1 Samuel 22:1, 2, 23
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
“Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.”
By the time we get to chapter 22, David is on the run for his life. Like the old TV show, “The Fugitive,” David, is seen running from town to town, hiding out from King Saul and his men, who were in hot pursuit. In order, David hid out in Gath in Philistia (1 Samuel 21:10—15); Adullam in Judah (22:1—2) and Mizpah in Moab (22:3—5). It is interesting to read of how David describes himself during this very dark time in his life:
- I am hunted like a partridge, 1 Samuel 26:20;
- I am like a pelican in the wilderness, Psalm 102:6;
- I am like an owl in the desert, Psalm 102:6;
- My soul is among the lions, Psalm 57:4;
- They have prepared a net for my steps, Psalm 57:6.
Can you imagine being called of God and anointed by God as king of Israel, experiencing an amazing victory over a giant, being best friends with the present-king’s son, playing a harp in the palace at the king’s request, only to find yourself hiding out from that very king in foreign lands in caves? As you may imagine, David was weary during these years of flight from Saul. In fact, the closing verses of chapter 21 reveal what must have been lowest point in David’s life—
That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
” ‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (21:10—13)
God’s anointed one, reduced to this. When a believer loses heart, his behavior changes; there is an unbreakable connection between one’s confession and one’s conduct. When your faith and your heart are steadfast in the Lord, you will act like a child of God. But when, for whatever reason, your faith fails and your heart grows weak, your conduct will betray that.
Because of his fear of Achish, king of Gath, David fled to a cave in Adullam. There is an important lesson here for any believer who has ever tried to befriend the world. For reasons that may seem good at the time, sometimes Christians try to make peace with the world; we compromise our core beliefs and standards to make friends with the world. That strategy never works. David fled to the king of Gath; he tried to befriend the enemy of God’s people, and he simply degraded himself. The peace and safety David sought could not be found in Gath, they were found in the simple solitude in a cave. When David separated himself from Achish and Gath, he was richly rewarded by God when supporters he never knew he came to him.
1. Who were his followers?
(a) Those in distress. We are not told what these people were in distress about. Perhaps they were in distress over the state of their nation; perhaps they were in distress because they, like David, were being put upon by the king. Whatever their problem was, they came to David out of sheer necessity; they believed he could help them; they sensed in him a kindred spirit. How many of us seek the Lord out of sheer necessity? If it weren’t for your problems or your unmet needs, how many of you would have prayed today? The fact is, the dark times that beset us every once in a while are blessings in disguise when they bring us to a position of having to seek the Lord. It sounds funny yet it is true: misfortune enables us to share in the blessings of the Lord! People who have everything they think they need; those who are self-satisfied, have no need of God. That is the point of Revelation 3:20—
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
A person doesn’t eat unless they are hungry.
(b) Those in debt. There are many forms of debt; it’s not always about being broke. But all debt is like a disease that eats a person up. In David’s time, if a man got in over his head, he could lose all he owned; there was no protection for those in debt. There should have been, and there was under the Mosaic law, but under Saul, the Mosaic law was ignored. These people came to David out of desperation because he, like them, had lost everything as he fled Saul. All people are debtors under the Law; sin has made us all debtors to God. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prayed—
Forgive us our debts… (Matthew 6:12)
Only God can forgive, and forgiveness is always linked to the payment of a debt, and only by coming to Jesus can a person’s debt of sin be written off. Ellis Crum expressed this wonderful aspect of Christ’s work on the Cross:He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away. And, now, I sing a brand new song, “Amazing Grace.” Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
He paid that debt at Calvary. He cleansed my soul and set me free. I’m glad that Jesus did all my sins erase. I, now, can sing a brand new song, “Amazing Grace.” Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
(c) The discontented. This refers to a kind of “bitterness of soul.” Many things in life can make a person bitter. Disappointments can make one bitter. Unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams can lead one to discontentment. A lot of discontented people try to find contentment in the things of the world; entertainment, alcohol, relationships, employment, even family and religion can be used improperly in the quest for contentment. The problem is, lasting contentment is found in only Person: Jesus Christ. In Jeremiah 2:13 we read this stinging indictment about people who look for peace and contentment outside of Christ—
My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
There are many people—Christians even—who are digging their own wells, foolishly thinking their thirst can be quenched by the water even their own wells cannot hold.
