Bible Study Series: Life of David
2 Sam 9: David & Mephibosheth - Undeserved grace
by F Gordon
A story of grace
Here in this chapter, we are given a glimpse into one of David’s greatest acts as king. When we think of the life of David we usually think of a shepherd boy who slew a giant, or, his rule as king, defeating his enemies, or even his great sin with Bathsheba. But this story is one of grace, kindness and love to one who is undeserving, and David is a type of God the Father, who shows grace to those who don’t deserve it.
2 Samuel 9.1-3 Now David said, "Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?"
2 And there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. So when they had called him to David, the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "At your service!"
3 Then the king said, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet."
Twenty years earlier David and Jonathan, Saul’s son, made a covenant that when David became king he would not cut off the line of Saul but show kindness to his house. David is ruling and he now remembers the covenant made between himself and Jonathan. David is the seeker here to show the kindness of God.
This passage is one of the greatest pictures in the Old Testament of grace. But what is grace? Grace is much more than a prayer at dinner or someone who can carry themselves with elegance. Grace finds itself in the very person of God himself and is centred in God who loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten son to be judged in our place. It is God’s love set free. Grace is everything for nothing to those that don’t deserve anything.
2 Samuel 9.4 So the king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "Indeed he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, in Lo Debar."
We find the man to whom grace will come is found living in Lo Debar. This place means no pasture or barrenness. But how did Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, get there? It was normal practice when a king died that the new king would get rid of all rivals to the throne. When his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul died the nurse quickly gathered Mephibosheth up and fled for their lives but, in the process of fleeing, the nurse dropped him and because of that Mephibosheth was lame in both his feet. So they hid in Lo Debar.
The picture we have is Mephibosheth (one who scatters shame) hiding out in Lo Debar (barrenness), and this is a picture of us. Mephibosheth’s injuries were due to another. In like manner, because of Adam’s sin, we are all marred by sin. Sin has let us fall, it has disfigured, disabled, and crippled our entire moral nature so that we are unable to walk straight. Our lives scatter shame from the effect of sin upon us. This is the state of all men born since Adam (Romans 3.9-18). All are under sin and dominated by the flesh life. When Adam sinned his first reaction was to hide from God and here we find Mephibosheth hiding in Lo Debar. Like all men under sin their lives are barren with no works of righteousness.
2 Samuel 9.5 Then King David sent and brought him out of the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo Debar.
Mephibosheth had been dropped, now he is about to be picked up. It is the king who is active and the seeker to pick up one who is undeserving. God is the one who has always been active to draw man back to himself. It was God that clothed Adam and Eve when they saw their nakedness. It was always God that drew men to himself. In the fullness of time, He sent forth his Son to pay a debt man could not pay, that He might pick us up from our sin dominated lives and bless us now and for all eternity.
2 Samuel 9.6 Now when Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself. Then David said, "Mephibosheth?" And he answered, "Here is your servant!"
Mephibosheth must have been scared for his very life when he was brought before King David. Yet he humbles himself and answers, “Here is your servant!”.
2 Samuel 9.7 So David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father's sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually."
David assured Mephibosheth that he should not fear for kindness was in the hand of the king. He had been dropped, picked up and now he was to be restored. He was given all the land of Saul, his grandfather. This was a material blessing and separate from sharing the king’s presence. God is the God of restoration. What was it He restored to you when He picked you up from the gutter? Psalm 23 says; He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness. He restores us to himself with the joy of salvation and peace in our hearts. Joel speaks of God restoring all that the locusts have devoured. God is the God of restoration, He restores relationships in families, between friends and sometimes the blessing is a material restoration.
2 Samuel 9.8 Then he bowed himself, and said, "What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?"
God’s grace always restores and Mephibosheth responds to this grace by humbling himself and saying, “how could you even look upon a dead dog as I? It is one thing to call yourself a dog but even lower than this is a ‘dead dog’. Paul called himself a worm and the chief of all sinners, but a dead dog? Mephibosheth’s view of himself was very low, he was a cripple, dependent on everyone for everything and yet here was the king showing him kindness and grace. He had nothing to offer anyone and so he is a picture of us.
