Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society, Faith, Politics

The Day David Showed Kindness to Mephibosheth

AN EXPOSITION OF SECOND SAMUEL 9:1-13

     1 AND David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?

Jonathan, whose name means, “Jehovah has given”, was a brave warrior, the oldest son of Saul, and the closest friend of David. A person is fortunate to have even one true friend in life. A British publication once offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Among the thousands of answers received were the following:

“One who multiplies joys, divides grief, and whose honesty is inviolable.”

“One who understands our silence.”

“A volume of sympathy bound in cloth.”

“A watch that beats true for all time and never runs down.”

The winning definition read:

“A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”

While David was fleeing for his life from a madly jealous King Saul, Jonathan came to David to comfort him. In the life of a Christian, Jesus is the best of Friends, for Christ loves forever. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” said Jesus (Heb. 13:5). The friendship of Christ extends to the point of laying down His very life to secure the salvation of His own. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Because of the great love of Jesus, because of His constant care, Christians can take any and every matter to the Lord in prayer.

“Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.”

Jesus is the Friend of sinners, and the Friend of saints.

Because Jonathan was a friend to David, when he was in a position to do so, David wanted to show his own love and appreciation. A true friendship will produce acts of kindness. So David asked, “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Sinful behavior and foolish decisions had led to the destruction of most of the house of Saul. Evil rulers produce evil policies and practices, and people die. The house of Saul was decimated. He who had stood head and shoulders above other men in Israel was dead. Three of his sons were dead. They were dead because of the principle of cursing by association. They followed in the footsteps of their father, and were slaughtered at the Battle of Mount Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:1-8). Fathers will either help, or hurt their children. That is a concept worth remembering. As the principle of cursing by association is set forth in the text, so is the concept of blessing by association. David wanted to do something for the sake of his friend, Jonathan. If possible, someone was going to be blessed because of association.

     2 And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he.

     3 And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet.

Ziba is an interesting personality. Though said to be a servant of Saul, he was not a good and faithful servant. By deceit, Ziba was able to obtain for himself one-half of the estate of Saul (2 Sam. 9:2-12; 16:1-4; 19:29). Perhaps his clever machinations are recorded in Scripture to remind others to be very careful whom they trust.

Many people have found out the hard way the truth of the doctrine of total depravity. The love of money, property, and possessions, is the root of all evil, and brings out the worst in individuals.

This is a terrible truth, because it makes it difficult to trust God. Nevertheless, the gospel exhortation comes to trust in the Lord above all others. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. 8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Prov. 3:5-8).

“Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him, He is ever faithful,
Trust Him, for His will is best,
Trust Him, for the heart of Jesus
Is the only place of rest.”

Source Unknown

     4 And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo’debar.

While Ziba proved to be a self-serving individual, Machir was a faithful subject of King Saul, for he took care of the lame son of Jonathan until relieved of that responsibility. In the years to come, Machir would prove to be loyal to David as the successor to the throne of Saul. When David was forced to flee Jerusalem because his son Absalom was trying to rule by force, Machir brought supplies to him (2 Sam. 17:27).

The life of Machir teaches Christians that loyalty to doing what is right is a great virtue. Machir was a loyal subject of king Saul, and then of king David, because it was the right thing to do. God wants people to honor the office of those He has appointed to rule.

While this is not always easy to do, for political differences arise, in principle, honoring those in authority is a Christian virtue. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

    5 Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo’debar.

    6 Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!

The person, whom David wanted to be a blessing to, for Jonathan’s sake, was his son, Mephibosheth. More often than not, throughout history, the decedents of a deposed royal family were executed, not protected and provided for. What David was determined to do went against the prevailing norm in society, it went against common sense, and it went against political instincts for self-preservation. Nevertheless, David wanted to show mercy and kindness to Mephibosheth for several reasons.

First, David himself was a recipient of grace and favor. As a former shepherd of the hills, David knew he had done nothing to earn or deserve the high office into which God had placed him through a series of remarkable circumstances. David was the object of God’s saving and sustaining grace. And a lesson is learned. Those who have received grace are under a holy obligation to show mercy and grace to others. If Christians remembered this, and practiced it, there would be fewer hurt feelings, fewer separations, and less conflicts in Christendom.

