I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group through the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I’ll continue to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you’ll come to understand why a person once wrote, “A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor.”
My next message was presented at the famous oasis of Ein Gedi at the Dead Sea. There we’ll learn of something amazing that King David did which demonstrated he had a true heart for God.
Oasis in the Desert
The famous oasis of Ein Gedi is located in a canyon along the rim of the Dead Sea. The mud in the Dead Sea is full of sulfur, so it has medicinal qualities, but it makes the water undrinkable. It is really not possible to swim in the Sea either because it is too buoyant. All you can do is float. So, when people come to the Dead Sea, they need fresh water. They’ll find water coming from an oasis located about a mile further up the canyon. This is one of the few oasis out at the Dead Sea. It has been there forever, and it’s a place where David used to come and hide from King Saul. David had a lot of hideouts in the desert, and Ein Gedi was one of them.
When you’re in a place like Ein Gedi, all you can think about is water, because if you don’t have water you will not exist very long out in the Dead Sea area. I remember a number of years ago there was a very, very famous Episcopal bishop who came over to Israel and he came down into the Judean Wilderness. He decided to go out and walk around, and he got lost. They found his body a couple weeks later. He had simply just died from heat exhaustion. It can happen very quickly if you don’t have water. So, when you are in the Dead Sea area, you think about water all the time.
When you read David’s psalms, I hope you will remember Ein Gedi. Take for example Psalm 63. Here David in the superscription of the psalm says, “A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” That is the Dead Sea area. Look at what David says, “O God, you are my God; early I will seek you. My soul thirsts for you as in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” That’s David’s passion for God! His passion for God is the same as a man in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water who is passionately desiring and yearning for water. He says, “Because your loving kindness is better than life my lips shall praise you. Thus I will bless you while I live. I will lift up my hands in your name.”
Another example is to be found in Psalm 42. There we have a psalm of the sons of Korah who were trained by David. In Psalm 42 we have this comment, “As a deer pants for water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for you, O God. I thirst for the living God.” All throughout the Scriptures you find these allusions to thirst, because in this land water is everything.
The Heart of David
I want to share with you a story from the life of David that really has impacted my life over the years. The story is told twice in the Scriptures. It is told once in 2 Samuel, and it is told again in the Chronicles. It’s the story about David hiding out in the wilderness when Saul was trying to kill him.
David was hiding at one of his hideouts, though not in Ein Gedi at that time. The hideout referenced was closer to Bethlehem. David was at his hideout and he was there with his mighty warriors. This was actually after he had become king, but it was early in his kingship, and the Philistines had come and just flat run him out of Bethlehem. As you know, David’s original headquarters was in Bethlehem before he moved it to Jerusalem because the Philistines had run him out. So, David was a king with very little power at that time and he was hiding out there in the wilderness.
David and his soldiers were sitting around a campfire one night and suddenly David makes an offhand comment which went something like, “You know what I would like right now more than anything else in the world? A taste of the water from my hometown of Bethlehem.” He stretched and yawned and crawled back up into a cave and went to sleep.
Those men who loved him with their lives said, “If that is what David wants, that’s what David is going to get.” That night, three of those men spent the entire night traveling back to Bethlehem, sneaking through the Philistine lines at the risk of their own lives. They got a bucket of water out of the well at Bethlehem. Then they snuck it back through the Philistine lines and walked all the way back to David’s camp.
Have you ever carried five gallons of gasoline? It’s heavy. Water can be very heavy, too.
David’s men carried the bucket of water all the way back. Just in my mind’s eye, I can see that they put that bucket of water right in front of David’s cave, then the three of them sat down and grinned like Cheshire cats waiting for him to come out. I can imagine him coming out that morning and stretching and looking out over the Dead Sea, and then looking down and seeing that bucket of water and seeing those three guys sitting there grinning.
David asked, “What’s this?” And they said, “David, you said last night what you wanted most in all the world was a bucket of the water of Bethlehem. Well, here it is.” David replied, “Do you mean you went all the way to Bethlehem and you snuck through the Philistine lines at the risk of your own lives to get this bucket ow water?” They exclaimed, “That’s right, David, because we love you. We wanted to honor you.”
Just like that, David did something that must have just astounded them all. Without even thinking, he just reached down and picked up the bucket of water and said, “This water is too valuable for me to drink it. There is only one thing that can be done with it. It must be given to God as a sacrifice.” And David poured the water out on the ground.
That was the kind of man David was. He had a passion for God like no one else. In the Scriptures it says he was a man after God’s own heart. He did things like this all the time just spontaneously.
When David became king of all of Israel, the first thing he said was, “I will not sleep in a bed until the Ark of the Covenant has a proper resting place. I will sleep on the ground as the King of Israel until the Ark has a proper resting place.” He then went to Kiriath-Jearim and got the Ark and he danced before it all the way to Jerusalem. David was dancing in his underwear! He had taken off his outer robes. As he came to Jerusalem dancing before the Ark, Scriptures say his wife was astonished and embarrassed. She reprimanded him. But he said to the effect, “Honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” She was struck barren by God because she had the audacity to criticize his worship.
Yes, David was a sinner and he committed murder and he lied. He was just a human being like all of us. But, he had this overwhelming passion for God, and when he sinned, he always came back to God in repentance and cried out that God would forgive him. David is presented as a model for us as a man after God’s own heart.