Consider David. When he was little more than a boy he had slain a bear and a lion in order to protect the sheep that were under his care. When not much older, he had slain a Philistine giant whose defiance had caused the mighty King Saul and the entire army of Israel to tremble. Now out of a pious respect for God’s anointed king, David flees from Saul in order to avoid fighting against and possibly killing him. His escape route leads him to hide with King Achish of Gath. But when the servants of Achish discover his identity to their king, explaining that a mighty Israelite warrior is in their midst, David succumbs to craven fear. And in one of the most remarkable exposures in the Bible, David “disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let saliva run down into his beard” (I Sam. 21:13). Not surprisingly, Achish reacts with revulsion to the sad display and banishes David from his presence. Forced to flee again, David “escape[s] to the cave of Adullam” and hides there (I Sam. 22:1).
Fear, feigned insanity, hiding in a cave—surely, this is the nadir of David’s life to this point and, were it not for his affair with Bathsheba, would certainly be the most shocking and unexpected incident in his biography. Already he seems a man utterly spent, not merely past his prime, but altogether beyond any further usefulness to God or his nation, finished before his work is fairly begun.
But the next verse in his biography is as remarkable as the ones just cited are shocking. We might not be surprised to read that “his brothers and all his father’s household . . . went down there to him.” But without so much as an “and,” we read: “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” (22:2). The cave that seemed to be a tomb where all his potential to be king was buried became the womb from which the power of his mighty men was born.
How do we account for this? Naturally speaking, none of it makes sense. That David’s fear and failure could result directly in the creation of a mighty fighting force that loved and respected him is counterintuitive. But if we turn to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul provides us with a clear explanation of the entire situation. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (II Cor. 4:7). The explanation of David’s experience is that God is at work accomplishing His mighty purposes through a frail man. David is God’s instrument, chosen to accomplish His will and to bring glory to Himself. A naturally strong and courageous David will not fill that bill. David must be humbled and seen to be humbled if God is to use him in such a way that David will be blessed and that God will be glorified. Ultimately, it is not the strong and fearless David whom God can use to lead His people but the weak and broken one—one who knows that he must draw his strength and blessing from his Lord and who, consequently, sticks close to Him.
Perhaps you have experienced some greatly disturbing event in your life, something that has exposed your abject weakness in some way. It may be that the Lord is at work humbling you in order that He might lift you up and make you useful to Him. Surely, what has befallen you is not more peculiar or disturbing than what befell David. Surely, you have the same God. If sin is involved, confess it. Regardless, trust Him: He is at work glorifying Himself.
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