This week’s scripture revolves around the Cave of Adullam. It is mentioned in several places in the Bible. It is a
town a little Southwest of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It is important as a stronghold or safe place for David to
hide from his enemies both before he was king and after.
It is a part of our sermon series, Chase the Lion, based on the book by Mark Batterson. We are focusing on being
bold for the Lord. Going for that which is impossible without God. Both for ourselves and as the church. There
are lots of good things, but what does God want us to do? What lion does God have for us to chase?
The first time David goes to Cave of Adullam alone. While serving in the king’s court, he has discovered that King
Saul wants him killed. Initially, his brothers joined him there, then the men of his father’s household. Word begins
to get out and then many men, “who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he
became their leader. About 400 men were with him.” (1 Samuel 22:1-2)
In other words, rebels gathered around David. He had been very loyal to King Saul, but now he effectively had an
army around him. David’s Mighty Men came from this group.
Later, after Saul had died and David had captured Jerusalem, the Philistines decided to test the new king of Israel.
At that time David returns to the stronghold of the Cave of Adullam.
This is where our scripture is set today. I’m going to ask you to get your Bibles out and turn to 2 Samuel
2 Samuel 23:13-17 NIV
13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam,
while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the
stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh,
that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three
mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem
and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17
“Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their
lives?” And David would not drink it.
Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors.
So In this passage we get to hear about The Three. They were featured in the beginning of this section, and we
focused on two of them the last couple of weeks, Josheb and Eleazar.
While David and his men are hanging out in the cave, David made a silly request, more like a musing. “Oh that
someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the Gate of Bethlehem!” Not really expecting anyone
to actually do it.
The Three, perhaps foolishly, decide that they are going to do it. The sneak out of the cave in the cover of
darkness. They quickly get themselves to just outside of Bethlehem. They peer over the crest of a hill. They watch
for the guards and the patrols. They see the patterns and the timing of the patrols. They notice that the Philistines
have grown complacent, not really expecting anyone from David’s army to attack. As a large cloud covers the
moon, between patrols, they creep in into town and quickly retrieve some water from the well. They make a hasty
retreat, run all the way back to the cave, and deliver their precious gift to their king.
They bring it back… And David pours it on the ground. To us it might seem like a slap in the face. “You mean
after we went through all of this trouble to get you this water, you won’t even drink it?!”
Actually, David’s actions are out of respect. There are number of passages in the Jewish law that state that blood
should not be consumed. And David equates this water with the possible blood that could have been shed by the
mission that obtained it. In Deuteronomy 12:16 it specifically says, “You must not eat blood; pour it on the
ground like water.”
So in this case, David actually honors the sacrifice by pouring the water on the ground, for it was too valuable to
drink. Therefore David used it to make an offering to God.
We’ve been talking about following dreams that are too big, too much, too expensive for us to accomplish on their
own. They are God-sized dreams, ones that only can be achieved with God’s help. David’s dream of uniting all of
the Israelite tribes into one nation was one of those dreams. It was certainly one that was not achieved overnight.
Do you remember when he was anointed or pronounced as the future king when he was just a teenager, youngest
of all of his brothers. (c.f. 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Then he went into service to King Saul. It was after many years and
many battles the David became king of Judah, then years and battles after that before he was King of the united
tribes of Israel.
On two separate occasions during this time, he hid out in the stronghold of the Cave of Adullam. It was a time
where he was under siege. He was in a holding pattern. It was where his faith was tempered. During this time he
wrote a couple of Psalms, the ones we know of as Psalm 57 and Psalm 142. We read Psalm 57 earlier as our call
He wasn’t on vacation. He wasn’t taking a break. He was seeking refuge in a time of trouble and despair.
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your
wings until the disaster has passed.
I cry out to God most high, to God, who vindicates me. He sends me from heaven and saves me, rebuking those
who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
I am in the midst of lions; I’m forced to dwell among ravenous beasts-men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the Earth. (Psalm 57:1-5)
During this dark and difficult time, David encountered God and got to know him in a whole new way. Adversity
can do that to us. We can become bitter about our circumstances and turn away from God, or we can lean into
God and grow to have a deeper more profound relationship. David didn’t want to retreat to the Cave of Adullam,
but it was where he needed to be for a while. The dream wasn’t David’s. The dream isn’t about us.
The dream belongs to God, and it is for him. We have to proceed one step at a time. Have you seen the Lego sets
that they have these days? You have a different sized projects that are set to a particular kind of object. Last
month we saw a Batmobile Lego set. I saw one for the Eifel Tower. It had something like 349 pieces. We see the
picture on the front of the box. Like with our dreams, we have this picture in our head about what it will be like,
look like, when it is complete, and we wish we could open the box with the completed project popping out. That
is not what happens we have 349 unassembled pieces, or you could think of it like a jigsaw puzzle.
I once had a 1000 piece puzzle of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavarian Germany. I remember working on the
puzzle for months. As I was getting to the end of it, I realized that I was missing a couple of pieces. Sometimes
we’ll find that we have to circle back to pick up those pieces that we’ve missed. And like our Lego project, if it
has 349 pieces, we will find that it is a 349 step process. We may overestimate what we can do in one year, but
we will underestimate what God can do in 10 years. But like David, God will change us in the process. Like David
we will have setbacks and adversity. It is remaining faithful to a God calls us to do In the midst of that that brings
God the glory.
There was a missionary name JW Tucker who went with his family to what is now the Democratic Republic of
Congo. It was 1964, and he along with 60 of his colleagues were captured, tortured, and executed by Congolese
Rebels. They were executed by putting them in the Bomokande River, a river full of crocodiles. We may feel bad
for Tucker in his family. It was truly an awful thing that happened. It looks like failure, or a setback for the
mission at the very least.
