Monday, February 17, 2014

Absalom and Ittai

Susan has been at her job for twenty years.  She started at the bottom and rose to the top because of her skill and determination.  A year ago, Ashley came to work at the office.  She was new to the company, and needed to be trained.  Susan's supervisors thought that because of her knowledge, she would be the perfect person to train Ashley.  So for ten weeks, Susan worked one-on-one with the new recruit.  She thought she had a pretty good relationship with the youngest, newest member of the office.  She showed her the ropes and taught her everything she knew.  Then, six months after the training period was over, things began to change.  Susan began to catch wind of rumors circulating in the office...rumors about Susan...rumors that could only have come from Ashley's lips.  In front of the manager, Ashley began to make little remarks about Susan, that called her competence into question.  Pretty soon, Susan's boss began to act as if she believed the rumors, and as if Ashley were more capable than Susan was.  Then Susan found out what it was all about.  When a new position opened up, complete with increased salary package, Ashley was given the position...and Susan was enraged.

Sometime in your life, you've felt betrayed, as Susan was.  You may have been betrayed by a co-worker, a friend, or a family member.  You may have been betrayed by a fellow Christian and church member.  Perhaps you're experiencing betrayal in your life right now.  Betrayal is common to everyone.  David knew the feeling of betrayal as well.

In 2 Samuel 14, we read about David's own son Absalom, who betrayed him and led an armed revolt against him.  The young man had swayed public opinion by flaunting his good looks, his wealth, his fame, and his political ideas.  Now, because of the rebellion, David and his household had to flee for his life.  

Among those who went into exile with David was a man named Ittai the Gittite.  2 Samuel 15.17-22 (NRSV) says:

The king left, followed by all the people; and they stopped at the last house.  All his officials passed by him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king.
 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why are you also coming with us? Go back, and stay with the king; for you are a foreigner, and also an exile from your home.  You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, while I go wherever I can? Go back, and take your kinsfolk with you; and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.”  But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.” David said to Ittai, “Go then, march on.” So Ittai the Gittite marched on, with all his men and all the little ones who were with him. 

Ittai offers David his support
The pain of being sabotaged is very real.  But just as surely as there will be saboteurs in your life, God will also bring supporters to your side.  I can think of many times when I've had people subverting my ministry, and I can remember the emotional agony that accompanies such behavior.  But at the same time that the Absaloms were working their woe, Ittais were giving me their love and support.  David's servant Ittai was a foreigner.  He had only moved to the palace the day before.  But his loyalty amazed the king.  Perhaps your Ittai is a new friend.  He might be the least likely person you could imagine.  But God will bring an Ittai into your life, when you're suffering the pain of betrayal.

When you struggle as David did, you've got to decide where you're going to put your focus.  You can choose to wallow in your feelings of betrayal and defeat.  You can decide to go around all day, feeling rejected and hurt.  Or, you can say, "Look at all the Ittais around me, who do care for me and who want the best for me!"  You can listen to the voices of criticism, or you can listen to the voices that build you up.  One way or another, you choose your focus.  The person is, what kind of person do you want to be--someone who's defeated all the time, or someone who feels supported and confident?

Or, perhaps there's a David in your life.  David made many mistakes along the way--so many, in fact, that it wasn't a stretch for Absalom to imagine he could run the country better.  Maybe your David is a person of influence, or a person of authority over you--and it's easy for you to find fault with their performance.  You have a choice to make:  Are you going to be an Absalom, plotting the overthrow of a leader that you deem unfit?  Or are you going to be an Ittai to the struggling leader, offering your help and support in order to make him a better person--the leader that God truly wants him to be?  The choice is up to you.

Proverbs 18.24 (God's Word Translation) says, "Friends can destroy one another, but a loving friend can stick closer than family."  We have to understand that there's a difference between a person who calls herself a friend, and someone who's a true loving friend.  "Friends" can destroy, but true loving friends bring life.  I pray that when you feel rejected and betrayed, subverted and sabotaged, you'll lean on true loving friends for your support.  I pray, too, that you'll be a true friend to people in your life who are struggling.  Rather than turning against them because of their failings, I pray that you'll be an Ittai--pledging your help and support, and helping them to be better than they are.

1 comment:

Jennifer Lewis said...

It still and always amazes me that God always leads me to His word when He needs me to learn something. I must admit I do not always take the time to read this blog but today I felt compelled to. I am so glad I did, for it is I that has felt the sting of betrayal for the past few days. I have wanted to wallow in that betrayal and I have wanted to find a way out instead of being the true loving friend. With tears in my eyes I have been given a deeper understanding of myself, of my "betrayer" and of what it is that God desires of His children. In one simple word Love.