“DAVID therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.” – l Samuel xii. 1, 2.
Cave Adullam was the place of David’s hiding from his enemies, the secret place where God’s anointed dwelt safely, to which his pursuers did not penetrate. To him here in this secret place came the needy, and over them he became captain. What a singular army was that made up of the distressed, the debtors and the discontented! There are few incidents in David’s life that more beautifully and wonderfully prefigure the Christ than this of David’s refuge in Cave Adullam. But a few in each age of time have appreciated the true character of Jesus. The popular conception of Jesus and his work has never been the truth. Jesus’ real character has been known in the past, and is known now, only by those to whom faith has been given to penetrate to his secret dwelling-place. This is the result of revelation from the Father to his gracious subjects, for it is only by revelation that Jesus can ever be properly believed in. Jesus while in the world himself had two natures: the human and the divine. As a man among the men of his day he was known as being the son of a carpenter of Nazareth. His humanity was apparent to all men, and those who saw nothing but the outward man of him regarded him as a blasphemer, or as a fanatic, or as a heretic, or as an impostor, depending upon the individual viewpoint and judgment of those criticising him. In his essential character as the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the Savior and Redeemer, but few comparatively knew and loved him, and these because they had been taught of God to know and love him. Jesus, in his spiritual life, was a stranger to the world, and the world a stranger to him. The world could not penetrate beneath the outward mask of his humanity and discover the spiritual man hidden there. This was his Cave Adullarn. That is, his Spirit self was his refuge from those pursuing and hating him, for this Spirit self was the God in him, and God kept him from being touched until his hour had come, and even when his hour had come to make the supreme sacrifice the persecution vented upon him bruised and wounded his body, but could not by any possibility damage his spiritual self. In order to come at the Cave Adullam, which is Jesus’ real self, and there find the Captain of our salvation, one must be distressed, or he must be in debt, or must be discontented. Then, too, one must belong to Jesus’ Father’s house and be one of his brethren. This takes us back to before the foundation of the world, when God chose or elected his people unto salvation in Jesus Christ, the period known only to God, when he wrote their names in the Lamb’s book of life. To have been thus chosen of God in his Son before the world began means that some time or other, according as God has fixed, he will reveal himself to us. This revelation is the assurance of our pre-world election in Christ. One of the first-fruits of this revelation in the sinner’s soul is distress. He is made to see himself wholly a sinner, without one good thing in him, full of wounds and bruises and putrefying sores from the sole of the foot even unto the head, the whole man is sick, without one spot of soundness in him. This causes sharp distress to the conscious sinner, making him to cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The sincere, heartfelt cry of the soul penetrates unto Jesus’ real self, it finds him in his Cave Adullam. The sinner, thus made sensible of his sins, realizes that he is ten thousand talents in debt without one farthing to pay. He sees that he has never kept one single commandment of the law of God, and never can, that he has never done anything but transgress God’s law in thought, word and deed. So he sees himself a debtor to the law. These are the characters to whom God gives the spiritual discernment of living faith to cause them to seek him whom their soul loveth and to find him in that cave retreat hidden from the gaze and understanding of all men. Another mark of the election of grace is to be discontented. That is, to be discontented with self, with sin, the flesh and the world; God’s Spirit working in the subjects of his grace brings about this dissatisfaction with self. It is a mark of true discipleship that one hates his own life. Very few of those who openly and loudly declare their zeal for God really know what it means to hate one’s own life. This Spirit-begotten discontent with self urges one on and on in quest of that which is infinitely higher than self: the selflessness of Christ. Thus do the discontented come unto him in his Cave Adullam, or the real inner self and character of the real Jesus Christ. When John the Baptist was in prison and sent messengers to Jesus to ask whether he was the Christ or should they look for another, Jesus sent back the messengers to tell John again those things in which Christ is seen. The first of these evidences of the Christ is that the blind receive their sight. Has one ever been blind to the things of God? Yes, all of mankind are thus blind by nature, not one of them able to see God or to make themselves see him. But the Christ of God comes unto the elect of God from among all mankind and gives them eyes to view him. Then these say, Once I was blind, but now I see. To have been blind and to have been made to see the things of God as they truly are is to have been visited by Christ, and to have gotten acquainted with him in the very essence of his being. To have had that lameness which makes one unable to walk the way of God’s commands, and so to have been disobedient, and then to have had that lameness cured by the imputation of Christ’s obedience, is to have known Christ. To have known the fearful leprosy of one’s sins, and then to have had those sins washed away in Jesus’ blood, is to have known the true Christ. To have been deaf to the sound of the gospel, and then to be given ears to hear the joyful sound, is to have known Christ. To have been dead in trespasses and sins, and then to have been quickened by the Spirit and raised to the newness of spiritual life in Christ, is to have been brought into communion with our spiritual David in Cave Adullam. Have you ever been poor in spirit? That is, have you ever felt that you were lacking in all the things of God’s Spirit? Have you ever in this poverty-stricken condition had the gospel preached to you with such power that you could not gainsay your interest in it? If so, you have seen and known the Christ. You have heard the call of your Captain from, his Cave Adullam, that pavilion where he hides you in the day of trouble, that secret of his tabernacle.
“From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat,
found beneath the mercy-seat.”
But for the mercy of God to usward in Christ we should be without any refuge in the day of trouble, any shelter in the time of storm. So, in the days of David, the poor and the sorrowful and the unhappy found a safe retreat with David in Cave Adullam. Infinitely better than that cave of old, but, nevertheless, fore-shadowed by it, is that wonderful virtue and power of Jesus’ real inner Spirithood to shelter his people in all their woes, to save them from all their sins, to protect them from all the poisonous, fiery darts of the world and the flesh, which constitute the adversary of our peace. We do not think one has ever found the secret of true living until he has been to Cave Adullam and has had fellowship and communion with Jesus in his true inner self. Men of the world and of the worldly churches have various and peculiar ideas as to what constitutes true living. From the scriptural standpoint, the true life is to know one’s self as one really is. Thus, it is to know that one is a sinner, in debt, and extremely miserable therefore, then to be driven by the lash of one’s very extremities to seek out Christ in the safe and sure retreat of the Cave Adullam of his inner and true oneness with God; this we feel sure, is the essence of all true living. Those who, by the grace of God, have known something of this true life shall never really die. They may appear to die, but death can never really touch them, for they are God’s anointed, and Saul cannot touch God’s anointed. For them death is abolished and the resurrection assured. Every child of God lives two lives: the outer or fleshly life, which all men see, and by which men mostly know us; the other the inner or spiritual life, the Cave Adullam life, which is secret from the gaze and understanding of all around us. This inner life is often to the tired soul a restful retreat from the storm and stress of the outer life. It is in this inner life that one holds sweet fellowship with God. It is with this life that we lay hold on more life to fight the good fight of faith, if we fight it at all. It is in this inner life that the Captain of our salvation trains and disciplines his followers to endure that hardness which is the lot of all the soldiers of the cross.
L. (Elder Lefferts)
Signs of the Times
Volume 87, No. 2
January 15, 1919