Our culture demonizes perceived failure, and it idolizes apparent success. That’s not what God prioritizes. It is
faithfulness. Tucker knew what he was walking into when he went into the Congo during the Civil War. His friend
Morris Plotts told him. “If you go in, you won’t come out.”
Tucker replied, “God didn’t tell me I had to come out. He only told me I had to go in.” (Batterson, Chase the
The day that Benaiah chased the lion into the pit, he was probably thinking the same thing. We think of Benaiah
as a winner because he came out of the pit, but the surprising thing was that he went down there in the first place.
Tucker brought God glory because he followed God’s call and went to the Congo despite the danger. The Three
Mighty Men may have seemed foolhardy going into Bethlehem while it was occupied by the Philistines. Jesus
may have seen foolhardy, one man, no army, going up against the Jewish leadership and the Roman Empire.
After Jesus was arrested, he looked like a complete and utter failure hanging up there dead on the cross. As it
says in Mark chapter 15 verses 29 to 32a:
Those who passed by hurled insults of Jesus, shaking their heads in the same, “So! You who are going to destroy
the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief
priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t
save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”
He looked like a failure to the Jewish people, and not just the Pharisees, scribes, and the Sadducees, the Jewish
leadership. Even his own disciples considered him a failure for not fulfilling their expectations.
They did not understand God’s dream. God’s dream, Jesus’s dream was for you, your salvation. It was to enable
the world to be reconciled with God. The enemy wasn’t the Roman Empire. It was death itself. It was rescuing
humanity from evil. It couldn’t be done without his death. That is the scandal of the Gospel. With Jesus’s
resurrection and ascension, what looked like death and defeat became reconciliation, redemption, and eternal
life for those who believe.
What is failure? What are setbacks? When I first applied to start the process to become a pastor back in West
Texas in 2007, I was rejected, not as unsuitable, but they didn’t think I was being called to the ministry at that
time. It was a huge blow to me. I’d already been on the journey for 10 years. It felt like the dream had ended.
Do you know what? If my application has been accepted, I wouldn’t be here with you today. I had my time in
the cave with God getting to know him better, developing our relationship. I had a lot more to learn, a lot more
to experience. When the opportunity came to apply again, the experience was almost the exact opposite from
the first time. It was very encouraging and affirming.
There can be failure on the journey towards God’s goals, when chasing the lion. What do we learn from the
experience? What do we do to move forward? How do we listen for God about the next step?
Do you remember the week and a half of fog that we had last month? That’s how I felt after my application for
ordained ministry was rejected. I felt surrounded by fog, not able to see, not able to go anywhere, concerned that
I may slam into something worse if I tried to move. The verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” comes to mind.
(Psalm 46:10) I had to be still as God worked in the background, just like he did while David was in the Cave of
Adullam. When we find ourselves in a season like that, it is not a sign to give up. It is just one of the 349 pieces of
When we have those inevitable setbacks, and we will, we learn about how we handle adversity, disappointment,
and mistakes. We can obsess about them and allow them to make us bitter, or we can lean on God, examine and
learn from what happened, to make us better. Even if it isn’t our fault, don’t allow it to steal your joy. Allow it to
inspire you to keep going.
The goal is not necessarily about winning. It is about God’s glory.
If I asked you if you wanted to do something great for God, many of you would raise your hand. I would too!
Really though it is a trick question. Doing something great is not our job. It is God’s job! Our job is to prepare
ourselves to hear God’s call and follow it. If we do that every day, God will show up in a most amazing way.
Doesn’t that sound great? Yes, but it is so hard to trust God with how it will turn out. It is something I struggle
with each and every day. It is true whether you are running around, a store, or a race. What God is most concerned
about is not the numbers or the stats.
God’s plan is not timid. It can be dangerous. Regardless of what happens to us, if God gets the glory, God
considers it a success.
A couple of days after JW Tucker death in the Congo, Belgian paratroopers were able to rescue his family. On the
airplane ride back to the United States, his wife Angeline, said this prayer:
O, Father, we do thank Thee for the goodness and love and many blessings. We love Thee and praise Thee for
Thy care. And through these many difficult days Thou has watched over us and kept us. And now Thou has truly
delivered us out of the Lion’s Den. We praise Thee and thank Thee for it. And we ask that you take J’s life, which
has been laid down and use it in death for Thine honor and glory. (“J.W. Tucker Event,”
YouTube, October 31, 2007, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OXVofTSIQ0)
It took 30 years, but then something happened. The Bomokande River flows through some very rugged country
in Africa. There was an unreached tribe called the Mangbetu. Their king asked for some help from the Congolese
government, and it sent a policeman called the Brigadier. He had known JW Tucker, who had introduced him
to Jesus a couple of months before he died.
The Brigadier try to introduce the Mangbetu people to Jesus without success until he learned of a tribal tradition.
If the blood of someone flows in the Bomokande River, you have to listen to their message. So he got the village
elders together and told them of a man whose blood flowed through the river. He said:
Some time ago a man was killed, and his body was thrown into your Bomokande River. The crocodiles in this
river ate him up. His blood flowed in your river. Before he died, he left me a message. This message concerns
God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to this world to save people who are sinners. He died for the sins
of the world; he died for my sins. I received this message, and it changed my life. (George O. Wood, submitted
by Marshall Shelly, “A Missionary’s Sacrifice Was Worth the Cost,” Preaching Today,
Since then thousands of Mangbetu have come to follow Jesus, and there are churches all over the region. This
happened because of the missionary whose blood flowed in the Bomokande River.
A setback is never a setback on God’s timetable. A failure may be an opportunity. Keep chasing that lion. God
looks at the long view, one we cannot see or even fathom. As God says and Isaiah 55:9-11:
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your
thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the Earth
and making it but and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes
out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for
which I sent it.