David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!"
2 Samuel 23:13-17. The "hold" that is mentioned is probably the frontier fortress of Adullam, on the Philistine border, "which, from its strength and position and the neighbourhood of the caverns, was judged by David to be the best place of defence against the invasions of the Philistines." Robinson says, "There is no well of living water in or near the town of Bethlehem." "There is, however, a cistern of 'deep, clear, cool water,' called by the monks David's well, about three-quarters of a mile to the north of Bethlehem. Possibly the old well has been filled up since the town was supplied with water by the aqueduct." Josephus speaks of the well as being near the gate. David would not drink of the water when it was brought him, for this reason - he looked upon it, not as water, but as blood, seeing that it had been procured at the hazard of men's lives; and, knowing that it was forbidden by the Law to drink blood (Leviticus 17:11, 12), he poured it out upon the ground as a solemn offering unto the Lord, and as a thanksgiving for the preservation of their lives.
I. DAVID'S HOME FEELINGS. In him there was strong family affection. This is seen in his relations with his grown-up sons. There was also strong attachment to his early home, the place of his youthful associations. Strong home feeling is usually found in the inhabitants of hilly and mountainous countries; as may be illustrated from the mal-du-pays, the characteristic sickness of the Swiss when away from their mountains. It does not appear that David did more than give utterance to a suddenly conceived wish. It was an impulsive utterance, which he did not mean should be taken as a command. Herein is given us a lesson on the importance of guarding carefully our speech, watching the door of our lips. He is not wise who utters all he feels. It is a great grace to be enabled to keep silence.
II. THE DEVOTION OF DAVID'S FOLLOWERS. This is one of the most interesting features of the incident. It brings to view the relations between David and his men, and helps us to realize the fascination which David exerted. Some men have this power over their fellows - a gracious power, if they use it to lead their fellow-men to higher and holier things; a fatal power, if they make it the means of dragging others down to their own doom. It may be pointed out that special gifts ensure this kind of leadership. Of these, grace of body, generosity of disposition, a skill of getting on others level, an absence of stir-assertive pride, and a winning geniality of manner, are important. If God gives grace of natural disposition, such as wins for us general favour, let us remember that this brings its holy burden of responsibility.
III. THE PROWESS IN WHICH DEVOTION FOUND EXPRESSION. Estimate it from a military point of view. It could but be regarded as a "foolhardy "enterprise; and yet the very suddenness and dash of it almost guaranteed its success. To gratify a wish these men would imperil their lives.
IV. THE PIOUS ESTIMATE OF THE VALUE OF LIFE. This tended to bind David's followers yet more closely to him. Such considerateness for them showed his loving and thoughtful and pious character. It was worth while serving one who eared for them so tenderly. Compare Wellington's personal interest in his soldiers, and the personal enthusiasm which he created. The sense of the value of human life is the very foundation of social morality, it stays man's hand from being lifted up against his fellow-man. And respect for man's best treasure - his life - finds varied expression in respect for all his other treasures and possessions. We will not injure him, in his life, nor in taking anything that is his. Lead on to show how the value of life is enhanced when we add to it two considerations -
(1) Man's immortality;
(2) man's salvation, through a sacrifice of infinite value. - R.T.
Now three of the thirty captains went down to the rock to David.
I. THE BASE ACCEPTANCE OF THE INCALCULABLE RISKS AND TOILS AND SORROWS OF OTHER MEN is to be noted in —
1. Those in whom is developed the undue love of command and the imperious appetite for personal distinction. The monarchs of the older world who remorselessly sacrificed blood and treasure to build themselves impregnable cities, or to erect stately sepulchres. The Eastern chieftain who bade his warrior take the needless death-leap. Napoleon Bonaparte.
2. In those simply selfish ones who have not yet risen high enough to afford themselves the luxury of tyranny. Their maxim is "Everybody for himself." I have heard of a farmer, whose parcel of ground one might ride round in a couple of hours, express an eager desire for a war between two great powers, since it would probably enrich him. Merchants and millowners have not been free from such wishes. All this is to batten on flesh and blood.
