David Has To Leave
13A messenger came and told David, “Everyone in Israel is on Absalom's side!”
14David's officials were in Jerusalem with him, and he told them, “Let's get out of here! We'll have to leave soon, or none of us will escape from Absalom. Hurry! If he moves fast, he could catch us while we're still here. Then he will kill us and everyone else in the city.”
15The officials said, “Your Majesty, we'll do whatever you say.”
16-17David left behind ten of his wives to take care of the palace, but the rest of his family and his officials and soldiers went with him.
They stopped at the last house at the edge of the city. 18Then David stood there and watched while his regular troops and his bodyguards marched past. The last group was the 600 soldiers who had followed him from Gath. Their commander was Ittai.
19David spoke to Ittai and said, “You're a foreigner from the town of Gath. You don't have to leave with us. Go back and join the new king! 20You haven't been with me very long, so why should you have to follow me, when I don't even know where I'm going? Take your soldiers and go back. I pray that the Lord will be kind and faithful to you.”
21Ittai answered, “Your Majesty, just as surely as you and the Lord live, I will go where you go, no matter if it costs me my life.”
22“Then come on!” David said.
So Ittai and all his men and their families walked on past David.
David Sends the Sacred Chest
23The people of Jerusalem were crying and moaning as David and everyone with him passed by. He led them across Kidron Valley and along the road toward the desert.
24Zadok and Abiathar the priests were there along with several men from the tribe of Levi who were carrying the sacred chest. They set the chest down, and left it there until David and his followers had gone out of the city.
25Then David said:
Zadok, take the sacred chest back to Jerusalem. If the Lord is pleased with me, he will bring me back and let me see it and his tent again. 26But if he says he isn't pleased with me, then let him do what he knows is best.
What happens when pragmatism comes into conflict with principle? As a king facing an armed rebellion, David fled his palace and abandoned the capital city. Propelled by fear, he left in a hurry with only the inner circle of his court to accompany him. The city was getting ready for disaster to sweep down upon it, and the king was heading for the hills.
At this bleak point, David really did not know who he could trust. He felt sorry for those who were stuck with him in such desperate straits. He felt a stately concern for the officials who accompanied him and for the people who lined the roads and wept as the king and his retinue passed by. He was reluctantly coming to terms with his own limitations.
As he sized up the situation, David looked first at the non-citizens among his followers. He knew it made more practical sense for such people to cozy up to the incoming authorities rather than to cast their lot with a man on the run. So he offered them a way out.
However, they refused to leave and pledged their continuing loyalty to David.
David’s second encounter on this flight from Jerusalem was with two priests who joined him carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Once again, David did not try to co-opt people or symbols of power to protect himself. At this stage, he was willing to let God be in control. “Let [God] do what seems good to him” (26).
Practically speaking, those who extend their support willingly are offering infinitely more than help that is in any way coerced. So when David encouraged his servants to go their own way, he actually invited them into a deeper level of service and commitment. Unpragmatic acts of generosity are apt to deliver practical results.
O God, I would prefer not to face desperate circumstances before I can acknowledge the truth about my situation and myself. Help me to cultivate a generous spirit towards other people, to act boldly whenever that’s required and to relinquish my desire for personal control. May I trust you to direct my paths.