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Reckless Loyalty

2 Samuel 23:13-17


In some rare, good news from Detroit, Michigan, I want to tell you about the Cave of Adullam Training Academy. Founder Jason Wilson uses martial arts training and his Christian faith to get young men off the streets and train them how to live productive lives.

In 2016 the world became aware of Wilson’s intricate and emotional interactions with Detroit children in multiple viral videos. Wilson created the Cave of Adullum Transformational Training Academy in 2008, theorizing that challenging children emotionally and physically through martial arts might lead them to better everyday life. Wilson says, "What we do here is root all of our discipline in love."

Each student is issued a black Judo/Jiujitsu uniform and a compact Bible. "It's just as important to implement the spiritual side as well as the mental," Wilson said. "... We're creating a comprehensive man of God that can be emotional when he has a bad day at work or someone hurts his feelings. He can actually hug his wife and shed a tear without losing his masculinity. That's what frees a man here."

Students usually take three months for a full transformation and to pass initiation tests. Once the 14-year-old boys complete the initiation, Wilson introduces them to the community as a man.

"Growing up throughout those years without my father, I literally risked my life many times just trying to be with guys in a gang, or doing things that I knew my mother wouldn't want me to do," Wilson said. "I knew I didn't want anyone to deal with what I went through." A passion for martial arts and his natural gift for mentoring led him to establish a Detroit institution that instills self-confidence in young men, helps them cope with their emotions.

The name of the academy comes from a place mentioned in our Old Testament story today: the Cave of Adullam, where David hid from King Saul and led a group of 400 followers who were distressed, in debt or discontent, and later found glory as "Mighty Men." Wilson draws his inspiration from these historic Bible passages.

Love and loyalty can lead us in some surprising ways.

CONTEXT = David is approaching the end of his life; his last words are recorded in 23:1-7, though his death is not recorded until 1 Kings 2:10. This event is sandwiched between two descriptions of David’s mightiest men, the Three (23:8-12) and the Thirty (23:18-39). These were the men who, at one time or another, had rendered extraordinary service to the king, though not all at the same time. They were distinguished by their success in battle and their loyalty to David. This account is included to testify to their loyalty.

1. David’s men showed their loyalty in a reckless way. (13-16)

This incident must’ve happened earlier in David’s life, during a campaign against the Philistines. (13-14) Let’s observe the setting:

- Time = DURING THE HARVEST. Based on the information given in this passage, we conclude this event happened shortly after David was anointed king in 5:1-5, and had conquered his new capital city, Jerusalem, in 5:6-16. There were two Philistine incursions in reaction to David being anointed as king. Presumably, their purpose was to prevent David from using his position as the new king to unite the Israelites. We don’t know if this incident happened during the first or second incursion.

- Locations.

The CAVE OF ADULLAM. ADULLAM means “refuge.” This cave was near the city-state of Adullam that had existed from the time of Jacob. It is located twelve miles southwest of Bethlehem. It was a place where David hid to escape the wrath of the mad king Saul. It is also the first place where he began to assemble an army of his own, with 400 men. (2 Samuel 22:1-2) David may have written Psalm 142 during his time hidden in this CAVE.

The VALLEY OF REPHAIM lay between David and Bethlehem. In 5:17-25 we read about two separate occasions when the Philistine army rose up to attack David. He defeated them both times because, in both cases, David was careful to pray to the LORD and ask whether or not to attack the Philistines. The LORD gave him victory. At the moment, however, A PHILISTINE DETACHMENT HAD OCCUPIED THE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM.

David’s offhand comment led to the Three, his top lieutenants, taking an unnecessary risk. (15-16) DAVID REMARKED LONGINGLY the sweet well water of his youth. He must have been very thirsty and emotional when he said this, for this statement to have prompted the act of unselfish bravery these men undertook.

He reminisced about “THAT GOOD WATER FROM THE WELL BY THE GATE IN BETHLEHEM.” As Bethlehem was David’s hometown, this must’ve been a memory from his youth. He may have been remembering many a hot and dusty HARVEST TIME when he would savor the cool, renewing water that flowed from the well. Whether it was a matter of taste or nostalgia, or both, David bared his heart before his men and they responded with an extraordinary act of kindness.

2. David showed his gratitude in a surprising way. (16-17)

David turned their surprising act of loyalty to an act of grateful worship. (16) Though their act of bravery must have surprised David, he refused to satisfy his thirst with water obtained at such great risk. He might have felt humbled by their selfless act.

He recognized the value of the water lay in the risk taken to obtain it. For that reason, he refused to waste it by drinking it. Instead, David offered it to the Lord, as we are to do with everything that is valuable to us. This action might seem to us, but “libation/drink offerings” were familiar to David and his men as they were prescribed in the Law of Moses. (Numbers 28:7-8) Such offerings were also given in Genesis 35:14; 2 Kings 16:13; Jeremiah 7:18; Hosea 9:4.

In verse seventeen, David explained his reasoning for pouring out the water. (17) Having obtained it at risk of their lives, David had so appreciation of their act of loyalty that he exclaimed, “THIS WATER IS AS PRECIOUS AS THE BLOOD OF THESE MEN WHO RISKED THEIR LIVES TO BRING IT TO ME.” In that sense, it would be a shame to waste the water on something as trivial as thirst. Instead, he gave up the valuable liquid as an offering to honor God.

This is a great passage to use for men’s ministry, young and old. It has action, chivalry, loyalty, and enacted faith. High standards of conduct are set; no doubt that is part of God’s purpose in preserving this account in His word. Commentator David F. Payne wrote, “In today’s world, with the stress we put on the equality of every man and woman and on the importance of the individual, we are in some danger of undervaluing special talents and of misjudging the motives and the character of political leaders. Cynicism is an easier option than loyalty. At the same time, not every leader is God-given; but God still overrules in the affairs of nations.” (Payne, pp. 263-264)

Love and loyalty can lead us in some surprising ways.

We read of a similar incident in Matthew 26:6-13, where a woman invited herself into a dinner being held in Jesus’ honor. She, however, paid Him the highest honor when she broke open an expensive jar of perfume and anointed Jesus’ head with it.

This was an extravagant gesture, pouring out an entire bottle over Jesus’ head. It was an over-the-top kind of gesture, similar to what the Three did for David.

Why did she do it? Matthew doesn’t identify the woman’s motive. Jesus explained the divine purpose of preparing His body for burial. Indeed, the very next day He was crucified and buried, so her action was very timely.

Jesus said that her act of reckless loyalty would be remembered everywhere the Good News was preached. Unselfish acts of devotion to Him deserve to be remembered.

We can follow the example of this unnamed woman and the example of the Three, voluntarily showing our devotion to God. This is not, obviously, to try to gain honor for ourselves, but to give honor to our Savior.

Giving loyally occurs in the discipline of routine giving and in the occasional gift whose great value honors the recipient.


Jason Wilson’s story found at, retrieved on 18 October 2023.

Ronald. F. Youngblood, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, 1&2 Samuel, 1992, pp. 1089-1090.

David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series, I & II Samuel, 1982, pp. 262-264.

Tim Maas, writing on, retrieved on 20 October 2023.

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