And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord and said, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it . . . . (2 Samuel 23:15–17)
David was battling the army of the Philistines, garrisoned in Bethlehem which was David’s hometown. He was no doubt heartsick that these pagan enemies were in this place. As he waited in a cave, he longed for the ‘good old days’ and expressed his longing by wanting to drink at the well by the gate of his beloved city. When his men heard him, they jumped to satisfy him, but he would not drink it because they risked their lives for it.
I’ve wondered about this passage. Rereading it a few times, it seems to me that probably David would rather they shared in his longing, his desire to take back Bethlehem from these Philistines. If they felt as he felt, they would see that the water was only a symbol. The real desire of their leader’s heart was far more than a drink.
Chambers opens with an application that indicates my interpretation of this passage is similar to what he believed. He writes, “What has been like water from the well of Bethlehem to you recently — love, friendship, spiritual blessing? Then at the peril of your soul, you take it to satisfy yourself. If you do, you cannot pour it out before the Lord. You can never sanctify to God that with which you long to satisfy yourself. If you satisfy yourself with a blessing from God, it will corrupt you; you must sacrifice it, pour it out, do with it what common sense says is an absurd waste.”
I know what this means in my life. God has given me blessings for which my response should have been ‘This is too great and worthy for me, it is not meant for a human being at all, I must pour it out unto the Lord.‘ Had I done it as God intended and as Chambers writes, that blessing would have poured out from me as “rivers of living water” to others.
However, I did not do it with some of His blessings. They became a personal desire for me, blessings to satisfy all the I-wants of my sinful self. Instead of refreshing others by giving it back to Jesus, those desires sidetracked me. I lost sight of what God wanted and could only see what I wanted.
I’ve read Chambers several times over the years, but his thoughts for this day went over my head. Whether he sounded weird or made me shake my head, I do not remember. I did not understand their warning. However, now I understand the connections he makes from this story in 2 Samuel and fully understand how to apply it. However, my understanding came through sad and painful experiences.
In the bigger picture, this is why God asks for obedience. His people must not clutch His blessings to ourselves or make idols or necessities out of them. As Chambers says, His blessings will become a corruption when that happens and He most certainly must take them away.