“Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)
Last time, we took a look at the great civil war between Israel and Judah with the armies of the House of Saul fighting against the armies of King David. I would like to look now at a single person from Saul’s family and the kindness that David the king showed him.
As Chapter 9 of Second Samuel opens, we find King David sitting on the throne of a united Israel and Judah with the civil war over and most of the other enemies of David conquered. He had moved his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, after capturing it from the Jebusites, and had defeated Israel’s perpetual enemy, the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant had been brought into Jerusalem and, although God had decreed that it would be built during the reign of his son, Solomon, David had sought to begin construction of the Temple. God blessed David and promised that his kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam. 7:16) and that the lovingkindness of the Lord would not depart from him as it had from Saul.
Success tests the character of the most virtuous of men and, in the words of the First Baron of Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But King David was a man “after God’s own heart” and we are repeatedly told throughout the narrative that he “showed kindness” to various people; a trait seldom found in rulers. Sitting upon his throne in Jerusalem, his mind not distracted by the demands of government nor the strategies of war, he reflects upon his late friend Jonathan, son of Saul, and he wonders if there is anyone left alive within Jonathan’s family to whom he may show kindness.
It turns out that there was a son of Jonathan still alive. We are first told about Mephibosheth back in Chapter 4 where we find him as a little five-year-old boy being rushed from his house by his nanny after hearing the news of the death of his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul (1 Sam. 31:1-6). Urgently escaping as quickly as possible before the Philistines could finish off any surviving sons of the House of Saul, Mephibosheth fell and injured his feet, leaving him crippled (2 Sam. 4:4).
A Dead Dog Like Me
Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:6-8)
Within the relationship that develops between David and Mephibosheth, we find a wonderful illustration of God’s mercy to the sinner. When the two men first meet, King David offers Mephibosheth gifts and honors that are truly astounding to the son of Jonathan. A vain and prideful man might have been ungrateful, feeling that this was the least that the king who ruled where his own grandfather once had could do for him. But, no, Mephibosheth was neither vain nor proud. He prostrated himself before the king in humility and was keenly aware that this act of grace and mercy was unmerited.
Mephibosheth’s words echoed David’s own words to God when he marvelled in the Eighth Psalm,
“What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)
Like the sinner who first comes to Christ, Mephibosheth was blown away by the mercy that the King was showing him. And as is for all who are humble at heart, he recognized who he was compared with who the king was and that he in no way deserved the kindness he was being shown. Remember Peter’s reaction when Jesus miraculously provided an overwhelming catch of fish where he himself was unable to bring in a single one. Falling before the Lord he shouted, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Or Isaiah’s reaction to his vision of God’s glory filling the Temple:
“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5 KJV)
The heart that is most receptive to the grace and mercy of God is the heart that acknowledges just how undeserving it is. Mephibosheth referred to himself as a “dead dog” and the sinner, too, must recognize that he is dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1).
For The Sake Of Jonathan
David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, not because of who Mephibosheth was or what Mephibosheth had or had not done, but for the sake of Jonathan. God the Father shows mercy and grace to us, sinners, for the sake of Jesus. It is because of our relationship to Christ that we are invited to eat at the King’s table.
When David looked upon Mephibosheth, he saw Jonathan and it was his love for Jonathan that compelled him to treat Mephibosheth with kindness and mercy. God the Father does love us, but it is our relationship to Jesus Christ that compels Him to show us grace and mercy. God loves all the people of the world (John 3:16), but He only shows grace and mercy to those who are covered by the blood of Jesus.
It is noteworthy that David never mentions anything about the feet of Mephibosheth. His feet were broken, lame, and crippled just as we are broken, lame, and crippled by our sin. God does not look upon the sinful flesh of those whom Christ has redeemed, but sees us through the lens of the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Crippled feet did not exclude Mephibosheth from the king’s table, neither does sin exclude us. If we are in Christ, then that sin has been removed from us to be remembered no more (Psalm 103:12).
Verse 11 of Second Samuel 9 tells us that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table as one of the king’s own sons. Passages such as Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5 remind us who are in Christ Jesus that we, too, have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. Like Mephibosheth, we will take our place at the table of the King with the same privileges and benefits of any other child of the King. One day, we will live in that place where our own King lives, the New Jerusalem, just as Mephibosheth moved to the city of David to be where he was. And God will show us great kindness and mercy for the sake of Jesus, not looking upon our sins and lame feet, but seeing us with the same love that He has for the Son.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]