Second, David wanted to show grace and mercy to Mephibosheth because he too knew the terror of being hunted. If David could alleviate the fears of Mephibosheth, that would be good. Often, those who have known terror want others to be spared. Fear is a terrible feeling. It is a crippling emotion. “During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin.

Once, as he censured Stalin in a public meeting, Khrushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler in the audience. “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues. Why didn’t you stop him?” “Who said that?” roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed as nobody in the room dared move a muscle. Then Khrushchev replied quietly, “Now you know why.” (Today in the Word, July 13, 1993).

There might be another reason why David wanted to show mercy and grace to Mephibosheth, and that was to put away the past.

It is not always easy to forget the past, but sometimes it is the best. When Saul of Tarsus became Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, he wrote to the Church in Philippi saying, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). The son of Jonathan had a past that needed to be put away.

In particular, his name needed to be put away. Originally the son of Jonathan, and grandson of Saul, was called Merib-bal (1 Chron. 8:34; 9:40), a name associated with the worship of the idol, Baal. There is only one word to describe such an association: unacceptable! The name Mephibosheth is a much better name, for it means “destroying shame.”

When a person becomes a Christian, not only is their name written down in heaven, but all of their sin and shame is destroyed.

When Mephibosheth was compelled to appear before David, conflicting thoughts and emotions probably filled his mind.

Finally, the moment of truth came. He who was helpless was placed before David. Mephibosheth bowed on his face in an oriental display of respect and reverence.

“Mephibosheth?” asked David.

“Behold, thy servant,” replied Mephibosheth.

     7 And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.

One exhortation, and three promises were made to Mephibosheth. The exhortation was for Mephibosheth to not be afraid. He was not going to be tortured. He was not going to be sent into exile. He was not going to die. He had nothing to fear from David. I suspect that tears of gratitude and joy filled the eyes of Mephibosheth. And the best was yet to come. David promised Mephibosheth he would be shown kindness, he would have his property restored, and he would fellowship at the king’s table on a regular basis.

In all of this, the grace of God is reflected for the Lord invites sinners into His presence. He says to those who repent and believe in Christ, “Fear not. Though you deserve eternal punishment I will forgive you for the sake of my Son.” Then, adding grace to grace, the Lord gives to every believer a rich spiritual inheritance, and invites continual fellowship.

“Come and dine the Master calleth
Come and dine.
You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time.
He who fed the multitude,
Turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now,
Come and dine.”

     8 And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?

Mephibosheth was overwhelmed with the grace David extended to him. “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” Every person who has comprehended the grace of God knows why Mephibosheth responded as he did.

“When I think of how
He came so far from glory
Came to dwell among the lowly such as I
To suffer shame and such disgrace
On Mount Calvary take my place
Then I ask myself this question
Who am I?

Who am I that
The King would bleed and die for
Who am I that
He would pray not my will,
But Thine Lord

The answer I may never know
Why He ever loved me so
But to that old rugged cross He’d go
For who am I?

When I’m reminded of His words
I’ll leave Him never
If you’ll be true I’ll give to you life forever
Oh I wonder what I could have done
To deserve God’s only Son
To fight my battles until they’re won
For who am I?

Who am I that
The King would bleed and die for
Who am I that
He would pray not my will,
But Thine Lord

The answer I may never know
Why He ever loved me so
But to that old rugged cross
He’d go
For who am I?

But to an old rugged cross
He’d go
for, who am I?”

     11 Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons.

     12 And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth.

The Biblical narrative ends with this observation.

     13 So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.

Promises made, promises kept. God has made many promises to His own, and He has, and will keep every promise given.

The question comes, “Are we not lame, in both feet, before God?” We have tried to walk alone, and we find ourselves lost. We need grace. We need mercy. We need someone to search us out and bestow unmerited favor upon us.

And that is what God does. God gives to us amazing grace.

May our hearts bow in gratitude as we ask in wonder and amazement, “Who am I?”

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