Everyone wants to be associated with winners…champions…success stories. And that’s exactly why we need the lessons about life and leadership found in the story of how David’s mighty army began.
The scene takes place in 1 Samuel 22:1-2, when David was running for his life as King Saul attempted to find and kill him. The prophet Samuel had declared that David would be the next king, but the fulfillment of that prophecy looked very unlikely at the moment.
David had no palace where he could set up shop. He found no lofty mountain citadel where he could safely oversee the battlefield. Nor were there any barracks where he could gather and train an army.
Instead, he escaped to a seemingly hopeless training ground: “the cave of Adullam” (v. 1).
If you had to choose sides, would you have wanted to align yourself with David? Yes, he had Samuel’s prophecy going for him—but not much else.
A cave is a dark place…a confining place…and often a damp, moldy place as well. And for those of us with tendencies toward claustrophobia, it would have been a terrifying place.
Yet something miraculous happened there in the cave of Adullam: 400 people gathered in support of David! It’s as if they had a vision for him, at a time when he probably struggled to have a vision for himself.
Of course, these folks didn’t seem to have any more potential than their haggard leader. The well off and “respectable” people of Judah didn’t see much hope for David’s ragtag group, and it’s probably no wonder. David’s “mighty men” consisted of “everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul…and he became commander over them” (v. 2).
How would you like to lead—or even be associated with—such a forlorn group?
Think of it: David’s initial army didn’t look like “the best and the brightest” in the eyes of the world. Just like Jesus’ motley band of disciples many years later, no one would have chosen them to succeed in rocking the world.
In addition to all of their other liabilities, David’s men initially were paralyzed by fear. When the Lord instructed him to attack the Philistines in the next chapter (23:1-5), David’s followers protested that they were too afraid to complete the mission: “Behold, we are afraid,” they said, trying to excuse themselves from combat.
However, David’s men fortunately didn’t remain in the cave, cowering in the darkness. Despite their misgivings, they went out and won a great victory.
Although the story of David’s army begins in the cave of Adullam, it doesn’t end there. Soon others were gaining confidence in David’s leadership and flocking to his side (1 Chronicles 12). Even though they were skeptical and slow to respond, they eventually recognized he was a victor…a person of destiny…and someone they should follow.
By the end of the story, these fearful, distressed men had become giant-killers, just like David, their captain (2 Samuel 21:15-22). They were true disciples, able to do the same works as their master.
What an encouraging message! Even if you feel like you’ve been hanging out in the cave of Adullam for a while, remember this: God is preparing you to be a mighty warrior! He’s getting ready to take you from the dark place into His marvelous light and victory.
So don’t judge your situation by what your natural eyes see today. Look forward to God’s prophetic vision for your life and for the other warriors around you. He’s preparing you to slay giants!
I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.