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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Aug. 3, 2008

  • 2008 Aug 03

Cave of Troubles - Distress

To better understand I Samuel 22, think back to the stories about conditions in the New Orleans Superdome after Hurricane Katrina; the descriptions boggled our senses.

Think of 20,000 bodies packed into that dark, cavernous  space day after day--so many people, in such a small space, for so long--equaled a sickening stench of odor, multiplied by bathroom backups, garbage that sat around too long, water that was dirty, food that was un-refrigerated.  

All that—plus heat and humidity equaled a horrible fog that was hard to even describe. That was the Superdome 2005 surrounding Hurricane Katrina.  

Now, go back three thousand years ago, to a similar scene. Put 400 men in a cave all at the same time. Add time, heat, and other attending conditions that life in a cave would bring. Multiply that by the fact that these men were all under duress and also fleeing great danger—Saul was after David so they were at risk for their lives. And you have the sights and smells of I Samuel 22:1. 

As we turn to I Samuel 22 we are walking into David's cave--think of the many descriptions of the Superdome you heard or read, and put this passage into that light. 

As we go into the harsh conditions of the cave of Adullam we can start to see the emotional and physical furnace of adversity and affliction that David had entered.  

Then we can fully see the depths of his insights recorded in these two Psalms. Because the next two Psalms we will study in depth—Psalms 57 and 142, are written from the context of 1st Samuel 22.

  • 1 Samuel 22:1-4 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. 3 Then David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, "Please let my father and mother come here with you, till I know what God will do for me.” 4 So he brought them before the king of Moab, and they dwelt with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. 

One truth gripped my heart the longer I studied this passage—this event is so relevant to our world today.  

Often we are struck with the question in our minds--does God have any insights for me a 21st century believer faced with such challenges at work and at school? In other words, how do you make it in the classroom and workplace of America today?  

  1. David found the key, and wrote down how God helped him to minister to these desperate men. The group that came to live and work around him were so representative of what the culture around us is all about. They were distressed, drowned by debt, and discontented with life. Isn’t that an apt description of an average American these days? 
  2. David also learned how to not get dragged down by those around him. As we read these verses note the emotional condition of everyone that joined up with David. They were a very needy group. And in all their need, they invaded the life of someone just coming out of the pits. It was just the right recipe for a relapse by David into despair and a return into the pits. But the good news is—that didn’t happen, and the reason why is just what we are going to learn from God's Word.

So let’s go to the place where David learned to live in the midst of troubled people. David was now making the cave of Adullam his headquarters. Adullam is a cave in the region between Hebron and Philistia. It is located in the canyon that was called Rephaim, which means the Valley of Giants. After David relocated there, and set up his headquarters, and men began to drift in and come to him. Then in the next chapter we’re told: “So David and his men, about six hundred” (1 Samuel 23:13). So this is a growing group that came for comfort and followed David. Three types of men came: those who were in distress, those who were in debt, and those who were discontented.

Those Who Were in Distress

“The men who came to him were, first of all, those who were in distress. Saul was in power, and David was rejected and out yonder in the caves. Saul persecuted and oppressed many of his subjects and these men who were in distress wanted deliverance and relief. They heard of David and went out to him. Many a man came into the camp of David in desperation and said, “I have been hounded like you have been hounded. I have been hated as you have been hated, and I have come to join up with you.”

More and more we are realizing what distresses are surrounding people in these difficult days of finances, work pressures, family pressures, marriage pressures and just plain old constant uncertainty. The school shootings, work shootings, domestic violence levels and the evening news all testify to the deep distress Americans face each day. David’s cave mates were equally distressed.

So what kind of distress did these men who came to David face? Deep distress! How deep, you may wonder?

We can learn so much from the words that God inspired David to use to describe the condition of these hundreds of men surrounding him at this time.

The first word is those in distress (Hebrew word number 4689 matsowq) means squished and trapped and unable to escape. Here is an expansion on what that word means from other parts of the Bible

  • It is used for being at the end of your rope, feeling that death is knocking at your door, and no hope or help is possible. Deuteronomy 28:53-57 You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. 54 The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, 55 so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. 56 The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, 57 her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates
  • It is also a condition of deep sadness that can happen to even very strong believers like Ezra. Psalm 119:143 Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, Yet Your commandments are my delights. 
  • But in ordinary use it stands for an unusually hopeless condition when people do things they would never do at any other time, but are willing to do—because they are in such distress. Jeremiah 19:9 And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the desperation with which their enemies and those who seek their lives shall drive them to despair.” ’

As we read these verses note the emotional condition of everyone that joined up with David. They were a very needy group that invaded David’s life right after his escape from the emotional pits. The good news is— David didn’t relapse into despair and a return into the pits. The reason why is just what we are going to learn from David’s responses.

First, we must always remember this is a spiritual battle. Who is calling the shots in this world? The god of this world, that is the Devil. Yes, the Almighty rules, but He has allowed Satan to run rampantly with evil through our world.

  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.  
  • 1 John 5:18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps  himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.

Second, Satan is the one who causes our problems and our difficulties in the world. The only way the world around us can escape this terminal distress is to flee Satan’s rule in their lives and come to Christ’s.

Turning to Christ , or repenting, is the only way to get rid of the distress of sin today. Every year we as American consume billions of pills to tranquilize our minds and bodies. They may offer temporary relief, but they won’t get rid of your distresses. Only Jesus Christ can give us peace and relief from our distress in this day.

Finally, Satan wants us to despair, feel abandoned, and give up. David found, as we can--that his soul was kept safely in the arms of the Lord to Whom he had fled for refuge.

  • Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


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