Lessons from a Cave Dweller, Part 1

In my last post, I mentioned that I was taking a break from my blog for awhile and preparing to redesign it. I’m still in “taking a break” mode, but with the current COVID-19 situation, I wanted to share some thoughts with you that I recently wrote for my Sunday School class.

Following is the introduction for my reflection on Psalm 57.

I love a good adventure story! When I was a teenager and even a young adult, I’m not sure those words would have come from my mouth. Back then, I would have said, “I like classic fairytale romance!” The kind where Mr. Darcy wins Miss Bennet or Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester finally get to live happily ever after together. And while I’m still a huge fan of Cinderella-style stories, now I’m finding just how much I like reading stories of adventure on the high seas and survival on remote islands – stories like Treasure Island, Life of Pi, The Cay, and Robinson Crusoe.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I read a short adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. It is an interesting story about how a man who is shipwrecked and the lone survivor on a remote island survives for 28 years until he is finally rescued. Even though Crusoe’s determination, creativity, and grateful attitude inspired me, what I found most appealing is that his story was inspired by a true survival story, that of Alexander Selkirk in 1704.

Most scholars believe that the real Robinson Crusoe was Alexander Selkirk because of the timing and similar details of the two men’s stories. Defoe would have had easy access to Selkirk’s story which was printed in the newspaper during Defoe’s lifetime. In addition, both Selkirk and the fictional Crusoe share name changes, abandonment on a remote island, and similar experiences with living in a cave and dealing with cats, rats, and goats (you’ll have to read the story to understand these references). Both men sang praises to God as they learned to live in isolation.

The short version of Selkirk’s story is that he was a skillful seaman who didn’t agree with the captain of the ship he was on. He then asked to be let off the boat, which the captain promptly ordered at a remote island off the coast of Chile. Selkirk was left on that island for nearly four-and-a-half years before he was rescued, at which time he could not even speak (luckily, he regained his speech and that is how his story could be recorded).

While he was on the island, he made his home in a cave; he learned to fish without a fishing pole, he became adept at raising and killing goats for food and clothing, he raised cats to protect him from rats, and he praised God with songs every day. He learned to be grateful for the peace and provisions God had provided him on this remote island. Selkirk, a man who lived adventure in cities like London and traveling the world on the high seas, learned many things from his life as a cave dweller on a remote island. He learned to worship God in tough circumstances, he learned about solitude, and he learned how to live as a lone survivor.

According to Marooned, a biography about Selkirk, at first, he regretted his rash decision to leave the ship. He describes how he anxiously stood on the shoreline every day for months just watching for sails to come his way, only to find none appear. But, his determination to survive propelled him forward and he made a life on the island. Interestingly, after he was rescued and back in England, he missed his quiet time on the island and actually carved a cave retreat to which he visited daily. It was his place where he could sing praises to God and rest in solitude.

In our present time, with Coronavirus COVID-19 sweeping around the world and the wise decision of people social distancing, it feels a bit like we are cave dwellers. But our caves are nicer than Selkirk’s! At least we have indoor plumbing, air conditioning and heat, kitchen appliances, and oh thank heavens a washer and dryer! But the isolating aspect of being a cave dweller can be difficult. However, I believe we can use this “cave dwelling” time to remember some important lessons.

Reflections on Psalm 57

In the Bible, David was a cave dweller during part of his life. In 1 Samuel 18:8-9, we read, “Saul was very angry: this refrain galled him. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought. What more can he get but the kingdom? And from that time on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”

This jealousy grew so much that Saul wanted to kill David (1 Samuel 19:1). But thankfully for David he had a loyal friend in Jonathan and was warned about Saul’s plan, so he could flee to safety. One of the safe places he fled was to a cave in Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1). Another cave he dwelt in during his flight was in the Desert of En Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1-3). David was forced to be a cave dweller for the sake of safety, and we have insight to his thoughts during this time through his words in Psalm 57.

Since it is recorded that David dwelled in at least two caves, we can’t be sure to which cave Psalm 57 refers, but most scholars attribute it to the cave at Adullam.

Regardless of which location David was, we can learn four lessons from his thoughts and attitude described in his psalm.

Look for lesson 1 tomorrow!


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