Saturday, April 5, 2014

Instruction From The Cave

I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord;
I make supplication with my voice to the Lord (Psalms 142:1 NASB).

         Much can be learned from this prayer of David which he called Maskil, or instruction.  It seems that our best life lessons most always come from the hard place.
         The setting for this prayer is a cave, be it Adullam or En Gedi where David is hiding from his half-crazed King, Saul.  In our Christian journey we come to reside in our own caves much like David did.  It is our human tendency to start to wonder if our circumstances reflect our disobedience or sin.  Maybe the inexplicable situations that beset us indicate that we are not out of His will but in the center of it.  It is in the hard place that God transforms us from a casual believer to a disciple of Christ.

David’s Pit of Despair
         I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him (v.2).  David was not ashamed to admit, as spiritual people sometimes are, the state of their affairs.  Verbalizing our fears and anxieties to the Lord instead of internalizing them is sometimes just what the doctor orders.
         What gave David encouragement in the midst of his complaint?  When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path (v.3a).  When David was about to sink under the weight of his present burdens, it was his confidence in God’s past faithfulness that sustained him.  God not only knew every previous path he had walked but was more than sufficient to take him through them.  Dwelling on God’s previous faithfulness is a biblical method of dealing with present fears.
         In the way where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me (3b).
David had been a faithful and loyal servant of his King.  His reward was that Saul assigned to him ambitious motives and had him hunted down like a wild animal.  The Bible does say that you reap what you sow, but that may be more of a long-term outcome.  In the short-term cause and effect does not always happen.  David had to keep his eyes on God for the justice due him.  He had learned he could never expect too little from man or too much from God.
         Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul (v 3b-4).  When we step out in faith for God often we are attacked by our enemies and forsaken by our friends.  It appears he is all alone, like a type of Christ, who was even deserted by his disciples.  But the key word is appears, as David said, “I cried out to You, O Lord;
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living” (v.5). The cave was David’s hiding place, but he realized it was only a temporary solution.  God alone was his refuge to which he could run to at any time and place.  The Lord alone was the source of his security and safety.
         David understood that the battle was bigger than him.  “Give heed to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me (v. 6)Humility tends to reveal to us what we can accomplish and what only God can do.  David told God what He already knew; the battle was bigger than him. 

My Pit Of Despair
         On one occasion I was certain had provided a job for me.  But things were just not working-out.  The situation continued to spiral downward.  I prayed all the right prayers and responded in all the right ways with little or no effect.  I was getting desperate.  Then one day I read this portion of scripture.  I thought to myself, my enemies are too strong for me. I had read this portion of scripture many times before, but because of my dilemma it sort of sunk in this time. I told the Lord, “My enemies are too strong for me.  If you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.”  At this point God started to do some remarkable things for me.  He started to fight my battles for me.  Letting go and letting God seems to be one of the most difficult tasks for self-sufficient believers.  The cartoon character Pogo once said, “We have found the enemy and the enemy is us.”
         “Bring my soul out of prison,
So that I may give thanks to Your name (v.7a).  When we are in the pit common emotions are fear, anxiety, and depression.  David certainly was not immune to these.  Surely David wanted out of the prison of that cave.  But I think this portion speaks also of confinement of the soul (our emotional state) that fear and anxiety bring.  When we are going through trials there is often a dichotomy between our volitional (the will) and our soulish (our emotions) nature.  We are choosing to believe the best but there is a lag in a corresponding emotional response.  We are believing and confessing that God is good but our emotions are crying out; if that is true, why is all this happening to me? 
         David knew that God alone could bring his soul out of the prison so he could give thanks from his heart.  It is a great miracle when God delivers us from our literal cave of suffering, but it can be even a greater miracle when God gives us a thankful and grateful heart in the midst of our pit of affliction.  And often it is only after a change in our internal attitudes that we see a release from our external conditions.
         We might want to further amplify this point by saying that unlike David, who could not leave the cave, we can.  There is always the temptation to run.  To flee anywhere that will rid us of our discomfort. 
And in doing so we can have a short-term reprieve, but somewhere down the road we will find ourselves in another cave.  It will be focused around a new set of circumstances and list of characters, but with the same plot, the transference of revealed truth from the head to the heart.   The critical need of most Christians is not more knowledge, but the application of the truth we already have.  The Bible was never intended just to inform us but to transform us.
         The righteous will surround me,
For You will deal bountifully with me” (v. 7b).  David ends with a statement of faith.  Thankfulness encourages faith, and faith assures us of God’s bountiful blessing.