“Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile. Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.”
(2 Samuel 15:19-20)
Today’s verse passage describes a remarkable and instructive interaction David had with Ittai the Philistine. Ittai, and about 600 non-Israelites, had expressed their desire to follow David, even during one of the most challenging and troubling periods of his life. His Son, Absalom, had used craft to gain a following and eventually usurped the throne (2 Samuel 15:1-6, 12). With his life in danger, David, and a few of his loyal subjects, fled Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:14-15). En route, Ittai and his comrades “passed on before the king” (2 Samuel 15:18). That is, they showed David they were with him. David’s response is both a challenge and a test of their characters. David’s words to Ittai may be paraphrased: “Why are you with us? Return to the king (presumably Absalom). You’re a stranger, a foreigner, and an exile from your own land. You haven’t been here any length of time. Why are you interested in following me anyhow, seeing I have no certain dwelling place?” Ittai’s response is powerful and convincing: “As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be” (2 Samuel 15:21). His words reached David’s heart and he invited Ittai to pass over the Kidron Brook with him and his faithful followers (2 Samuel 15:23). Looking ahead down the corridors of time some 1,000 years, we see the Lord Jesus, David’s antitype. The Lord Jesus shows no favoritism either, “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35). As David received Ittai and his men, the Lord Jesus will in no way cast out those who come to Him (John 6:37). Like David, the Lord had no certain dwelling place (Matthew 8:20) and, like David, He received those who had only just come to him. The repentant thief on the cross, for instance, exercised faith in Christ only minutes before death. The Lord responded in love, promising him paradise that very day (Luke 23:43). As David and his men passed over the brook during one of the darkest periods in the life of the king, Jesus passed over the same brook on the eve of His arrest (John 18:1). Both kings had to pass through rejection and trial. Both appeared to suffer defeat. In the plan and providence of God, however, both men were supremely vindicated (2 Samuel 19:40; Romans 1:4). May we be tenderhearted towards others, even as David was and as Jesus is. Let us strive to follow Ittai’s amazing example of faith and steadfast commitment also, choosing to submit to godly authority even when challenged to do otherwise.