Sunday, April 13, 2008

3 Mighty Men, 1 Daring Deed

These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time. And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away: He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil. And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory. (II Samuel 23:8-12)

The three foremost among a band of outstanding warriors were Adino, Eleazar and Shammah -- I think of them as Deano, Lee and Sam. They accompanied David when he was a fugitive from the unrighteous wrath of King Saul. They were strong men, proven in war and confident in their skills.

One night, David and his men sat about the campfire at their hideaway in the Cave of Adullam. A courier brings ill tidings. It seems that a troop of Philistines had garrisoned at the village of Bethlehem, David's boyhood home.

The king-to-be reminisces about the trips he made with his father and brothers to the village. He recalls the taste of water from the village well -- cold and refreshing after the long, dusty walk. As David remembers out loud, the firelight plays on the sword that Lee hones; nearby Deano rebinds the head of his spear; and Sam sits farther back in the shadows, fletching arrows by practiced touch.

Then David exclaims, " Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!" (II Sam. 23:15) Deano flashes a meaningful glance at Lee, and then both look over at Sam and all they see in the darkness is the whiteness of his teeth, exposed by the broadest of grins. They know what they are going to do, what they are compelled to do -- for their beloved captain wants a drink.

So silently and furtively do they slip away that neither David nor any of the others takes notice of their departure. What follows would make a great scene in an action movie. The three come upon the Philistines as they sleep, dispatch the sentries, and nearly make it to the well before a host of the enemy rushes them.

The clash of swords and confusion of battle intrudes itself into his quarters as a still-sleepy Philistine commander demands to know what is going on. Breathless, an aide cries, "The Hebrews are upon us."

"What? Where? How many?"

"In the town square, sir. Three, sir."

The commander hastily begins to pull on his armor. "How did we allow only three companies of ragged Israelites to fight their way to the town square?"

The aide really does not want to tell him: "Not three companies, sir . . . three . . . men." The commander explodes out of his quarters into a bizarre scene of blood, death and three amazing men who fight and laugh and toss a water skin back and forth in a strange game -- seemingly to add more challenge to battle.

They do not return unscathed. They have slain many Philistines, but some of their own blood lies mingled in the street with the blood of their enemies. They have returned nonetheless elated, flushed with victory and eager to present David with a drink from his hometown.

Your wish is my command. This statement has become hackneyed over time and in our cynicism we view it as a sycophantic phrase from the lips of lackeys. But once, long ago, three mighty men of immeasurable heart and unswerving loyalty embraced that ideal and sealed their commitment in blood.

Their leader may have sat in a cave in the hinterlands of Israel, but he was the rightful king, and if he wanted a drink, even from the far side of hell, then he should have it. And when David saw and understood the gift and the motives from which it sprang, he knew he could not -- MUST not drink it. For one thing, I'm sure he did not want to encourage the rest of his men to go out on hare-brained quests to prove their loyalty.

For another, that kind of loyalty should be reserved to One alone. And to Him David poured out the water as a drink offering. It also served as an object lesson to show his men to whom such devotion belongs, and to remind them of their true strategic objective.

So, Christian Martialist, where lies your heart? Where lies your loyalty? We are men in training for the King and by the Book. Our King is Jesus. Is His wish your command?

(The story comes from II Samuel 23:13-17, although various details spring from the imagination of a certain gravelbellied old sheepdog who wishes he could have been there to see it.)
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1 comment:

dlr said...

Good post!