These three chapters of 1 Chronicles narrate the transition of power from Saul to David. David was meant to be king some time ago, but Saul refuses to relinquish the throne even though God has turned away from Saul to David (1 Sam. 15-16). From there until where we find ourselves in 1 Chronicles, Saul pursues David in order to eliminate any rival to the throne.
Ironically, David fought for Israel, even while Saul continued his pretend leadership. David even passed up opportunities, willfully, to kill Saul when he had the chance. Indeed, it would be as the Philistines defeated Israel in battle, killing Saul’s sons, that Saul would take his own life. And then, in an extreme gesture of love and forgiveness, David’s men would steal back the remains of Saul and his sons and give them a proper burial.
Upon David’s anointing as king, the chronicler gives credit where credit is due: David’s “mighty men.” These men, though few in number were an elite fighting force who would do anything for David and the Lord.
David longingly hopes for a drink from the well of Bethlehem, his hometown. Bethlehem was under Philistine rule and a large number of troops were there (strategically, it was the largest town in the area and it was easy to move south to the coast and north up through the Jordan River valley, or down to Jericho), so waltzing into town and getting to the well, which would have been guarded, was not an option.
But overhearing David’s lament, three of his mighty men went and did just what he asked: they brought back a cup of water from the well in Bethlehem. This amazing feat lets David know just what kind of men he has on his hands—they are not only capable, but willing to sacrifice their lives for a cup of water. These were the men God used to protect David and to put David in a place where he could assume his rightful position as king.
These men would also be the ones who, along with David, would make Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Jebus, as it was known before David took it, was inhabited by the Jebusites, a Canaanite tribe. (There is a lot I could say about the Jebusites, from Melchizedek to Zadock, but I will leave that for you to explore.) In a daring surprise attack, David and his mighty men took the city around 1,000 b.c., establishing it as the political, as well as the spiritual, home for the people Israel.
We need to remember David’s mighty men, as we have very little of their cut in our own day. Values like faithfulness, commitment, integrity, and courage are too selfless to be regarded in today’s world. They are often perceived as coming from places of weakness. To be faithful is to be blind, to be committed is to be shortsighted, to be a person of integrity is to be inflexible, and to be courageous is to be judgmental.
Curiously enough, these are traits the Holy Spirit gives us. These are values that believers are endowed with. And so, as in David’s day, we live in an age where there are only a few in number who will stand.