David is described as, “A man after God’s own heart” and 2 Samuel 9 reveals a compassionate side of him. This Sunday we will look at some aspects of David’s compassion toward Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth. There are many similarities in the kindness David reaches out to Mephibosheth and the grace God reaches out with to you and me.
Hey everyone, my name is Scott and I’m one of the pastors here and I’m so glad to be with you today.
A question for you; who are the people you admire, that you hope to learn from their lives, their experiences, their successes, and failures? You can probably list off a couple of names, people you know personally, maybe a successful business leader, a scientist who has expanded our understanding in some way, a woman who broke through to new heights and opened doors for other women to follow.
We read their biographies and study their lives. We seek to apply some of the wisdom and practices they model with the goal that we might experience what they have; success in careers, relationships, character, in life.
That’s how we’ve spent the last four weeks in a series called Facing Giants, looking at the life of a man named David along with some of the people around him. We want to learn from his life what we can apply to our own.
So far we’ve discovered the incredible heart for God he possessed, how through everyday challenges of life he developed this incredible strength of courage and confidence.
We’ve seen the decline of the human spirit through the life of Saul as he was desperately trying to hold on to position and power, and also the depth of friendship Jonathan and David found in each other.
Today we look at what could be just a passing story in his biography, but we want to slow down and look under the surface.
It’s the story of Mephibosheth, the kind of name that makes you thankful for Bible names like Mark or Paul.
Mephibosheth was born into privilege, royalty, grandson of a king. Life started off good for him, but tragically it didn’t last long.
At age five, both his grandfather, King Saul, and father, Jonathan, died in battle.
The custom of the time was for the conquerors to kill everyone in the royal family, to neutralize any threat to their new power.
In an effort to protect the young boy, Mephibosheth’s nanny, in a scramble to escape, drops him, permanently injuring him, leaving him with a disability, unable to walk for the rest of his life.
He begins a life of obscurity, living in hiding as David becomes king, fearing the moment he would be found, his identity revealed, and his life ended.
We find the story in 2 Samuel 9.
(2 Samuel 9:1-3) David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
In a quiet moment, David must have been reflecting on his friendship with Jonathan, who had been killed in battle about 20 years previously. Maybe he was looking at the sword or robe Jonathan gave him that Matt spoke about last week.
He recalls the covenant, the commitment that the two had made when King Saul had been looking for David to kill him. Jonathan, knowing David was chosen by God to be the next king, had said to him,
(1 Samuel 20:14-15 “…show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”
Jonathan makes a request of David, that whatever may happen in the days, weeks, and years to come, whatever happens to me, you will show kindness to my family. And not just everyday, ordinary run of the mill kindness. The Lord’s kindness.
And now, as David sits with the sword, maybe wearing the robe, he wonders is there anyone still alive with which he can honor his commitment to Jonathan. Anyone he can show the kindness he committed to, God’s kindness.
What’s beautiful about this is he doesn’t have to. No one would know if he didn’t. No one would expect him to in the first place.
But David is a man with a heart after God’s.
And having experienced the kindness of God in his own life, he’s committed to keeping the integrity of his word.
Ziba, who had been a servant of King Saul, steps forward and says, yes, there is a son of Jonathan still alive, but he’s lame in both feet. Why would he include this detail?
Most likely he’s trying to make the point Mephibosheth’s not a threat. Ziba could have thought David was looking to wipe out any last members of Saul’s family to secure his throne. Power is enticing and intoxicating, and once you have it many will say and do anything to keep it. We’ve already seen that in the life of Saul.
But notice what David says. He wants to show kindness, and not just any kind of kindness, God’s kindness.
We need to take a moment to understand this word, kindness because it’s so integral to the story.
The meaning of the Hebrew word is challenging to define with a single English word.
It means mercy, compassion, goodness, love, faithfulness, loving-kindness.
More than simply an emotion, it includes action on behalf of someone who is in need. Its love shown through action.
