The Bitter, the Angry, and the Discontented

I’m procrastinating. I do have an essay in mind to write about the events of last Friday, but I’ve been deliberately avoiding it. I’ll get around to it.

This morning, something else came to mind, one of my favorite passages from 1 Samuel. About David, who is probably my favorite character in the whole Bible.

1 David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander [לְשָׂ֑ר, literally “captain”] over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.

3 And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.” 4 And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. 5 Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth. (1 Samuel 22:1-5 ESV)

It is hard to overstate just how difficult David’s situation is here. He has been anointed king, Saul having lost the “mandate of heaven” with his refusal to give to God what God demanded of the plunder from Amalek. David has fought for Saul, killed Goliath, becomes BFF with Saul’s son Jonathan, “took the lyre and played it with his hand” whenever Saul was troubled and tormented (as Saul often was) with an evil spirit, and has fled Saul after the king tries to kill him.

He is now in the wilderness, southwest of Jerusalem in what is now Israel “proper” (the 1949 armistice lines). He is on the run. At this point, it looks for all the world that David has no future. All he has is the anointing of God, and nothing else. Saul is still king, still commands an army.

But David has an army too. In his reduced circumstances — a long way from the court of Saul, where he plucked the lyre, carried Saul’s armor, and fought Israel’s enemies so successfully that Saul “stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.” (1 Sam 18:15) It may not seem like much of an army — the distressed, the indebted, the embittered (or discontented) — but it’s an army David will use to great effect, to fight off the Philistines, to fight for the Philistines, to battle and defeat Amalek and eventually, as the core of the army that will defeat the House of Saul and re-unite the kingdom.

They come to David. He doesn’t come to them. They join him. He doesn’t join them. They hear of him, know he’s someone who can lead them, and they gather around him. This army of discontents come to Adullam to follow David.

I like David. The more I read of scripture, the more I like him. I want to say he’s not reflective, but in all those psalms he wrote, David clearly praises and thanks and pleads and laments. He thinks. He considers. He contemplates. But he also acts.

And all he has, right now, in this cave with this bands of misfits and rejects, is the blessing of God.

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13 ESV)

So we know where the Spirit led David. Into a kind-of exile, as a fugitive and sometimes mercenary leader fighting for the very Philistines he had battled (1 Samuel 27:8-12) and would later battle again. It’s hard, David’s exile life. But one he lives fully.

Because David knows God has not abandoned him. He trusts in God’s time. In God’s anointing. And in the Spirit which “rushed upon” him, and never left.

3 thoughts on “The Bitter, the Angry, and the Discontented

  1. Hi Charles,

    When I read this I see a mirror of sorts for events in post-Apostolic times. It reminds me of some of the Fathers and the difficulties they faced when trying to uphold the truth in Ecumenical Councils. Some went into exile.

    Also reminds me of some of the monastics like St Anthony or St Francis who went into their own exile and were joined by others to follow Christ radically.

    Also some Reformers like Huss & Luther, or the Anglo-Catholics, all who made a stand because they were fed up with the status quo . Guys who didn’t want to break the church apart but were angry enough to take action.

    Interesting that David didn’t try to setup a separate nation but waited for God to come good on His promises.

    This makes me wonder whether He can rule His church through people in exile rather than a lot of those in “official” leadership…yeah I don’t think God has the same denominational dividing lines as we do…



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