The Sacredness of the Redeemed Life
There is embedded in an unpromising Bible chapter, like a gem in a hard rock or growing like a delicate flower on a bare, cold crag—a beautiful incident which teaches a valuable lesson.
David and his men were in the cave of Adullam. They were shut in, fierce Philistines holding them in a sort of siege. Homesickness came over David. He thought of the scenes of his boyhood, not far away from where he then was. He was thirsty, too, in the burning heat, and there came memories of a cool spring which bubbled up by the gate of Bethlehem at which in his happy youth he used to drink. "David longed for water and said: Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!" 2 Samuel 23:15.
By his side stood three men who loved their leader and feared no danger. Hearing David's words they drew their swords, and, breaking through the lines of the enemy, made their way to the well, and having drawn of its sweet water they bore it back to David and presented it to him. David's heart was thrilled by this proof of loyalty and love. In his thirst, too, he longed to drink the water. But when he thought through what peril his men had brought it to him, he refused even to put it to his lips. "Far be it from me, O 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." Therefore he would not drink it, but poured it out as a sacred offering unto the Lord. It had cost too much to be used for any common purpose or for mere personal gratification; the only fit thing to do with it was to devote it to God.
The incident has its suggestions. As a general principle it teaches us that whatever comes to us at great cost should be sacred in our eyes, and should not be devoted to any common, selfish or sinful use but should be dedicated to the Lord.
A most obvious application is to our own redeemed lives. We know how the blessings of spiritual life come to us. Jesus broke through the lines of enemies and brought water fresh from the costly well of salvation. All the blessings and joys of our Christian faith, reach us through the suffering and sacrifice of Christ. Can we devote these gifts and abilities of our lives, ransomed at such cost, to any common end or use? Can we do otherwise with them than as David did with the water—make them holy offerings to God? Is any other use in keeping with their sacredness?
This self-devotedness to God must be kept pure and clean. An old commentator says, "Let the eye look upon nothing evil, and it becomes a sacrifice unto God. Let the tongue say nothing foul, and it becomes an offering unto God. Let the hand do nothing unlawful, and it becomes a recompense unto God."
An artist chiseled in marble a wonderful statue of Christ. He always believed and asserted that it was an actual vision of the Savior that had come to him and which he had carved in stone. So full of tender grace was the statue that when the artist called a child into his studio, and, pointing to the marble, asked, "Who is that?" the child looked in silence for some moments at the wondrous figure, and then in reverent tones replied, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." Untaught, the child-heart recognized in the radiant figure the features that must belong to the Redeemer.
After this the artist's name became famous, and he was asked to make statues of heathen deities for ornamental use. But he refused, saying, "A man who has seen Christ would commit sacrilege if he would employ his art in carving a pagan goddess. My art is henceforth a consecrated thing." He would never let his hands, which had fashioned the features of Christ in marble, touch any but sacred subjects.
This illustrates the true ideal of devotion to God. "The Lord has set apart the godly man for himself." The hands which take the sacramental emblems, must do no unholy work. The lips that speak the vows of love and the words of prayer, must utter no bitter words, no evil or impure words. The eye that is lifted up to look upon the suffering lamb of God and upon the holy beauty of the exalted King, must not linger an instant on anything that defiles. The heart that has been warmed by the consciousness of the love of God, must not open to any foul thought or evil desire or unholy imagination. The life that has cost the blood of Jesus, must be used to honor God and bless the world. It is too sacred to be devoted to any but holy service.
When we think deeply of this matter we see that every blessing we have is sacred, because of its cost. All along the ages whatever is good and beautiful and worthy, has been the fruit of pain.
Civilization has advanced through wars and struggles. What we are today in our happy country, we are as the result of long centuries of weary toil, of sad failure, of heart anguish, in those who have gone before us. Every advance worth recording, has been made through smoke, carnage, ruin and disaster.
Even in our common life we find illustration of this same law of cost. We cannot live a day but something must die to sustain our life. We cannot be warmed in winter, but some miner must crouch and toil in darkness to furnish fuel for our fires. We cannot be clothed, but worms must weave out their own lives in silken threads, or sheep must shiver in the chill to give us clothing. The gems folks wear, are brought to them through the anguish and peril of the poor wretches that hunt or dive for them. We cannot even pray, but pierced hands must be reached down to lift to Heaven our sighs and tears. There is not a sweet hope of our lives, which does not come to us through the blood and tears of Gethsemane and Calvary.
Surely we should not dare to spend even on ourselves, much less in sin—these solemn gifts of life, solemn because of their cost. Then we must not ourselves hope to escape suffering and sacrifice, if we would be blessings to others. We do good only at the cost of self. Christ blessed the world, not by an easy, pleasant life—but by suffering and dying for it. We never can bless the world merely by having a good time in it; we can do it only through tears and toils and sacrifices.
We are reaping now the harvests of the tears which others sowed. If we would sow anything for those to reap who follow us—then we must go forth weeping. We may not sit still in comfortable ease and feed on the blessings which others in pain and sorrow have won for us. The cup of sweet life that is before us, we may not take and lightly drink, merely to quench our own thirst; it is the blood of those who before us went in jeopardy of their lives to win it, and we must treat it as sacred, pouring it before God in consecrated offering to bless other lives.