Rising Out of the Cave of Adullam
David’s defeat of Goliath was only the beginning of what would be a rapid upward rise for the youth. The ultimate victory of faith not only assured Philistines would think twice before insulting the God of Israel again, but it also landed David with quite a few perks.
David had become the hero of an anthem sung by the women of Israel, declaring that he had killed ten times more Philistines than Saul. The song that was so popular, it was even known in Philistia. Saul then sent David on military campaign after military campaign each of which David returned successful, garnering even more fame than before. Not only that, David, a shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a virtual nobody, married Saul's daughter Michal, and became son-in-law to the king.
Little did David suspect the king was actively trying to sabotage his newfound fame and glory. Saul sent David out on military missions in hopes that David would be killed in the effort. Saul allowed David to marry Michal because he thought Michal would be a snare to David. It seems that David was even unaware of the trouble he was getting into even after Saul threw a spear at him. It took two spears before David began to suspect something was amiss.
At this point, David’s blissful ignorance can no longer protect him as his life begins spiraling downward. David must flee, leaving his wife, his home, his best friend Jonathan, all to escape the hand of King Saul. Even the priest Ahimelech cannot escape the wrath of Saul, and is killed for helping David in his time of need. Eventually, no place in Israel is safe and David ends up in the Philistine city of Gath, the home town of Goliath. To avoid being put to death by the king of Gath, David had to pretend to be insane. And then David cannot even stay in Gath, and ends up in the cave of Adullam.
In 1 Samuel 22, not much is said about this period of David’s life, between arriving at the cave and his family finding him. But it seems to have been a defining moment to David. While he was in the cave of Adullam, he wrote the 142nd Psalm:
With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!
In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living."
Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me. (ESV)
Where now were all the people who had sung David’s praises? David had experienced the heights of fame and comfort, and now also the immense depths of pain and abandonment. Isn’t it telling what David focuses on in his darkest hour? In this trial David does not abandon God for the painful circumstances of his life. Instead, David turns to God, the only one who has the strength and power to overcome.
Perhaps it’s easy to believe in God when he gives you victories over lions and giants. Setbacks can cause us to wonder if our earlier victories ever really happened. It is when life gets hard, when things don’t go the way we think they should, when the problems of life become too big for us, that we’re tempted to abandon God. And that’s the worst thing we could do. If the circumstances of our lives have brought us to a place we are unable to bear, why would we abandon the only one who is able to lift us up?
David is a great example of where to put our faith even in the darkest of times. Perhaps we’re faint and weak with the troubles of life. Perhaps we cannot see how God could possibly pull us out of this low point. Perhaps we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we can have faith, as David did, that God can pull us out and show us the light, even though we cannot see how.
God eventually did bring David up out of the cave of Adullam. David had felt like “no one cares,” but many people did. David's family and many others came to David, seeking his leadership. David went into the cave of Adullam, a broken man who had lost everything. David came out a revered leader. Our character is not only defined by how we handle victory, but maybe even more so by how we handle defeat.