READINGS: II Samuel 15; Psalm 3:69; John 4: 27-.54
If you were sitting across the table from me, I would ask you to tell me what you think when I mention the apostle John? You might say: disciple of Jesus or a writer of one of the gospels or the disciple whom Jesus loved.
What about David might you remember? He was a famous king or he was the shepherd boy who killed Goliath.
Does Absalom conjure up any thoughts? Perhaps it would be his rebellion against his father, David.
Does Ittai ring a bell with you? He is an easy one to pass over as we read through II Samuel.
Ittai was a Gittite. Ittai and six hundred of his countrymen had joined the somber departure of David from Jerusalem. David had been warned that Absalom, his son, had won the hearts of the nation and was bent on killing his father so that he could usurp the throne.
The back story which sheds light on this story is that Absalom had been banished from Jerusalem by his father. His offence was that he had committed a murder. After three years of not seeing his son, he sent for Absalom and brought him back to Jerusalem. The emotional wound between father and son, however, was not healed. He became obsessed with stealing the kingdom from David. Absalom set out to win over the nation to himself. To accomplish this he got up early each morning and positioned himself at the city gate. As travelers entered the city he won their favor, by saying, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice.” II Samuel 15:4
It took four years, but in the process he did win the hearts of the people. The tactics of Satan have been consistent throughout history. The lust for power always takes a similar path. “If only I was in charge…”
When a messenger came and told David that the hearts of Israel were with Absalom, David and his company left in haste. As the king reviewed his followers, he noticed the Gittite, Ittai. The king said, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. 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. ” II Samuel 15: 19, 20
However, nothing would dissuade Ittai from following King David. He responded with these words. “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.” II Kings 15:21
The stories of Absalom and Ittai provide a clear picture of the best and the worst in all of us. Absalom, son of the king, rightful heir to the throne, possessing strength and good looks, chose to obsess on power. Even at the cost of assassinating his father, he would force his way to the throne. “If I was in charge, things would be different.” Absalom was not going to settle for less than control of the Kingdom of Israel.
What did Absalom’s aspirations gain him? He was cut down in battle. He was found hanging by his hair in an oak tree. He died alone.
Ittai, on the other hand, possessed no particular advantage. He wasn’t even an Israelite. He was a Phillistine. He knowingly aligned himself with David, even at the potential cost of his life. The issue of control never entered his mind. His desire was to be close to the king. Submission was more desirable than power.
And Ittai? He remained loyal to David and soon was promoted as a general and placed over one third of David’s army.
So, are we like Absolom or Ittai? Grasping and losing or serving and being promoted as the King chooses?
I am reminded of Christ as He is described in Philippians 2. I’m quoting it here from the Message:
9-11Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.