Following Saul’s death, a civil war had ensued in Israel which pitched the house of Saul against the house of David in a power struggle over control of the country. ‘Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; and David grew steadily stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker continually.’ (2 Samuel 3:1). Eventually David was established as king and some time after we read this story involving Mephibosheth who was the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. There are some interesting features worth noting:
- There was nothing to commend Mephibosheth
Mephibosheth was a cripple. He is described as being ‘crippled in both feet’ (v5). When Mephibosheth was 5 years old the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death in battle was heard. Knowing that the boy was potentially in danger as a direct heir to the throne, his nurse picked him up to flee to a safe place. In her haste there was an accident resulting in Mephibosheth becoming lame (2 Samuel 4:4). Mephibosheth would therefore have grown up believing that he was of very little use to anyone especially as he couldn’t work to earn a living. People like him would not have had any respect or status in society. Mephibosheth’s own view of himself was that he was a ‘dead dog’ (v8).
But not only was he crippled; he was also part of the wrong family. Even aside from his physical difficulties, no-one would have wanted to associate with him for fear of what might happen to them as he was part of the ‘house of Saul’.
There was no reason that the king should even notice Mephibosheth. And yet, he did.
- Mephibosheth received kindness instead of death
As a member of the opposing side in the civil war, Mephibosheth should have been killed. Not only was he part of the wrong family, but as the grandson of Saul he had a claim to the throne. Civil wars usually result in anyone who might have a claim to power due to their position in the previous regime being killed or imprisoned. The bottom line is that Mephibosheth should have been killed. Instead David looked around for ‘anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God’ (verses 1, 3) and chose Mephibosheth.
- The initiative came from the king
Mephibosheth did nothing to cause the king to show him kindness. There was no pleading. There was no begging for mercy. There was no delegation sent to David trying to ask for mercy along the lines of, ‘Please don’t hurt me; you were friends with my dad.’ The initiative for this act of kindness came from the king alone. It was not prompted by Mephibosheth or anything that he did. It was the king who went looking for someone to whom he could show kindness.
- Mephibosheth was invited to live like a son of the king
Mephibosheth would have lived in fear of his life. He would have seen one relative after another be killed as David’s rule was strengthened. He would have believed that he was living on borrowed time and just waited for the knock at the door that signalled the end.
One day a knock on the door did come. But the knock on the door was not to end his life. It was to bring about a new phase in his life. The king summoned him (v5) and told him not to be fearful (v7). This, surely, was already more than Mephibosheth could possibly have hoped for or imagined. But David continued. He announced that he would have kindness shown to him (v7) and the land formerly owned by his family restored to him (v7). He was even given servants who would cultivate the land for him (v10). This crippled nobody became one of the wealthiest people in the nation in an instant!
Not only that, but David told him that he was to come and eat at the king’s table (v7). We read in verses 11-13 that Mephibosheth went to live in Jerusalem in the presence of the king and regularly ate at the king’s table ‘as one of the king’s sons’.
What a transformation! From a position of living in fear of imminent death to feasting like a son at the king’s table!
What about us?
We, like Mephibosheth, have nothing to commend us. We were enemies of God (Romans 5:10) who were worthy of death. Most of us were foolish, weak and looked down on by the world (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). We had nothing to boast about, no redeeming features, nothing that would count us worthy. And yet, He noticed us!
We, like Mephibosheth, have received kindness instead of death. We should have been punished due to our sins but instead we have experienced the kindness of God which leads us to repentance (Romans 2:5).
We, like Mephibosheth, have a king who has interceded on our behalf. There is nothing we have done to place ourselves in His good books. Instead, He has taken the initiative and reached out to us. He has taken it upon Himself to search out and find those on whom He can pour out His favour.
We, like Mephibosheth, are now invited to live in the presence of king. We have become members of his household. We are now part of the family. We now live as sons of the king and feats at His table. We now live in the light of undeserved favour that God Himself has lavished on us.
‘How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to dwell in Your courts.
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.’ (Psalm 65:4)