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
This is David's life on the run from a hateful, enraged King Saul. David has found refuge in the wilderness cave of Adullam. And as God prepares him to lead a nation, He sends in a trickling stream of Israel's most desperate people to join David... the kind of guys who have nothing to lose by aiding a fugitive. These are men who look to an outlaw for help. This will be a part of the story that shows God's grace. This ragtag band of scoundrels would become David's "mighty men" on whom he would rely in battle. They would eventually lead armies and forge a safe nation. But for now, they are pathetic rejects.
Adullam held a gathering of life's losers. Three circumstances are used in the text to describe them. They are in distress. Their lives are torn up for various reasons. Nothing is normal for them. They have no inkling of normality in their day to day existence. Homeless and hopeless, they find refuge with David. They are OK with living in a cave. They are in debt. This isn't the plastic consumer debt of the 21st century. This is hardcore indebtedness in a system that hunted down those who shirked repayment and either enslaved them or imprisoned them. These guys were resourceless. They were also discontented. The marginal notes in the ESV translation offers that as the explanation of the more literal reading of "bitter in soul". This was an unhappy bunch. They were mad at the structure in which they lived, upset by Saul's tyranny and the unrest it created, oppressed by Philistine threats, and generally a grumpy bunch.
It was out of this loose collection of life's biggest losers that David built an army. From this assorted collection of misfits, oddballs, miscreants, troublemakers, and poor decision makers God taught David to lead, and to lead with precision and excellence. I'd think any day in that cave could have had the potential to be an experience just short of a full-blown prison riot. Yet somehow David kept this group of testosterone soaked, angry at the world revolutionaries together. And a lot of losers became a band of brothers. Grace forges new hope when God remakes us.