It is an elemental fact that the basic needs for physical life are water, food, and shelter. The various survival programs on TV clearly bear this out.
David once found himself in a survival dilemma. After serving King Saul faithfully, he was hunted by his jealous king. At one point David took refuge in the “strongholds of Engedi” (1 Samuel 23:29), hiding from the murderous Saul in caves among the limestone cliffs. It was in such a cave that David had the chance to dispatch Saul, but did not do so, for he knew Saul was anointed by the Lord. So, shelter and protection David had.
But what about water? Engedi was an oasis in the desert. It was located midway up the western shore of the Dead Sea. From its six-hundred-foot cliffs flows a spring of potable water—one of only two fresh-water springs flowing into the Dead Sea. Because of the ibex which lived among those cliffs, it was called “the spring of the kid.” Thus David and his men had plenty of good drinking water.
And where there is water there is generally food. Watered by the flowing spring, there grew date palms, grapes, and fruit-bearing shrubs. No wonder Engedi was called a garden spot. And no wonder David sought refuge in this garden-stronghold.
Today we are the spiritual survivalists traveling through enemy territory. Our spiritual needs are the same: water, food, and protection. Where or to whom shall we flee? There is only One who can provide—our great Savior-God.
David himself described Him with three meaningful words in the same passage: “rock,” “fortress,” and “deliverer” (Psalm 18:2). Then and now all three speak of safety and protection, refuge and salvation. So Luther wrote of our “Mighty Fortress,” so also the poet, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.” Our Savior-God is our refuge from all our enemies.
Today, few drink water out of cisterns—water that might well be tainted with pathogens and parasites. When as a lad I cleaned out my grandparents’ cistern, I found snakes and salamanders, worms, bugs, and plenty of mud. Just as people want pure, physical water, so they should thirst after pure, spiritual water. Alas, the Old Testament Jews were rebuked for drinking water out of broken cisterns, instead of flowing springs (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus is not a polluted cistern, but provides living water—Himself—water so pure and precious that when drunk by faith it springs up into everlasting life (John 4:10,14).
As for bread, Malachi accused the priests of Israel of offering the people polluted spiritual bread (1:7). Sinners today are invited to come to Jesus, the Bread of Life. Thus He promises that whosoever eats and trusts in His atoning death shall live forever (John 6:51).
Contaminated water and polluted bread! Who would so drink and eat? Sadly, most of the world. Gangrenous false doctrine here, killing pride and self-righteousness there, failure to trust and treasure the Living Water and Bread from heaven everywhere. No wonder so many are spiritually sick and starving unto death!
Rejoice! We have it all: protection, pure Living Water, and the nourishing Bread of Life. How blessed we are! But God has saved the best for last—in heaven. There we will dwell in His holy city, with walls great and high (Revelation 21), with no sin or evil-doers of any sort allowed. In the holy city we will drink from the water of life, and be nourished by the tree of life, with her various fruits. There all the saints will dwell, never hungering or thirsting again (Revelation 22).
Truly, what a safe and blessed place! Jesus Himself called it Paradise, for it is both an eternal stronghold, and a peace garden of everlasting beauty and happiness.