Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 2Samuel 15:17-21
"So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at a place some distance away. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king. The king said to Ittai the Gittite, 'Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your countrymen. May kindness and faithfulness be with you.'
"But Ittai replied to the king, 'As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be' " (2Sa 15:17-21).
"There is Ruth-like quality [Rth 1:16,17] in this asseveration [serious statement] and there is almost an echo of it in the words of Jesus when he says: 'Where I am, there shall also my servant be' (John 12:26). For all of us, in our coming to Christ, the words of David have a special relevance: 'Thou art a stranger and also an exile: whereas thou camest but yesterday...' Sure we were, outside the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope and without God in the world. And we heard the call of the King. Our hearts took fast hold of the things concerning him and the kingdom, and we forsook our former allegiance. So now, 'in death or life,' in 'what place my Lord the king shall be' we follow, that in the end we might be with him for ever" (Harry Tennant, "The Man David" 163).
"The most notable of the 600-plus men of Gath was a man named Ittai who with his companions fled with David when Absalom rebelled. Ittai's words to David are quite extraordinary and again reveal how much Ruth's conversion meant to David. Indeed one is inclined to contemplate whether Ruth had still been alive in the early years of David's life and had been involved in his upbringing. David quite evidently had told Ittai of Ruth's words to her mother-in-law because Ittai's words seem to allude to them. When David suggested that Ittai should return from following him when he fled from Absalom, Ittai said: 'As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be' " (Ken Chalmers).
So Ittai is really saying, "If David's ancestress, a Moabite, can pledge such allegiance -- loving and absolute -- to the God of Israel and His people, then so can I... even though a Gittite!" And then, even we Aussies and Americans can say: "If Ruth, and Ittai, could say such things -- and do them... then so can I!"
One final lesson: How low David must have been feeling, in fleeing his own city and giving up his throne, upon which Yahweh had placed him! So here we have a newcomer -- one not so long before this a "godless" Gittite, a brute beast, so to speak (vv 19,20) -- not only coming with David, but encouraging him with these words... which (in their "Ruth" form) David must have quoted to him!
So the lesson is for all of us: It's good to share our bright and precious hope with others, because -- when we need it most -- one of them might just give it back to us!
Reading 2 - Jeremiah 19:10,11
"Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, and say to them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter's jar is smashed and cannot be repaired' " (Jer 19:10,11).
In the Near East, it is still the practice to break a jar near a person who has done wrong to one, and then to voice the hope that he will be similarly broken. The Egyptian practice of writing on clay vessels the names of enemies and breaking them at a sacred place has been suggested as a parallel. Such action was intended to bring about the downfall of the enemies.
So Jeremiah vividly portrayed the fate of the nation. The thrust of this acted oracle was to show the irrevocability of the nation's ruin. The Israelites knew of no way to mend a broken jar, which could only be thrown away. So Judah will be rejected because she failed to repent. There is a clear distinction between the acted oracle in this chapter and that of the potter's house (Jer 18:1-4). Soft, malleable clay can be shaped and reshaped, but broken jars are worthless, and must be thrown away.
Reading 3 - Romans 4:14-17
"For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring-- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: 'I have made you a father of many nations' [Gen 17:5]. He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed -- the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were" (Rom 4:14-17).
"If life is earned by keeping the law, neither promise nor faith enter in... By law comes knowledge of sin and consciousness of guilt and liability to punishment. Under law, sinning man comes under wrath. And man cannot keep the law; so law works wrath upon all. Therefore the apostle concludes, 'For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace.' Because of the impossibility of it being by law, if the promise and the inheritance are received at all, it must be by grace, operative through faith. And so it is. And so the promise is secure to all the seed; secure alike to the believing Jew, the seed who lived under the law, and the believing Gentile. This is involved in the promise that Abraham was made the father of MANY nations. If inheritance were of law, he could only be the father of those under law. Since law could give no title, the promise then would not be 'sure' to any. But the purpose of God, who made the promise, is sure. Abraham is appointed the father of many nations by God; in the sight of God -- 'before God' -- he was such then. 'I have made thee a father', said God to him, when there was as yet no seed, and Abraham and Sarah were old. But God, who could, and did, quicken 'dead' but believing Abraham and Sarah, so that a child was born of her past age, called those things which then had no existence as though they already had come into being (v 17)" (John Carter, "Romans").