The passage in question tells the story of three of David's mighty men who break through the battle line of the Philistines in order to bring David a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem. Though David had longed for the water, he does not drink of it because of the danger the men exposed themselves to in order to give to him. So, he poured the water out to the Lord. 1Chronicles 11:15-19 has a very similar parallel passage in 2Samuel 23:13-17. Here is the passage from 1Chronicles:
1Chronicles 11:15 Now three of the thirty captains went down to the rock to David, into the cave of Adullam; and the host of the Philistines encamped in the valley of Rephaim.
16 And David was then in the hold, and the Philistines' garrison was then at Bethlehem.
17 And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, that is at the gate!
18 And the three brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: but David would not drink of it, but poured it out to the LORD,
19 And said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mightiest.
At first, I was not able to see any typology in the passage. It is a wonderful story of loyalty and devotion to a leader and we can certainly learn from that. But a type is more than a practical lesson. It is a comparison of earthly relationships in a story (usually in the Old Testament) that illustrates certain spiritual relationships (usually from the New Testament). Individual items or people are often types, but when a story is looked on as a type, the key is found in the relationships. With this story, I had actually given up on finding a type. However, as I prepared to retire for the night, I saw what I will give to you below.
But before I tell you my ideas on this type, I would like to say something about types and their authority. God establishes and uses types. For instance, He compares the crucifixion of Christ to the lifting up of the brass serpent in the wilderness in John 3:14. However, types vary in the certainty of divine choice. That is, some types are clearly identified by God and others are not so clear. For my own understanding, I classify types into four categories. For ease of understanding, I call them A, B, C, and D Types. Let me briefly identify these four classifications of types.
TYPE A - This is the kind of type that is clearly said to be a type in scripture. This includes types like the serpent in the wilderness as above (John 3:14) and the Rock that gave the Israelites water (see 1Corinthians 10:4).
TYPE B - Though no direct statement says that this item is a type of something else, the evidence is overwhelming. I would include in this class oil being used as a type of the Holy Ghost. These are types with which we can be very confident.
TYPE C - This kind of type involved a certain level of speculation. However, it is still based on scripture. For instance, some elements of this item may have scriptural support but the relationships used as a type are not clearly identified. This is where common sense and holy discernment comes into play, for this kind of type can quickly become nothing more than wild speculation.
TYPE D - This is typology that is pure speculation. It is best not to use this kind of type much. If you do use it, be careful to inform your listeners that you are simply making your own analogy.
The type I am getting ready to give is a TYPE C. It is a C because it has some biblical base. The water in this story is a type of the water of everlasting life. This water is defined by Jesus. In John 4:14, He states, "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Now, let me give you the typology I see here.
DAVID - David here is a type of the lost sinner. Though it is harvest time (2Samuel 23:13), he is "in the hold" (1Chronicles 11:16). That is, he is practically imprisoned in a cave. This is a picture of the lost man who finds himself imprisoned by sin even in the time of salvation--harvest time. David is in battle with the Philistines, a type of the world. The Philistines control the water in the well at Bethlehem and David is unable to get the water from the well.
WATER - David longs for a drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem (1Chronicles 11:17). The water is a picture of everlasting life (John 4:14). Everyone who thirsts is supposed to come to the waters (Isaiah 55:1) and take of the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17). This water comes out of the town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem means "house of bread" and it is the town out of which Jesus came (Micah 5:2) who is the bread of life (John 6:35). The water is "at the gate" showing us that the way of entrance into heaven is by way of the water of life.
THREE MIGHTY MEN - The three mighty men hear David longing for the water of the well of Bethlehem. Because of their love for David, they break through the lines of the enemy at great risk, draw water out of the well, and bring it back to David. This work of the three mighty men is a picture of the work of the holy trinity in securing our salvation. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost work together to offer us the water of life. The Father sent the Son, the Son came and died, and the Spirit calls for us to come to the water (Revelation 22:17).
POURING THE WATER - The three mighty men brought the water back to David. Therefore, he received the water from them as a gift. This is a picture of salvation. However, when he considered the risk the men had taken for his sake, he could not drink of the water for his own enjoyment but poured it out on the ground "to the LORD." He saw the water as the blood of the men who put their lives in jeopardy for his sake (1Chronicles 11:19). In this, we see that the water of life can be obtained only through the blood. This came through the death of Christ on the cross and the offering of the blood of God for us (Acts 20:28).
When David poured the water on the ground, he was not rejecting the sacrifice of the men who had gotten it for him. Rather, he was declaring their sacrifice too holy to be used selfishly. 2Corinthians 5:15 tells us that since Christ "died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." We should not be so selfish as to live our lives for ourselves. We should present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). David poured the water out on the ground to the Lord. Although the sacrifice was made to the Lord, it was poured out on the ground. The way that we can give our lives to the Lord is by pouring our lives out on the ground; that is, minister to those on this earth. In do so, we are taking to them the water of life that was graciously given to us.
I hope you receive half as much enjoyment out of this picture as I have. Thank you for the question.