A Strange Way to Say Thank You

I was asked to preach at a church on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and this idea popped into my head…

1st and 2nd Samuel is the story of the beginnings of the KINGdom of Israel. It starts with King Saul, but the bulk of the story is about King David, his rise to power, running from Saul, his mighty conquests, his family troubles, his big mistakes, and his zeal for God. The end of 2 Samuel records the last words of David and then goes into something like memory lane, recounting some of the exploits of David’s “Mighty Warriors” from back in the day.

The stories are very brief, but each one is intriguing and quite amazing if actually true (which I believe they are).

One guy is credited with killing 800 warriors with his spear in a single encounter. Two others are said to have defeated whole armies single-handedly while the rest of the Israelites fled. Another is said to have killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day.

It’s kind of like all these guys got together after the funeral and were catching up on old times and recalling stories of their former glory.

But there is one story that is told that came to mind when I was asked to speak. It’s not required to talk about thankfulness on Thanksgiving weekend, but after this idea got in my head I just couldn’t drop it – even though I had a paper to write, food to cook for my morning-sickness-pregnant wife, and I already have a few sermons written that I could use. None-the-less, I try my best not to brush off or ignore it when God is persistent about these kinds of things. So here here we go.

Here’s the story from 2 Samuel 23:13-17

13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam,while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

Now in reading this story within the context of our modern world, this seems very strange to us. In fact, it seems down right rude of David to dump out the water they had gone to so much trouble to get for him. What a strange way to say thank you!

In digging into a few commentaries, I learned that the act of pouring out the water was something called a “libation”, which is a drink offering poured out to God. In effect, it is sacrificing some liquid rather than something solid which is usually burned. This was one of the regular practices in the sacrificial systems under the Law and is referred to many times in both the Old and New Testament.

But why did David do this? Didn’t he think the guys would be disappointed that he didn’t drink the water they went through so much trouble to get? Perhaps you or I would think this, but David was, as God himself calls him, “a man after God’s own heart.” What David did here was the highest form of thanksgiving.

Let me break it down for you.

1. David was completely aware of just how much it cost these men to procure this item for him.

David was a warrior. He was no stranger to battle and knew exactly what kind of risk it was for just three guys to effectively take on the whole enemy for just a drink of water – “Mighty Warriors” or not… His saying “Is it not the blood of men…” indicates that he equated this water with their blood – their lives, and who was he to drink such a costly vessel?

2. David is no cold-hearted, emotionless stalwart – just read the Psalms.

David respected these men. They were close to him. In fact, he probably wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for their efforts. No doubt, this amazing act of devotion and love from them was almost overwhelming to him.

His request for water was probably just one of those things you say like “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” He didn’t expect a horse to show up on his plate, but it did, and I’m sure he was simply blown away with emotions of gratitude and humility.

3. David thanked the real provider in the best way possible.

David knew that the only one worthy of such a costly prize was God Himself. David also knew that though these men had risked their lives to obtain it, that God was ultimately responsible. These men wouldn’t exist without God. Neither would David. And it wasn’t really these men that had been protecting David all this time – it was God.

David thanked God for this provision by giving it back to Him. That is the highest form of thanksgiving. He recognized he was not worthy of it, so he gave it back, and in so doing set an example for all of us.

Now, I am not suggesting that we should go around destroying all that we own so as to give it back to God the provider. But, there is another scripture that talks about this in more practical terms:

Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

This is how we thank God for what He has done for us.

Paul spends the first 11 chapters of Romans spelling out how God, in His amazing and unchanging love for us, gave us the ultimate and most costly of gifts – His own Son. The gift of Jesus was far more than a ticket to heaven, but it was the gift of REAL LIFE here on earth. God gave us LIFE!

And the best and only way that we can thank Him for that is to offer the gift right back to Him. So, our “true and proper worship” is to give that life back to Him by offering our bodies (our lives) as “living sacrifices” to Him. This means we don’t DIE for him – we choose to LIVE for Him every minute of every day.

As Paul says elsewhere: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

And oh, what a price!

So, let us this Thanksgiving season – and every season – thank God for the lives He has given us by giving them back to Him. This is, after all, our “reasonable service.” (NKJV)

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