If you ever read Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, you will soon come across a drink offering. The ground is almost soggy with them! The act of pouring wine and other liquids on the ground in honor of the gods was common in Greek, Roman, and other Middle Eastern cultures. The Bible also mentions the drink offering. But what was understood in those societies seems strange to us, as in the following story:
Then three of the thirty chief men went down and came to David in the harvest time to the cave of Adullam, while the troop of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. David had a craving and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!” So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord; and he said, “Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did. (2 Sam. 23:13-17)
In our culture, pouring a liquid on the ground seems a waste. It’s one thing if it came from the supermarket, but war-water! If I had risked my neck and had fought my way through a camp of Philistines to collect a little well water, I would have been upset with King David. “What do you mean, you’re not going to drink it? Are you kidding me?”
David’s drink offering presents us with a problem when our values do not align with his. So, consider the relative value of three things in the story: the water, the lives of the mighty men, and the drink offering to God.
- Modern societies often take water for granted. We are known for being wasteful. Even so, tipping a tumbler of it on the ground is generally understood as a needless waste. Ancient Mediterranean people probably valued water more than we do.
- We place a high price on life. David seemed to recognize the value of life too. He equated the water with the blood that his three warriors had risked spilling. “All the more reason not to throw it away,” responds the average person today—until we get to the third item that needs valuing.
- The value of a drink offering to God can only be understood in terms of who God is and what an offering represents. If we doubt God’s existence then giving anything to Him would be very silly. If God is distant, uncaring, or impotent then He would not be worthy of much of an offering. But if we know how great, loving, and powerful our heavenly Father is, then we will gladly pour our very lives out for Him. The act of offering something to God is an act of worship.
David understood that the liquid in his hand was more precious than mere water; he valued it in terms of the best blood in his army. There is no record of any objections from the mighty trio when they saw what David did. They understood the honor of having their hard won water poured on the ground as a drink offering to God. What greater honor could there be for them or for God? David’s libation said that the water was a worthy offering for God Most High, and that God was worthy of the priceless water.
Do you consider God worthy of your life?
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