How embarrassing it must have been to David to act insane by scratching at doors, and letting spit fill his beard. Fear will do that kind of stuff to you.
Having escaped this close call in Gath, David continues his flight from an angry Saul. Leaving Gath, David finds himself in a cave. “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam” (1 Samuel 22:1). The site of the cave was about two miles south of the valley of Elah (where David defeated Goliath), and some thirteen miles west of Bethlehem. Having humiliated himself before a rival king, David hits rock bottom. We know this because of the prayer he prayed in this cave. Notice the introduction of Psalm 142: “A Contemplation of David. A Prayer when he was in the cave.” Lifting one of the lines from this prayer gives us an idea as to David’s mental and spiritual status. “Look on my right hand and see, for there is no one who acknowledges me; refuge has failed me; no one cares for my soul” (Psalm 142:4). But as David offers this prayer, someone does show up. In fact, it was several someones: “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him” (1 Samuel 22:1). David is joined by the same dad who paraded his seven sons before Samuel to see who would be anointed the next king of Israel, only to be reminded that he actually had eight sons – with our man David being that eighth son, and the same brothers who were afraid of Goliath, but had ridiculed David when he volunteered to do battle with the giant from Gath. These are the people who joined an already depressed David in that cave.
But that’s not all. As word spread, more and more people decided to join David in the cave. Scripture tells us it was a motley crew: “And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him” (1 Samuel 22:2). Gathered to David were those who were in “distress” (in dire straits, under stress, in anguish); those who were in “debt” (to lend on interest, to owe creditors); and those who were “discontented” (bitterness of soul, to be heavy hearted). These are not the kind of people one seeks out when suffering from depression and discouragement. But here they all are.
David begins the process of training these men: “So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him” (1 Samuel 22:2). This motley crew was soon whipped into shape and they became David’s “mighty men of valor.” In fact, the next chapter in 1 Samuel records a victory David and his men won over the Philistines in Keilah. These “four hundred men” would quickly gain a reputation as righteous warriors. When David’s son, Absalom, was plotting an insurrection against his father, Absalom’s advisor, Hushai warned him about going to war with David by saying, “you know your father and his men, that they are mighty men, and they are enraged in their minds, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field; and your father is a man of war” (2 Samuel 17:8).
As David honed the skills of these men – God honed David’s heart. Here’s part of another Psalm composed by David while in that cave: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth” (Psalm 57:7-11). Sounds like David has changed his tune, doesn’t it? But there’s more. A third Psalm is composed about this same time, which reads in part: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19).
I think David has now changed his tune, don’t you? From the “no one cares for my soul” of Psalm 142; to the “I will praise You, O Lord” of Psalm 57; to the “righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” of Psalm 34 – David’s transformation from discouraged and depressed to encouraged and impressed with God is complete.
Find yourself in a cave today? Discouraged, disappointed, and disillusioned? Talk to God. Who knows, that conversation may lead to singing. And who can tell but what that singing might just lead to praising that will lead you from your cave of despair? Trust me, I’ve sung in a few caves myself. The acoustics can be awesome!