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Seeds of the Kingdom

Mephibosheth

by John Sainsbury

6 December 2021

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Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.
2 Samuel 9:11b, NIV

In 2 Samuel 9 we encounter a character who seemed to suffer from having a rather low opinion of himself. His name was Mephibosheth, and he was the crippled grandson of King Saul. It was the general practice in those days, when a new kingly line came to power, to purge (have murdered) any potential opponents to their authority who might be left from the previous regime. So, when David became king of Israel and summoned the only surviving relative of Saul’s son Jonathan, his son Mephibosheth, to appear before him, Mephibosheth could have been excused for being somewhat apprehensive!

It might have been entirely reasonable to expect that to have been his last journey on earth. Given such a background, it could have seemed sensible to play down any potential threat that he might pose to the new king. And it’s in this context that we read that Mephibosheth bowed down before the king and said: “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

I wonder, however, whether this was simply political expediency. Or perhaps this was the true opinion Mephibosheth had of himself. His grandfather, Saul, had got so many things wrong as king, even though he was the Lord’s anointed for a time. Even though his father Jonathan had been an honourable man, he was now dead, and the family line had come to an end. Having been dropped by his nanny as a child, Mephibosheth’s own body was crippled.

When the king summoned him, he was hiding, keeping under the radar with his servant. He may have been physically alive, but he was without protection, status, or external value in society. Maybe he felt he was merely existing, no better than a dog waiting to die.

In political terms he should have been extinguished, however unlikely a threat he was. The surprise is that David did something totally unexpected. He restored the desolate Mephibosheth’s confiscated land to him, arranged for that land to be cultivated on his behalf and invited him to eat at his own table for the rest of his days. So, we read that Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons (2 Samuel 9:11).

What had produced such a dramatic and totally unexpected turn-around? Simply this: David had made a covenant with Mephibosheth’s father Jonathan. David and Jonathan were loyal friends, and a promise was a promise. Moreover, this kind of promise was the deepest and most binding. David was simply keeping the covenant promise that he had made and, however undeserving he may have been, Mephibosheth was the recipient of it. Technically Mephibosheth was David’s enemy, but the power of the promise meant that he was, instead, embraced in the safety of the covenant.

Which brings me to us! The Bible suggests that, from God’s perspective, we too were once enemies of God (Romans 5:10). But, because of the covenant that Jesus made with us, we too are invited to dine at His table for the rest of our days. We may sometimes think of ourselves as unworthy, but that isn’t the point. There may be a hundred, a thousand, reasons that our minds, our emotions, our families, our pasts, our life circumstances, ‘persuade’ us that we are worthless. But we too, like Mephibosheth, are invited to dine with the King. Not because of any merit in we ourselves but because of the promise He made. However unworthy you may feel yourself to be, your invitation to the King’s table is made on the basis of His covenant promise. I should imagine Mephibosheth couldn’t believe his good fortune. Neither should we!

John Sainsbury and his wife Sue are part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange. John has served as a church leader for many years, most recently as Lead Pastor of the Garstang Free Methodist Church. He has a passion for seeing many brought into the fulness of life that following Christ brings.

 

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