Three years ago, I did a study of the life of David in the Old Testament, one of the most remarkable characters in the entire Bible, and certainly one who is presented in all his human strength and frailty.
For that is what struck me about David – he is presented as fully human as it gets in the Bible – his faith, his joy, his fear, his depression, his royal countenance, his adultery, his murder of Uriah, his own family blowing up on him, and his near-loss of the throne. He becomes God’s anointed king of Israel, but his is a very human king, with very human (recognizably human) weaknesses.
Nowhere did I get greater insight into David’s mind and heart, “a man after God’s own heart,” than in the psalms he wrote. The non-fiction story is told in 1 Samuel; the more creative version is told in the psalms. To understand David, I had to read both the historical narrative and the poetry. Both were true; the psalms often emphatically so. To read “Davis was anguished” is one thing; it’s quite another to read a psalm like the twenty-third and experience the depth of that anguish and despair, and then the hope rising.
David experienced adulation and condemnation. He was acclaimed and disparaged. He was elevated to near-royal status and then hunted down by that same king to be killed.
Bob Sorge, in The Fire of Delayed Answers, calls this David’s “cave experience.” Forced into living a wilderness experience, life for David became very daily, and perhaps very hourly. You don’t plan your future kingdom when you’re barely one step ahead of your own execution.
And then there was the loneliness. For a time David was by himself, holding on only to the memory of his friendship with Jonathan, cut off from family and friends. Even when the “600 warriors” found and joined him, he was still largely alone, Sorge says. Yes, he now had people to help but what they really wanted him to do was to strike Saul down – and they had little patience with David’s waiting on the Lord to act. Twice David deliberately did not take advantage of the opportunity to kill Saul. He wasn’t going to raise his sword against the Lord’s anointed, no matter how tempting, no matter how easy it would have been.
Instead, he would wait for God to act.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Fire of Delayed Answers. To see more posts on this chapter, “David’s Cave,” please visit Jason at Connecting toImpact.
Photograph by Marina Shemesh via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.