Captain of the Distressed, Indebted, and Discontented

“And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.” (1 Sam. 22:2)

Where do we go when we are in distress, discontented, and feeling the pressure of debt in this world? We need to flee to the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ. In David’s day, there were men who were distressed, discontented, and in debt that sought out the man after God’s own heart, and he became a captain over this little band of 400 men. This world should vex our righteous soul. While we need to learn to be content in whatever state we are in (Phil. 4:11), our soul will never be fully content in this world. This world is full of distress, and we feel the pressure of both financial debt and the debt of our sin. When we feel that pressure, where do we go? Let us flee from the comforts of the city and dwell (even if it’s among the caves) with our Captain who will give us hope in the midst of our distress and discontentment.

David is in a very low spot at this time. He has had to flee Jerusalem because of King Saul trying to kill him for jealousy and fear of losing his crown. David has just fled to Gath and pretended to be mad to protect himself (1 Sam. 21:10-15). He then flees from Gath and escapes to the cave Adullam and his family come down to see him in the cave (1 Sam. 22:1). Apparently, word got out from his family of him dwelling in a cave, and other men came to seek out David as well. Then “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him”. These were people who were not happy with living under Saul’s authority. King Saul had been prophesied by Samuel to severely oppress the people (1 Sam. 8:10-17), but Israel still wanted a king anyway to be like the other nations. Now, he was oppressing the people to where they were in distress, in debt, and discontented with their situation and their country.

Despite Saul’s oppression, there was only a very small remnant who were willing to forsake their homes and go live in a cave to follow the leadership of David as their captain. Only 400 men were so distressed, indebted, and discontent that they sought out David. Only 400 men is a very small remnant of the population of Israel as a whole which was probably at least 2-3 million (since they later had 800,000 fighting men at David’s census). Apparently, there were only a few people willing to seek out relief for their distress. The gospel provides great comfort for God’s people (Isaiah 40:1-2). It has been properly said, however, that you cannot “comfort the comfortable”. There were many people who were very comfortable under Saul’s rule, and therefore, they did not seek out any comfort. But for those who were distressed, indebted, and discontent, they were not comfortable, and they sought a ruler after God’s own heart to follow.

He became a captain over them. We want to look at the example of King David pointing us to Jesus Christ as our Captain who comforts us in our distress, debt, and discontentment. David was persecuted for righteousness’ sake, just like Jesus Christ. He didn’t do anything wrong but serve God, but he was still persecuted and sought to be killed by the rulers of the day. David was a man after God’s own heart; God had rejected Saul and commanded for David to be “captain over my people” (1 Sam. 13:14). Therefore, God had set up David as Israel’s “captain”, but the people still chose to follow Saul out of fear of him. David was the God-appointed “captain”, but there were only 400 men who were willing to forsake Saul and Jerusalem and serve their rightful captain. Likewise, Jesus is the God-ordained “Captain” and “Lord” over all his children. However, there is only a very small remnant who are “not comfortable” in this world that are willing to seek out and serve and follow their Captain, even if it means going to an unpleasant setting such as a cave.

Jesus Christ is the Captain of our salvation. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Heb. 2:10) The Greek word “captain” here means “prince, the chief leader, or author”. The Hebrew word for “captain” in 1 Sam. 22:2 means “prince, ruler, leader, the chief or head person of any rank”. Notice the common theme in these words. Jesus is our “Prince”, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). What better person to seek out when you are distressed, indebted, and discontent than the Prince of Peace who can bring comfort and peace to the afflicted?

When Joshua was preparing for the siege of Jericho, the captain of the Lord’s host appeared to him. “14) And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15) And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.” (Josh. 5:14-15) Since the captain of the Lord’s host tells Joshua to take his shoes off because he is on holy ground, I believe it is most likely that this was Jesus Christ, the Captain of the Lord’s host and the Captain of our salvation. Jesus not only saved us from our sins eternally, but he also provides “daily salvations” in our “Jericho battles” every day of our life. Jesus Christ is the Captain of our salvation and deliverance every day. We need to seek out Jesus Christ as our Captain to find peace and comfort when we are in distress, in debt, and discontented.

Every one that was in distress. Men sought out David as their captain who were “in distress”. The Hebrew word for “in distress” here means “a narrow place, confinement, strait, anguish, distress”. Notice, the root word of distress is “stress” which means “force, urgency, or pressure”. When we feel confined, we feel the stress, pressure, and force of that weight and an urgency to relieve that pressure. The army under Saul had previously felt in a strait and in distress (1 Sam. 13:6, 14:24). He had oppressed the people, and they felt pressed, confined, boxed into a narrow strait. Paul in the New Testament felt he was “in a strait betwixt two” (Phil. 1:23). He felt constricted and pressed in on every side. Even when Paul felt pressed and troubled on every side, but he did not let himself get distressed – “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.” (2 Cor. 4:8).

