“But in response, Ittai vowed to the king, “As the Lord lives and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king is, whether it means life or death, your servant will be there!”” (CSB – Read the chapter)
This would have been a depressing day. David and all those loyal to him were leaving Jerusalem, unsure whether or not they would return, unsure whether or not they would live through Absalom’s rebellion. In the intensity and tragedy of this moment, though, some silver threads began shining. Their gleam reminds us that wise investments made when life is going well can pay off in spades when it’s not.
David was not a perfect man or king. Far from it in fact. The last several chapters have made that fact abundantly clear. What we are seeing in here is arguably a direct result of his sin with Bathsheba. Absalom’s rebellion and move on the throne were the likely result of his conclusion in the wake of how his father handled his sister’s rape and then his own murder of the offender, his half-brother Amnon, that David was simply not up to the task of being king anymore, that he would be a much wiser and more just ruler. Amnon, in making a move to simply take what he wanted from his sister with no regard for anything else was simply a reflection of his father’s actions toward Bathsheba. In other words, what we are seeing are David’s chickens coming home to roost.
But, David was still a man after God’s own heart. All his flaws and failings didn’t negate his passionate love for God and willingness to humbly pursue Him even when he had blown it royally. This love and humility didn’t make up for his sins as the current moment amply demonstrates, but they did result in some personal investments along the way that begin paying dividends here.
Uriah aside, David was fiercely loyal to his servant and soldiers. He was generous with them and humble before them. And as a result, they were committed to him with an equal fierceness. This character exchange happened wherever he went.
This is the first time in David’s story that we meet Ittai of Gath. But, his “last name” should ring some bells. Gath was one of the capital cities of the Philistines. From the verses preceding this one we learn that Ittai was recently kicked out of his home. Given that he has 600 soldiers and their families with him, we can safely conclude that he was some sort of high level leader in Gath. Perhaps he was among the Philistine warlords that had rejected David’s involvement years before in their final campaign against Saul. Or perhaps he was one of their children now grown.
We don’t know, but what we do know is that when things went south for him at home, he leaned into the loyalty and love he had for David and came to him for help. David received him graciously and now he was absolutely committed to his lord. Indeed, absent this loyalty, Ittai had absolutely no reason to take sides in this in-house political intrigue. Absalom’s hand looked stronger here and as renegade Philistines, a loss by David’s side would not go well for him and his men.
But he persisted anyway. Why? The only thing we can assume is that David made some kind of an impact on him in the past that is now coming back to pay dividends. When we invest in people, those investments will eventually pay off for us. It may not be right away, but that’s not how investing works so why should we expect that? Instead, we make wise relational investments every chance we get trusting that they will return for us when the time is right. But, even if they don’t, we still make them because that’s the kind of thing Jesus did.
I recently participated in the funeral service of a woman named Teen. I had met her twice, but had heard stories about her for months. She loomed large in this community. Teen spent her life investing in people. She was a passionate gardener and shared the fruits of her labor lavishly. She was constantly cooking and sharing. She was helping people in hard times with whatever she had. She was widely known as someone who was gracious and generous, whose hospitality was almost overwhelming. The result? One of the largest funeral crowds I’ve ever seen. The funeral home’s large chapel was packed to the point that even standing room was at a premium. And every one of the people there had a story about how Teen had blessed their life in some way.
That’s what it looks like when we get this right. We wind up with the kind of commitments from people that David and Teen had. That’s a good sign of a life lived well. Let’s follow suit.