GRACE GIVEN AND RECEIVED
The Bible presents a picture of David that is both inspiring and perplexing. We know David as a magnificent warrior, a man of humility and integrity. We also know David as an adulterer and in the least an accomplice to murder.
In 2 Samuel 3 we read that David had multiple wives. 2 Samuel 11 contains the story of Bathsheba and Uriah her husband. In 2 Samuel 13 & 18 we see that David was a negligent father and this in turn caused much strife, heartache and even bloodshed.
Yet in speaking to Saul about David the Bible declares in 1 Samuel 13:14:
“But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”
And in Acts 13:22 we read:
“After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’
What a statement from God! But the question remains: How could God declare David “a man after His own heart?” One of the keys to understanding this declaration is to understand that God is not looking for perfection. That is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Instead God is looking for men and women upon whom He can bestow His mercy and grace. God looks for people whose hearts are pliable and seeking to serve Him. God desires to pour out upon us His loving-kindness.
In 2 Samuel 9 we see this picture clearly.
This is a time in David’s life when God is very much blessing him. Militarily, he has expanded Israel’s borders. Chapter 8 tells us that he waged war with and conquered the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Arameans (Syrians). He established military outposts in those and other nations to secure his borders and bring peace.
Although God has already told him he will not build the Temple, he is nevertheless collecting precious metal, jewels, and building materials for his son Solomon who would build it.
If we were to describe this time in the life of David and in the nation of Israel we would say that “life was good” or David was “living large.”
As David sat on his throne his mind began to recount God’s goodness toward him. No doubt his thoughts drifted to Jonathan his best friend. I believe even the words of their covenant came back to him. 1 Samuel 20:12-16 gives us the details.
Then Jonathan said to David, “The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if there is good feeling toward David, shall I not then send to you and make it known to you?
“If it please my father to do you harm, may the LORD do so to Jonathan and more also, if I do not make it known to you and send you away, that you may go in safety and may the LORD be with you as He has been with my father.
“If I am still alive, will you not show me the loving-kindness of the LORD that I may not die?
“You shall not cut off your loving-kindness from my house forever, not even when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD require it at the hands of David’s enemies.”
V1 Notice that David makes his inquiry because his heart has been stirred by remembering the loving kindness he and Jonathan made a vow to uphold.
V2 Someone knew of a servant from the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. They called Ziba to come before the king and answer some questions.
V3 This son of Jonathan became crippled in his feet when his father and his grandfather King Saul were killed in a battle against the Philistines described in 2 Samuel 4. It was customary and expected that when a new king ascended the throne the former king’s family would be executed. When the house of Saul heard of his death, the nurse maid for Jonathan’s son scooped him in haste and attempted to escape. Unfortunately the child she held in her arms was dropped and he became crippled in both feet from the age of 5.
V4 David was overjoyed at this news and wanted to know where this son of Jonathan was. I find this interesting that this descendant had been so well hidden as to be forgotten. Remember that one of David’s wives was Michal, the daughter of Saul and thus the sister of Jonathan. Even she did not know of this nephew.
V5 So David sent for this son of Jonathan to be brought to him. Can you imagine what must have been going through this young man’s life when David’s servants came for him? “The gigs up. I made it a few years but it’s over now.” No doubt this child’s servants told him that his life must remain secret or else David would kill him. After all his grandfather chased David all over the desert trying to kill him so he could expect nothing less from David.
V6 We finally hear the name of Jonathan’s son. Mephibosheth – “shameful one.” His name was Merib-baal at birth but perhaps was changed to Mephibosheth after he was crippled. Notice that Mephibosheth thought his life was over and so he fell on his face before David as if resigned to his fate.
V7 “Fear Not.” I imagine that took several long, tense moments to sink in. Mephibosheth was there on his face before the king expecting at any moment to have his head cut off and instead he hears these beautiful words that brought indescribable joy.
V8 So Mephibosheth did the most reasonable thing – he spoke of himself as an unworthy recipient of this kindness. I think he wanted to clarify what David had said and so he referred to himself as a “dead dog.” This was a Jewish idiom of the time that represented the most worthless thing one could imagine.
V9 To make it official David calls in Ziba, the servant in Mephibosheth’s house to tell him that from that day forward Saul’s possessions including his ancestral lands would be Mephibosheth’s.
V10 Notice that along with Mephibosheth’s ancestral wealth being restored he would also eat at the king’s table. Eating at the king’s table was an honor and represented the highest favor a king could bestow. David was in effect saying “you’ll never have need of anything else again. You are now under my protection and blessing.”
V11-13 David looked at Mephibosheth as one of his sons. What a great story of kindness fulfilled. It demonstrates the heart of a man of honor and integrity.
But there is so much more here that God wants us to see. Let’s look again at this same text again from God’s perspective if we can presume to know it.
The Bible tells us that God sent His Son into the world to save the world. It is God’s desire to save the people of the house of Adam, to show kindness to them for Christ’s sake because of the covenant in Jesus’ blood.
In this story of David and Mephibosheth we see a picture of God the Father reaching out to us with salvation in His hands. Can’t you hear God asking “Isn’t there one more of the line of Adam that I can show my mercy and grace to?”
Here is the first mark of the man of God – he has been born again, transformed by the Spirit of God to enter into that covenant relationship established by Jesus Christ.