It surpasses ordinary, everyday kindness. It runs deeper than common courtesy kindness or societal expectations of kindness if those still exist.
The idea is unexpected and underserved kindness, goodness, compassion. You didn’t see it coming, but you needed it.
It’s this weighty word found throughout the Old Testament used to describe God’s character of steadfast love, His covenant love with his people.
For many, many, years there was the well-known fable of storks delivering babies to homes.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine a parent actually using this to answer the uncomfortable question from their too young to know child, “Daddy, where do babies come from?”
And by the way, dads, ask your mom is not an acceptable answer either.
The Hebrew word for stork is related to the word for kindness.
They had observed this exceptional, incredibly devoted love and care which the stork demonstrated toward its young. It would make its nest in the tallest trees, providing safety from any enemies. It would nurture and care for these gawking baby storks with unfailing, committed love.
They’d say, “That’s how God loves us!” With compassion, goodness, kindness.
David wants to show “God’s kindness”, so he asks if there was any relative of Saul still living so he could honor his commitment to Jonathan.
(2 Samuel 9:3-4) “…Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
Makir has been showing Mephibosheth kindness for years, giving him refuge and a home.
A place to begin a family and make a life for himself far from the palace and its benefits, but also its potential dangers.
This put him at great personal risk, but then, there are times kindness is risky and could be costly.
Mephibosheth has been living in hiding, most likely fearing death, maybe resentful of what “should have been.”
I wonder how many of us are living like this? Hiding from our past, living each day with the fear that it will catch up to us and we’ll be judged for it. Or living with bitterness or anger over what’s been taken from us. Possibly regret over what we’ve lost, living in the shadows of what could have been, should have been, might have been.
I’ve hidden. I’ve hidden because of insecurities, I’ve hidden from what I felt God was asking of me, I’ve hidden as a result of the shame I felt from divorce.
You can make a list of your own because we’ve all hidden or are hiding now.
We hide in relationships that are toxic spiritually, patterns that lead us farther from our destination than toward it, in addictions that are destructive.
Even when following Christ, we can find ourselves in hiding from him.
But hiding is not a life. Hiding only crushes the soul and spirit the longer we remain there and takes away the life God invites us into.
And we fool ourselves to think we can hide from God.
Listen to what he says, (Jeremiah 23:24) “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
Like Mephibosheth, we can think we’ve covered our tracks pretty well, buried the past deep enough, created a new identity for ourselves.
But kindness comes looking.
The story continues.
(2 Samuel 9:5) “So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.”
Mephibosheth must have been terrified when messengers knocked at his door and said the king was asking for him.
As a person with a disability, he couldn’t run. He had no family, so where would he go? To go with the messengers could lead to his death. Imagine the fear he was feeling looking at that door.
Many years ago on a Disney cruise, exploring the boat with my kids on the first day, we discovered the pool and a waterslide.
My youngest daughter was five at the time, and I simply suggested she go down the slide. She loved the water, loved pools, but wanted nothing to do with the slide.
Now, she had no negative experience with a water slide, no traumatic memory haunting her, but there was a fear inside saying, “Don’t do it! You don’t know the outcome! You don’t know what the slide’s going to do to you!”
As the loving, caring father I am, I kept pushing her to go down the slide!
After too many attempts on my part and tears on her part, we walked away. I felt defeated, she felt relieved.
But it must have stayed in her head, because the next day she found the courage to walk herself up the stairs and give this twisting, turning slide of doom a try. That’s all it took.
Once she experienced the reality of the slide, the thrill, the excitement, the joy it brought her, I couldn’t get it off of it.
Unfortunately, it was only a three-day cruise and on the third day, we suffered the effects of a parent who didn’t believe in water diapers. Pool closed.
Fear is powerful, and it’s a weapon used against us in the physical and spiritual to keep us hiding. To keep us from experiencing what kindness offers.
Could your fear be of approaching God?
