What has been like water from the well of Bethlehem to you recently? Love, friendship, spiritual blessing? Then at the peril of your soul you take it to satisfy yourself. If you do, you cannot pour it out before the Lord.
How am I to pour out spiritual gifts, or natural friendship, or love? How can I give them to the Lord? In one way only—in the determination of the mind, and that takes about two seconds. If I hold spiritual blessings or friendship for myself they will corrupt me, no matter how beautiful they are. I have to pour them out before the Lord, give them to Him in my mind, though it looks as if I am wasting them, even as David poured the water out on the sand, to be instantly sucked up.
Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity (Revell, 2002), p. 66.
Elisabeth Elliot is referring here to a time in the Old Testament when the Israelites were at war with the Philistines (2 Sam. 23:13-17). King David, in a fit of homesickness, cried out for a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem, and three of his mighty men broke through the Philistine hold and fetched a cup of water for him at the peril of their lives. When they presented the water to their king, he could not drink it, but poured it out upon the sand as an offering to the Lord. I didn’t understand this at first. It seemed so ungrateful of David to pour out the water that his friends had gone to so much trouble to fetch for him. But the way Elisabeth explains it makes perfect sense. David could not drink the water because it represented the blood of his fellow soldiers. It was too precious to be casually consumed upon his thirst.
Even so, the passions that I may feel which cannot be satisfied within the bond of marriage are holy and of great price. The only thing I can rightfully do with them is pour them out on the sand as a sacrifice to my God. If I dare to indulge in sexual pleasures outside of marriage, then I cheapen both myself and my friend. Instead, I come before God with open arms, thankful for the opportunity to present a sacrifice worthy of Him.
David said, “I will not offer to the Lord my God that which cost me nothing” (2Sa. 24:24). Self-denial costs me a great deal. I offer it willingly to the One who gave His life for me.
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Elisabeth Elliot’s writing has greatly influenced my life, even as a grown married woman. I truly wish someone had introduced me to her works when I was a teenager, but I am learning that it is never too late to incorporate the principles she teaches: namely, that passion is not sinful and purity is not prudish. Nor are they mutually exclusive. You can have both.
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