A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *12/24/2012
And Ittai answered the king, and said, “As the Lord lives, and as
my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king
shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will your servant
be.” [2Sa 15:21]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1512, “Loyal to the Core” 1512]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3504, “Following Christ” 3506]
Exposition on 2Sa 15:12-37 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2995, “Very Singular” 2996 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on 2Sa 15:13-23 Isa 61; Mr 14:22-41 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3431, “King Passing Over Kidron, The” 3433 @@ "Exposition"]
1. Although the courage of David appears to have failed him when he fled from his son Absalom, yet certain other noble characteristics came out in brilliant relief, and among the rest, his large-heartedness and his thoughtfulness for others. A man in such a desperate condition as he was must have earnestly coveted many friends and have been anxious to retain them all, but yet he would not exact their services if they were too costly to themselves, and so he said to Ittai, who appears to have been a Philistine — a proselyte to Israel, who had recently come to join himself to David — “Why do you also go with us? You have recently come to me, and should I make you wander with me in my sorrows? Return to your place and remain with the new king, for you are a stranger and an exile. May every blessing be upon you. May mercy and truth be with you.” He did not send him away because he doubted him, but because he felt that he had no claim to the great sacrifices which Ittai might have to make in attending his checkered fortunes. “I do not know what may become of me,” he seems to say, “but I do not want to drag you down with me. Should my cause become desperate, I have no wish to involve you in it, and therefore with the best of motives I wish you farewell.” I admire this generosity of spirit. Some men have great expectations: they live off their friends, and yet complain that charity is cold. These people expect more from their friends than they ought to give. A man’s best friends on earth ought to be his own strong arms. Loafers are parasitical plants, they have no root of their own, but like the mistletoe they strike root into some other tree, and suck the very soul out of it for their own nourishment. Sad that men should ever degrade themselves to such despicable baseness! While you can help yourselves, do so and while you have a right to expect help in times of dire necessity, do not be everlastingly expecting everyone else to be waiting on you. Feel as David did towards Ittai — that you would by no means wish for services to which you have no claim. Independence of spirit used to be characteristic of Englishmen. I hope it will always continue to be so; and especially among the children of God.
2. On the other hand, look at Ittai, perfectly free to go, but in order to end the controversy once and for all, and to make David know that he does not intend to leave him, he takes a solemn oath before Jehovah his God, and he doubles it by swearing by the life of David that he will never leave him; in life, in death, he will be with him. He has cast in his lot with him for better or for worse, and he intends to be faithful to the end. Old Master Trapp says, “All faithful friends went on a pilgrimage years ago, and none of them have ever come back.” I scarcely credit that, but I am afraid that friends quite so faithful as Ittai are as scarce as two moons in the sky at once, and you might travel over the edge of the world before you found them. I think, however, that one reason why faithful Ittais have become so scarce may be because large-hearted Davids are so rare. When you tell a man that you expect a great deal from him, he does not see it. Why should you look for so much? He is not your debtor. You have closed at once the valves of his generosity. But when you tell him honestly that you do not expect more than is right, and that you do not wish to be a burden to him, when he sees that you consult his welfare more than your own, that is the very reason why he feels attached to you, and considers it a pleasure to serve such a generous-hearted man. You will generally find that when two people fall out there are faults on both sides: if generous spirits are few, it may be because faithful friends are rare, and if faithful friends are scarce it may be because generous spirits are scarce too. May it be ours as Christians to live to serve rather than to be served, remembering that we are the followers of a Master who said, “The Son of man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister.” We are not to expect others to serve us, but our life is to be spent in endeavouring to serve them.
3. I am going to use Ittai’s language for a further purpose. If Ittai, charmed with David’s person and character, though a foreigner and a stranger, felt that he could enlist beneath his banner for life — yes, and declared that he would do so then and there — how much more may you and I, if we know what Christ has done for us, and who he is and what he deserves from our hands, at this good hour pledge our trust to him and vow, “As the Lord lives, surely in whatever place my Lord and Saviour shall be, whether in death or life, even there also shall his servant be.”
4. And so, I shall begin by noticing first in what form this declaration was made, so that we may learn from it how to make the same declaration.
