In Straits, In Debt, and Desperate

Have I blogged about this before? Yes, I have.

Well, I shall blog about this again. Because I love this little massage of scripture.

1 David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam, and when his brothers and all his father’s house hears, they joined him down there. 2 Everyone who was in straits and everyone who was in debt and everyone who was desperate joined him, and he became their leader; there were about four hundred men with him. (1 Samuel 22:1-2 JPS Tanakh)

I’m no David. I have not been anointed king of anything. I can barely feed and house my family. I’m not on the run from anyone, certainly not the king I’ve been selected to replace.

But this little passage has always spoken to me. The ESV translates those who found David and made him their leader as “everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul.” The lost, the abandoned, the rejected, looking for someone to lead them.

What was it about David that those in need saw? What hope did he give them, embody for them, be for them, that they couldn’t find otherwise? These rejects — debtors, the angry, the unfortunate, those who like David are fleeing — become the core of David’s army, an army that fights for whoever it needs to in order to survive. There is great loyalty here in these 400 men.

Maybe this describes this ministry I do? I see a comparison. Even the lost need a captain, one who can lead and rally and command them. Even the despised need belonging. Even the “bitter in soul” need to know there is love in this world. I do something like that, though for and with teenage girls, and usually one at a time. (That … sounds really bad as I read it.) I suppose we could form an army — I have a novel I am slowly working on that considers what happens when runaway foster kids unite, organize, arm themselves, and decide to get revenge — but I’d be a lousy military leader.

I suspect David was one of them, and they knew that, and David’s honesty about himself and his circumstances drew those in similar straits to him. They knew he wouldn’t lie, or pretend, or paint a happy face on something, or demand a mere ritual. He too lived in the wilderness, running, frightened, one step ahead of the powerful, of those who meant him harm.

He was one of them. Distressed and bitter of soul. Whatever the differences between this anointed King of Israel whom God loves no end and those who came to him looking for belonging, they were in similar circumstances.

And maybe that describes this ministry too.

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