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David and Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9).

This seems to me to be the high point of David’s life. The whole land is under his control and his enemies have all been subdued, and driven out. He is the undisputed king.

I imagine he has been reflecting on all the way the Lord has been leading him. He remembers Jonathan and so he asks, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1) David’s treatment of Mephibosheth is a great picture of God’s grace - we could almost say of New Testament grace.

Notice first the condition which grace meets. We read in 2 Samuel 4:4 that Mephibosheth was dropped by his nurse, when she panicked that David was taking the throne from Saul. And as a result, he became lame in both feet. Mephibosheth lived in Lodebar (its name means ‘no pasture’). In this barren land, this outcast from the fallen house of Saul would have been fed stories of injustice, of antagonism against the upstart king. And it is not beyond imagining that into Mephibosheth’s soul bitterness grew as he considered the circumstances of his disability. He is away from the centre of power (after all, he is the heir to the throne being the son of Jonathan and the grandson of Saul) where once he had reason to think he’d be in the thick of things. He was living away from court, and no doubt he was afraid - would David seek to eliminate him? He was away, and feeling antagonistic. It is worth noting that Mephibosheth’s name means ‘seething dishonour.’

Actually this isn’t a bad description of our natural state before God: we are all away from God, we are on the run (so to speak), we are estranged, and afraid. Many feel instinctively, ‘if there is a god I am sure he doesn’t like me and he is against me.’

But this is precisely the position in which God’s grace reaches us. As Paul says in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

When we are away, afraid and antagonistic, Satan will deceive us again and again into thinking that God doesn’t care for us, that he has forgotten all about us. Most of us at one time or another have thought, ‘why doesn’t God do something to help me?’

David wants to show kindness, and we see the nature of grace: “You shall eat bread at my table continually.” And that statement is said 4 times  - verses 7, 10, 11, & 13.  And oh the joy of this kindness: under the table his disability would have been hidden. God has no delight in humiliating us. There is no limits to God’s grace. There are no scraps at God’s table. We have a super-abundance of grace on offer. Just consider these verses from Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”; or this from the same book, chapter 2, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. “ (2:4-6)

Mephibosheth could never know as he travelled to David that he was coming not to be punished or eliminated but LOVED. David having shown his authority as king in defeating his enemies and being good at war, he now shows what the work of a king is - LOVE.  There was none of the maniacal tendencies that were found in Mephibosheth’s grandfather, Saul. David reigned “and administered justice and equity to ALL his people.” (2 Samuel 8:15) Nor did Mephibosheth know about the covenant of loyalty that David had made with his dad. Mephibosheth was now the target of the covenant faithfulness. The love that David shows Jonathan’s son is a love without regard to shifting circumstances.

David calls him by name. Lovely.  In fact David uses his name seven times, and the more he says it the more the shame and the dishonour vanishes from Mephibosheth’s soul. His name will be redeemed by love.  David tells him not to fear.

Oh this is vital for us to grasp. When we approach God, will we be fried? Will we be thrown aside? Will he destroy us, take away our freedom? But we need the reassurance of grace - we need the theological equivalent of ‘relax, it’s going to be fine’ - well, that’s the force of “Do not fear for I will show you kindness.” Hear our Good Shepherd say that over each of us this morning.

And then David proved his love, proved that Mephibosheth has nothing to fear, by giving him all the lands of his grandfather, thus assuring him of an independent living, thus honouring him. God’s grace is generous; uncalculating and generous. And David gave the disbelieving Mephibsosheth more servants than he would know what to do with. Abundant grace. 

The grace David pours out on Mephibosheth causes him to cry out, “what is your servant that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (8) Grace does that if you receive it and see it for what it is: our acceptance leads us to abasement leading us to marvelling at the abundance of what has been given us.

Some years later, we see the effect of grace upon Mephibosheth. David had been forced into exile under Abaslom’s rebellion. David had been told by Ziba that Mephibosheth had deliberately stayed behind in Jerusalem. It is a poisonous insinuation - has he stayed behind for the main chance of becoming king in David’s absence? Sadly David accepts Ziba’s account at face value.

But grace has done its work. Grace is effective. So we read in 2 Samuel 19:24 ff that Mephibosheth “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.” In short, he was sharing the sorrow and the hardship and the suffering of his gracious king. And grace has humbled him - now all he wants is what God wants; he is abandoned to the goodness of God’s plans! What a change of heart! So Mephibosheth lets go his right to all the land. I am reminded of Paul’s words in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” In effect, Mephibosheth says to David the king, ‘all I want is that you reign in peace.’ All bitterness and fear and enmity has been drained from him, and grace has made him gracious.

This David is like our Lord Jesus Christ. This David, in the midst of all the fractious rebellions, takes time to be loyal, to be faithful to the covenant he has made with Jonathan,  this David shows love to a vulnerable person, and that love transforms. 

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