His loyal love – a servant’s heart
One of the most quoted passages of Scripture on loyal love is from the Book of Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your People shall be my people, And your God, my God,” (Ruth 1:16).
This profound declaration of loyalty is a beautiful illustration of the deepest friendship, most unselfish love, and abiding trust that one can express. Ruth demonstrated this to Naomi, her mother-in-law, by traveling with her out of Ruth’s familiar surroundings to the strangeness of Naomi’s home.
In today’s passage of Scripture, King David is the grateful recipient of steadfast loyalty. Ittai the Gittite and his men, foreigners who lived under David’s protection, pledged their lives and military strength to David as he fled Jerusalem, (2 Samuel 15:21-23). In glaring contrast to the loyal love demonstrated by Naomi and Ittai, we learn the historical account of David’s own son, Absalom, who was the epitome of disloyalty.
Loyalty is defined as allegiance, faithfulness, fidelity, devotion, steadfastness, commitment. What engenders loyalty? In today’s world of business, customer satisfaction is the gold standard for ensuring customer loyalty. There are case studies on the global market that prove good customer service is paramount to continued success of a business. Out of these studies came solid strategies for increasing the odds of customer satisfaction. One principal factor in building loyalty is to provide reliable service. That is, do what you say you will do every time. That may mean going the extra mile, suffering personal loss, and responding judiciously to the needs of customers. Another important strategy is providing relational service. This is accomplished by recognizing the importance of customer/business relationships in tangible ways such as rewarding repeated visits – think perks, redeemable stars given in a point system, specials meant just for those who keep coming back. Responsive service is another strategy in developing customer satisfaction. Communicating with customers is crucial for learning about their changing needs. This means being open to their honest opinions, encouraging feedback, and analyzing their points of interest or pain. And finally, commemorating service by ‘shouting out’ customer satisfaction is a strategy that validates the success of the business. This is accomplished by publishing reviews, testimonials, endorsements, etc.
Absalom would have made a fortune in today’s business. He must have been reading Forbes magazine in learning how to turn the people toward him and away from his father, King David. “And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So, Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel,” (2 Samuel 15:5-6).
How had David lost the hearts of so many men? First, he, an aging king, was not as visible to his people as his handsome son. David may have been relying on his past laurels to garner loyalty from his people. However, “it was said that Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate,” (2 Samuel 15:2). Also, King David did not hear the changing opinions of his people who feared losing the heir to the throne, (2 Samuel 14:13-15). And though David eventually reconciled with Absalom, he had refused to see him for two years, thereby failing to endorse him, (2 Samuel 14:28). To be sure, King David was conflicted since Absalom had murdered his brother and sought to kill all the King’s sons. Yet, doing nothing for so long to restore the relationship and shunning Absalom no doubt sowed seeds of bitterness that eventually produced conspiracy and rebellion. Absolom was more business savvy which cost David many loyal subjects.
I can relate to King David, however. I, too, have wanted to turn away from negative situations, especially when relationships were involved. I would rather live and let be than consider my own shortcomings or confront others. Unfortunately, this posture has allowed situations to escalate to the point where I am either running from the consequences of inaction or having to do damage control. Yet, I know from experience why we should never let the sun go down on our anger. Why we should forgive – I mean really forgive. When to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’ to loved ones and to the stranger. Why we should pray, pray, pray to have the log removed out of our own eye and to have our buried head pulled out of the sand.
When on the run, I also neglect to nurture my spiritual relationship with God. No surprise that doing so is reflected in the loss of earthly relationships. Thankfully, we are made in the image of God, and God’s character is the very definition of loyal love. Therefore, I believe God can change my heart attitude, can give me the courage to address uncomfortable situations, can utter words I should speak in difficult conversations, and can work all things out for my good. And theirs. (Romans 8:28)
David’s journey back to the throne depended on God’s faithfulness to him. We, too, have been restored through the blessing of God’s loyal love. He heard our cries and sent His Son, Jesus Christ to us. Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected to bring us back to the Father. As if that were not enough to earn our loyalty, God is faithful to fulfil all His promises to us. And He does not hold back on celebrating our salvation. As is evidenced in Luke 15:10, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” And “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing,” (Zephania 3:17).
Father, God, thank You for your loyal love! Help me to be filled by Your Holy Spirit and have access to Your wisdom, counseling, and authority. Teach me, dear Lord, to develop behaviors that encourage, support, and benefit those whom You have given me at my place of work, in my marriage, in friendships, and in fellowship. I pray that as Your servant, Lord God, I will give my very best service to others in Your blessed name.