Closer than a Brother

2 Samuel 15:13-23

Our Old Testament Scripture today focuses on King David.

The effects of David’s adulterous liaisons with Bathsheba are in full bloom. David has seen his family demolished; innocent lives devastated and precious people destroyed. All because of the choices he made. He is at the lowest point of his life! His own son Absalom, has risen up in rebellion against David and has driven him from his Palace and from the city of Jerusalem. This passage finds him on the run for his life from his own son.

At this point in time David does not need a lecture on being a better father. He does not need a seminar of how to govern a kingdom. He does not need someone coming along to tell him what a failure he is. He knows all that well enough by now.

What David needs is a friend!

In 2 Samuel, chapters 15-19 we read about some friends that walked into David’s life at just this moment when he needed them most. You see, the Bible says, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18:24. In the verses we will study today we will see this passage come to life. In the friends who came to David’s aid in his time of need, we can see what a real friend ought to be and we can see a picture of the ultimate Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ. My sermon today entitled Closer Than A Brother will reveal the kinds of friends David had in his life.


2 Sam. 15:18-22 – reveals to us Ittai the Gittite

It seems that this Ittai is the commander of a group of 600 men

that came to Israel from Gath to follow David, v. 18. Gath, as you may recall, is in the land of the Philistines. It was also the home of Goliath. You might also remember that David spent some time living in Philistia when he was on the run from King Saul. Apparently, David made an impression on Ittai and the rest of these men. Now that David is on the run again,

Ittai expresses his desire to be with David.

Ittai is a person who has been in the background. This is the first time his name is mentioned. But, when the chips were down in David’s life, Ittai steps up and demonstrates the depths of his love for the exiled king. In fact, he pledges his absolute allegiance to David, even if it means death for Ittai, v. 21.

That is a true friend!

A while ago one of the popular newspapers ran a contest asking for the definition of friend. The winning entry was this thought: “A friend is the first person who comes in when the whole world goes out.” That is what Ittai did for David!

As we go through this life, there are few people that will fit into that category for you and for me. But, thank God for our true friends. Thank God for the people who love us when we are on the top and when we hit the bottom. If you have a friend like Ittai, then you are a wealthy person!

Sadly, many people will be your friend when all is well in your life and when they can benefit from being around you. A real friend loves you when you have absolutely nothing left to give!

I thank God for friends like Ittai in my life, but even if I had none like him, I am glad that I have a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. One who has promised never to walk out on me, One who tells me He loves me regardless of my current condition, I have a Friend who cares for me when I am up and runs to my side when I am down. Jesus is a true Friend!


2 Sam. 15:23-28 introduces Zadok and Abi-athar.

Zadok and Abi-athar were priests. They were men of God who loved David and wanted to follow him. When he fled from Absalom, they followed David bringing with them the Ark of the Covenant. David, however, sends them back to Jerusalem, placing his trust in the power of God to deliver him, v. 25-26. David tells them that they can best serve him by being his eyes in the city. Then, without comment, the two priests turn around and carry the Ark back into the city. By returning to Jerusalem and agreeing to act as spies for David, these men took a great risk! They put their very lives on the line for their friend.

These two demonstrate one of the great marks of a true friend. A genuine friend will love you and accept you, even when he does not understand you or agree with you. A real friend will stand by you regardless of the risks involved. They will stick out their necks for you. They will be there when others turn and walk away! A genuine friend might even get hurt in the process of taking your side. But, no matter when you look, you will find them standing firm, in your corner! That is a real friend!

If you have a friend like that, then God has greatly blessed

your life.

The story is told of Two Men who were out hunting in the woods. Suddenly one yelled, and the other looked up to see a Grizzly Bear charging them. The first started to frantically put on his tennis shoes and his friend anxiously asked, “What are you doing? Don’t you know you can’t outrun a grizzly bear?” “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!”

he snapped – as he disappeared into the mists.

Have you gotten friends like that?

When the chips are down, they think of themselves first. A true friend will always put you first! I am glad to report to

you that the Christian has such a Friend in Jesus! He loves

us so much that even when we were His enemies, He gave His life on the cross to save our souls. He even called us His friends when were acting like His enemies. He is a Friend who loves us like we are, even when we are unlovable. He loves us though we often act foolishly toward Him. He loves us even though we do not deserve His love; He is an ever faithful Friend … tell me,

is He your Friend?

