Ittai was a native of Gath and attained to the rank of chief captain in David’s army. He had deep regard and affection for David and for the Lord whom David served. This was tested during the time of Absalom’s rebellion. Ittai, a stranger, had no obligation to suffer the hardship and persecution that the rebellion threatened and so was given opportunity to return to Jerusalem. Ittai valued being with David above the safety and comfort of Jerusalem and declared, ‘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 Sam. 15. 21. David was moved by such devotion and appeared lost for words; his reply was simply, ‘Go and pass over’, 2 Sam. 15. 22.
This is a touching example of the kindness and understanding on the part of David which was repaid in unswerving allegiance by thousands of his devoted followers.
In Ittai’s case it was particularly gracious because he was a stranger in Israel and had no personal claim to association with David.
The picture is a shadow of an even greater compassion. Christ came to ‘his own’, John 1. 11, but His coming had purposes of grace beyond the nation of Israel. He said, ‘other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd’, John 10. 16. Paul wrote of the grace of God toward gentile strangers: ‘he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us’, Eph. 2. 14.
Loyalty motivated by such love is never in doubt, and recognition of this caused David to advance Ittai to high rank. David’s kindness brought the ultimate devotion. After the battle against Absalom, Ittai fades from the scriptural scene and it is possible that his loyalty proved stronger than death in that he laid down his life in the service of David. Few are called to serve to such extremity but we are all stewards of the things of the Lord who died for us and ‘it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful’, 1 Cor. 4. 2.
Daily Thought from Precious Seed