Thursday, December 4

Cave dwelling.......

"So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him." 1 Samuel 22:1-2 NASB

A brother (or a sister) is one born for adversity. You see them, those people who seem to flow easily in and out of the relationships forged by the fire of this broken world. They are the ones who will drive all night to help another brother or sister out, stand beside them when they are broken by the battles fought --regardless of whether they are won or lost and pick the other up, steadying them until they are standing once again. They lament the falling into sinfulness, stand in that gap and beckon the return, and rejoice with full celebration when another weary warrior is once again made whole through the blood of the Lamb.

Even in isolation, those who follow the one, true King find those they are meant to journey with, fight alongside, and edify. Without the brothers and sisters so engaged, our caves become our deathbeds instead of our rebirth in God's purpose.

A lot of the text I am seeing in recent days speaks of major amounts of time invested in these figures who followed God's purpose for them…..Paul in Tarsus for 16 years, Moses as a exile for 40 years, and David….living in a cave for 10 years……….

David, who in his youth, was too unimportant enough to be counted among the sons when the call went out for a King to lead Israel. Who was not big enough to wear a full warrior's armor and showed himself to be mightier than the strongest warrior in shepherd's clothing; carrying only a sling and stones. Who felt himself insignificant to be 'son-in-law' to King Saul.

But, to David, the cave he would spend ten years in , the cave of Adullam, would be a tomb, a prison not of his making, and a symbol of man's rejection.

"When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive". Proverbs 28:28

Leadership which leads from corrupt values is to be feared and resisted, in proper fashion. Evil leaders have justified horrendous crimes upon those they lead, citing the betterment of mankind; committing genocide, murder, torture, theft and hundreds more atrocities for the sake of 'their' vision of society.

Saul, fearful of David's popularity and obvious spiritual connection to God, seeks to destroy him and even justifies the slaughter of an entire city of priests accused of helping David. David ran, hiding in a cave that caused him to bend in two just to walk around it.

The cave of Adullam was to become a sculpting place for David, for when the world was stripped away, he directed his attention to God. This is where most theologians believe David learned to pray:

I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before Him; Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me; No one cares for my soul.
I cried out to Thee, O LORD; I said, 'You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living.
Give heed to my cry, For I am brought very low;
Bring my soul out of prison. (Selections from Ps 142)

It was there David died to the dependence of human recognition, relating only to God as the source of his needs, wants, complaints, and praise. The magnificient psalms that speak to each on of our hearts were borne there, from the rejection and emtombment of David. It was both a shelter from the world, a sanctuary with God, and a tomb where the spiritual death of David seems to have been made complete. And the future king of Israel and a man of God was born.

Under the umbrella of an intense relationship with God; David, the famed slayer of Goliath would begin his 'purpose' in the darkness of a cave. Abandoned by those who basked in the glory of his triumph and favor, he would begin his training in the pursuit of 'being a man after God's own heart,' and the greatest of Israel's kings.

But, even with the death of reliance upon the adolation of humanity, David would find his greatest strength and connection with God through those who would truly follow Him. Connected with God, spiritually alive through the pouring out of his heart into the chalice of God's grace, David became a drawing fragrance.....drawing those who sought the truth even when the greatest army on the planet couldn't find this solitary man in a cave.

'Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter of soul' were drawn to him, 'gathered', at a time when Saul himself was seeking David, with military might, spies, and whatever other resources he had available...the whole of the kingdom was devoted to finding David and destroying him. Those who were drawn by the Spirit found him without difficulty. David's relationship with God, his intense spiritual awakening, drew those who sought the same.

"Now three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David, into the cave of Adullam, while the army of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim. And David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David had a craving and said, "Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!" So the three broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David; nevertheless David would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD; and he said, "Far be it from me before my God that I should do this! Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it." Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did." (1 Chron 11:15-19)

And this 'rabble and rejects' of the world were far more than met the eye. As David discovered, even the broken and battered of the world can be far greater than they seem with one simple, uncorrupted ingredient. Love. The men who gathered around David in his cave lived in such a relationship with him that the mere human sigh for a remembered treasure was enough to send them against impossible odds to deliver it to him. What great teaching and love was learned there in that cave!

But David, rather than bestowing such verbage upon these three for the graciousness of their gift, he returned it to God. Moved by a humility and fear born of his cave experiences, he turned their gift into an offering to God. moved to holy fear by their love and devotion, David turned their action into an offering of God.

The seemingly insignificant sigh of a wish sent three mighty men out of the cave seeking to fulfill it. Passionate and lovingly, they risked their very lives to bring the water back to their 'captain'. Could this be a reference to what Christ was talking about in Mark 9:41, "Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward"?