Could it be from who you believe God to be based on your upbringing, what you’ve heard or experienced from others?
Maybe it’s a fear you’ve lived with so long it’s become a part of who you believe God to be; judgmental, angry, vengeful.
Mephibosheth decided to face his fear.
(2 Samuel 9:6-8, 13) “When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
Have you ever found yourself standing in front of your parents, your professor, a judge, your boss, a spouse, waiting for the words you’re expecting to hear?
Guilty and your sentence is…
Failed to graduate because of…
You have to leave because of your choices and actions…
You’ve been fired for cause or suspicion…
I’ve filed because of your unfaithfulness…
But instead, you hear, “don’t be afraid.”
That’s comfort. Kindness, mercy, compassion always begin with bringing comfort that disarms fear.
“I will surely show you kindness.”
The unexpected, undeserved covenant-keeping kindness of God that destroys fear.
“I will restore.”
What’s been lost will be renewed. That’s hope!
The imagery is so beautiful here!
Rather than the sentence of death he feared, he’s given a new start, a new life.
From obscurity he’s brought into David’s family, eating at the king’s table. From destitute to the return of what had been lost.
Life was changing in a moment.
Except, he was still unable to walk.
The past we’re hiding from, the parts of us we’re desperately trying to keep in the dark, the scars of what has happened to us and cannot be undone, we might not lose those.
But they become reminders of a different kind.
I imagine every time Mephibosheth went around the palace, he was reminded, kindness brought me here. Every meal he ate at the king’s table, kindness brought me here.
You see, our past scars may remain, but rather than scars of mistakes, abuse, neglect, failure, they become scars of redemption, reminders of the kindness we’ve been shown.
Your past does not define, disqualify, or diminish you.
Your past becomes a display of God’s kindness when you say yes to his invitation into his presence.
This is so much more than a riches to rags to riches story.
It’s more than a story of David recalling and then honoring a commitment he made.
There is more for us and it’s right under the surface.
We’ll look at that next.
David’s kindness is so much more than just a nice part of this story.
Kindness is the experience we have with God.
The Hebrew word for God’s kindness in the Old Testament carries forward in the New Testament with the Greek word for God’s grace. It’s the same idea of his mercy, compassion, unearned and undeserved love.
The story of David and Mephibosheth is beautifully symbolic of our experience with God’s grace.
Mephibosheth, disabled in life because of a past, a family of origin, hiding from what haunts him.
We’ve all been him at some point, needing the COMFORT of God’s grace, needing to experience the comfort and restoration that grace brings.
There’s Machir, providing the CARE of God’s grace, showing kindness to someone in need, who is hurting, who needs a safe place. The world is full of people pointing out the flaws and failings of each other. We need more Machir’s.
Don’t forget Ziba, who knew someone who was hiding and become the CONDUIT of God’s grace, reaching out and making a connection, providing encouragement, resources, or support.
And David, a CARRIER of God’s grace, who for no other reason than he had been shown the same from God, extend kindness and grace. Not just to those close to him, but to those who weren’t expecting it, hadn’t earned it, but desperately need it.
As Christ-followers, we’re all called to be like David.
I want to point out three observations of God’s grace from this story.
First, grace takes the first step.
David went looking for Mephibosheth, not the other way around.
He didn’t come knocking at David’s door, “Hey, remember me? Your best friend Jonathan’s son? Time to keep that promise, the commitment you made.”
No, he was hiding in fear and grace took the first step towards him.
This is exactly what God has done for us. His grace takes the first step to initiate a relationship.
Matt spoke of the Doctrine of the Fall a few weeks back, that everyone has been broken by sin. That broken nature separates us from God, but he wasn’t going to leave it that way. His grace took the first step of redemption towards us.
We’re told, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Throughout the story of God and man, as seen in the Bible, God was making the way back to him possible, and it culminated in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Grace has taken the first step when we’re hiding. Grace has taken the first step while we’re not even looking for God. Grace has taken the first step when we resist, doubt, disbelieve. Grace has taken the first step towards us.
