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Introduction

  • Our O.T. character today is a minor character. And yet doesn't mean he isn't important.
  • The relationship between David and Jonathan (Saul's son, next in line for the throne) was intimate.
  • Jonathan's son becomes disabled -- but this is not what matters most. Rather, what we are about to study is an excellent illustration of grace.
  • 2 Sam 4:4 Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.
    • Distressing news led to his nurse dropping him. (Reminds us of death of Eli on hearing another battle report.)
    • Escaping potential assassins, nurse runs
    • Source of medical condition = human error.
      • Born blind v. blinded in acid attack
      • Born with heart problem (Kurka) v. asbestos / careless company
    • Quite possibly that in time he couldn’t even remember ever being able to walk without assistance or crutches.
  • Image of grace, not just for medical situations
    • Mental health issues
    • Trauma (e.g. PTSD or abuse)
    • Sin cripples us

9:1 And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?” 2 Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” 3 And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” 4 The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.”

  • Lo-debar means nothing.
  • This underscores the humble situation of Mephibosheth.

9:5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 6 And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” 7 And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”

  • Mephibosheth need not fear; David is not assassinating potential political rivals -- quite the opposite!
  • "Dead dog" => humility

9:9 Then the king called Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. 10 And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master's grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall always eat at my table.”

  • There is no merit in the case of Mephibosheth. Disability brings no entitlements.
  • Provision in perpetuity
  • The "king's table" (provision, not necessarily presence)

Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David's table, like one of the king's sons. 12 And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba's house became Mephibosheth's servants. 13 So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king's table. Now he was lame in both his feet.

  • Grace brings us to the King’s presence.
  • Sons (and daughters) of the King!
  • Mephibosheth is no longer a boy -- he is a grown man and a father.

16:1 When David had passed a little beyond the summit, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of donkeys saddled, bearing two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred of summer fruits, and a skin of wine. 2 And the king said to Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king's household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who faint in the wilderness to drink.” 3 And the king said, “And where is your master's son?” Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he remains in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father.’” 4 Then the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.” And Ziba said, “I pay homage; let me ever find favor in your sight, my lord the king.”

  • Ziba shows grace to the king and his men -- or is this disingenuous?
  • Mephibosheth has political aspirations -- really? (Is Ziba speaking the truth?)
  • Compare Mephibosheth's disposition to that of Adonijah in 1 Kings 2:15.

16:24 And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety. 25 And when he came to Jerusalem to meet the king, the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?” 26 He answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me, for your servant said to him, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go with the king.’ For your servant is lame. 27 He has slandered your servant to my lord the king. But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you. 28 For all my father's house were but men doomed to death before my lord the king, but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to cry to the king?” 29 And the king said to him, “Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land.” 30 And Mephibosheth said to the king, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.”

  • Mephibosheth's lack of grooming indicates his grief over the coup, not giddy expectancy that his own situation now stands to gain.
  •  Betrayal
    • Deception
    • Slander
    • How do we react when this happens to us?
  • Is Ziba speaking the truth?
  • Division of property is redolent of 1 Kings 3:26 (“Let him take it all” —  like the prostitute who spoke honestly)

Grace

  • Mephibosheth shows grace.
    • Doesn’t try to fight his steward, who betrayed him
    • Could also have been bitter towards his nurse. But he models a better way.
  • Received grace, and therefore shows grace?
    • David -> Mephibosheth
    • Mephibosheth -> Ziba
  • Examples of disabled persons who respond graciously.
    • Richard Turner, card mechanic, blind yet grateful for his condition (Watch Dealt).
    • My friend Tom, who thanks God for his Multiple Sclerosis every day.
    • A middle-aged Christian leader recently stricken with diabetes -- and yet does not evince even a trace of bitterness.
    • A one-legged Christian sister, wounded in drive-by shooting, who models joy and love (not self pity).
  • Our own suffering may lead to our developing empathy -- to a ministry (see 2 Cor 1).

Conclusion

  1. Life isn't always fair. (In fact, it usually isn't fair.)
  2. The point is not to receive justice or equality. In Mephibosheth's case, the point was not to receive healing, but to draw near to God -- to receive and model grace.
  3. We are all needy.
    1. Disabled by damage inflicted by others -- or by myself
    2. Handicapped by ignorance
    3. Crippled by sin
  4. Show grace; let things slide.
    1. Mephibosheth does not demand equality (50/50 split with Ziba), nor in fact anything at all (he is happy for Ziba to have it all). His life is not defined by material possessions.
    2. Example: Christians and lawsuits.
      1. To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? - 1 Cor 6:7
      2. The early Christians did not take people to court (see NT chapter notes on 1 Cor 6) -- especially one another!
  5. Care for the needy, the infirm, and the disabled.

Further

  • Meriba’al seems to have been Mephibosheth's orgina name (1 Chr 8:34; 9:40). Mephibosheth = "from the mouth of shame" (Hebrew).
  • Yet there is no shame in being needy, nor in receiving help from others.
  • For, as Jesus said, "Freely you have received; freely give" (Matt 10:8).
  • Listen also to the podcast on Jonathan, father of Mephibosheth, and David, his benefactor.