Summary: To encourage faithfulness in those who follow Jesus Christ.
Where Are All the Gittites?
TUCKED AWAY IN THE PAGES OF THE OLD TESTMAENT, there lies a most beautiful and unusual love story—one you could easily miss, unless you took the time to gaze at it. It’s not a love story between a man and a woman, or a parent and a child—or even between two close friends. No, this one is about a master and his servant. It’s about King David and Ittai the Gittite.
Let me share some background with you. When David was king of Israel, Amnon, one of his sons, raped Tamar, his half-sister. Absalom, a brother of the girl, was enraged. He sought revenge and ended up having Amnon murdered. As a result, David banished the hot-tempered Absalom, allowing himn to return only after a 3-year absence.
When Absalom returned, he set out to undermine his father, perhaps having learned that his younger half-brother, Solomon, was being favored as David’s successor. So successful was Absalom’s traitorous scheme that he was soon able to go to Hebron, set himself up as a king and rally the majority of Israelites to his side.
Hearing of the rebellion, David and his small band of loyal followers fled the capital city of Jerusalem. This is where we pick up our story in II Samuel 15.
2 Sam 15:17-24
17 So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at a place some distance away.
18 All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.
19 The king said to Ittai the Gittite, "Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland.
20 You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your countrymen. May kindness and faithfulness be with you."
21 But Ittai replied to the king, "As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be."
22 David said to Ittai, "Go ahead, march on." So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him.
23 The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the desert.
24 Zadok was there, too, and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city.
Look at verse 18
David has this select guard of 600 men with him.
They’ve been with him since his fugitive days in Gath.
They served as his military escort.
After a special appeal to Ittai (who appears to be the commander of this elite group of soldiers), King David releases him from any obligation and urges him and his men to return to the palace (vs. 19,20).
In verse 21 we see Ittai’s response. It’s a pledge of life-and-death loyalty. And what makes this pledge of faithfulness all the more amazing is due to four astounding facts. Here they are:
1. Ittai freely chose to side with his master, knowing it could well mean certain death.
2. Ittai was not even an Israelite; he was a Philistine!
3. He had only been with David a short time.
4. He was a mercenary (hired soldier).
One would naturally expect this kind of loyalty from a son or a trusted friend aide or a long-time friend. And yet Ittai was none of these!
What was it about this man that he would risk his life for his master?
Was it a matter of INTEGRITY? Did he swear an oath to protect the King no matter what? Remember, David released him from any obligation (vs.20).
Was Ittai one of those who just sided with the UNDERDOG?
Illus.: Jason Smith’s Parents
Jason Smith is a basketball player for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. He is a walk-on, which means he did not receive a scholarship. He played very little during his fours years on the team, but he stayed with it. He demonstrated real faithfulness. But more than that is the example of his parents. They attended every game—away and home. They knew that chances were few that Jason would play—and in fact, most of the time he didn’t. But there in the stands, every game, sat his faithful parents. It must have been quite a lift for him.