For years I have studied God’s Word and thought about the places that I’ve read about. Two years ago I had the opportunity to visit many of those places, but there were still some places that were left on my “To Do” list. One of the places that I’ve read about so many times that I felt like I had been there was En Gedi. It is an obscure place I know. Most Christians probably wouldn’t even recognize the name, but for me, it has been a place of great strength and comfort.
When we were planning our trip to Israel during the past year I knew that I had to go there. I wanted to sit where David sat during some of the worst times of his life. I wanted to visit the place where God comforted and strengthened David when he was all alone.
I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that En Gedi is some resort-like place where the rich and famous gather during their vacations for rest and relaxation. It is not. The place where I wanted to go is tucked away in the rough, desert of the Judean Wilderness. It is an arid place, a desolate place. A place where no one would want to build a home and spend the rest of their life. Yet En Gedi is the place where David found refuge and strength. Strength that he desperately needed. Let me walk you through the story so you can get a better glimpse of what I’m talking about.
When David was a young man he was chosen by God to be the King of Israel. What David experienced for the next several years didn’t even resemble what a king should have experienced. David was supposed to be living in the lap of luxury, not in a cave. He was supposed to be enjoying the praise and adoration of the masses, not hiding from those who were seeking to end his life. That’s the way it appeared things would unfold when Samuel anointed David as king when he was just a young man.
In 1 Samuel 16 we find David minding his own business, tending to his father’s flocks, when the LORD announced that “he” was the one. The prophet had taken a look at all of Jesse’s sons, but none of them would be king. David was the one. 1 Samuel 16:10-14 tells the story.
10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. 14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. (1 Samuel 16:10-14 NIV)
Can you imagine the thoughts that must have rambled through the young man’s mind? If not, then just stop and think for a moment what you would have thought if someone had come up to you when you were young and said, “You are going to be President one day!” Now, you and I know that being President carries lots of stress and responsibility, but that’s not what young folks think. If you are President then you’ve got it all…and I’m sure that is exactly what David thought to himself. He would have it all. The best life that a person could possibly imagine.
Well, things didn’t turn out for David as he had envisioned. Before David ever became king he was given an opportunity to serve the king, King Saul, and he served him well. David was a mighty warrior and he defended the name of God, and the nation, like a champ. Saul didn’t know that David had been chosen by God to be king. Saul first became familiar with David after he had killed the Philistine giant, Goliath. You would think that the King would appreciate David’s ferocity and passion, but instead Saul became jealous. After the big battle the men were heading back into the city when the women lined the streets and began to sing.
6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. 7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” 8 Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:6-9 NIV)
Saul was jealous of the young man. He was not only jealous, but Scripture tells us that he was “afraid” of David. We read in 1 Samuel 18 that David was playing the harp for the king when an evil spirit came upon Saul and he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. David dodged the spear and got out of there with his life, but we read in 1 Samuel 18:12,
12 Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul. (1 Samuel 18:12 NIV)
Just two verses later, after Saul had put David in charge of 1,000 men and shipped him off, we read where Saul’s fear was firmly in place.
14 In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. (1 Samuel 18:14-15 NIV)
Before we reach the end of the chapter we learn that Saul’s daughter had fallen in love with David and things became solidified for Saul. Saul was now more afraid of David than ever before.
28 When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. (1 Samuel 18:28-29 NIV)
Those are some sad words aren’t they? “…he remained his enemy the rest of his days.” The die had been cast. There was no turning back. Regardless of what David did or tried to do to bring about reconciliation, he would be Saul’s enemy the rest of his life. Instead of residing at the royal residence David would hit the road. Instead of eating grapes by the royal swimming pool, he would eat desert dust for the next several years. He went to Ramah and Saul was hot on his trial. David went on to Nob and when Saul heard about it he had 85 priests from Nob killed. This guy was serious! Saul was obsessed and David was on the run.
