Woven through the story of the Bible runs the thread of loyalty and devotion. David had his loyal knights of the round table – three friends steadfast in allegiance and duty – prepared to serve their ageing king in another of his endless battles with the Philistines. One day he is thirsty and naturally musing about the refreshing water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem – his birthplace, where he grew up, a town that he currently couldn’t enter – as that’s where the Philistines are camped. He remarked longingly to his men and his strange request does not deter these three ‘mighty men’ who now have a chance to prove their strength. So, single-handedly, after hiking for miles, they break through the enemy lines, see off several Philistines,draw water from the well, traipse back across the wilderness and bring a full leather canteen back to David at the cave. Mission accomplished: “Sir, you wanted water from the well in Bethlehem. Here it is sloshing around!”
David looked at them with grateful astonishment for their spontaneous devotion. They had brought him water from Bethlehem! He hadn’t commanded them to do this. Suddenly, perhaps he realizes his foolishness. So with an about turn he refuses to drink the water, instead he pours it out onto the ground in front of the men who had risked their lives for his sake. You might think how insulting. But David “poured it out as an offering to the Lord.” (2 Sam.23:16). He could not drink it as “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” (2 Sam.23:17). He’s not ungrateful, but his actions make us think. First of all he’s demonstrating that he’s not worthy of such devotion: “Don’t worship me men, worship God.” He ensures that his men keep their focus on God rather than him. And men who put themselves in God’s hand to be shaped and used have a profound effect upon others.
David’s priorities were in the right order. By pouring out the water, he’s thanking the Lord for his blessings and for the love and devotion of his subjects. The message to us is the same. Enjoy God’s blessings around you. Lent is a moment of grace if you like – to turn around and re-orientate ourselves, to rediscover the beauty and joy of knowing God’s love, and to be serious about it. In confession we humbly try to name our sin, to discover what it is in our way of living, or in our attitudes, that prevents us bearing good fruit and being a blessing to others.Seeing this in today’s context within the scope of Fairtrade and corporate multinationals reminds us that the cost to others is bound up in what we demand and consume. Shopping is a complex matter, but we go someway to helping the poor feed, clothe and educate their children by learning to consume rightly…to see third-world farmers and factory workers as our neighbours who aren’t invisible to us. God’s call on our life is present in all those moments and decisions we make – and as we push our trolley down the aisles – saying “No” (like King David with his water) because the product is not worth human cost. So in thinking about this reality, and our world, let us seek God’s forgiveness…
Gracious God, when we neglect or misuse the gifts you have given us: Please forgive us and renew us.
When we prefer our needs and comfort to those of our neighbours: Please forgive us and renew us.
When our trade is built on power and not on justice: Please forgive us and renew us.
When the earth’s bounty is used to satisfy greed rather than need: Please forgive us and renew us.
When we fail to share our abundance with the poor: Please forgive us and renew us.
When the Church fails to stand up for what it believes and to help build a fairer world: Please forgive us and renew us.
God forgives us in Christ and calls us to serve Him in the world: May people get a fair price for the goods that they produce so they may live life to the full. Amen. Thanks be to God.
Today’s world is one of gross unfairness. There’s enough for all, but because of economic, military and political reasons more than half the world’s people live in poverty. We need courage to change the things we know are wrong. Like David we must show humility before the Lord and Christian chivalry by petitioning Him with the Word:S“Lord God, defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy, deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Amen.” (Ps.82:3-4). It is also our duty as Christians to apply the message of God’s love practically to ensure His whole world flows with milk and honey and not just our small corner of it. Moreover it is our duty to take the gospel to those dry and dusty souls, as like David there are many people who are incredibly thirsty – not physically though, but spiritually. And the only well human beings need is the one that springs forth free and living water. That is Jesus Christ! There is no water more satisfying than the water of salvation He offers.
When David was brought the water from the earthly well in Bethlehem, he poured it out because it was like blood, and he knew that he wasn’t worthy of blood; blood sacrifice was always reserved for God. Therefore the precious redeeming blood of Christ that was shed on Calvary, washes away every stain of sin and purifies the soul to stand in the presence of a perfectly holy God! Jesus transformed everything because of His love and devotion to His Father’s will.
The word devotion means “ardent attachment or loyalty”. This is exactly the word that ought to describe every Christian’s relationship to God. It’s a matter of attitude. Life should be more and more God-centered and less and less self-centered. Husdon Taylor once remarked, “The intense activity of our time may lead to the neglect of personal communion.” We may try and yet fail for in the daily grind of living, forgetfulness can creep in and cause us to change priorities. Also be on guard against Satan’s attempts to divert you from Christ. Even after His resurrection, the risen and glorified Christ is still seeking the heart devotion of believers. How we so easily forget about the Lord though. We’ll talk about everything under the sun and somehow forget to even mention His name. He provides us with unspeakable riches and we do not even bother to thank Him. He is now standing outside the door, knocking to get attention and calling for admission and expressing His desire for intimate friendship: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Rev. 3:20).
Again as David shows – our devotion to the Lord is MORE important than all our activity and distractions. Pouring this water out before the Lord was his highest expression of appreciation and worship of God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman who came to draw water from the well that God was seeking the adoration of her heart, to desire the living water of the Holy Spirit: the sanctifier, the comforter, the silent shepherd – changing from the inside out (John 4:23-24).
The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains with his young grandson. Each morning, he was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible. His grandson who wanted to be just like him tried to imitate him in any way he could.
One day the grandson asked, “Grandad, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bible do?” The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal on the fire and said, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.” The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house. His grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home.
Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket, and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again. At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got far at all. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Grandad, it’s useless!”
“So you think it is useless?” The old man said, “Look at the basket” The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old coal basket, it was clean. “Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out.”
That is the work of God in our lives: to change us from the inside out, to cleanse us and to slowly transform us into the image of His son. The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). David was a man after God’s own heart and God desires to see that same self-sacrificing spirit within us.
Love in the Messiah. Blessed be the Word.