Summary: A sermon to observe Black History Month.

“If Only…”

Pastor V. P. Oliver

2 Samuel 23:13-17

“And three of the thirty went down at the start of the grain-cutting, and they came to David at the strong place of Adullam; and the band of Philistines had taken up their position in the valley of Rephaim. And at that time David had taken cover in the strong place, and an armed force of the Philistines was in Beth-lehem. And David, moved by a strong desire, said, If only someone would give me a drink of water from the water-hole of Beth-lehem, by the doorway into the town! And the three men, forcing their way through the Philistine army, got water from the water-hole of Beth-lehem, by the doorway into the town, and took it back to David: but he would not take it, but, draining it out, made an offering of it to the Lord. And he said, Far be it from me, O Lord, to do this; how may I take as my drink the life-blood of men who have put their lives in danger? So he would not take it. These things did the three great men of war.”

This obscure episode in the distinguished and well-documented life of King David serves as an opportunity to reflect back on the rich history of African American people as we observe Black History Month. “If only…” these two words, which David sighed, betrayed his thoughts of a past time when he enjoyed, not only the refreshing water from the well at Bethlehem, but a time of peace and order. These same two words have often fallen from our own lips as we have reflected back on past times or lost opportunities. The words “if only” are uttered when looking back in retrospect on a situation or event and wishing for another opportunity to do it or experience it again. That’s because “if only” also involves 20/20 hindsight. If we knew then what we know now, things would be different or better. ”If only” also speaks of something hoped or longed for.

Not realizing that anyone was listening, David said to himself, “If only someone would give me a drink of water from the waterhole of Bethlehem.” The Bible says that three of his “mighty men” at great risk to their own lives, forced their way past enemy guards to the well at Bethlehem, filled a wineskin with water, and fought their way back to David’s camp in one of the caves near the valley of Rephaim. 2 Samuel 23 is an account of David’s men of valor. Their acts of bravery are recorded in this chapter.

There was Adino who, the record says lifted up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time.(Vs.8)

There was Eleazar who fought a great number of Philistines for an entire day until his hand grew stiff and tired from gripping the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day.(Vs.9)

And there was Shammah who, single-handedly stood and defended a small parcel of land from the Philistines and the Lord was victorious.(Vss.11, 12)

These men possessed qualities that we should emulate:

Adino overcame against great odds.

Eleazar pressed his way even though he was weary and his body wanted to stop.

Shammah stood his ground - he stood for something worth dying for.

The Bible says that these three were with David when they heard his words longing for a drink from the well at Bethlehem. And because of their great personal courage and love of David, they risked their lives to satisfy their king’s request.

May I suggest to you today that recorded in our own history are the names of mighty men and women who wrought great victories and achievements because of their great courage and love of their own people. They too heard and responded to the words “if only.” They responded to the “if only” of a people who longed to be free and equal; these mighty men and women were responding to years of slavery and social injustice of people who collectively hoped for a better education, better jobs and a better life.


First of all, IF ONLY OF SPEAKS OF REGRET. When David uttered the words of our text his mouth spoke of a physical thirst, but his heart longed for the former days of his youth, a time of peace and simplicity. At the time of our text, David was not only at war with the Philistines, the perennial enemies of the Israelites, but King Saul and his army were also pursing him. The prophet Samuel had already anointed David as God’s chosen king of Israel, but his coronation and kingdom were some years in the future. And we hear David expressing his regrets as he longed for some cool water from the well of his childhood. The enemy now occupied his beloved Bethlehem and a he was a fugitive from the king. How had things gotten so far off course? David sighs, “if only…”

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