Last year, during our trip to Israel, I had the opportunity to visit a site that held special significance for me. While every site we explored was important and meaningful, this particular site was one I had spent a year thinking about and studying when I wrote A Heart Set Free. To see it in person was surreal and I couldn’t help but respond with strong emotion. What site was it? En Gedi.
The word En Gedi means “spring of the wild goat.” En Gedi is a lush and vibrant oasis in the middle of the Judean Wilderness. What makes it so remarkable is its close proximity to the Dead Sea. Everything in the surrounding area is lifeless. Yet, wild goats feed off the verdant plants that grow there. A steady flowing stream of water rushes through the middle of the oasis. Surrounding this stream are rocky cliffs spotted with caves. It is in those caves where David hid while on the run from King Saul in the Old Testament.
1 Samuel 24:1-2 says, “When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks.” In those caves, frightened and alone, David penned at least two psalms, Psalm 57 and 142.
David’s Cry in Psalm 142
In Psalm 142, David cries out to the Lord for help and hope. “With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him” (Psalm 142:1-2). He tells the Lord exactly how he is feeling and what he is going through. He says “my spirit faints within me” (v.3). “I am brought very low” (v.6). And “Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!” (v. 6).
While few of us have been on the run from our enemies as David was, we do know what it’s like to be at then end of our rope, to feel stuck with nowhere to turn. We know what it feels like to be in despair or to feel lost and alone. We know what it’s like to be afraid. We know what it’s like to face something so frightening, we can’t imagine any way around it. We know what it’s like to look for help and find none (v.4).
In the midst of that terrifying circumstance, David turned to the LORD God. He turned to the great I Am for help and hope.
For those of us who find ourselves with similar emotions to what David writes about in Psalm 142, there are three things we can remember from this passage.
In verse three, David wrote “When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!” Our God is an omniscient God. He knows all things. He knows the end from the beginning. He is never surprised or caught off guard by the circumstances of our lives. And he knows us intimately. As David wrote elsewhere, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:1-4).
God knows just what to do in all circumstances. And he knows what is best for us. John Calvin encourages us to rest in the fact that God knows: “God knew the way to deliver him, while his own mind was distracted by a variety of thoughts, and yet could not conceive any mode of extrication. The words teach us, when we have tried every remedy and know not what to do, to rest satisfied with the conviction that God is acquainted with our afflictions, and condescends to care for us, as Abraham said --"The Lord will provide." (Genesis 22:8.)”
God is Our Refuge
David turned to God because he knew God was his refuge. “I cry to you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living’” (v. 5). The Hebrew word for refuge is “machaseh” which means hope, place of refuge, shelter, or trust (Strongs 4268). David put his trust and hope in God.
In the midst of your current trial, wherein do you place your hope and trust? It’s easy to turn to false refuges, to run and hide in metaphorical caves, or to seek out hope in created things rather than in the Creator. But those false refuges will only let us down. God alone is our place of safety. And it’s only in God that we find all we need. Like the Levites who had no land of their own, God is our portion; he is our inheritance. He is our Father and we are his children. We can call on him anytime and anywhere and know that he hears us. We can trust him to be our refuge and hope in times of trouble.
God Will Deliver
David ends his psalm with confidence. “The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me” (v. 7). The armies that surrounded David were stronger than he was, but he knew God was stronger still. He knew and expected that God would deliver him. He knew he would once again be surrounded by God’s people.
Though the effects of the fall ravage our lives, though sin seems to have a grip on us, though evil appears to be winning, God is our deliverer. We only have to look to Christ and what he has accomplished for us in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. He brought us from death to life. He redeemed us from slavery to sin. He made peace for us with God. He gave us the gift of his Spirit to change and transform us. Because of Christ, we too can face the hard circumstances of life with confidence, not in ourselves, but in who Christ is for us.
Dear friend, when life is hard, cry out to God in lament. Tell him your sorrows and fears. Ask for his help and deliverance. Put your hope and trust in him, for he is your refuge and portion.