While Saul was on his way to Nob to kill everyone he could get his hands on David was hiding out at the cave of Adullam. Instead of gathering with his cabinet to strategize and work through the issues of the nation, David was hiding in a cave. Instead of meeting with world leaders, David was meeting with the undesirables who were on the run just like himself. In 1 Samuel 22:1-2 we read,
1David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. (1 Samuel 22:1-2 NIV)
Things were not going the way that David had once envisioned that they would go were they? David was running for his life. He was out in the desert, right out by the Dead Sea. What a life! Nobody in their right mind would desire a life in a desolate desert, but it was there in this desert that God did a mighty work in David’s life. Turn with me to Psalm 57 and read from David’s desert diary.
1For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave. Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. 2 I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. 3He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; Selah God sends his love and his faithfulness. 4 I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts– men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. 6 They spread a net for my feet– I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path– but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah 7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. 8 Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. 9 I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. 10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. (Psalm 57 NIV)
Can you hear it? God is at work in the desert places! David writes, “…in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Where is our safe place? Is it in a gated community? Is it achieving a certain amount of status in our community? Does a pile of money provide for us a “safe place?” You know the answer to those questions. Absolutely not. Our safe place is nestled in the crook of God’s Sovereign arms.
There are two words I want us to look at while we are visiting Engedi today because they have such powerful application for all of us which will carry us long after we leave this sanctuary today. The first word is found in verse 1 where David says, “…in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” The word I want us to look at is the word for “refuge,” it is the Hebrew word, “khaw-saw” and it means, “to seek refuge” or “to put confidence and trust in God.” In this instance the word is a verb, it is an action word. While David was hiding out in the cave he was putting his hope in God. He wasn’t putting his hope in his ability to outfox Saul or to overpower Saul; he was putting his confidence in God. The word appears in other places in the Hebrew Bible. The day would come when God would deliver David from Saul’s hand and on that day he would write a new entry in his journal. Take a look at Psalm 18:1-2 with me.
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:1-2 NIV)
David says, “God is my rock, He is my fortress, He is my deliverer…and in Him will I take refuge.” Once again, we are talking about an action. David was in dire straits, but rather than finding comfort or escape in some alternative, David found shelter from the storms of life in God.
In Psalm 46:1-3 we find another use of the word, only this time, it is used as a noun and not as a verb. It is the same Hebrew word, except this time it has a “mem” in front of it, Hebrew “M.” Anytime you place that Hebrew letter before a word it changes it to a noun, a place. David writes,
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)
God is our refuge. He is our strength. He is our ever-present help in the troubles that we face in life—All of our troubles in life. We are to run to our Shelter from the storms. Who is this promise for? Who can hide in the shadow of His wings? Who can find rest and refuge in the strength and comfort of the Father? Is this promise only for a select few, is it only for the privileged of society, or those who are more righteous than the rest of us? David writes,
7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7 NIV)
That’s good news for you and me today isn’t it? Have any of you been driven to a dry and weary place because of the troubles of your life? Have any of you sought to find some kind of release in something other than the shelter that God alone can provide? Hear this call today. Hear this invitation today. Come to the Shelter, the only sure shelter that will shield you, cover you, and provide for you rest in the storms that rage all around you.
God is our Shelter, but we must fix our hearts and minds upon Him. This brings me to the second word that I want us to look at today. In Psalm 57:7 we read,
7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. (Psalm 57:7 NIV)
David says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” David’s heart, his inmost being is focused with laser-like precision on God. The Hebrew word for “steadfast” is “koon,” and it means, “to be firm, established, to be securely determined, or directed aright.” David’s future was uncertain, but his heart was fixed on God. All of David’s being was set on God. He was David’s only hope, his own refuge, and his own sure thing.
David would write the same phrase in his journal in Psalm 108. Read along with me.
