I want to continue to build off this idea we’ve been exploring for a few weeks that following Jesus isn’t about avoiding something, it’s about becoming something; it’s about allowing God to do something within you that transforms you into something beautiful.
Today, we’re going to step back into the Old Testament and look at a story of guy that maybe you’ve never heard of but who, like some of us, was unable to see himself as a beautiful child of God because of his circumstances. Let’s listen to our text: 2 Samuel 9:1-11
Some of you come to church and you really hope that you don’t get asked to read scripture because it will probably have a word in it like Mephibosheth. Even now, you are thinking Mephibo what?
But I’m pretty sure that almost all of us are in the same place, because Mephi-bo-sheth’s story is one that’s not taught a whole lot, but one that has a beautiful truth.
But before we get there, I want to see, by show of hands . . . How many of you would say that, in my life there are times that unlikely, unforeseen, and emotionally painful events happen to me?
Like, you’re just cruising along . . . minding your own business, living your own life . . . and then bam something happens that you just didn’t see coming.
And from that experience, you make some conclusions, or someone makes those conclusions for you: Maybe you deserved it, maybe God’s punishing you, maybe people don’t like you, or maybe there’s something wrong with you. Some of us are really good at beating ourselves up, aren’t we?
And as a response we run, we build walls and isolate ourselves in order to protect ourselves, so it won’t ever happen again. Well, that’s exactly what happens with Mephi-bo-sheth.
But before we hear his story, it’s important to understand the characters that are in it.
- First, we have Saul who is the king of Israel.
- His son is Jonathan.
- Then, we’ve got our character, Mephibosheth, who is Jonathan’s son, Saul’s grandson.
- And then, there’s David who is going to succeed Saul as king. This is David, as in David and Goliath, the guy who kills the giant.
- And Jonathan and David are best friends which will come into play.
As we enter this story, Mephibosheth is five years old.
So imagine, five years old . . . He’s probably out, playing in the courtyard, having a fun day, doing whatever royal kids do.
When all of a sudden, the palace doors bust open and people are screaming, hollering, and yelling. And he’s like, “What’s going on?” And they say that your dad and your granddad have been killed in a battle.
That’s a bad start to a day for a five year old kid. For anybody, really.
But it gets worse. They’re all in a panic because David was on his way to the palace to assume power.
And in that day, when someone outside the royal family comes to assume power, what happens to the royal family is that they become eradicated. They kill them off because you do not want a potential heir to the throne to be alive. That’s just gonna cause problems.
So, everybody’s freaking out, thinking they’re going to get killed.
But in the context of this 5-year-old kid, David was like a superhero. He had already killed Goliath. He was one of Saul’s top generals. People made up songs about how amazing David was. He probably had a poster of David on his wall.
Not to mention that David and Jonathan were really good friends. So, it’s very possible that David could have been like an honorary uncle or godfather to Mephibosheth.
So, when he hears that his dad is dead and his grandpa is dead and David was on his way to assume power, he was probably thinking, “Well, everything is going to be okay because David is coming.”
But everyone else is saying, “No it’s not because David wants to kill you.”
And then suddenly, the nurse picks him up and begins to run as fast as she can, and as she’s running, she drops him, and he breaks both of his legs. But they don’t have time to set his legs in a splint or put some ice on them or give him a hug and kiss his boo- boos because David is coming.
So, they pick him back up and just run with him, out to a place in the middle of nowhere called Lo-debar; an arid, dry, and desolate place that literally means . . . “no bread”.
That is a lot for a five-year-old kid to try to take in. His whole world has just been turned upside down.
One moment he’s playing out in the yard, enjoying life and in an instant he’s an orphan with two broken legs being rushed off into a witness protection program out in the middle of nowhere.
Well years go by, and nothing happens. He doesn’t get healed. He doesn’t get helped. He’s just in this place out in the middle of nowhere, and he’s completely broken.
But one day, David, who is now the King of Israel asks, “Is there anyone left in the household of Saul to whom I can show kindness to for Jonathan’s sake?”
Now, based off what we know about the killing off of a monarchy and the scrambling to get Mephibosheth into a safe location . . . that’s a weird statement, right?
