May 11 2012

This is a meditation on the 9th chapter of II Samuel, which is the story of Mephibosheth. It is a beautiful type of the grace of God. In this chapter, as a type study, try to see yourself as Mephibosheth, and King David as God.
(Perhaps you could also apply Jonathan as Christ and Ziba as the Holy Spirit, but I didn’t develop that thought.)

1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

4 “Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table. ”

8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.

12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.

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9:1 shows us a God who seems to be searching to show kindness, and who is looking for someone who was a member of a family that had been at enmity with him. This kindness was not only for the sake of his late friend Jonathan, but also because it was in his own heart to do so. I have heard some preachers talk as if Christ had to persuade his angry reluctant father to be kind and forgiving. That is not true. “God so loved that he gave His Son.”

9:2 tells us that there was a servant (Ziba) left over from Saul’s household. It was no accident that Ziba had been spared, and had survived unto this hour, or that he happened to be in the right place at the right time, or that he happened to know about Mephibosheth. God primarily uses the normal events in the lives of normal people to perform his wondrous acts of mercy and to accomplish his gracious purposes.

In 9:3, the servant Ziba reveals the existence of Mephibosheth, and the fact of his lameness. We are told back in II Sam 4:4 that he became lame at the age of five. From looking at that text, I don’t think that the nurse was carrying him and dropped him. He was, after all, five years old. And it does say that “he fell.” I think that in her haste to flee from danger she probably jerked him up by the arm and tried to get him to flee with her, and in trying to run so fast, he couldn’t help but fall.
Like Mephibosheth, we are crippled because of that initial fall in the garden of Eden. But, also like Mephibosheth, we have fallen many times since then. The reason Mephibosheth knew that he was lame was that any time after that first fall, when he tried to walk or to run, he fell again. And whenever we try to rely upon our own strength, we also shall continue to fall. One way to fall even harder and more often is to forget about our lameness.

9:4-5 reveals that Ziba knew the exact location of Mephibosheth, and was not reluctant to reveal the address to the king, trusting that the king would indeed show kindness just as he had said. One of the greatest and most basic statements of faith is that we believe that God is GOOD, and therefore can be trusted.
There is much evidence to the contrary. Injustice and suffering and sorrow abound everywhere. It would not be difficult to argue for the existence of an evil creator who delights for our world to be this way. But in faith, we believe that God is indeed good, and that the curses of sin and death will eventually be redeemed by the sovereign working of a benevolent God who has not lost control, but has divine purposes even beyond our comprehension.

In 9:6 I see Mephibosheth’s fear and respect when he first is brought before the king. Then there is the message of grace that David gives in verse 7, followed by Mephibosheth being shocked and overwhelmed at the reality of grace in verse 8. But he is not there yet in verse 6. When Mephibosheth falls prostrate on his face before the king, he is obviously fearful, resulting in King David’s comforting words for him to “fear not.” I think that perhaps I also see in verse 6 some vain attempt to do something meritorious– some act of service that even a lame man might be able to do, to make his position a little more acceptable to the king, so as to spare his own life. “At your service, oh King!” As if the king needed a crippled man to help in his kingdom!
But then the statement of David puts a quick end to that. It was never about what Mephibosheth could do for David, but what David wanted to do for him.

“Fear not… I will show you kindness… I will restore your family’s land to you… you will continually eat at my table.”
Then, and only then, does Mephibosheth really see his own unworthiness, and his own powerlessness!

“Why are you even looking at me? Why are you showing such undeserved favor to me? I am a dead dog!”

As John Newton certainly knew, the best adjective to describe the grace of God is… amazing! And in one of the greatest lines ever penned, it is “amazing grace– how sweet the sound– that saved a wretch like me.”
Mephibosheth was not wrong, nor was he exaggerating the situation, when he described himself as a dead dog. Nor was Newton when he described himself as a wretch. We must face our own wretchedness. It is true. It is accurate. It is not an overstatement. When we face that, then grace will continue to amaze us. Its truth will continue to be a sweet sound.

I have a friend who spent years saying that he didn’t believe in God or need God. Then, almost in defiance, he said, “God… if you are really there, you are going to have to SHOW ME YOURSELF!” He related to me later that “God didn’t show me himself… He showed me MYSELF… and I wanted to die right there!” That was all it took.

How could you, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, come seeking for me, and find me, and give me a welcome into your home, and a place at your table, when I am nothing but a wretch, and there is nothing that I can bring, nothing that I can pay, and nothing that I can do? I am totally flabbergasted! I am in shock! I am scandalized by it. I have trouble accepting it. It is too radical for my comprehension. But somehow I find myself hoping… trying…daring to believe it!

The remaining verses of the chapter tell about how the king called the family and servants of Ziba to perform all that he had promised Mephibosheth, and more. They tilled the land and brought in the produce. And there were 15 sons of Ziba and 20 servants whose primary task was to serve Mephibosheth. And David decreed that for all of his remaining life Mephibosheth should sit at his table “as one of the king’s sons!”

And can it be that I should gain an entrance in the Savior’s love?
Died He for me who caused him pain?
For me who him to death pursued?
Amazing love, how can it be that thou my God shouldst die for me?
Amazing love, how can it be?

A modern day Mephibosheth. A worthless wretch. A dead dog. Sitting at the King’s table.

An honored member of the family? Oh God, is this really real, or is it only a crazy dream that I will wake up from and once again find myself in the gutter of despair?

But if it really is real, and not a dream… if the story of grace is really true… this changes absolutely EVERYTHING!

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