Word of the triumph of David over Goliath resounded throughout the land. The women of Israel had come out to meet the returning victor, rejoicing as they sang that "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (1 Sam 18.6-9). But in the heart of Saul there was to grow anger that such a conquest had failed him, an anger that increased in ferocity until "David arose, and fled…for fear of Saul" (1 Sam 21.10), ultimately escaping to the cave Adullam. There David the fugitive gathered around him his family, and "every one that was in distress" and impoverished due to the demands of Saul (22.2). As a consequence, David's followers increased in number to four hundred and he, the fugitive, became captain over them. Later, after they had left the cave Adullam, the company numbered six hundred (23.13).
Note the character of the company that was gathered "to him" (v.1). He was the attraction. Those who came "collected round him" (v.2, JND); he was the centre. As their captain they had confidence in him.
Note also the composition of the company at Adullam. They had come to David because they had no resources of their own. Life under Saul had brought them to poverty and distress.
In the difficult times that lay ahead Saul sought to destroy David and his followers. Note the conduct of the company, which was not always in accord with David. When the Lord instructed him to slay the Philistines at Keilah his men were gripped by fear, unwilling to go to battle, but nevertheless the Lord delivered the Philistines into their hands (23.1-5). When there was opportunity to slay Saul as he pursued David in the wilderness of Engedi, David's men urged him to do so, but David refused saying, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing" (24.1-8). When the Amalekites took captives of the woman and children of David's men they almost rebelled against him, but by continuing with him they took part in the victory when "David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away" (30.1-20).
The devotion of those who followed David when he was pursued by Saul was not forgotten. These six hundred appeared to be weak, but Saul perished at the hands of the Philistines and ultimately David sat on the throne. He did not forget the faithfulness of the band of warriors who stood with him when he was ill-regarded by many in Israel, and his last recorded words speak of them.
Amongst the unforgotten faithful there were three men who, having heard of David's desire to "drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate" (2 Sam 23.13-17), a desire that appeared impossible to meet as Bethlehem was in the hands of the Philistines, determined to satisfy David's thirst and longing. This they did with danger to their lives, and, moving through territory controlled by the enemy, brought back to David water from the well at Bethlehem. The faithfulness of these three men and of many others is found in David's list of "mighty men" who loved him, sought to please him, and served him when Saul was still in pursuit of him. Their names were not forgotten; their faithfulness was not overlooked; their place in David's heart was never in doubt (2 Sam 23.1-39).
What lessons we learn from David's men. We have found in the Lord the attraction that called us to Him. As we gather we know that He is central and we enjoy the confidence that we have in Him. We suffered from spiritual poverty, a condition that could find no remedy apart from Him. At times our devotion to Him has fallen short, but He has never failed us.
Three features marked the three men who brought David the water he desired. They were perceptive in understanding what would be pleasing to David, they were persistent in obtaining it, and they were pleased in bringing it to him to whom they owed so much. May we show our devotion to the Lord by being determined, just as were these three men, to refresh the Lord. Our desire must be to ensure that our behaviour is "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God" (Phil 4.18) no matter what difficulties there are. Look back; have we achieved this? Look forward; make it our goal. Do not let the enemy forestall us. Will it be noted in the records of heaven that we refreshed the Lord by means of devotion in worship and service?