But remember, Jonathan and David were very good friends.
And when they were younger, David was anointed to become the next king of Israel by a prophet named Samuel. And Jonathan knows what happens when a royal line changes.
So, Jonathan goes to David and says, “Listen, that’s great that you get to be the next king. I totally support you in that. But when that happens, would you show kindness to me and my family?”
The word he would have used is Hesed, which means to love in such a way that mends brokenness, restores relationships, and graciously extend forgiveness . . . even when it’s not deserved. It’s the kind of love that God has towards his people.
So, Jonathan is saying to David . . . when you become king, love my family as God loves his people, restore my family as God restores his people, and forgive my family as God forgives his people.
And David says, “As surely as the Lord lives, I will show Hesed to your family.”
So here it is years later and David remembers his promise. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the same time of year where David had lost Jonathan. Maybe it’s that they were out doing something that he and Jonathan used to love to do together. But for whatever reason, it brings to mind, this promise, this covenant, he had made with his friend, Jonathan.
So, he summoned this guy named Ziba, who was one of Saul’s former servants, and asked him, “Is there anyone alive from Saul’s family that I can show Hesed towards”
And Ziba says, “Well, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive, but he’s a cripple so you really don’t want him.”
Now that seems kind of harsh but in this time period, there isn’t a Judeans with Disabilities Act. There aren’t any wheelchairs, or ramps, or handicapped stickers that allow you to park closer to the grocery store. The government doesn’t step in and help out those with disabilities.
So, in this culture, someone with a handicap would be considered a burden and be pushed aside and considered worthless. But David knows that someone’s abilities or worth has nothing to do with extending Hesed. So, he says, “Where is he? I want this kid . . . go get him.”
Now at this point, Mephibosheth is a grown man who has been in hiding for years and so when Ziba shows up on his doorstep, it had to have been like the incarnation of all the fear, and the worry, and the terror that he had internalized for years. He knew this day was coming. They’ve been telling him this for years and now the time is here.
But this is where the story takes an unlikely turn.
Instead of killing Mephibosheth, David says, “Don’t be afraid . . . I intend to show you kindness– Hesed - because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather, Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”
Mephibosheth expected the king’s wrath; instead, he got grace- unbelievable grace.
David would show him kindness and restore to him all the land of his grandfather. Not just a little garden in the corner. He gives him everything.
That’s a lot of land to take care of so he also gives him Ziba and all of the servants under Ziba.
But best of all, he would eat at David’s table like he was part of the family.
Talk about a beautiful story of restoration! This is somebody who had gotten a bum deal in life and in response had isolated himself in order to protect himself when suddenly he gets restored. So, you’d think that he’d be a little fired up and excited about this, right?
But listen to how Mephibosheth responds . . . “Who is your servant, that you should show such kindness to a dead dog like me?” What a terrible thing to say about yourself . . . but some of us are really good at beating ourselves up, aren’t we?
But all these years of hiding and building walls had made Mephibosheth think of himself as worthless.
But now, here in this moment, as he’s receiving this blessing from King David, he realized that everything he had believed, and everything that he had internalized, and everything that he knew David wanted to do to him, was wrong.
He had wasted all those years living as a broken man in a desolate place believing something about someone that wasn’t true.
And in the same way, I think a lot of us push ourselves, out to a place like Lo-debar – a desolate place, where we begin to believe and internalize these things that we think about God.
- He’s mad at me because I haven’t been doing what I know I probably should be doing.
- He’s mad at me, and I know He’s upset, and He’s just waiting to drop a hammer on my head. He’s just waiting, and I know that it’s just coming.
- Or maybe you’ve carried guilt, for years, for something that wasn’t even your fault. But for some reason, you carry this guilt, and you think God is upset or angry in some way.
And what I want you to know is that that’s just wrong.
God’s desire for you is to receive His Hesed . . . to bless you, to restore you, and to make you beautiful. You see, you may think that you are broken and useless, but God says that you are chosen and invited to this table.
It’s the twist in our stories.
So, you who are broken, who have built walls around yourselves and run to desolate places in order to protected yourself . . . be surprised by His grace and hear his call- “Come, eat at my table- because you are a beautiful child of God.”