The king provides
2Sa 9:11-13 Then Ziba said to the king, "Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table like one of the king's sons.
12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all the members of Ziba's household were servants of Mephibosheth.
13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king's table, and he was crippled in both feet.
Not only was Saul’s lands and servants restored to him but in vs 11 he is treated as one of the king’s sons. We are also adopted and treated as sons and heirs, Galatians 4.6-7. The Holy Spirit continually presses the point of continual feeding. In verse 7 David states that Mephibosheth was to eat bread at his table continually. In verse 10 David said he was to eat bread at his table always, and in verse 13 it states that Mephibosheth ate continually at the king's table. The king's provision for Mephibosheth was no quick takeaways. It was not just a quick blessing, a quick feed then off you go. No, his grace was given for all time - as long as David was on the throne there would be provision made for Mephibosheth. He was secure and well fed while David was king.
In like manner provision for us as sons and daughters is secure because Jesus is on the throne. His work is finished and He is the King of Kings forever. When God dealt with his nation Israel through the wilderness, His provision never faltered. They had manna everyday, quail, and their shoes did not wear out for the whole 40 years of wilderness living. It is the same for us, God shall supply all your need (not wants) according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.19.
We can picture Mephibosheth being treated as a son. He is seated at King David’s table, his crippled feet unseen under the table, feasting on the king’s kindness. Such as it is for us saints. Our deformities and sins are covered by the blood of Christ and we are now free to enjoy all that God has for us, we have come to His banqueting table and His banner over us is love. That’s what it is to be “in Christ”.
With all this grace and kindness shown to Mephibosheth, and to us also, there should be an outworking of grace.
2 Samuel 16.1-4 When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine.
2 And the king said to Ziba, "What do you mean to do with these?" So Ziba said, "The donkeys are for the king's household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink."
3 Then the king said, "And where is your master's son?" And Ziba said to the king, "Indeed he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, 'Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.' "
4 So the king said to Ziba, "Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours." And Ziba said, "I humbly bow before you, that I may find favour in your sight, my lord, O king!"
David is experiencing trouble at home. Absalom, David’s son, is trying to usurp the throne, so David packs his bags and leaves the situation for God to sort out. After leaving Jerusalem he is met by Ziba who tells David that Mephibosheth is staying home because now that David is gone he thinks the kingdom will be restored to him. So David gave him all the land of Mephibosheth.
2 Samuel 19.24-28 Now Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. And he had not cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he returned in peace.
25 So it was, when he had come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, "Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?"
26 And he answered, "My lord, O king, my servant deceived me. For your servant said, 'I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go to the king,' because your servant is lame.
27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king, but my lord the king is like the angel of God. Therefore do what is good in your eyes.
28 For all my father's house were but dead men before my lord the king. Yet you set your servant among those who eat at your own table. Therefore what right have I still to cry out anymore to the king?"
A while later, after Absalom’s revolt failed, David returned to Jerusalem to find Mephibosheth coming to meet him. He had not cared for himself while the king was away. Ziba had lied to David. Mephibosheth wasn’t trying to get the throne but identifying himself with David by mourning and suffering as if he was also going through the trial.
The outworking of grace
2 Samuel 19.29-30 So the king said to him, "Why do you speak anymore of your matters? I have said, 'You and Ziba divide the land.' "
30 Then Mephibosheth said to the king, "Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house."
Here we see the outworking of grace. When David learned that he had been deceived he said “You and Ziba divide the land”. But Mephibosheth said “let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace”. Mephibosheth is not concerned with material blessing but only the person of the king. So for us our greatest blessing should not be material things - these will pass away. The person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest gift and blessing we can ever receive.
Mephibosheth had been dropped, picked up and restored. We also have been dropped, picked up and restored, that we may all share in God’s wonderful grace to us in Christ Jesus.