Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.
Some people really like caves. I have never been one of them! It’s not that I am particularly claustrophobic or anything, it’s just not the kind of activity I enjoy. “Caving” (AKA, “spelunking”) involves crawling and contortion, darkness, discomfort and disorientation—none of which I typically go out of my way to find—regardless of whatever beauty I might discover at the end of the journey.
But for cavers, it’s almost impossible to separate the destination from the journey. As one caver put it in an article I read recently, “I learnt that the images you find are all the more amazing not just because you are there, but because you worked so hard to get there. I can never totally disentangle their absolute beauty from the journey I took to reach them. I may have to crawl down a tiny tunnel on my belly as part of my journey, but what I am looking for is something more majestic and wonderful than I had ever imagined.”
Psalm 142 is a song written from the cave. Specifically, it was written by David when he was in the Cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1-2). David was on the run, hiding from King Saul, who in his rage of jealousy was determined to kill him. David had tried reasoning with Saul, ministering to Saul with his harp, serving Saul with his skill as a warrior—but nothing had worked. It had gotten so bad that David had to flee his own country and live among Israel’s enemies. He even had to pretend he was crazy to save his skin! (1 Samuel 21:10-15).
And now David was in the Cave of Adullam—he wasn’t just spelunking for fun, he was praying for help. “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy” (vs. 1). This wasn’t a particularly pleasant chapter in David’s life! He was tired, afraid, and alone (vs. 3-4). And yet, despite all of the darkness, discomfort and disorientation he was experiencing, he realized that his one Constant Companion was God himself. “It is YOU who watch over my way…YOU are my refuge.”
David’s cave journey had begun as a place to hide from danger; but it had led to a place where he could encounter God. He may have had to crawl and contort as part of the journey, but what he was looking for was worth it—more majestic and wonderful than he had ever imagined.
David isn’t the only spiritual spelunker in the Bible! Elijah went into a cave and encountered God when he was running from danger and discouragement (1 Kings 19:8-9); the demon-possessed man came out of a cave and encountered Jesus when he was fleeing the shame and struggle of social alienation (Mark 5:1-20). Lazarus’ cave experience was even more amazing! (John 11:1-44). God came to all of them in their darkness, discomfort and disorientation and brought healing, restorations and purpose back into their lives.
So, what’s the point of the cave? Regardless of the struggles we are experiencing, we can know that there is something…someone more majestic and wonderful than we had ever imagined that awaits us at the end of the journey. As the Apostle Paul reflected centuries later, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).
David’s cave journey was worth it; his cave prayer was answered: “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” (Psalm 142:7) God gave David a lifetime of opportunities to praise and worship.
Are you on a journey? Does is seem dark and disorienting at times? Does it feel like everything is caving in? Do you wonder if you will ever get out of this tunnel and arrive at your destination? Take heart. When we finally come to the end of ourselves we will find that Jesus is right there waiting for us. That majestic beauty can never really be disentangled from the journey—in fact, he is the whole point of your journey. He is the destination of all who are lost…all who wander…all who seek. He is our Living Water, stay thirsty my friends!
Song: Never Alone