So then, in his hour of Crisis, David had Heartfelt and Humble Friends. Then I noted that DAVID HAD HEROIC FRIENDS

2 Sam. 15:30-37 introduces us to Hushai the Archite

So the next friend to come to David’s side was a man named Hushai. We are told in verse 37 that he is David’s friend.

He comes to meet David, as David is leaving Jerusalem, and Hushai is clearly in mourning. He is broken hearted over what is happening to his king and to his friend. David sends him back into the city. He tells him to go to Absalom and feign allegiance. David wants Hushai to counter the counsel of old Ahith-ophel. Ahith-ophel was David’s counselor, but he was also Bathsheba’s grandfather. He saw the rebellion of Absalom as an opportunity to get even with David for what he had done to Bathsheba

and Uriah (her husband).

So, Hushai does what David asks and in so doing, saves David’s life, 2 Sam. 17:15-22. He served as David’s eyes and ears in the throne room. He was heroic, in that he laid his life on the line for his friend. One slip up, and Hushai would have been

a dead man!

Few, but precious are the friends that will take that kind of stand for you. David was blessed in that he had a few friends who were willing to take a chance to help him in his time of need. He had Hushai, Zadok, Abi-athar, their two sons Jonathan and Ahi-maaz, an unknown girl who took a message, 17:17, and an unnamed woman who hid Jonathan and Ahi-maaz as they carried a message to David, 17:18-21.

Thank the Lord for those people who will stand by us no matter what the personal cost!

Let me tell you a story:

Jesse Owens seemed sure to win the long jump at the 1936 Olympic games. The year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8¼ inches — a record that would stand for 25 years. As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens saw a tall, blue eyed, blond German guy taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis’ desire to prove “Aryan superiority,” especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German man introduced himself as Luz Long. “You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!” he said to Owens, referring to his two jumps. For the next few moments the black son of a share-cropper and the white model of Nazi manhood chatted. Then Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5½ inches, why not make a mark several inches before the take-off -board and jump from there, just to play it safe? Owens did, and qualified easily. In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four gold medals. The first person to congratulate him was Luz Long — in full view of Adolf Hitler. Owens never again saw Long, who was killed in World War II. “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have,” Owens later wrote, “and they wouldn’t be a shadow of the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.”

That is the mark of a true friend, always considering you first!

We have such a Friend in the Lord Jesus! He put everything on the line for us, His friends. He placed us ahead of Himself. He stormed the ramparts of Hell; defeated the power of sin, death, and the grave; and He gave us the victory that He had suffered to win. Thank God for a Friend like Him!


2 Sam. 17:27-28 reveal three such friends in Shobi, Machir and Bar-zillai

These three men were nobodies who became somebody’s in the life of David. Let’s look at these men a little closer.

· Shobi – He was an Ammonite. His father, Nahash the king of Ammon was cruel beyond words, 1 Sam. 11. His brother Hunan had embarrassed David’s messengers, 2 Sam. 10. But, Shobi became an ally of David and stood by him through these difficult days. David had fought against his people. But, Shobi did not allow the past to cloud his love for David.

· Machir – He was the man from Lo-debar who gave shelter to Mephibosheth. (Jonathans Son) He was the kind of person who had a tender heart and seemed to want to reach out and help others. He may have thought that he had already given enough, but he gave more because he was David’s friend. He never forgot what David had done for Mephibosheth.

Then …

· Bar-zillai – He was an old man and had plenty of money,

2 Sam. 19:32. He could have said, “Get someone else! I’m old and I’m tired.” But, he didn’t! He was David’s friend and he rose to the challenge. When he was needed, he came and he

gave practical support and help to his friend.

These men reveal the true nature of friendship. They gave without being asked and they asked for nothing in return.

They gave out of love with no hidden agenda. They did what they did because they loved David. He was their friend and no price was too high and no inconvenience too great. They did what they could for their friend! Are you doing what you

can for your friends?

Notice where David is when these three come to him. He is in a place called “Mahanaim”. This is not the first time this place has been mentioned in the Bible. The first time it is mentioned is during the life of Jacob. As Jacob returned home after 20 years in exile, the angels of the Lord met him in “Mahanaim”, Gen. 32:1-2. Just like the angels came and ministered to Jacob; Shobi, Machir and Bar-zillai came and did angel’s work in David’s life. Thank God for friends like these!

That is the kind of a Friend that we have found in Jesus! He came in when we had no hope. He gave us just what we needed when we needed it. He did, not the work of an angel, but the work of a Saviour in our lives. He gave His all and never stopped to consider the cost or to ask for repayment. As the hymn writer said, “What a Friend we have in Jesus!”