David felt that the sorrows of death and hell and the floods of ungodly men had “compassed me about”. David felt surrounded with sin on every side. “4) The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. 5) The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.” (Ps. 18:4-5) David even wrote this Psalm when the Lord delivered him out the hand of all his enemies and Saul. What was David’s remedy for being surrounded and pressed by wickedness? What was his response in this distress? “In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Ps. 18:6) That must be our response to distress as well, to call and cry unto our God. To seek out the Captain of our salvation who will remedy our distress and pressure. Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation, will give us liberty and freedom instead of pressure and confinement. When we are in distress, we need to seek our Captain for peace and safety.

Every one that was in debt. Men sought out David as their captain who were “in debt”. The Hebrew word for “in debt” here means “to lend on interest or debt, to be a creditor”. There is a great pressure and stress that comes from being in debt to another, especially when you cannot pay your debt. “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Prov. 22:7) The borrower is a “slave” (servant) to the lender. Especially in biblical times, if you could not pay your financial debt then you would become a slave and servant to pay off your debt. There was great pressure and stress to having a debt you could not pay. In Matt. 18:21-35, there was a borrower who was 10,000 talents in debt and could not pay. The lord graciously forgave the debtor of all his debt and set him free. The forgiven debtor unfortunately was ungrateful and did not extend that same charity to one who owed him a minuscule debt. Those in Israel who feel the stress and pressure of their debt sought out the one who could give them peace for their debt. When we are in financial debt and stress in our lives, we need to flee to Jesus Christ who can give us peace in our debt. That doesn’t mean our financial balance will always be paid off right away or ever, but God will give us peace in the midst of our debt.

The greatest debt that God’s people have is not our mortgage to the bank, but our debt to sin. Eternally speaking, we are all 10,000 talents in debt to God with no ability to pay our debt. Worse yet, in our nature, we are dead in sins, and we certainly have no ability to pay our debt when we are dead. We owe a debt of sin that we cannot pay, and there is no hope for relief. Then, the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ, came and paid our debt of sin on the cross. Jesus declared “It is Finished!” – “teleo” in the Greek, which means “to end, to finish, to execute, to discharge a debt”. This is the legal, financial term that describes the notation that a debt has been “Paid in Full”; the debt has been fully discharged, and the debt is no longer owed. Jesus declared with his last breath on the cross that our Captain had “Paid in Full” all our debt of sin owed to Almighty God! Therefore, we can have comfort and peace knowing that our iniquity is pardoned, and we have received of the Lord’s hand double for all our sins (Isaiah 40:1-2). Jesus has paid our debt of sin, and we are no longer in bondage to that debt anymore.

Every one that was discontented. Men sought out David as their captain who were “discontented”. The KJV translators’ alternate literal translation for this phrase is “bitter of soul”. The definition for “bitter” is “sharp, biting to the taste, acrid, like wormwood, cruel, severe” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). There is a sharp pain to the soul in this world. Lot made poor decisions that caused his soul to be vexed by the wickedness surrounding him. Lot’s righteous soul was “vexed” from the filthy conversation of the wicked around him in Sodom (2 Pet. 2:7-8). There are two different Greek words for “vexed” in those two verses. The word “vexed” (kataponeo) in v.7 literally means “oppressed, to wear down with toil, exhaust with labor”. The word “vexed” (basanizo) in v.8 literally means “tormented, to torture, to vex with grievous pains, test metals by fire”. No doubt, Lot’s soul was very discontented in Sodom, as he ought to be since his sinful decisions put him in that position. This world will really wear down our soul. This world can be very sharp, cruel, oppressive, exhausting, and tormenting to the righteous soul of the child of God.

What is the remedy for the child of God that is “bitter in soul”? We need to flee to the Captain of our salvation. Jesus gives peace and salve to the bitter and tormented soul. The pressure and distress and debt of this world can certainly make our soul bitter. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me?” (Ps. 42:5a) What is the remedy for a soul that is “cast down” and “disquieted” inside the child of God? Hope in God and praise him for his help and mercy. “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” (Ps. 42:5b) The child of God should not live in a perpetual state of discontentment. When we place our hope and trust in God, we can “learn to be content” in any state in our life (Phil. 4:11). We have to turn our eyes off the cares of this world that make our soul bitter and discontented and look to God who gives peace and tranquility to the soul of his children.

There were 400 men during David’s day who were not satisfied in this world and sought out a captain to lead them in paths of righteousness. This was a very small remnant out of Israel that was willing to leave the comfort of their home and flee to a cave to find the captain after God’s own heart. The rest of Israel was comfortable enough to not take any action. When we feel discontented, in debt, distressed, and bitter in soul, that is when we need to flee to the Captain of our salvation for refuge, peace, and liberty. Our Captain gives his children the exact opposite of this world. This world breeds “distress” and constriction to a confined space, but Jesus gives liberty from bondage. This world will pressure you “in debt”, but Jesus has paid in full our debt of sin. This world will can make you “discontented” and “bitter in soul”, but hope in God will give you contentment and joy in any state in this life. Let us flee to the Captain of our salvation to deliver us from the distress, debt, and discontentment of this world.


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