Welcome to worship at Christ Lutheran and welcome to those who are listening on the radio. We’re in the middle of our series on King David—A Man After God’s Own Heart.
We’ve followed David from his days as a shepherd boy, living out in the fields---to stepping up in the world and living at the palace of King Saul---to getting knocked back down and living on the run in tents and caves--out in the Judean wilderness. As Pastor John mentioned last week, David went from being unknown to being a national hero to being the target of Saul’s deranged wrath.
And we find David today in 1 Samuel 24 in another cave, hiding from Saul’s army which is scouring the desert in search of David. It would seem like David was in the worst possible place. And yet we’ll see that this cave turned out to be another place where God helped David grew in his faith and integrity.
Both Psalm 57 and Psalm 142 have subtitles that tell us that David wrote them when he was in a cave. Doesn’t sound like the ideal writer’s studio. But God worked in David to help him learn how much he needed the Lord. As we look at those psalms we can get a glimpse of the depth of David’s despair.
Psalm 142:1-2, 4-6 “I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble....Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to you, O 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.”
Or in Psalm 57----
Psalm 57:4 “I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts— men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”
David’s words express his desperation. He knew that at any time Saul’s soldiers might find him and his life would be over. But Charles Swindoll writes that there in that cave, David was hurt enough to admit his need, honest enough to cry for help and humble enough to learn from God. That cave became a place where David grew closer to the Lord.
So much so that even though he was pursued by men whose teeth were spears and arrows, David was able to write later in Psalm 57----
Psalm 57:7-11 “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
David was hiding out in a cave, but that wasn’t the end. God meant it to be a time for David to learn some essential truths and to reconnect with the Lord. David felt scared, worthless. And that was when he was most open to the Lord.
How about you? Have you been in a cave lately? Feeling useless, mistreated? Unsure where to go or how to make sense out of life? Caves aren’t too comfortable. But they are good places to get away from distractions. Good places to focus on what’s true and real and lasting. Good places to learn or re-learn God’s will for us.
That’s why God allows us to be in the cave sometimes. He can use that time to get our attention and to teach us a few things. So we can echo David’s words-- “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
So while it may have seemed like the worst of times for David, God used this time for David to grow in faith. God also sent David’s brothers and others to be with him there. And it became David’s man cave where he began to mold the force that later became known as David’s mighty men—who would be his army and his advisors when he became king of Israel.
So when you find yourself in a cave, remember that God is at work even there. A cave can be a good place to hide and heal. A place to learn who your real friends are. A place to focus on the one who David called “my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer---in other words our Lord Jesus Christ who will lead us out of our cave into his light---when the time is right---after we have learned what we need to learn.
A great example of what David learned in that cave is described in 1 Samuel 24. King Saul had gotten word that David was hiding near En Gedi. En Gedi means “spring of the goat”
En Gedi is in the desert of Judea along the Dead Sea---Steep rocky canyons that have a spring here and there to support a little life---With caves in the cliffs to hide out.
And we read that Saul saw one of these caves and thought it would make a good rest area. It just so happened that it was the cave where David and his men were hiding! Here is the man who is the source of all David’s troubles—distracted and vulnerable and David’s men say—“This is your chance—get him!” They interpret this as being God’s gift to David. But instead of killing Saul, David creeps up and cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe.
But then David reacts in a strange way.
1 Samuel 24:5-6 “Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”
Cutting off a corner of his robe instead of killing Saul? Doesn’t seem too bad to me. Why was David conscience stricken?
Because Saul was the King! David said---He is the Lord’s anointed! And even though he is treating me unfairly, that is no excuse for me to treat him with disrespect! Not even a little disrespect.
David had grown in integrity there in that cave. He knew that you when start cutting corners---so to speak—that soon you slide off into bigger offenses.
It’s easy to rationalize isn’t it? It’s just a little thing. Taking some supplies from work. “Forgetting” to report everything on your taxes. Not telling the whole truth to your parents or spouse.
But even a small step on the road to temptation is a step toward disaster. David decided to own up to what he had done. So after Saul left the cave, David followed him and-------
1 Samuel 24:9-11 “David said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.”
David knew it was a great risk to reveal his hiding place. But he had to speak the truth.
1 Samuel 24:15 “May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”
He didn’t know how Saul would respond-----but----
1 Samuel 24:16-18 “When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me.
Amazingly, Saul is deeply touched by David’s words.
1 Samuel 24:19-20 “When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.
So will David’s tactics with Saul always work? No. Later Saul went back to his old ways. David couldn’t---and you and I can’t control another person’s response to our actions. But when we do what’s right regardless of the other person’s response, that’s true integrity.
Structural integrity is a term used in building, engineering and architecture. It refers to the trustworthiness of a building’s design and construction. For a building to have structural integrity, the designers must be sure that all the pieces fit in a way that will hold together under normal or extreme conditions. The builders then must follow the plans if that building is going to have integrity.
In February of 2011, an earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand. 181 people died in the quake. 115 of them died when the Canterbury TV building collapsed. When it was built 25 years before, there were questions raised about its structural integrity---particularly about the metal used to connect the floors to the elevator shaft. It met the building code of its day, but now it seems that the building was not as structurally sound as it could have been.
How are you and I doing with our structural integrity? Have we followed the plans of our designer or have we cut corners in our lives that will lead to disaster? Even a little neglect of what’s right starts to erode us from within.
John Maxwell writes----“We struggle daily with situations that demand decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving these tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond before the conflict even appears. Integrity welds what we say, think, and do, into a whole person so that permission is never granted for one of these to be out of sync.”
When we have integrity, what we say, think and do will be consistent and in harmony.
Billy Graham said, “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
In that cave, David could have taken the easy way to being king and killed Saul. But he had so much respect for the fact that Saul was the Lord’s anointed king that he couldn’t do that. He even had a guilty conscience for cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe. David’s actions fit his beliefs. He showed true integrity there in that cave.
Tragically, later in David’s life his integrity failed in a number of ways. We hear a lot of that these days in the world of sports, in politics, sadly, even in religion. But that’s why we shouldn’t worship David or any modern day heroes. When anyone does something that shows integrity, we should worship the one who makes it all possible, our Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And when our own integrity fails, whether in small ways or a major collapse, thankfully that’s not the end of the story.
My former congregation worshipped in an old stone building that dates from 1829. It is a magnificent old structure that is on the National Historic Register. But while the stone was solid, we found that the beams in the wooden steeple had been damaged by a wood-boring beetle. The integrity of the steeple was weakened. Thankfully we had an architect in the congregation who worked on restoring old buildings. He found a new type of epoxy that was injected into the old beams to resort their integrity.
Our human integrity will fail at times. Our thoughts, words and actions will not always be in sync. But Christ offers us the epoxy of his Spirit, injected into us through his forgiveness. And when we take the time each day to read the Bible and pray, Christ infuses us with his Word to restore us---to renew—to strengthen---to teach us the importance of every part of our lives fitting together around the
Lord with integrity
David’s integrity at that cave at En Gedi showed he was a man after God’s own heart!
So the next time you find yourself in a cave, don’t despair. It may be the Lord’s way of teaching you integrity and showing you the way to God’s own heart!