There are many kinds of offerings found in the Bible. They differ in what they are for (sin, thanksgiving, fulfillment of a vow, fellowship, etc.) and how they are presented (waved, burned, poured). In Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6, Paul refers to himself as one of those offerings—a drink offering being poured out. Jesus, when He presents the cup at the Last Supper, says His blood is poured out for us for the forgiveness of sin, and has us partake of that cup as a sign of identification with that offering.
In a messianic reference in Psalm 22:14 it says, “I am poured out like water…” All of this pouring is symbolic of an emptying, a sacrifice of total commitment, a spentness without remedy. When something liquid is poured out, it is gone.
Another implication of the idea of being poured out is that of intention. This isn’t a case of “knocked over and accidently spilled.” This isn’t a case of being a victim of circumstances. This is a deliberate act of emptying oneself in worship (service) to God. It is saying, “I am emptying myself in a way that is irretrievable to me. There is no going back.” It is as Isaiah says, “I have set my face like flint” (50:7). This is an act of determination.
This is not to say there aren’t times when we face circumstances beyond our control that we are also faced with a decision to be poured out. Our attitude of surrender to the sovereignty of God in difficult times is also a type of pouring out. It isn’t a fatalistic acceptance, but a deliberate act of faith. It is a positive decision to trust God beyond what we can see or comprehend. When faced with the decision to honor God or obey the king, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego said, “Our God is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand…But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship your image of gold you have set up.” The circumstances were beyond their control, but not their decision. They poured out their lives as an offering; irretrievable to them, but not to God. They trusted His sovereign goodness over the situation, and live or die, they were His.
The incident of David and his mighty men is one “poured out” sacrifice that stands out (1 Chronicles 11). David was wistfully reminiscing about the taste of the water from a well in his boyhood hometown of Bethlehem, which was now in enemy-held territory. Some of his brave and loyal men risked their lives in order to bring him some of the water, but instead of drinking it, David poured it out as an offering to God. To him it was no longer just water, but a symbol of the even more precious commodity of the lives and blood they had risked to obtain it.
I have often wondered if the men who took that risk to get that libation saw it as a waste or as worship when David poured it out. I imagine that as the world watches saints pour out their lives there are many who view is solely as a waste. The history of the Church is replete with examples of people whose lives were very promising by the world’s standards, but who threw all of that aside to serve God in some dark, obscure corner of the globe. There are individuals whose lives ended too soon, by the standard of the world, yet, like Jim Elliot, knew that they were “not fools to give what they could not keep to gain what they could not lose.”
The experience of being poured out is not isolated to commitment to full-time service or martyrdom. When Jesus said, “He who seeks to save his live will lose it, and he would will give his life for my sake will find it,” He was speaking to each of us. As stated earlier, pouring out indicates total commitment, total surrender, and we all face that decision and challenge regularly. When God touches our hearts regarding some character issue with which He wants to deal, or some obstacle to obedience He wishes to remove, we often resist, wanting to save that part of our life, our flesh. We may begin to pour the cup out, but hold back after a splash or two hits the ground, thinking, “This is much too good to waste.” But we know in our hearts God is calling us to total surrender. Saul and his men saw it that way when they held back the best of the flocks from the annihilation that God had demanded in judgment of the Amalekites. “This was too good to waste,” they thought. “If we just keep it, and maybe sacrifice it, or some of it…surely God wouldn’t want us to waste this.”
The problem is, when we are not poured out completely (when we are too full of ourselves), we cannot be completely refilled. God does some pouring out of His own. God pours out His Spirit. The more empty we are of self, the more of the control of the Holy Spirit we can receive.
We must each look at the status of our cup. Have we intentionally poured it out, or are we holding back on something we know should go, irretrievably into His hands?
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