Just Call Me “Mephibosheth”
2 Samuel 9:1-13
How do you pronounce “Mephibosheth.” It is pronounced Me phib o sheth. I don’t know anyone by that name. No one I know is that good of a speller. Who was he other than a good speller? Mephibosheth means “one who scatters shame.” He was the son of David’s friend, Jonathan, and the grandson of King Saul. After all the descendants of Saul were killed, he was the lone survivor of the first royal dynasty of Israel.
Why study this seemingly obscure character from the Old Testament? Because we all have a lot in common with Mephibosheth.
How We Are like Mephibosheth?
Lamed by a Fall
The story goes that when “Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel; and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened, as she made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. So his name was Mephibosheth” (2 Samuel 4:4). It was an accident. His nurse did not mean to cause the boy harm. However, he would be a cripple from this fall for the rest of his life.
All of us have been at one time or another crippled by sin. Sin keeps us from walking with God. Sin hinders us on our journey to Heaven. Spiritually, speaking we are hopelessly handicapped by the guilt and consequences of sin.
Looked for by the King
After David became King he asked, “Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?…Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?” (2 Sam. 9:1,3a). “And Ziba said to the king, ‘There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet’” (2 Sam. 9:1,3a).
It was not crippled Mephibosheth who was looking for the King’s help. Instead, it was King David who went in search of him in order to show mercy and grace.
Jesus, the King of kings, explained His motive for coming into the world. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The world was filled with sinners in need of a Savior but not conscious of the need. Jesus “was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10). God is seeking sinners, but sinners are not looking for Him. We are lost, God is not. God cares enough to seek us out to show favor.
Located in a Far Country
Next, King David asked, “Where is he?’ And Ziba said to the king, ‘Indeed he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, in Lo Debar’” (2 Samuel 9:4). This city is located east of the Jordan River. It is known was a desolate barren land. In fact, Lo Debar means “place of no bread.”
In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the lost sheep was found far away from the fold. It required an effort to search for a time to bring it back. The prodigal son wasted his money in a far country. Remember God is not the one who abandons us or moves away. As sinners, we leave Him.
In truth He is not too far away. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Is. 59:1-2). In his sermon on Mars’ Hill Paul told the Athenians, “they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). No distance is too great for God.
Loved Because of Another
“Now when Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself. Then David said, ‘Mephibosheth?’ And he answered, ‘Here is your servant!’ So David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually’” (2 Sam. 9:6-7).
Paul explains why God has sought for and accepts us: “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).
Loyalty to a Promise Saves
David blessed Mephibosheth because of the loyalty which existed between him and Jonathan. They had made a pact or covenant to look after each other’s families. Jonathan said to David, “And you shall not only show me the kindness of the Lord while I still live, that I may not die; “but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the Lord has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth” (1 Samuel 20:14,15). Jonathan was now dead. But David’s loyalty to the covenant He made was still valid.
In Genesis 12 God had made a Covenant with Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The Seed was Jesus Christ. All the promises going back to Genesis 3:15 are fulfilled by Christ. Jesus came to fulfill all the Law and the prophets (Matt. 5:170. Jesus said, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).
Life Sustained by Grace
When a new royal dynasty arose in a nation, the new king will quickly execute all those of the previous one to solidify his power. David did not seek Mephibosheth for execution but sustained his life by showing grace. Mephibosheth knew that he had done nothing to deserve this royal treatment. He said to David, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?” (1 Sam. 9:8). His grandfather, King Saul, had sought to killed David many times over.
We too need to be aware of our unworthiness as sinners who are dead in our trespasses and sins. But God has shown us undeserved kindness. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8).
Mephibosheth was in no condition to repay David. He could not even begin to really care for himself. However, David supplied him with all he needed.
Like Jonathan’s son we too are languid. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).
Lavished with Instant Riches
David gave Mephibosheth Saul’s estate. He thus went from rags to riches in a moment.
God saves us from sin the moment we obey the Gospel and have our sins washed away in baptism. He instantly bestows on us every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). We have a peace that surpasses all understanding, unsearchable riches, and joy inexpressible and full of glory. We have a direct line to the throne of grace via prayer. The blood of Christ continues to cleanse as we confess our sins. Our crown does not fade away. Our inheritance can never be stolen.
Lunch at the King’s Table
David next restored Mephibosheth to the Palace of the King. Again, he has a right to eat at the king’s table. David promised “he shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons” (2 Sam. 9:11).
Jesus longs to dine with us. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:20,21).
Learned to Be Faithful
Just how did Methibosheth respond to King David’s kindness? He would remain loyal to David even during their dark days in the Kingdom when civil war displaced both him and his benefactor. He would suffer persecution but remain faithful. A lesson all Christians need to learn. Despite the difficulties of being a Christian, we must remain true and loyal to the one who has shown us such undeserved kindness.
– Daniel R. Vess