After David’s fall into sin with Bathsheba and his consequent attempt to cover it up (2 Sam. 11), Jesse’s most famous son was far from a model of faith and discernment. He could not see the sin in his own household, and he failed to keep Absalom under control (chs. 13–14). However, with Absalom’s coup attempt against David, things began to change. Apparently, Absalom’s play for the throne shocked David back to reality (15:1–17). From the point of David’s fleeing Jerusalem onward, it seems that the old David, the pious and wise leader of God’s people, was mostly back.
We see evidence of this in today’s passage, which describes David’s journey out of Jerusalem and away from danger. First we have the king’s encounter with Ittai the Gittite. He was a supporter of David’s from Gath, and when David was exiled, he went with him. David tried to persuade Ittai to do otherwise, for he had been with the king for only about a day and should not have had to suffer for supporting David because he had not really had a chance yet to stand with David. But Ittai refused to go back to Jerusalem. He would be loyal to the rightful king. David showed himself magnanimous to Ittai, and he was rewarded with loyal friendship (vv. 18–23).
David also had the priesthood on his side. The priests Abiathar and Zadok, along with the Levites, tried to go with David, bringing the ark of God with them. Yet David was not willing to have the ark leave its designated city. His charge to the priests shows a remarkable surrender to the providence of God. David was confident that if it was the Lord’s will, he would come back to Jerusalem and see the ark again. If not, he was content for God to do to him what seemed good (vv. 24–29). That is the kind of faith the leader of God’s people should have. After being absent for so long, the man after God’s own heart had returned.
Ittai and the priests were loyal to David, but his adviser Ahithophel was not, having betrayed the king to stay with Absalom. Upon hearing this, David prayed for Ahithophel’s counsel to be turned to foolishness. God answered this prayer, but not by striking Ahithophel directly. Instead, he provided Hushai the Archite, whom David commissioned to be his man on the inside to report what the conspiracy was up to and to frustrate its plans (vv. 30–37). In doing this, David showed wisdom and a good understanding of providence. He knew the Lord would work things out as He saw fit, but that did not mean he had to sit back and passively watch things unfold.