3. In the indifferent many of us are like the receivers of stolen property, only too satisfied to receive and to ask no questions. We expect all the machinery of our life to work with regularity, but are coldly indifferent to the means. Let us learn from David a view of life diviner and therefore more humane.
II. THINK OF THE HEROIC WATER-FETCHING THAT LIES BEHIND OUR OWN LIFE.
1. Historically. Whole civilisations lie behind us; the Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman — each has contributed its quota and we inherit the best of each. Do we reflect, with sufficient gratitude to God and man, on that costly part of which we are — the result?
2. The present day. Our life is enriched by the multitudinous toil of those who remain unknown, and often scantily rewarded. David's words are not without meaning to us under existing social conditions.
3. Let us step on to more personal ground.(1) Some of us are where we are through the wonderful devotion of our parents.(2) Some of us, later on in life, have been saved by the generous resolve and clinging faithfulness of those whom it cost a great effort to befriend us.
III. WHAT DOES DAVID'S VIEW LEAD US TO?
1. Solemn thoughtfulness. What are we that all this should have been done for us? We ought to learn reverence for that majesty of history which the children of the market-place deride. We ought to view our privileges with a more anxious sense of responsibility.
2. The acceptance of such services as have been referred to is inevitable, for we cannot unmake history or sever ourselves from the complex influences of the present order of society. But what does rest in every man's power is to form his own estimate of the value of such services and to decide what use their sacred splendour or gentle unselfishness urge him to put them to.
3. The impulse to self-abnegation which we see in David. This is the practical tendency of all such lives and deeds. The legend of Curtius, self-devoted that he might save the State, may have been simply a concrete personification of the general patriotism of early Rome; but it gave memorable impulses to later generations. It was not absent from the mind of Regulus; it helped to cheer the Roman legions in Parthia and Persia and amid the German swamps and forests. God has set our lives in a framework of noble and unceasing sacrifice. In this old Jewish story we have a significant though undesigned illustration of the transcendent sacrifice of Christ. He has brought us the true "living water."
(T. Rhys Evans.)
I. A MANIFESTATION OF DEVOTED LOYALTY. What ought we to venture for our King Jesus?
II. HIGH APPRECIATION OF SERVICE. David pours it out before the Lord as the only One who is worthy to receive so great a sacrifice. Some might blame him for appearing to throw a slight on the act of the brave men — judicious waste. Some had indignation when the woman broke the alabaster box of ointment over Christ's feet; but He looked at it in another light — He approved that loving, loyal, lavish "waste." Only selfish souls could be indifferent to the lives of others. His act was not like that of the Pasha in the Russo-Turkish war who, when English doctors went to him at a great cost, eager to help the wounded Turkish soldiers, repulsed them and firmly declined to receive their services. What ought to be our feeling towards our King who has broken through the ranks of evil, to gain for us the water of Life?
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Sunday Companion.A window in the chapel of the Lichfield Cathedral has a special meaning. It is one of several windows presented by the officers and men who had served in New Zealand during the Maori War, in token of their gratitude for Bishop Selwyn's attention to their welfare in that campaign. It is a medallion depicting David in the act of pouring out the longed-for "water of the well of Bethlehem," procured for him by "the three mighty men" at the risk of their lives. This medallion commemorates the similar heroic action of a Christian Maori who had been a pupil of Dr. Selwyn's when he was Bishop of New Zealand. This Maori, Henere Taratoa, when the war broke out, felt hound to join his tribe. He was placed in charge of a fortified village known as the formidable "Gate Psalm" The British troops stormed the pa, and were repulsed with great slaughter. Several wounded officers were left inside the village, mad one of them feebly moaned for water. There was no water to be had, the nearest being within the British lines. At night this young Christian Maori crept down, at the risk of his life, within the line of English sentries, filled a vessel with water, and carried it back to the pa to refresh his dying enemy's lips. The next day the British again stormed the place, and Henere was killed. On his person was found the text of Holy Scripture which had suggested the deed: "If thine enemy thirst, give him drink!"
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