5. I. IN WHAT FORM AND WAY WAS THIS DECLARATION MADE?
6. It was made, first, at a time when David’s fortunes were at their lowest ebb, and consequently it was made unselfishly, without the slightest idea of gain from it. David was now forsaken by everyone. His faithful bodyguard was all that he had on earth to depend upon, and it was then that Ittai cast in his lot with David. Now, beloved, it is very easy to follow religion when she goes around in her silver slippers, but the true man follows her when she is in rags, and goes through the mire and mud. To take up with Christ when everyone extols his name is what a hypocrite would do, but to take up with Christ when they are shouting, “Away with him! away with him!” is another matter. There are times in which the simple faith of Christ is at a great discount. At one time imposing ceremonies are all the rage, and everyone loves decorated worship, and the pure simplicity of the gospel is overloaded and encumbered with gaudy ornaments; it is at such a time that we must stand up for God’s more simple plan, and reject the symbolism which verges on idolatry and hides the simplicity of the gospel.
7. At another time the gospel is assailed by learned criticisms and by insinuations against the authenticity and inspiration of the books of Scripture, while fundamental doctrines are undermined one by one, and he who adheres to the old faith is said to be behind the times, and so on. But happy is that man who takes up with Christ, and with the gospel, and with the truth when it is in its worst state, crying, “If this is foolery, I am a fool, for where Christ is there I will be; I love him better at his worst than others at their best, and even if he is dead and buried in a sepulchre I will go with Mary and with Magdalene and sit opposite the sepulchre and watch until he rises again, for he will rise again; but whether he lives or dies, where he is there his servant shall be.” Ho, then, brave spirits, will you enlist for Christ when his banner is tattered? Will you enlist under him when his armour is stained with blood? Will you rally to him even when they report him to be slain? Happy you shall be! Your loyalty shall be proven to your own eternal glory. You are soldiers such as he loves to honour.
8. Ittai gave himself up entirely to David when he only recently had come to him. David says, “Since you came only yesterday, should I make you go up and down with us today?” But Ittai does not care whether he came yesterday or twenty years ago, but he declares, “Surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will your servant be.” It is best to begin the Christian life with thorough consecration. Have any of you professed to be Christians, and have you never given yourselves entirely to Christ? It is time that you begin again. This should be one of the earliest forms of our worship of our Master — this total resignation of ourselves to him. According to his Word, the first announcement of our faith should be by baptism, and the meaning of baptism, or immersion in water, is death, burial, and resurrection. As far as this point is concerned, the affirmation is just this: “I am henceforth dead to all except Christ, whose servant I now am. Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. The watermark is on me from head to foot. I have been buried with him in baptism to death to show that henceforth I belong to him.” Now, whether you have been baptized or not I leave to yourselves, but in any case this must be true — that henceforth you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. As soon as ever Christ is yours you ought to be Christ’s. “I am my Beloved’s” should be linked with “My Beloved is mine,” in the dawn of the day in which you yield to the Lord.
Again, Ittai surrendered himself to David in the most voluntary
manner. No one persuaded Ittai to do this; in fact, David seems to
have persuaded him the other way. David tested and tried him, but he
voluntarily out of the fulness of his heart said, “Wherever, my lord,
the king, is, there also shall his servant be.” Now, dear young
people, if you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is yours, give
yourselves up to him by a distinct act and deed. Feel that one grand
impulse without needing pressure or argument — “The love of Christ
constrains me”; but do not wait to have your duty urged upon you, for
the more free the dedication the more acceptable it will be. I am
told that there is no wine so delicious as what flows from the grape
at the first gentle pressure. The longer you squeeze the harsher the
juice is. We do not like that service which is pressed out of a man:
and certainly the Lord of love will not accept forced labour. No; let
your willingness show itself. Say —
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, ALL for thee.
My heart pants after the service of her Lord. With the same spontaneity which Ittai displayed make a solemn consecration of yourselves to David’s Lord.
10. I used a word then which suggests another point, namely, that Ittai did this very solemnly. He took an oath which we Christians may not do, and may not wish to do, but still we should make the surrender with quite as much solemnity. In Dr. Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul” there is a very solemn form of consecration, which he recommends young men to sign when they give themselves to Christ. I cannot say that I can recommend it, though I practised it, for I fear that there is something of legality about it, and that it may bring the soul into bondage. I have known some write out a deed of dedication to Christ and sign it with their blood. I will neither commend nor censure, but I will say that a complete dedication must be made in some manner, and that it should be done deliberately and with grave thought. You have been bought with a price, and you should, therefore, in a distinct manner acknowledge your Lord’s property in you, and transfer to him the title-deeds of your body, spirit, and soul.
