The story of a monk who took a vow of silence. After ten years in the monastery, the abbot asked the monk if he had anything he wanted to say. The monk said two words…“Food bad.” After another ten years the abbot came to the monk asking if he had anything to say. Two more words…“Bed hard.” Another ten years passed, and the abbot once again asked the same question…“Do you have anything to say?” “I quit,” replied the monk. The abbot said, “It doesn’t surprise me a bit. You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here.” It’s easy for us to reach a point of complaining, isn’t it? Life is filled with dark caves that leave us feeling confused, lonely, and scared.
David’s fame began to grow after he defeated the great Philistine, Goliath. Saul made David a high-ranking officer in his army. And David enjoyed great success. Saul became very angry because the people were acknowledging David’s greatness more than his own. So, Saul did what any respectable king would do…he began plotting to have David killed. In 1 Samuel 19, Saul tells his son, Jonathan, and all the attendants, to kill David. But Jonathan, who saw David as a brother, told David to hide, and Jonathan reasoned with Saul. Thankfully, Saul listened to Jonathan and said, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death” (1 Samuel 19:6). But after another war broke out, and David enjoyed yet another victory, Saul was enraged and tried to pin David to the wall with his spear. David escaped and fled to Naioth at Ramah. Saul sent men to get David and eventually went himself. It was at this time that David fled Naioth and returned to Jonathan.
When David was reunited with his friend, he asked Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” (1 Samuel 20:1). Jonathan said, “Far from it! You shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me? It is not so.” (1 Samuel 20:2). But David knew that Saul was relentless in his pursuit. He knew that Saul would not stop until David was out of the picture. David said to Jonathan, “As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” (1 Samuel 20:3).
Many people face great adversity each day. The struggle is real, and the inward pain is intense. Life is filled with times that leave us feeling confused, lonely, and scared. And just like David, many people believe there is only a step between them and death. Many people are held captive by fear and a lack of understanding.
For David, the threat of death was a reality. Jonathan devised a plan for David to be sure of Saul’s intent. David hid in a field away from the king’s palace for two days. Jonathan assured David that he would determine, based on Saul’s demeanor, if David’s life was in jeopardy. Much to his dismay, Jonathan notified David of Saul’s sure intent to kill him. So David fled to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. When Ahimelech saw that David came to meet with him, he approached David and asked, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” (1 Samuel 21:1). David explained that he was on a secret mission and asked for provisions. Ahimelech gave David some bread. David then inquired if Ahimelech had a spear or sword on hand. And Ahimelech said there was only one sword…Goliath’s sword. David took Goliath’s sword and fled from Saul. He made his way to Achish, king of Gath. Achish and his men realized who he David was, and David is once again afraid for his life. He acted like a madman and they turned him loose. So David ran away from Gath trying to find safety.
Running for his life, David ended up in the cave of Adullam. It is from this cave that David wrote Psalm 142.
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”
David finds himself confused, lonely, scared, and unable to understand why this is happening to him. And he calls out, “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.” In this psalm, we see David’s acknowledgement of God’s abiding presence, “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’” And David pleads with God, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.”
What about Us? How often do we find ourselves running from our problems? How often do we seek to find safety in a cave? All too often, that cave to which we run becomes a prison, holding us captive to the freedom that God provides. What about our spiritual problems? Do we ever run away from God? Do we ever run into a cave hoping that people won’t really notice? Sadly, it seems that we back ourselves into a cave that ends up holding us captive. God is the only one that truly provides the freedom we all desire. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.” At first, we may feel a sense of comfort and security in the cave, but sooner or later, that cave will begin to close in, smothering us under its pressure. The good news is that God is always there, waiting to relieve the pressure. He wants to give us freedom from those struggles that pull us away from him.
It only takes us saying with David, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.” Walter Cronkite said, “There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.” Where are you? Do you find yourself feeling stuck in a cave longing to be freed from your prison? Call out to God. He will set you free.