“And Ittai answered the king, and said, 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.” II Samuel 15:21
In one of the saddest periods of Israel’s history and David’s life, his son Absalom successfully turned the hearts of many Israelites from David to himself. David was notified of Absalom’s popularity, conspiracy, and power. Instead of battling Absalom and those who stood with him, David elected to flee from Jerusalem. As David and his servants were leaving the city, Ittai the Gittite joined the king and those who were loyally accompanying him. David urged Ittai to return to Jerusalem and remain with Absalom. After all, Ittai was a stranger and not an Israelite. Ittai’s response is recorded in our text and stands as a classic expression of loyalty and faithfulness. He intended to be at David’s side, even if it cost him his life.
The faithfulness of Ittai, and men like him, inspire us to higher levels of loyalty. How easily friends can turn their backs on those whom they should support. Like Judas Iscariot, characterless cowards are quick to betray those who count them as friends. Even family members are commonly forsaken by loved ones who lack the love and will to remain loyal to them. Churches are hurt, and fellow Christians are heartbroken by professing believers who let them down in times of difficulty or testing. Demas will always be an example of one who forsook the apostle Paul and the work of God because he loved the world more than the will of God.
We need men and women who are examples of faithfulness and loyalty. Ittai’s loyalty to David was not due to convenience or personal benefit. David’s popularity was waning as many defected during the conspiracy of Absalom. It would have been easy for Ittai to avoid the conflict and stay behind with the popular new king. David gave him the opportunity and his full blessing if that were the path that Ittai chose to pursue, but Ittai was not that kind of man. He was committed to his friend and his king. This was one of the lowest points in David’s life. His own son had betrayed him and stolen the kingdom. In the midst of great disappointment, encouragement can be found in the heroic faithfulness of those like Ittai.