11. And this, I think, Ittai did publicly. At any rate, he so acted that everyone saw him when David said, “Go over,” and he marched in front — the first man to cross over the brook. Oh yes, dear friend, you must publicly acknowledge yourself as a Christian. If you are a Christian you must not try to sneak to heaven around through the back alleys, but march up the narrow way like a man and like your Master. He was never ashamed of you, though he might have been: how can you be ashamed of him when there is nothing in him to be ashamed of? Some Christians seem to think that they shall lead an easier life if they never make a profession. Like a rat behind the wainscotting they come out after candlelight and get a crumb, and then slip back again. I would not lead such a life. Surely, there is nothing to be ashamed of. A Christian — let us glory in the name! A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ — let them write it on our door plates, if they wish. Why should we blush at that? “But,” one says, “I would rather be a very quiet one.” I will now place a bomb under this cowardly quietness. What does the Lord Jesus say? “Whoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven; but he who shall confess me before men, I will confess him also before my Father who is in heaven.” Take up your cross and follow him, for “with the heart man believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” When our Master ascended up on high he told us to preach the gospel to every creature; and how did he put it? “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” There must be, therefore, the believing and the acknowledgment of believing. “But can I not be saved as a believer if I do not publicly confess Christ?” Dear friend, you have no business to tamper with your Master’s command, and then say, “Will he not graciously forgive this omission?” Do not neglect one of the two commands, but obey all his will. If you have the spirit of Ittai you will say, “Wherever my lord the king is, there also shall your servant be.”
12. I leave the matter with the consciences of those who may be like Nicodemus, coming to Jesus by night, or may be like Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple, but secretly, for fear of the Jews. May they come out and acknowledge their Master, believing that then he will acknowledge them.
13. II. Secondly, WHAT DID THIS DECLARATION INVOLVE? As for Ittai, what did it involve?
14. First, that he was henceforth to be David’s servant. Of course, as his soldier, he was to fight for him, and to do his bidding. What do you say, man? Can you lift your hand to Christ, and say, “Henceforth I will live as your servant, not doing my own will, but your will. Your command is henceforth my rule?” Can you say that? If not, do not mock him, but stand back. May the Holy Spirit give you grace to begin like this, to persevere like this, and to end like this.
15. It involved, next, for Ittai that he was to do his utmost for David’s cause, not to be his servant in name, but his soldier, ready for scars and wounds and death, if need be, on the king’s behalf. That is what Ittai meant as, in rough soldier tones, he took the solemn oath that it should be so. Now, if you would be Christ’s disciple, determine henceforth by his grace that you will defend his cause; that if there is rough fighting you will be in it; and if there is a forlorn hope needed you will lead it, and go through floods and flames if your Master’s cause shall call you. Blessed is the man who will follow the Lamb wherever he goes, giving himself entirely up to his Lord to serve him with all his heart.
16. But Ittai in his promise declared that he would give a personal attendance upon the person of his master. That was, indeed, the gist of it, “In whatever place my lord, the king, shall be, even there also will your servant be.” Brethren, let us make the same resolve in our hearts, that wherever Christ is, there we will be. Where is Christ? In heaven. We will be there eventually. Where is he here, spiritually? Answer: in his church. The church is a body of faithful men; and where these are met together, there is Jesus in the midst of them. Very well, then, we will join the church, for wherever our Lord, the King, is, there also shall his servants be. When the list of the redeemed is read we will be found in the register, for our Lord’s name is there.
17. Where else did Jesus go? In the beginning of his ministry he descended into the waters of baptism. Let us follow the Lamb wherever he goes. At the close of his ministry he broke bread, and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Be often at his table, for if there is a place on the earth where he reveals himself to his children it is the place where bread is broken in his name. Let me now tell a secret. Some of you may have heard it before, but you have forgotten it. Here it is — my Lord is generally here at prayer meetings on Monday nights, and, indeed, whenever his people come together for prayer, there he is. So I will read my text to you, and see whether you will come up to it — “Surely in whatever place my Lord the King shall be, whether it is in a prayer meeting or at a sermon, even there also will your servant be.” If you love your Lord, you know where his haunts are; take care that you follow close after him there.
18. Where is the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, brethren, he is wherever the truth is, and I pray God that he may raise up a race of men and women in England who are determined to be wherever the truth of God is. We have a host of spineless creatures around who will always be where the congregation is the most respectable: respectability being measured by clothes and cash. There was a time in the church of God when they most esteemed the most pious men; has it come to this that gold takes precedence over grace? Our forefathers considered whether a ministry was sound, but now the question is — “Is the man clever?” Words are preferred to truth, and oratory takes precedence over the gospel. Shame on such an age. Oh you who have not altogether sold your birthrights, I charge you to keep out of this wretched declension.