It matters not what the objective is, so long as it is reflective of the holy love that Christ showed us upon a cross, giving his own life so that others may live.

A brother of mine spoke of David and the cave experience; of how men gathered around David in his isolation and were in intense relationship with him.

Drawn by the fragrance of his spiritual relationship with God.

He had went out and purchased a winter coat for my son.....for he didn't have one in the clothes that his son had outgrown. A brother who is at the forefront of the economic crisis, using his talents and skills to manage the finances of others.....watching them disappear through no fault of his own.

A brother who had felt the silence of God recently in his journey and realized through the realistic fear of the economic times a holy fear.....which brought him back into that intense relationship with God.

He spoke of how brothers who knew me were gathering around me in my time of cave 'dwelling' and moving in relationship with me because they see the proof of faith in my struggles, sorrows, and passions. Much like another brother, who blessed me and my son with clothing that he was in sore need of....not used, hand-me-down clothing that would have been an easy blessing....but the purchase of new clothes, real nice clothes, that would bless beyond the simpleness of the giving; this brother went out, not only purchasing a jacket for my son, but through the engagement of a young man of the same age, taking an extra step to ensure that not only would the jacket be a good jacket, but would be one that an eleven year old boy would be proud to wear.

A 'sigh' of a need.....and the hope of an available used jacket.....sent this brother out to fulfill that hope. He said, "It was something I could do."

I wonder if the three mighty men, when they concocted this journey to the well, thought the same thing. Such a simple request....and we can deliver it. The movement of the faithful, impassioned with the true fragrance of holy relationship with others, can make the most impossible task a simple movement in love.

It is in that cave I have gone, after a wilderness experience that I felt would lead me into the realized purpose that God called me to four and a half years ago. I didn't realize that I had changed one experience for another until I smacked into that cave wall. In the echoing silence, alone with my faith and my passions, God has began to draw me deeper....into a more intense relationship with Him.

And, as the beginning of the celebration of Christ's birth upon this earth comes closer, I find in the rejection and loneliness I have faced until recently a devotion borne out of painful experiences that has drawn me closer to God and the edification of my brothers who have seen that journey deepen.

God has shown me, in this intensity of relationship with Him, that He has been in control the entirety of my life; from birth to now and will be in the future. In my grumblings of this cave imprisonment, in a dark, dreary and depressing place in this journey, I have found God waiting; showing me His promise of care through the actions of others in financial crisis, the love of others in the giving of themselves, and the strength that a wise elder spoke to me almost two years ago that resides in the very weakness I once shunned.

God is a source of blessing, and a source of burdens as well…..Isa 45:7; Psa 37:23, and Romans 8:29. He brings us to a point of choosing; borne of painful circumstances, will we chose the reality of a cave or the illusion of a castle?

In that moment in my life when I was at the absolute bottom; hurting, broken, defeated and frustrated, the only place I could find to rest my head and the heads of those who depend on me was a 'cave', unslavish in its indemnities and comforts, the lesson was taught….and difficulty learned…..that sorrows, failures, and difficulties are to be our lot in this earthly life…..(Job 14:1, 5:7; John 16:33; Eccl 2:17, 23)

And it is not through the illusionary support of family, friends, finances, fame, pride, flesh, or a promised future that we can lean upon. Such things are temporary at best, strong only in illusion at worst, and totally contrary to where God wants us to be. In a place of absolute bottom, where such illusionary things cannot live, we find God waiting, to develop us into the people God wants us to be. (Hebrews 12:5-13)

And in that quiet darkness, with the illusionary unable to find comfort and the reality crushing upon the shoulders of the cave dweller, God begins His work. In the stress of the hardships of cave living, character, revelation of the calling, and the source of our commitment to faithful execution of God's will. It is not the storms that define us, but the way our weathering of the storms shows us our defined faith.

God has a way of putting people around us who can serve as encouragers in our lives, if we will only stop and avail ourselves of them. Through words, deeds, or just relational involvement, such people see the potential that God has given to those they touch and they are a source of comfort in the darkness of the cave, where the outside world is hidden from view. They are the source of 'helping our disbelief', providing holy insight into our blindness in the cave.

Though we are impulsive and impetuous, God is never in a hurry; "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Ps. 37:7). It is in this cave experience I have learned that….

And, in losing all source of my own disillusionment, I have found true fellowship, relationship and comfort in the steadying arms of my brothers and sisters of the Brethren…the family of God.

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