The Bible describes a time when the people of Israel had to make a choice about which king they would serve – David or Saul. Though David was God’s chosen king for Israel, he had been forced to run for his life and was reduced to living in a cave. Saul was still in control of the kingdom. He was obsessed with finding and killing David, and anyone showing loyalty to “the cave-dwelling outlaw” would be guilty of treason and put to death.
Those who were willing to remain under Saul’s rule could enjoy an easy, comfortable life, free from persecution and hardship. But there were some who refused to choose their own comfort over loyalty to the one true king. They had become dissatisfied serving a false king. They knew that choosing to serve David would mean leaving their security and comforts behind and choosing a life of difficulty over a life of ease. To join David in the cave meant living in exile, having a rock for a pillow, and being on Saul’s “most wanted” list. Yet, these men were so discontent living under Saul’s control that they became willing to give up their very lives in order to serve the one true king. So they made the courageous choice to go to David and pledge their lives to his service. (See 1 Samuel 22:2.)
When these brave men left Saul’s camp to dwell in the lowly cave with the true king, their lives were not comfortable or easy. They were hunted and hated, just as David was. They took on David’s reproach and became known as traitors, just like he was. And yet, they developed such a deep, unshakable love and loyalty to their king that nothing else mattered but serving and honoring him. David’s name means “beloved,” and his followers treated him as such. They knew that, even with all its risks and hardships, serving David was the most fulfilling and amazing life they could ever choose.
David’s men powerfully demonstrated their incredible love and loyalty toward him during an event that took place during David’s exile in the cave when the Philistines had taken control of much of Israel. The soldiers were holding the town of Bethlehem hostage, the place of David’s birth. Parched with thirst, David expressed his longing for a sip of water from a certain well in Bethlehem: “Oh that someone would give me water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate” (1 Chron. 11:17)!
It would have been a death mission for David to send any of his men to the well, which was surrounded by enemy soldiers. His statement had merely been wishful thinking: “If only it were possible for me to quench my thirst with a drink from that well!”
But David’s men lived for only one purpose – to serve and honor God’s anointed king. Upon hearing his desire for water from that well, three of his men sprang into action. If their king wanted a drink from the well, then they were determined to get it for him at any cost.
“So the three broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless David would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord. And he said, ‘Far be it from me, O my God, that I should do this! Shall I drink the blood of these men who have put their lives in jeopardy? For at the risk of their lives they brought it” (1 Chron. 11:18-19).
Their awe-inspiring example begs the question: Do we possess that kind of to-the-death loyalty to our true King, Jesus Christ? Are we so radically devoted to Him that we will gladly exchange the comforts of Saul’s kingdom for the difficulties and dangers of David’s cave? Do we love Him so much that we will become numbered among the hunted and despised along with Him? Are we willing to charge straight into the most deadly peril, at risk of our own lives, simply to honor His slightest request?
Many of us are happy to sing songs about Christ, write about Him, and talk about Him to other believers, but often when the true test of loyalty comes, we choose personal comfort over radical abandon to Him. We might take a few small risks for our King, but if He asked for a drink from a well that was surrounded by enemy warriors, we’d reason, If I went that far in my devotion to Him, I’d be putting myself at risk. I’d be making myself vulnerable to discomfort and pain. I might even get killed. I can’t give up everything for Him; it’s just not reasonable!
But Jesus Christ gave up everything for us. And He is asking if we will give Him everything in return. Saying a whole-hearted yes to this priceless opportunity is the secret to discovering the vibrant, victorious Christianity of the Bible and finding that something more our hearts are longing for.