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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Loyalty in the Face of Royalty Disloyalty

King David demonstrated loyalty in the face of his son’s disloyal rebellion.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was a man of high principles. On the subject of loyalty, he is quoted as saying, “Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” (

That quote resonates with our experience of life: sometimes loyalty comes easily and naturally, and other times it costs us plenty and is an act of determination. You can guess which of those times our loyalty makes the strongest impression.

Here at Emmanuel, we have an annual reminder of the value of the virtue of loyalty; we set aside this Sunday in October to renew our commitment to our God and to one another. God directed me to 2 Samuel 15:13-37 as a text that gives us several examples of deep and expensive loyalty.

CONTEXT = Vs. 1-12 tell us how David’s own son, Absalom, turned the hearts of the people of Israel against his father and got himself proclaimed king. However, before Absalom got to Jerusalem to kill his father and take the throne, David was warned of his conspiracy. On this unfortunate occasion David would once again distinguish himself as a man of great character.

1. King David’s loyalty to Jerusalem. (13-18a, 24-26)

David’s immediate concern was to spare the city. (14) He wanted to save the city from DISASTER, from a coup attempt within her walls. He did not want the Ark removed from the city. (24-26) One reason for this decision was that he remembered a time in his youth when the Ark had been stolen by the Philistines. David undoubtedly did not want it out of the city where it might be taken again.

I think David also believed the Ark belonged in the temple. So, for the good of the Ark and the good of the city, David ordered the Ark returned.

We should note David might have seen a military advantage to having the Ark. Throughout their history, whenever the Ark of the Covenant preceded the troops into battle, Israel achieved victory. He could have acted in his own best interests and kept it, but he didn’t. David was a man of faith, and he expressed his trust in God in vs. 25-26. He left his fate in the Lord’s hands.

2. The loyalty of Ittai and the men of Gath. (18b-22)

David tried to spare Ittai and his men a share of his fate. They were, surprisingly, Philistines, people who had been mortal enemies of Israel. They were probably mercenaries who served as palace guards; Ittai was their captain. Ittai thought it was their job to guard King David. David thought it was their job to guard the palace.

Wanting to show mercy to these Philistines, David reminded Ittai they were only guests in Jerusalem, new to the palace, and foreigners in exile, David ordered them to go back to Jerusalem and serve Absalom.

He warned them he would be reduced to wandering about, David had no idea where he’d go next. He was probably thinking about all the time in his youth when he was forced to wander about to avoid the wrath of King Saul.

To help seal the deal, David prayed a blessing upon them: “MAY THE LORD SHOW YOU HIS UNFAILING LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS.”

But Ittai vowed to stay with David “NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS.” Ittai was not having it. He was convinced his duty was to David, not to the palace or the city and certainly not to Absalom. Ittai vowed to follow David everywhere, regardless of the outcome; life or death.

How could David refuse such loyalty, especially from a foreigner, and a mercenary only recently hired? David relented and his party instantly grew by more than 600 people because, as verse 22 tells us, the men had brought along their FAMILIES, too.

Ittai will appear again in chapter eighteen. When David decided the time was right to take back Jerusalem, he divided his forces into three groups and named Ittai as one of three generals to command a division. The king rewarded Ittai’s loyalty with his own command.

3. The loyalty of the people to David. (23, 30)

Contrary to the messenger’s excited declaration in v. 13, these two verses prove that not ALL ISRAEL joined Absalom. The people left behind stayed loyal to David, as evidenced by their grief at the Kings’s departure. (23)

David’s companions also mourned as they left Jerusalem. (30) They displayed the customary signs of mourning and WEPT.

Adding to David’s grief and worry, someone told the king his most intelligent advisor – Ahithophel - had defected and joined Absalom’s rebellion.

God answered David’s prayer in verse 31, though not exactly in the way David had in mind. Ahithophel gave good advice, but it was not followed, to disastrous results. Two chapters later, Ahithophel hung himself (17:23).

4. David’s activity to undermine Absalom’s rebellion. (27-29, 32-37)

A conspiracy was born when David sent the priests Zadok and Abiathar back to Jerusalem to report on Absalom’s activities. (27-29) As long as they were returning the Ark of the Covenant anyway, they should use their position in court to gain intelligence, reporting to David what they could learn of Absalom’s plans.

David acted with loyalty to his followers and with faithfulness to God, but he didn’t just sit around waiting for God to bail him out. He acted intelligently and strategically, utilizing the assets he had at his disposal to hasten the end of his son’s rebellion.

David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem to contradict Ahithophel’s counsel of Absalom. (32-37) We’ve seen how news of Ahithophel’s betrayal bothered David (verse 31). He must’ve been praying and thinking about it as they walked to the SUMMIT OF THE MOUNT OF OLIVES. When he saw Hushai there, also wearing the signs of MOURNING, David seized upon a plan. He ordered Hushai to return to the city and volunteer to advise Absalom and to work with the priests Abiathar and Zadok. David developed his conspiracy in the palace, designed to frustrate the wise counsel of Ahithophel and get him valuable intelligence about Absalom’s plans.

The example David sets here is one of prayer AND action. We too often use one or the other, but people of faith need both. David got them in the right order; he prayed about Ahithophel first, then acted to neutralize him.

King David demonstrated loyalty in the face of his son’s disloyal rebellion.

This was a pivotal moment in the history of Israel; a lot was at stake. It was a big stage on which dramatic examples of loyalty were enacted. Our circumstances today may not be as dramatic as David’s, but it is no less important for us to demonstrate loyalty to God and one another. As followers of Jesus, we are to pray first, then take deliberate action with the resources God has put before us.


Zondervan Bible Commentary, One-Volume Illustrated, 2008, 1 and 2 Samuel, Laurence E. Porter

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, 1 + 2 Samuel, 1992, Ronald F. Youngblood

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