These are the kind of people who flocked to David, looking for help.
2. Why did they come to David?
Interestingly, even David’s brothers who once accused him of being “conceited” and of having a “wicked heart” were now numbered among his followers. They, and hundreds of other outcasts, came to David because:
(a) They believed in him. They believed David was the true king of Israel and believed he had the right to rule over them. They had, so to speak, been converted from Saul’s followers to David’s. Remember, his family had seen and heard David’s anointing as king. Faith comes by hearing. Others saw and heard of David’s victory over Goliath and recognized that God’s call and anointing rested on him.
(b) They decided to follow him. Their belief led to action. They not only recognized something divine in David, they pursued their beliefs. Jesus taught that wise people not only hear the truth, but practice it—
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)
Untold millions claim to believe in Jesus, but few take their stand for Him or with Him. In deciding to follow David, they, like us, had to leave their homes and their familiar ways of life to be with him; no camp and no prospects forthcoming. In casting their lot with David, his followers also had to bear his reproach. In following Jesus, we bear the same disgrace He bore—
Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. (Hebrews 13:13)
(c) They were prepared to submit to him. They claimed David as their king and in doing so recognized his authority over them. They would do all they could to advance David’s kingdom. They would even fight for their sovereign. For those of us who have acknowledged Jesus Christ as our King, have we similarly surrendered ourselves to Him? Have we put our wants and desires in a subordinate position to His? Romans 12:1 makes our obligation to Christ pretty clear—
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Singing a hymn and going to church is not necessarily a “spiritual act of worship.” Have we offered ourselves, completely and without reservation to God’s service?
3. David became their “captain”
As soon as they took their place as his followers, David became their leader. Followers have a right to expect certain things from their leader:
(a) Guidance. These followers of David looked to him for guidance, for a plan to live by, and it was their right to do so. We, who have chosen to follow Jesus; who have yielded our wills to His will, have every right to look to Him, our Captain, for guidance. Why would David’s followers look to any other man for guidance? Why would followers of Christ look elsewhere for guidance?
(b) Protection. Because they became David’s followers, these social misfits had exposed themselves to the wrath of Saul. Similarly, those who stubbornly obey the god of this world will always be in opposition to God and God’s people. However, we have nothing to fear from those who may be against us. We are on God’s side, and behind us stands the mighty army of heaven. A child of God cannot possibly lose in life. David told his new friends—
“You will be safe with me.” (verse 23b)
We will be safe with God.
(c) Reward. The cause of David was not a lost cause, even though at the moment all seemed lost. He was God’s chosen king, and no man could thwart God’s plan. It is true that for a while it seemed as though Saul was going to prevent David from assuming the throne, but God’s will prevailed in God’s own time. A righteous cause in God’s name can never fail. Romans 8:17—
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Too many of us want to skip the sufferings and get right to the glory, but God has established an order that cannot be changed.
You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21)
Too many of us despise the “little things” as we presume them to be beneath us; and because of that sinful attitude, we miss out on so many wonderful blessings.
As David was fleeing for his life, God gave him hundreds of followers; social outcasts and misfits all. But in that crowd, God had his man, a priest by name of Abiathar. He was the sole survivor of an entire town priests. He had seen not only his hometown, but also his father, a priest, and his whole family killed mercilessly by Saul because they chose to follow the Lord. This brave man joined David’s fugitive band and he would be David’s priest for rest of David’s life. To this man, David promised protection—
You will be safe with me.
In the Hebrew, the “you” in emphatic; Abiathar from this day forward may count on David’s faithful protection. But for now, Saul will seek out the lives of both of them. King and priest-elect had joined forces to become fugitives, hunted men.
You never know where serving the Lord will take you! However, of this you can be certain: a life of faith is a life of adventure!