In verse three Ziba the servant identifies Mephibosheth not by his name but by his condition – “There is a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet.”
Brothers, we should see in Mephibosheth ourselves first and then all of lost humanity. Just as Mephibosheth could not walk because of a fall, so too we are unable to seek after God because we are fallen creatures. We were all lame at one time.
It is interesting that Mephibosheth’s name means shameful one. What did he do to deserve that? He was rendered lame by the actions of someone else. What a picture of the fall of Adam and the stain of sin upon all mankind.
King David, picturing God in this passage asks “where is he?” Doesn’t that remind you of the Garden of Eden? God asked Adam and Eve where they were not because he did not know where they were but because he wanted them to understand the fall they had suffered because of their sin.
They thought they were hiding. They tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. But they could not hide the desolation of soul that exploded into their conscience. Sooner than later sin betrays us and we are found for who we are.
Notice in verse 4 Ziba answers the King’s question of where Mephibosheth is by telling him that he is in Lo-debar. Lo-debar means place of desolation, barrenness, and unfruitfulness. That is the condition of all men apart from a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Mephibosheth had been taken there to hide from the King.
That’s where I was when God called me. I was in the desert hiding from Him. Funny thing about the desert though – I didn’t see it as an utterly barren place. It was only after His Holy Spirit began to work upon my soul to bring that sweet conviction to fruition that I saw the green pastures God was asking me to come lay down in.
Praise God that he did not leave us there in the desert. Verse 5 says the King sent for Mephibosheth. God calls out to men and women everywhere to come to Him. He sends His Holy Spirit to bear witness and bring conviction. He sends His servants, missionaries, pastors, Sunday School teachers, men and women of every walk of life to bear witness to His goodness.
The Bible says that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. In this church age He likes to use His children.
So Mephibosheth, representative of you and I, is summoned to the King. Do you recall when you were summoned to the King? There is a conviction in our souls. We might not understand it completely but we know that God is real and He is calling out to us. What do we do? The only thing we can do, we fall face to the ground in trembling fear not knowing what to expect.
Isn’t that a good picture of how most people see God? Mephibosheth was thinking the worse. He thought the King was about to whack him. When God calls us He is seeking to bless us not whack us.
Verse 7 – “Fear not.” God doesn’t call out to us to come to Him with fear. God wants to show us kindness because of what Jesus has already done for us. David says that his blessing to Mephibosheth will include restoring to him all that his grandfather Saul had.
In the same way God restores to us all that Adam had before his fall. What would that be?
1) Intimate fellowship/communion with Him. God desires that close personal relationship with His children.
2) The King invites you to dine at His table as one of His sons. The King’s table is the place of abundance brothers. The King’s table is a place of warmth, blessing, and joy. The King’s table is a place of fellowship.
3) The King did all this for Mephibosheth not because he deserved it but solely for Jonathan’s sake, because of the covenant he had made with Jonathan. We benefit by what Jesus has done for us.
This is a 2nd mark of the man of God – fear is replaced by an understanding of the overwhelming grace God has to bestow upon us in Christ Jesus.
David wrote long before this, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Do you see the picture? Rest and comfort in the blessings of God replace fear even in the most dire circumstances.
This is an overwhelming picture to be sure. Mephibosheth was flabbergasted. He put his face to the ground a 2nd time and declared that he was not worthy of such grand treatment. Isn’t that a picture of the ones God calls to Himself?
Jesus said in Matthew 5 “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” God’s invitation to us will not produce a sense of pride but will always stir within us a sense of unworthiness. That’s the humility required of the man of God.
I’m reminded here of Jacob’s testimony before the Lord “I am unworthy of all the loving-kindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant” (Gen 32:10).
Notice verse 13 – Mephibosheth ate at the King’s table regularly. I love that. We may not understand why God would bless us but we can accept it and enjoy it forever! We’re not to camp out on our unworthiness. That can create a false piety. Instead we are to receive the Lord’s goodness toward us with joy.
What a wonderful picture for the man of God. Let me pull all this together and give you some points to chew on.
First, God desires to spend time with you. He has poured out His grace and mercy upon you in salvation but that’s not the end. Consider how many times David sat alone with Mephibosheth telling him about his father, how Jonathon loved Mephibosheth, about his friendship with his father, about their covenant of trust.
God wants to sit with us and tell us “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1).
The songwriter has well said:
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
Second, notice that David says no less than four times in this passage that Mephibosheth will “eat at my table continually.” What a wonderful picture of God’s abundant grace for all we need.
Alan Redpath in his book “The Making of a Man of God” said:
“In Christ we are more than conquerors! In Him there is a constant supply of life to the helpless and penitent sinner who has come to the foot of the cross. At Calvary he discovers real satisfaction. Instead of barrenness in his life, there is fruitfulness; instead of being far off, he is made near to God by the blood of Jesus. From that moment on, he is the object of God’s outpouring of blessing. All the resources of heaven are made available to meet his need and to take him safely through the journey of life until one day he will be presented faultless at the throne of God.”
Third, David’s grace to Mephibosheth is a pattern for us in serving and ministering to others. In a sense David represents the man God wants us to become.
For example we can see from this passage that perhaps God is saying:
- We should look for the poor, weak, lame, and hidden to bless them.
- We should bless others even when they don’t deserve it, and bless them more than they deserve.
- We should bless others for the sake of someone else.
- We should show the kindness of God to others.