“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. And there were with him about four hundred men.” 1 Samuel 22:2
It’s a common trope in movies: the ragtag band of misfits and outlaws that come together to defeat an enemy, accomplish a task, discover a treasure. Think Braveheart. Band of Brothers. The Goonies. Revenge of the Nerds. Or even The Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
When David was on the run from Saul, all sorts of fugitives and outcasts were drawn to him, and he took them in. His was an army of the distressed, the discouraged, and the indebted. I wonder if these were the same misfits who would later be described as David’s mighty men?
Notice the contrast between Saul and David:
“There was hard fighting against the Philistines all the days of Saul. And when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he attached him to himself.”
1 Samuel 14:52 ESV
Saul was transactional. If he saw someone he believed could benefit him, Saul brought him into the fold. But David was transformational. The misfits who had nothing to offer him except for debt and disillusionment attached themselves to him, and in the process, became mighty men.
Does that remind you of anyone else? Think about the first followers of Jesus: Tax collectors and fishermen, demon possessed (Mary Magdalene) and doubters (Thomas). A trained assassin (Simon the Zealot). Outcasts and misfits. They all found rest and purpose in Jesus.
(Sidenote: the show “The Chosen” does a phenomenal job of portraying Jesus’ disciples in this way. If you haven’t watched it, you are missing a blessing! )
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
In his book Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortland points out that this is the only time Jesus describes His heart toward us. When we come to him in distress, debt, and bitterness of soul, he receives us with gentleness.
Our desperation doesn’t disqualify us. It is a prerequisite.