DAVID’S DESIRE FOR THE WATER OF THE WELL OF BETHLEHEM
2Sa_23:15-17. And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Beth-lehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought if to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord. And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it.
THE best of men are liable to err: but in this they differ widely from the ungodly, that they are glad, as soon as they find out their error, to have it rectified. David inconsiderately expressed a wish for some water out of the well of Bethlehem; but when he saw what his inconsiderateness had occasioned, and especially what might have arisen from it, he was grieved at himself for what he had done, and rejected with abhorrence the gratification which he had before desired.
This anecdote respecting him may appear unworthy of a distinct consideration: but it is in reality very instructive. Let us consider,
This wish of David’s—
To view it aright, we must notice it,
As foolishly indulged—
[That water was not necessary to him; for his army was not at all reduced to straits for want of water: and by the circumstance of its being in the possession of his enemies, it was unattainable, unless his enemies should be first subdued. To wish for it therefore merely to gratify his appetite, was foolish; and to express that wish to others was wrong. But in him we see a picture of human nature in general: all are wishing for something which they do not possess, though it be neither necessary to their welfare, nor easy to be attained. “Ye desire and have not,” is the account given of men by the voice of inspiration [Note: Jam_4:2. See the Greek.]; and it characterizes all from early childhood, till age or infirmity has cured the disease — — — This tendency of our minds is decidedly sinful, inasmuch as it argues discontent with the lot assigned us by Providence, and too high an estimation of the things of time and sense [Note: Num_11:4-5.]. God, and heavenly things, may be desired with the utmost intenseness of our souls [Note: Psa_42:1-2; Psa_63:1.]: but earthly things, whatever they may be, are no further to be desired than as God may be enjoyed in them, or glorified by them [Note: Psa_73:25.]: and, as David in this wish had respect to nothing but mere personal gratification, he so far acted in a way unworthy of his high character.]
As rashly countenanced—
[Three of his most distinguished warriors determined, if possible, to gratify his desire; and, of their own accord, without any order from him, cut their way through the Philistine army, drew the water, and brought it to him. This was rash and presumptuous in the extreme. Had they been moved to it by God, as David was to go against Goliath with a sling and a stone, or as Jonathan was to climb up a rock, and, unsupported by any one but his armour-bearer, to attack a Philistine garrison, they would have acted right; because in executing the divine will they might expect the divine protection: but to go on such an errand without any command either from God or man, was to expose themselves unnecessarily to the utmost peril, and in reality to tempt God. Doubtless a contempt of danger is a great virtue in a soldier; but it may be unduly exercised: and we are persuaded that, before men put their lives in jeopardy, they should inquire, whether the occasion be sufficiently important to demand it, or, at least, whether they be called to it in the way of duty.]
As piously suppressed—
[When the water was brought to him, he refused to drink of it; and, with a mixture of shame and gratitude, poured it out as a drink-offering unto the Lord. To him it appeared, that the drinking of it would be like drinking the blood of his most faithful servants: and therefore, much as he had desired it before, he would on no account gratify his appetite at such an expense. This argued true love to those who had served him at so great a risk, and genuine piety towards God, whose merciful kindness he thus gratefully acknowledged. But how little of such self-denial is there in the world! how few, when a desired gratification is within their reach, will abstain from the indulgence of it, from the consideration of the evils which may accrue to the object that administers to their delight! — — — If however we condemn David for cherishing such a wish, we cannot but applaud the forbearance he exercised in reference to it, when it was obtained.]
Let us now contemplate,
The lessons to be learned from it—
How strong a principle is love!
[Love dictated the measure which these soldiers took: whilst therefore we disapprove the act, we must admire the principle from which it proceeded. It is a principle “strong as death;” nor can “many waters quench it.” It is a principle also by which, not soldiers only, but persons in every situation and relation of life should be actuated: and how happy would it be for the world, if it operated universally in its full extent! How happy if, in our social and domestic circles, the only contest was, who should shew most love, and exert himself in the most self-denying way for the good of others! This is the spirit which God himself approves [Note: Heb_10:24.]; and the Lord grant it may increase and abound amongst us more and more [Note: 1Th_3:12.]!]
How should we delight to exercise love towards our Lord Jesus Christ in particular!
[He is “the Captain of our salvation,” and “of all the hosts of Israel:” and he has opened to us access to the waters of life, “of which whosoever drinketh shall never thirst [Note: Joh_4:10; Joh_4:13-14.].” Moreover, to effect this, he has not merely jeoparded his life, but actually laid down his life: knowing assuredly all the sufferings he must endure in order to procure these blessings for us, he voluntarily undertook our cause, and never drew back, till he could say, “It is finished.” Is He not then worthy to be loved by us? Yea, should there be any bounds to our love to him? Should we not be “willing to be bound, or even to die, for his sake?” Surely, whatever dangers we may be encompassed with, we should say, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me,” so that I may but fulfil his will, and promote his glory.]
With what grief and indignation should we mortify every sinful desire!
[When once we see what sin has done, we shall see what it merits at our hands. It was to counteract the effects of sin, that Jesus shed his blood. Shall we then indulge sin of any kind? However gratifying it may be to our feelings, should we not say, like David in our text, “Is not this the blood of God’s only dear Son, even of my best Friend, who laid down his life for me? I will not drink it; I will sacrifice my every lust unto the Lord.” Ah, Brethren! look at sin in this view: and if it be dear to you as a right eye, or apparently as necessary as a right hand, do not hesitate one moment to cast it from you with abhorrence; humbling yourselves for having ever conceived a desire after it, and adoring your God that it has not long since involved you in everlasting death and misery.]