2 Samuel 15:19
Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Why go you also with us? return to your place, and abide with the king: for you are a stranger…
Heartbroken and spiritless, David leaves Jerusalem. And as soon as he has got clear of the city he calls a halt, in order that he may master his followers and see on whom he may depend. Foremost among the little band come six hundred men from Gath — Philistines — from Goliath's city. These men, singularly enough, the king had chosen as his bodyguard; perhaps he was not altogether sure of the loyalty of his own subjects, and possibly felt safer with foreign mercenaries, who could have no secret leanings to the deposed house of Saul. Be that as it may, the narrative tells us that these men had "come after him from Gath." Here they are, "faithful among the faithless," as foreign soldiers surrounding a king often are — notably, for instance, the Swiss guard in the French Revolution. It is a beautiful nature that in the depth of sorrow shrinks from dragging other people down with itself. Generosity breeds generosity, and this Philistine captain breaks out into a burst of passionate devotion, garnished, in soldier-fashion, with an unnecessary oath or two, but ringing very sincere and meaning a great deal. As for himself and his men, they have chosen their side. Whoever goes, they stay. David's heart is touched and warmed by their outspoken loyalty; he yields and accepts their service. Ittai and his noble six hundred tramp, on, out of our sight, and all their households behind them.
I. WHAT GRAND PASSIONATE SELF-SACRIFICE MAY BE EVOLVED OUT OF THE ROUGHEST NATURES.
1. A passionate personal attachment; then, that love, issuing as such love always does, in willing sacrifice that recks not for a moment of personal consequences.
2. And we see in these words a supreme restful delight in the presence of Him whom the heart loves. And wherever, in some humble measure, these emotions are realised, there you get weakness springing up into strength, and the ignoble into loftiness. Astronomers tell us that, sometimes, a star that has shone inconspicuous, and stood low down in their catalogues as of fifth or sixth magnitude, will all at once flame out, having kindled and caught fire somehow, and will blaze in the heavens, outshining Jupiter and Venus. And so some poor, vulgar, narrow nature, touched by this Promethean fire of pure love that leads to perfect sacrifice, will "flame in the, forehead of the morning sky," an undying splendour, and a light for ever more, You have all that capacity in you, and you are all responsible for the use of it. What have you done with it? Is there any person or thing in this world that has ever been able to lift you up out of your miserable selves? Is there any magnet that has proved strong enough to raise you from the low levels along which your life creeps? Have you ever known the thrill of resolving to become the bondservant and the slave of some great cause not your own? Or are you, as so many of you are, like spiders living in .the midst of your web, mainly intent upon what you can catch in it? You have these capacities slumbering in you. Have you ever set a light to that inert mass of enthusiasm that lies in you? Have you ever woke up the sleeper?
II. THESE POSSIBILITIES OF LOVE AND SACRIFICE POINT PLAINLY TO GOD IN CHRIST AS THEIR TRUE OBJECT.
III. THE TERRIBLE MISDIRECTION OF THESE CAPACITIES IS THE SIN AND THE MISERY OF THE WORLD. I will not say that such emotions, even when expended on creatures, are ever wasted. And I am not going to say that when men love each other passionately and deeply, and sacrifice themselves for one another, or for some cause or purpose affecting only temporal matters, the precious elixir of love is wasted. God forbid! But I do say that all these objects, sweet and gracious as some of them are, ennobling and elevating as some of them are, if they are taken apart from God, are insufficient to fill your hearts: and that if they are slipped in between you and God, as they often are, then they bring sin and sorrow. And so let me gather all that I have been saying into the one earnest beseeching of you that you would bring that power of uncalculating love and self-sacrificing affection which is in you, and would fasten it where it ought to fix — on Christ who died on the cross for you. Such a love will bring blessedness to you.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.