Second, grace knows where we are.
20 years Mephibosheth had been hiding in Lo Debar, which literally means “no thing”, or we might say, the middle of nowhere. It was a village far from Jerusalem and David’s palace and his past.
He wasn’t planning a comeback. He didn’t believe there could be one. He had accepted that his life changed forever that fateful day. Living in obscurity, he hears a knock at his door.
He hears his name which was unexpected. “Who would know that I’m here? Who would even know that I’m alive?”
But grace knew where to find him.
When you feel forgotten, it’s easy to believe no one sees you, no one knows where you’re at, no one cares.
Or when we’ve hidden the choices we made when on business trips, the hurtful or destructive words we’ve spoken in secret places, the addiction that has its grip on us, we fool ourselves into thinking we got away with it.
But deep inside, in quiet moments, we can’t escape the dull ache of regret, shame, and guilt.
But grace knows where we are and meets us there.
Jesus said, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20 NLT)
Mephibosheth could have fled, gone farther from what he feared. He could have let fear overtake him, could have rejected the invitation of the king.
And how sad would that have been, knowing what he would have missed out on, the kindness and grace of God?
God’s kindness is reaching out to you today, where you’re hiding, inviting you into his presence, into a relationship, into a new life. Please don’t let fear keep you hidden and missing out on all that God has to give you.
The greatest of which is the last observation.
Grace seats us at the family table.
The first Christmas day after my divorce, I was alone. My kids were with their mom and I had been dreading that day.
I received a call from some friends, inviting me to their home that night for dinner. Every Christmas their extended family gathers for this incredible meal and they invited me to join them.
My first thought was to decline. I was hiding then, ashamed of a failed marriage, and my excuse was I didn’t want to intrude on or invade their family tradition.
But they persisted and I went. That night I wasn’t welcomed in, given a plate of food, and shown to a separate room to enjoy my meal. “Hey, we’re glad you’re here, but you’ll have to sit over there.”
No. They had prepared a seat for me at the table, their family table. I wasn’t just being invited to a meal, I had been invited to join their family and given a place among them.
It was an experience of kindness and grace that I will never forget.
David’s kindness to Mephibosheth gave him a seat at the family table. He was now just as one of David’s sons, adopted into his family.
God’s grace for us does the same. It is the foundation of the Gospel message.
We’re told, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
Adoption is not a change in nature but a change in status. We are now part of a family. We belong. We are adopted into God’s family, sons and daughters, our own chair at the family table. It’s rooted in God’s inexhaustible love for us.
And with that adoption comes all the rights, privileges, and inheritance that a son or daughter receive.
Adoption says I don’t care what your past is, I don’t care where you’ve come from, I don’t care what you have or haven’t done. I care about you and you are now with me.
Adoption is at the heart of the storyline of the Bible. That’s grace.
So, three questions for you to think about, maybe talk about with that spiritual friend in your life or maybe your small group.
First, what is it in life that keeps you in hiding?
What in your past or present, has you believing that you are undeserving of God’s kindness and grace?
What is it that no one else knows about, but you’re holding on to it and hiding it from God?
You may know immediately, or you may need to do some internal work to identify it.
What is it in life that keeps you in hiding?
Second, what was your experience with God’s kindness and grace that brought you out of hiding? Who reached out offering you an invitation, or how did God make himself known to you? Those you’re sharing with would no doubt love to hear your story.
And third, how can your life be a conduit and carrier of God’s grace to someone not expecting it but desperately in need of it?
Where do you need to look, who do you need to ask, what do you need to do so God can work through you to forever change someone’s life?
David didn’t have to keep his commitment, but he did.
Mephibosheth could have chosen to stay hidden, but he didn’t.
One led to the other, and God can do the same through you and in you.
Blue Oaks Church