19. The man who loves Christ thoroughly will say, “Wherever the Lord the King is, there also shall his servant be, if it is with half a dozen poor Baptists or Methodists, or among the most despised people in the town.” I charge you, beloved, in whatever town or country your lot is cast, be true to your colours, and never forsake your principles. Wherever the truth is, go there, and where there is anything contrary to truth, do not go, for there your Master is not to be found.
20. What next? Well, our Master is to be found wherever there is anything to be done for the good of our fellow men. The Lord Jesus Christ is to be found wherever there is work to be done in seeking after his lost sheep. Some people say that they have very little communion with Christ, and when I look at them, I do not wonder. Two people cannot walk together if they will not walk at the same pace. Now, my Lord walks at an earnest pace whenever he goes through the world, for the King’s business requires haste; and if his disciples crawl after a snail’s fashion they will lose his company. If some of our groaning brethren would go to the Sunday School, and there begin to look after the little children, they would meet their Lord who used to say, “Permit the little children to come to me.” If others were to get together a little meeting, and teach the ignorant, they would find him there who had compassion on the ignorant and on those who are out of the way. Our Master is there where fetters are to be broken, burdens to be removed, and hearts to be comforted, and if you wish to keep with him you must help in such service.
21. Where is our Master? Well, he is always on the side of truth and right. And, oh, you Christian people, take care that in everything — politics, business, and everything — you keep to what is right, not to what is popular. Do not bow the knee to what may be praised for a passing day, but stand firm in what is consistent with rectitude, with humanity, with the cause and honour of God, and with the freedom and progress of men. It can never be wise to do wrong. It can never be foolish to be right. It can never be according to the mind of Christ to tyrannize and to oppress. Always stick with whatever things are pure and lovely and of good report, and you will so far keep up with Christ. Temperance, purity, justice — these are favourites with him; do your best to advance them for his sake.
22. Above all, remember how Jesus loved secret prayer, and if you resolve to stay with him you must be much at the throne of grace.
23. I will not detain you over each of these points, but simply say that Ittai’s declaration also meant this — that he intended to share David’s condition. If David was great, Ittai would rejoice. If David was exiled, Ittai would accompany him in his wanderings. Our point must be to resolve in God’s strength to stay with Christ in all weathers and in all companies, and that whether in life or death. Ah that word “death” makes it sweet, because then we reap the blessed result of having lived with Christ. We shall go upstairs for the last time and bid goodbye to all, and then we shall feel that in death he is still with us as in life we have been with him. Though our good works can never be a basis for confidence when we are dying, yet if the Lord enables us to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, and so to lead a decided, positive, downright, upright Christian life, our death pillow will not be stuffed with thorns of regret, but we shall have to bless God that we bore a faithful witness as far as we were able to do so. In such a case when we are dying we shall not wish to go back again to rectify the mistakes and insincerities of our lives. No, beloved, it will be very, very sweet to be alone with Jesus in death. He will make all our bed in our sickness; he will make our death pillow soft, and our soul shall vanish, kissed away by his dear lips, and we shall be with him for ever and for ever. Of those who are nearest to him it is said, “These are those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They shall walk with him in white, for they are worthy.”
24. I conclude with this observation. Will our Lord Jesus Christ accept from our hands tonight such a consecrating word? If we are trusting in him for salvation will he permit us to say that we will remain with him as long as we live?
We reply, he will not permit us to say it in our own strength. There
was a young man who said, “Lord, I will follow you wherever you go,”
but Christ gave him a cool reception: and there was an older man who
said, “Though all men shall forsake you yet I will not,” and in reply
his Master prayed for him that his faith should not fail. Now, you
must not promise as Peter did, or you will make a greater failure.
But, beloved, this self-devotion is what Christ expects of us if we
are his disciples. He will not have us love father or mother more
than him; we must be ready to give up all for his sake. This is not
only what our Master expects from us, but what he deserves from us.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
This, also, is what the Lord will help us to do, for he will give us
grace if we will only seek it from his hands: and this it is which he
will graciously reward, and has already rewarded, in that choice word
of his in the gospel of John, where he says about his disciples, “If
any man serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there my
servant shall also be: if any man serves me, my Father will honour
him.” [Joh 12:26] Oh, to be honoured by God in eternity when he
shall say, “Stand back, angels; make way, seraphim and cherubim; here
comes a man who suffered for the sake of my dear Son. Here comes one
who was not ashamed of my Only Begotten when his face was smeared
with the spittle. Here comes one who stood in the pillory [a] with
Jesus, and was called bad names for his sake. Stand back, you angels,
these have greater honour than you.” Surely the angels of heaven as
they traverse the streets of gold and meet the martyrs will ask them
about their sufferings, and say, “You are more favoured than we are,
for you have had the privilege of suffering and dying for the Lord.”
