Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
In today’s reading from 1 Samuel, David narrowly escaped the Philistine city of Gath and found refuge in a cave. Just think how far David has fallen… The son-in-law of the King is now living in a cave. Listen to his heart cry out to the Lord…
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name! (Psalm 142:6-7).
But David is not alone in the cave. On the contrary, the outcasts of society have gathered to him…
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 over them (1 Samuel 22:2).
This picture of the anointed king surrounded by outcasts reminds me of Jesus. And it correlates beautifully with Jesus’ teaching found in Luke 15.
Who matters to God? The sinner who repents! God will leave 99 righteous to find one lost soul. Jesus says in Luke 15:7, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
And then he tells the well-known story of the prodigal son. You remember the story? How the younger brother squanders his inheritance and returns to his father a humbled man. The father throws him a huge party to celebrate his return while the faithful, older brother is indignant and sulks over the fact that his father never threw him a party.
How many times have you heard it asked, “Do you identify more with the older or younger brother?” That’s an interesting question since they were both sinners in need of repentance. The difference is that the older brother was blind to his self-righteous sin – whereas the younger brother was very much aware of his sin.
Another question might be, “Do you identify with the outcasts that gathered to David in the cave?” Do you know what it feels like to be in distress, in debt, or bitter in soul? I do. Jesus beckons us to come. And as we gather around the Savior, no one can stand – for we know we are sinful. We know we don’t deserve the kindness He offers. And heaven rejoices, for a sinner has repented.