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2 Samuel 4:4; 9:1-13

Some of the great moments in wandering the scriptures come when I discover some jewel that up until then was hidden from me (usually hidden in plain sight, I might add). I rarely discover them on my own; someone – an author, a preacher, a teacher, a friend – points them out. “Hey, did you ever notice . . . ?” or “Look what you just passed by without noticing.”

And so it is with Mephibosheth. Surely, you know Mephibosheth! Don’t be embarrassed if your answer is “no” because I missed him every time. I first became aware of Mephibosheth in Max Lucado’s In the Grip of Grace (incidentally, my absolute favorite Lucado book). More on that later.
So who is this Mephibosheth and why should you/we care?

Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, the grandson of Israel’s first king, King Saul. He was five years old when his father and grandfather were slain in battle. Upon hearing the news of the defeat, his nurse scoops him up trying to flee and in her haste drops him and leaves him crippled. Even so, he is better off than if she had left him, as the custom of the day was that the victorious king would kill off any and all that could trace a family line to the throne. The nurse then carried him to Lo-debar among the mountains of Gilead.

Now, let’s time travel back for a little historical context. We first encounter David in 1 Samuel 17 as he wanders in just in time to slay Goliath. Throughout 1 Samuel 18 his bond with Saul’s son Jonathan grows stronger right up until 1 Samuel 20 when David is forced to flee Saul’s household. In their final parting (1 Samuel 20:42), David and Jonathan swear eternal allegiance to each other and their descendants. Our Mephibosheth is the direct descendant of that very Jonathan.

Mephibosheth grows up in Lo Debar, brought up by Machir, son of Ammiel.  He suffers under the load of two handicaps – being crippled and living in exile.  It is difficult to say which was the greater burden since at the time living under either condition was significantly more challenging that it would be today.

Lo and behold, David ascends to the throne in Israel and one day remembers his oath to Jonathan and wonders aloud if any of Jonathan’s descendants survive, only to be informed of Mephibosheth, who apparently wasn’t as safe in the Witness Protection Program as one might have been led to believe. David orders that Mephibosheth be brought to him (bringing us to the 2 Samuel 9 passage above).

Picture this scene where Mephibosheth is brought before David. He is certain he is summoned so that he might be shamed and humiliated, even to be executed. I notice that in every translation I reviewed, he refers to himself as a dead dog – not a worthless dog, not a despicable dog, but as a dead dog. At the low point of his existence expecting nothing but condemnation, David tells him his intention to restore him to the king’s household. And don’t skip over why. Not because of obligation or guilt or by law, but out of love for Mephibosheth’s father and their eternal commitment. Think about that, you precious child of God.

I find it not all coincidental that the “sentence” David confers on Mephibosheth is that he is to “always eat at my table” and Jesus calls us to feast at the table of the Lord forever.

This brings us to Max Lucado’s In the Grip of Grace. In the Privilege of Paupers chapter, he shares an excerpt from Charles Swindoll’s seminal work, Grace Awakening. Swindoll concisely and succinctly paints a beautiful picture of the clever Amnon, gracious Tamar, brilliant Solomon, handsome Absalom, and courageous Joab are all gathered with the rest of David’s court for dinner, yet waiting patiently while Mephibosheth laboriously makes his way to the dining table. The story ends as follows: “Mephibosheth rather awkwardly finds his place at the table and slips into his seat . . . and the tablecloth covers his feet. I ask you: Did Mephibosheth understand grace?”  

In case you missed any of the not so subtle connections in this part of the Mephibosheth story (yes, there is another chapter to Mephibosheth’s story, but I leave that for another day), I summarize from Old Testament Stories From the Backside, by J. Ellsworth Kalas.

Like Mephibosheth:

☩ We are born into the king’s household.
☩ We were created in his image, just a little lower than the angels.
☩ We suffered a fall from which we cannot recover.
☩  We are saddled with human weakness to which we fall victim. Given our human tendencies, we repeatedly fall below our own expectations and intentions. Our heritage and lineage explains our behavior, but it does not excuse it.
☩ We live in exile. Our father intended for us to dwell in the palace, but because of ancestors’ behavior, we have been cast out and must deal with the consequences. David raised the question, “What of Jonathan’s descendants?” and Jesus raised the question “What of Abraham’s descendants?”
☩ We are redeemed by the grace of Jesus/God, as Mephibosheth was redeemed by the grace of David.
☩ We are in hiding. Like Adam, we hide our shame from God. We are afraid of the judgment to come. Meanwhile, God is seeking us like the lost sheep or lost coin.
☩ The king does not want to find us for punishment, but for redemption.
☩ The king wants us to feast at his table forever.

Kalas concludes this to be a story in communion. We are all Mephibosheths at the Lord’s Table – “For he always ate at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both of his feet.” At the king’s table, his infirmity, his past, his disability is not visible and does not hinder his participation.

Oh how I love Mephibosheth! Maybe you do too now.

I leave you with a quote from Dallas Willard – “Nothing irredeemable has happened to us or can happen to us on our way to our destiny in God’s full world.”

Limping to His table redeemed by the grace of the King,

August 18, 2014