Oh brothers and sisters, grasp at the privilege of living for Jesus;
consecrate yourselves today to him; live from this hour forward, not
to enrich yourselves, nor to gain honour and esteem, but for Jesus,
for Jesus alone. Oh, if I could set him before you here; if I could
cause him to stand on this platform just as he came from Gethsemane
with his bloody sweat on him, or as he came down from the cross with
wounds so bright with glory and so fresh with bleeding out our
redemption, I think I should hear you say, each one of you, “Lord
Jesus, we are yours, and in whatever place you shall be, whether in
death or life, even there also will your servants be.” So may the
Lord help us by his most gracious Spirit who has performed all our
works in us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Portions Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — 2Sa 15:13-23 Mt 10:24-33]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — Not Ashamed Of The Gospel” 670]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Dedication To God — The Heart Given To God” 658]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Seeking to Persevere — ‘Will Ye Also Go?’ ” 666]
[a] Pillory: A contrivance for the punishment of offenders, consisting usually of a wooden framework erected on a post or pillar, and formed, like the stocks, of two movable boards which, when brought together at their edges, leave holes through which the head and hands of an offender were thrust, in which state he was exposed to public ridicule, insult, and molestation. OED.
Letter From Mr. Spurgeon
Beloved Friends, — The Lord has been graciously pleased to release his prisoner. I am weak, but the pain is gone, and in this land of bright sun and warm air I expect to recover strength soon. If my hopes are fulfilled, I shall have escaped this time with a lighter measure of chastening than for several previous years, and for this I feel doubly grateful. To all those by whose prayers I have been comforted and blessed I return hearty thanks.
Special services are beginning at the Tabernacle, and I entreat friends at home to throw their whole souls into them. I also ask my readers to pray that my beloved work at home may not suffer through my absence, but that it may please God through these special services to revive and increase the spiritual life of the church committed to my care. Then all the agencies will be quickened also, and great blessing will come to the people of God.
To the Lord our God belong the escapes from death, and he restores
our soul. To him be glory for ever.
With love for all the saints, yours,
C. H. Spurgeon
Mentone, Dec. 26, 1879.
The Christian, Courage and Confidence
670 — Not Ashamed Of The Gospel
1 I’m not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend his cause;
Maintain the honour of his word,
The glory of his cross.
2 Jesus, my God! I know his name,
His name is all my trust;
Nor will he put my soul to shame,
Nor let my hope be lost.
3 Firm as his throne his promise stands,
And he can well secure
What I’ve committed to his hands,
Till the decisive hour.
4 Then will he own my worthless name
Before his Father’s face;
And in the New Jerusalem
Appoint my soul a place.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
The Christian, Dedication To God
658 — The Heart Given To God
1 Oh happy day, that fix’d my choice
On thee, my Saviour, and my God;
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.
2 ‘Tis done! the great transaction’s done:
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine:
He drew me, and I follow’d on,
Charm’d to confess the voice divine.
3 Now rest, my long divided heart;
Fix’d on this blissful centre, rest:
With ashes who would grudge to part,
When call’d on angels’ bread to feast?
4 High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renew’d shall daily hear:
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear.
Philip Doddridge, 1755.
The Christian, Seeking to Persevere
666 — “Will Ye Also Go?”
1 When any turn from Zion’s way,
(Alas, what numbers do!)
Methinks I hear my Saviour say,
“Wilt thou forsake me too?”
2 Ah, Lord, with such a heart as mine,
Unless thou held me fast,
I feel I must, I shall decline,
And prove like them at last.
3 Yet thou alone hast power I know
To save a wretch like me:
To whom or whither could I go,
If I should turn from thee?
4 Beyond a doubt, I rest assured
Thou art the Christ of God;
Who hast eternal life secured
By promise and by blood.
5 The help of men and angels join’d
Could never reach my case;
Nor can I hope relief to find
But in thy boundless grace.
6 No voice but thine can give me rest,
And bid my fears depart:
No love but thine can make me blest,
And satisfy my heart.
7 What anguish has that question stirr’d,
If I will also go;
Yet, Lord, relying on thy word,
I humbly answer, No.
John Newton, 1779.