A song. A psalm of David. My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. 2 Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. (Psalm 108:1-2 NIV)
I love this verse because of what is implied in David’s words, “I will awaken the dawn.” How many sleepless nights have you spent worrying about the troubles of your life? Has trouble ever robbed you of a night of sleep? What do you do during those sleepless nights? David set his heart on the Lord in the night. He is singing to the Lord and making music with all his soul so that when the sun comes up, He has still got his mind fixed on the Lord. What wonderful counsel for you and me.
I have to remind you that throughout David’s life he found himself visiting the desert. He found himself going through dry and weary times. Remember when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah, killed? David was in a “desert” when his sin was found out. It is not just the troubles that come from “without” that cause us heartache and sorrow. Our own sin can carry us to the desert and cause us to feel dry and withered. David wrote one of the most beautiful Psalms when he was in the desert after his moral failure. In Psalm 51:10-12, David wrote,
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-12 NIV)
Did you hear David’s prayer? “Lord, renew a ‘steadfast’ spirit within me.” Lord, take this fickle, wavering, sinful spirit and give me a new spirit, a steadfast, established spirit, that is set upon You. Our battle with sin is just that isn’t it—a battle. I don’t know about you, but it is a losing battle for me whenever I venture out on my own and think that I can handle temptation and life on my own. I need help. I need the Lord to give me a new spirit, an established spirit, a heart that is set upon Him from the moment I get out of bed until I lay my head down at night.
The same Hebrew word that we are looking at today is found in Psalm 119:133, one of Connie’s favorite verses,
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. (Psalm 119:133 NIV)
In the New American Standard Version of the Bible the word, “establish” is used instead of direct.
133 Establish my footsteps in Thy word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. (Psalm 119:133 NAS)
In the New Living Translation of the Bible the word, “guide” is used.
133 Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil. (Psalm 119:133 NLT)
David prays for God to keep him from being overcome by sin. He prays for God to lead him, guide him, and strengthen his walk. How? By His Word. There are many books that offer us advice, but there is no word that has ever been written that can keep us from the perils of sin like the Word of God. Psalm 119:11 says,
11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11 NIV)
Psalm 119:105 says,
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105 NIV)
David’s own sin led him into the desert, but it wouldn’t be the last time that he visited a dry and desolate place. It wouldn’t be the last time that David would realize that life hadn’t turned out the way he had once thought it would. In 2 Samuel we read one of the most tragic stories in the entire Bible. David’s son, Absalom decides that he is going to kill his dad and take the Kingdom from him. David was on the run once again, this time from his own son. While he was on the run he took the time to write another journal entry—this time Psalm 142. Read it with me.
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer. 1I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. 2 I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. 3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. 5 I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” 6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. 7 Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. (Psalm 142:1-7 NIV)
Can you hear the agony flowing from the pen of the King? His own son is pursuing him now and David is in the cave once again. He says,
4 Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. 5 I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:4-5 NIV)
In a world where there is no refuge, God is our refuge. He is our shelter. I want to invite those of you who have been living life on the run to seek refuge in the Lord this day. Let me ask you a question, “What have you been running from?” Is it a relationship that has gone bad? Has your sin imprisoned you to where you wonder if you will ever be able to live down your past? Do you have a troubled child, parent, spouse, or close friend whose wayward ways keep you on the run, worrying, wondering if they will ever be alright? Are drugs or alcohol paralyzing you, keeping you from God’s best for your life? You’ve quit a thousand times, but it seems like everywhere you turn there is someone just waiting to get you high. Are the bill collectors after you and you are wondering if you will ever be able to get your head above water again? Is it an illness, a doctor’s prognosis, that has you fit to be tied, roaming the house in the middle of the night? Whatever it is that has driven you to the wilderness, to the desert, you can find safety and refuge in your desolate place this very day.
You need to know that some of God’s best work in David’s life happened in the desert place. David found an oasis in the desert and you can find your oasis in your desert place this very morning. What God did in David’s life, He can also do in yours if you will set your sights, your heart, upon Him. Let’s pray.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 20, 2008