So we see David’s Heartfelt, Humble, Heroic and Helpful friends, then we get to see that on top of all that


2 Sam. 19:1-8 Introduce us to Joab

Joab was David’s nephew, and the commander of his army. During the battle to retake Jerusalem and to bring David back to the throne – David’s son Absalom becomes trapped in a tree by his hair, 2 Sam. 18:9-17; Joab finds him hanging there and he and his armour-bearers kill Absalom. When David hears the news, he is devastated and goes off by himself to mourn, 2 Sam.

18:23-33. David is overcome with grief and guilt and cannot

comprehend that the kingdom had been returned to him.

When Joab hears how David is acting, he goes to David and rebukes him for not praising the people for bringing him back to the throne. He reminds David that there are larger issues at stake. David is still king and as king he has a responsibility to the people. He reminds David that he has a job to do! David sees his error and goes out to meet the people. Joab was a friend because he told David the truth! He would not stand by and watch his friend make a mistake that he would later regret.

That is what a good friend does! They will tell you the truth about your life and your decisions. They do so, not to hurt you, but to help you avoid the pain that comes with foolish errors.

David had a friend like that in Joab and he had a friend like that in Nathan the Prophet also – 2 Sam. 12:7. If you have a friend who loves you enough to tell you the truth, then you are a blessed individual. Real friends pull no punches, they tell the truth!

Thank God that Jesus is that kind of Friend too, he tells us the truth! He tells us that we are sinners in need of a Saviour. He warns us to avoid the fires of Hell. He confronts us about the way we live our lives and He does all this, because He loves us.

This period of David’s life was the hardest he would ever face. Yet, face it he did! And, he faced it with the help of his friends. The people God providentially placed within his life made the road easier and the burden lighter. David was a rich man,

not because he had wealth, position and power, but because

he had good friends! Thank God for our friends! They are like fine jewels fixed in the crown of our lives. When God gives us people like He gave David, He has blessed us above measure; Praise God.

Now this sermon would be incomplete without mention of David’s best friend Jonathan. He was not part of today’s scripture, but was very much more than just a part of David’s life. Jonathan was King Saul’s Son and as such was the natural Heir to the Throne, but Jonathan knew that Gods Kingly anointing was on David, and I believe that he knew the significance of such an anointing. Saul too had such an anointing in his early life, and Jonathan seems to have kept his heart free from jealousy and bitterness towards David.

Jonathan and David were Comrades, Mates, Buddies, Pals, inseparable when it came to their affection for one another. At his untimely death with Saul His Father, David mourned their loss with great grief and many tears, but it is his words that he reveals the truth about their love and the depth of their relationship. He says in 2 Samuel 1, v26

“I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women”. Misunderstanding of this kind of verbal sentiment is common in our Western culture, but in the East, there is no such misunderstanding. Here in the west we do not understand love between men, and imagine that some sort of “sexual” intent is implied? Nor in this region of the world do

we enjoy as part of our culture the “camaraderie” and close personal affectionate bonds that exist between men as in other parts of the world, which is quite natural to them, yet it seems strange to us. This is why many of us have a problem with John who lay at supper on Jesus breast. ( John 13:23) and with what Paul called the “holy kiss”? (Romans 16:16) There is nothing strange about any of that just as there was nothing unnatural or unhealthy about David and Jonathans relationship, it was and is retained in the Scriptures for our example and our edification.

As is the warm relationship between Elijah and Elisha, Joshua

and Caleb, Paul and Timothy and so on. May God grant us friends who love us, not just by declaration but by illustration. Don’t tell me you love me, show me you love me.


As you listen today, you may have no friend, and no one who will give you a hug, or show you affection, and you may feel very much alone in the world. Look again at that verse with which I began my sermon… from Proverbs 18:24

A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,”

I have discovered that you must be friendly to make friends; you must give love to get love. You must walk in love to have a lovely walk. Did you know that every person that crosses your path in life is an opportunity for you to love. I made up my mind a long time ago that if I were to follow Christ I could and would hate no-one. I must walk in love towards all, otherwise Christ cannot walk with me. Jesus wants to be your Brother, and much more, and what we cannot do by ourselves, he can do through us.

I’ll say it again as I close…

You must walk in Love, to have a lovely walk.

And even if no-one loves you, and no-one likes you,

God Loves You, and so do I.