Category Archives: 2 Samuel

Mephibosheth: A Portrait Of The Sinner

“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,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**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?“]

Advertisements

Should Abner Die As A Fool Dies?

“And the king lamented for Abner, saying,

“Should Abner die as a fool dies?” (2 Samuel 3:33)

These were the words of mourning that King David spoke concerning Abner after he was killed by Joab. Abner, the man who had placed the son of Saul, Ishbosheth, upon the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 2:8-9) had been an enemy of King David during a great civil war. David had become king over Judah and, by the direction of the Lord, had ruled from the city of Hebron (2 Sam. 2:1-2).

It had been God’s intention that David would rule over a united Israel and Judah (1 Sam. 16:1), yet Abner and many who had been loyal to Saul sought to continue the reign of the House of Saul by anointing his son as king. Seeking to resolve the issue and, hopefully, avoid an all-out war between the kingdoms, the two sides met at Gibeon to negotiate a solution. Abner, leader of the armies of Israel, suggested to Joab, leader of David’s army, that twelve champions from each side be appointed that day to fight each other with the end result determining which side would be victorious (2 Sam. 2:14-15).

Neither side prevailed and all twenty-four combatants lay dead at the end of the contest (v. 16). Without a clear victor, the total war which both sides had sought to avoid ensued immediately after with the armies of Judah dominating the enemies of King David. As the forces of Israel retreated, one of Joab’s brothers, Asahel, described as an exceptionally fast runner, pursued Abner, rapidly closing the distance between them (v. 19). Knowing that he clearly outmatched his pursuer and, not wishing to kill the brother of Joab, whom he clearly respected, Abner called out to Asahel imploring him to come no further.

If you must have more of the blood of your enemies, then take the life of one of my soldiers. But if you insist on continuing to follow me, I will have to kill you and I do not wish to do so“, Abner pleaded (v. 22). Asahel, however, would not be dissuaded. As Abner had stated, he really did not wish to kill Asahel because we are told he struck him in the stomach with the butt-end of his spear (v.23). Nevertheless, the spear handle pierced the young man’s belly, ending his life.

Joab and the armies of Judah continued their pursuit of Abner and his men until nightfall when both sides expressed their desire to end the pursuit (2 Sam. 2:26-29). The next day, both armies would return home, yet the war itself would be long and bitter (2 Sam. 3:1).

Abner grew more and more powerful during the civil war even as the armies of Israel lost ground and became weaker. Abner, it seems, did as he pleased even having an affair with one of King Ishbosheth’s father Saul’s former concubines (2 Sam. 3:7). When Ishbosheth challenged Abner over the matter, Abner became enraged and switched sides, offering himself into the service of King David.

After Abner joined the side of Judah and King David, he used his former position of power in Israel to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty with the leaders in Ishbosheth’s kingdom and to advocate for the rule of David over a united kingdom. Joab, still bitter over the death of his brother Asahel, rebuked King David for trusting the former leader of Israel’s armies and accused Abner of being a spy (v. 24-25).

The Death Of Abner

What happened next is very interesting and worthy of our close consideration. Verses 26-29 read as follows:

“When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner.  May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” (2 Samuel 3:26-29)

Joab is clearly motivated by the desire for avenging his brother and kills Abner by striking him in the stomach; the same way in which Asahel had died by the hand of Abner. Yet while Asahel had been killed accidentally and in self-defense, the death of Abner was cold-blooded murder. Joab had lured Abner outside of the city of Hebron to the outer gate with the deception that he wished to speak with him in private. King David, clearly appalled by the deed, denounces the act and stresses the fact that he and his government were in no way complicit, even pronouncing a curse on Joab and his family. But his words over Abner are peculiar when he declares that he “died as a fool dies.” Why?

“But if the manslayer shall at any time go beyond the boundaries of his city of refuge to which he fled, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the boundaries of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood.” (Numbers 35:26-27)

Hebron was a City of Refuge under the Law of Moses (Joshua 21:13) where a person guilty of manslaughter was safe from retribution by those seeking to avenge the person they unintentionally killed. Within the walls of the Cities of Refuge, a person could not legally be killed in vengeance for blood accidentally spilled. But if they went outside the walls of those cities, then they were no longer protected.

Abner died as a fool dies because he left the safety and protection of Hebron and stepped out of the gate where Joab, though not morally justified, was legally justified in killing him. Even David, the king, had no legal recourse to hold Joab accountable for murdering Abner. Abner abandoned the place of safety and refuge and it cost him his life.

How many people today can it be said of that they will die as a fool dies because they do not enter into the safety and refuge of the Lord Jesus Christ? How many will perish unnecessarily because they refuse the protection of our Place of Refuge? What deception, what temptation, will lure us away from the safety of Salvation in Jesus?

Abner spoke the truth about God and God’s chosen king, David (2 Sam. 3:17-18), yet that failed to save him. Neither will religion and speaking the right words about God save us. Abner was a sinner with like passions as we have, but it wasn’t that sin that disqualified him from entering into and remaining in the Refuge provided. Sin does not bar our entry into the Salvation provided by Jesus Christ, no, sin is the impetus which makes refuge necessary.

There are those who stand just outside the gate of Refuge today, perhaps even some who will read this. Safety and protection lies so close at hand and they will not enter in and be protected. They might even attend church, read the Bible, and live their lives morally. But if they die apart from the Refuge of trusting in Jesus Christ for Salvation, they will die as a fool dies. 

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

All Scripture quotations in this article are taken from:

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

[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?“]

%d bloggers like this: