•  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Amidst all the sorrow on which we have just been gazing, there shines out the faithful love of Ittai the Gittite. You remember that Goliath also was a Gittite, so Ittai and Goliath originally came from the same place, Gath, and perhaps were friends. I like to think, though of course I may be quite wrong, that Ittai was first attracted to David when he slew the champion on whom Ittai had trusted. Later David went to Achish, king of Gath, for refuge from Saul (1 Sam. 21), taking with him Goliath’s sword. Little wonder they did not receive him as a friend, and that David had to feign himself mad to escape; but once again Ittai must have seen, or heard, of the one he was later to follow. On towards the end of his wanderings, David’s faith and patience seem to have failed, and once more he turns to Gath for refuge.
This time he is received by the king, and given a city in which to live; indeed Achish promises to make David the “keeper of mine head forever.” (Chapters 27 and 28). Was it during these days of rejection that Ittai learned to know and love David? We know not certainly whether this were so or not; but we may suppose such was the case. And Ittai takes all his men and all his little ones, and leaves the land of the Philistines, his native land, attracted (not by the prosperity of the land of Israel) but by the person of Israel’s king. How long he enjoyed the prosperity of the land we know not, it was “but yesterday” he came, as David expressed it. And now the king is once more driven out, and again tastes what it is to be rejected. Most of Israel side with the rebel, but there is not a moment’s hesitation with Ittai. He and all his men and his little ones at once leave the land of their adoption to follow the rejected King wherever he may lead. The King says to him, “Wherefore goest thou also with us? Return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger and also an exile. Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren; mercy and truth be with thee.” How our hearts thrill at the answer, “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.” It reminds us of Ruth’s answer to Naomi. Both were Gentile strangers. It was the mighty power of love that had drawn and won and filled completely their hearts, so that land and kindred were left behind without a thought. Well did they know the meaning of the words: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37-3837He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37‑38)).
What must that reply of Ittai’s meant to David’s heart at that moment? His reply is so short: “Go and pass over.” Not one word of thanks or praise. Why was this? I think David’s heart was too full for words at that moment; and Ittai understood. There are times when heart enters into heart so closely that words are not needed, indeed they only jar, and are out of place.
And so “Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.” And that night when the little ones’ bedtime came, there were no warm cozy beds; but on and on they walked, down those steep, wild hills to the river Jordan, and on through its dark waters in the dead of night; how strange it must all have been! I can hear those little ones: “Daddy, where are we going? Why did we leave our house, Daddy?” And Ittai answers: “We are following the King!” That is enough, and I venture to say the hearts of those little ones are rivetted to their King with bonds of love that never can be broken.
Oh, my dear ones, seek to lead your little darlings to know and love their King; seek to win their affections for Him while they are still little. Do you suppose those children pined for the comforts, ease and luxury of the home they had left behind, when with their parents they wandered, following the King? Even to a child, such a thought would be rejected as utterly unworthy.
“Wherefore goest thou with me?”
Said the king disowned —
Said the king, despised, rejected,
“Go return unto thy place,
To thy king of yore —
Here a pilgrim and a stranger,
Nothing more.
“Not for thee the cities fair,
Hills of corn and wine —
All was portioned ere thou earnest,
Naught is thine.
“Wandering forth where’er I may,
Exiled from mine own,
Shame, rejection I can grant thee;
That alone.
“Turn and take thy brethren back,
With thy people dwell;
I have loved thee, I, the outcast;
Fare thee well.”
Then unto the crownless king
On the Kidron’s shore,
All the wilderness before him,
Ittai swore,
“As the Lord lives and the king,
Ever lord to me,
Where in death or life he dwelleth
I will be.”
“Go —pass over,” spake the king;
Then passed Ittai o’er;
Passed into the place of exile
From the shore.
He and all his little ones,
Granted by that word,
Shame, rejection, homeless wandering
With their lord.
“Go —pass over,” words of grace,
Spoken, Lord, to me,
That, in death or life, where
Thou art I might be.
Dead and crucified with Thee,
Passed beyond my doom;
Sin and law forever silenced
In thy tomb.
Passed beyond the mighty curse,
Dead, from sin set free;
Not for Thee earth’s joy and music,
Not for me.
Dead; the sinner past and gone,
Not the sin alone;
Living where Thou art in glory,
On the throne.
Hidden there with Christ in God,
That blest life I share;
Christ it is Who liveth in me —
Liveth there.
“He Who serves Me”, spake His lips,
“Let him follow Me,
And where I am shall My servant
Ever be.”
Follow, where His steps lead on,
Through the golden street;
Far into the depths of glory
Track His feet.
Till unto the throne of God,
Of the Lamb, I come;
There to share the blessed welcome,
Welcome home!
There with Him Whom man rejected,
In the light above,
Those whom God His Father honors,
Such His love.
(Paul Gerhardt)