Tuesday, April 10, 2012
CAVE MEN AND WOMEN
"Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name. The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me." (Psalm 142:7 HCSB)
Perhaps you have begun reading this, expecting a story about knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, grunting as they kill a mammoth. Maybe you are anticipating a diatribe against evolution or an announcement that I have accepted Darwinism. You would be wrong on all counts. This is actually a story about you and me. All of us are cave men and cave women!
David was a cave man. The superscription, which sets the context, for understanding Psalm 142 reads, "A Davidic Maskil. When he was in the cave. A prayer." David was a man on the run, like some desperado hiding out in the wild West, holed up in a cave. That was how King Saul was treating him, although David had done no wrong. That was what made his experience almost unbearable. The worst part was that in the darkness of that dungeon-like dwelling, it felt at times as if God had abandoned him.
Haven't you been in that cave before? At some point in life, we all become cave men or cave women. You may be in such a black hole right now.
What do we do? Is there a word from God to light a torch of hope in this dark den? There most assuredly is!
There is a STRUGGLE TO ADMIT.
"I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me." (Psalm 142:1-3 HCSB)
One of the reasons we find the Psalms so helpful is their blunt portrayal of raw human emotions. They enable us to identify with the heights of joy and depths of feeling in the breadth of life experience. Even, when David is hurt, disappointed--sometimes even angry--his lyrics give voice to our thoughts.
Sometimes we struggle to admit our struggles! We need to vent, but instead put on a happy face, and speak "Christianese" as we reply to the question, "How are you?" with, "I'm doing wonderful, dear brother! God is so good!" Of course He is...but sometimes haven't we wondered just a little? Can we have such thoughts? Dare we admit them? Surely that would be wrong.
Who are we fooling? We may fool others most of the time, we might succeed in fooling ourselves some of the time, but you can never fool God any of the time. If you are discouraged, disappointed, disillusioned and distressed, God knows, and you may as well admit it, for admitting it is a vital step for finding hope and getting help.
Where are you God? Don't you see? Don't you care? I can't handle this! Ever felt like that? David did when he was in a cave. Distress will drive us to seek God intensely. When the cave walls close in on us and we have nowhere to turn, we turn to the Lord--and that turns a bad circumstance to good.
There is not only a struggle to admit, but a SOLITUDE TO ACKNOWLEDGE.
"Look to the right and see: no one stands up for me; there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me." (Psalm 142:4 HCSB)
David may have really been all by himself at the moment that gave rise to this Psalm. His men may have been on patrol or foraging for food while he rested in the cave, alone with his troubling thoughts. It is also possible that there were others with him, but he didn't think they were "with him"--that is, he questioned whether he could count on them to stand by him when the chips were down. David had reason to doubt their loyalty. They were not men of great character. In fact, the Scripture describes these soldiers of fortune as, "desperate, in debt, or discontented" (1 Sam.22:2). They would later turn on him and discuss killing him (see 1 Sam.30:6). These were not the best of people, but the reality is that even the best of people cannot unequivocally be counted on, for they still have this problem--they are still people! We are not always on the top of our game. Even if our intent is to help, we are not omnipotent. Should we desire to stand by a friend, we are not omnipresent. The inadequacy of humanity means that sometimes we will be in a cave--all alone.
Nobody cares. What an awful place to be in! But, when all you have is God then you will discover that God is all you need! How often we hear the still, small whisper of God when we are in the quiet place of seclusion. Jesus frequently went away, alone, to pray and exhorts us, "But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret." (Matt.6:6) Admit your struggle and acknowledge your solitude.
Then we find a SHELTER TO ATTAIN.
"I cry to You, LORD; I say, 'You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.' Listen to my cry, for I am very weak. Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name. The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me." (Psalm 142:5-7 HCSB)
The cave that David thought to be a prison actually had been transformed into a refuge. Ultimately, he found that irrespective of circumstances, he was not confined by them for God was his shelter. No matter that he had nothing to lean on or nobody to count on--God was his portion. He might as well have sung, "Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong."
He closes with an expression of confidence--a word of faith. God will send people to encourage him. God will supply provision to edify him. A light ignites to dispel the shadows that haunt the dark corners of the cave. The truth comes to drown out the sinister taunt of the demonic Serpent in the cave. It's better to be in a cave with God, than in a castle without Him! It's better to be in a prison in God's will, than in a palace outside His will.