2 Samuel 9:1-13
Chapters 8-10 give a wonderful picture of what life is like under God’s King, and of course there are lessons we can draw throughout on what it is like to live under the rule of Christ. This chapter is particularly special, though, and one I have long treasured. It teaches us about the kindness of Christ.
David says he wishes to show kindness to someone from the house of Saul “for Jonathan’s sake”. He is referring back to an occasion in 1 Samuel 20, when David and Jonathan made a covenant with each other. Jonathan said to David
“show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family” (2 Sam.20:14,15).
This kindness, then, is covenant kindness, in fact it’s the Hebrew word hesed (the only Hebrew word I know!) which speaks of God’s unfailing, unswerving, steadfast love, or kindness, for His people. It is not a whimsical fancy, David suddenly being moved by the thought of the plight of Saul’s family, it is kindness that flows from a prior commitment. In the same way, Christ’s love is not a whimsical thing that fluctuates with His feelings, but it is a love rooted in a covenant commitment.
David calls in one of Saul’s old retainers, Ziba, and questions him (v.3) and learns of Mephibosheth. Two things about Mephibosheth are emphasised:
i) It is repeatedly said that he is of the house of Saul. As such he would be regarded as David’s enemy. Saul had been David’s implacable foe, and after Saul’s death there had been a seven year bloody civil war in which the house of Saul opposed David’s kingship. As a “son of Saul”, Mephibosheth might well have expected to be put to death.
ii) He was a cripple (v.3, but see also how we are reminded of that fact at the end – v.23). 2 Samuel 4:4 tells the story of how he came to be crippled, and his very name suggests the stigma that was associated with it: “bosheth” means “shame”. Under the Law people weren’t to offer crippled sacrifices, they were unfit for God, and maybe that had instilled this stigma in people’s minds: to be crippled was to be a reject. The very place he lives adds to the picture: “Lo Debar” means “no pasture”. He has nothing, he’s a crippled nobody, with nothing to commend him. He is the last person we might expect to be singled out for David’s kindness. A cripple, and an enemy to boot.
And should we not see ourselves in Mephibosheth? Not sons of Saul, perhaps, but sons of Adam – part of a rebel family, by nature God’s enemies. Lo Debar is an apt name for our fallen world, the barrenness of life East of Eden. And we are certainly morally crippled, unfit for God, helpless and hopeless in ourselves, shameful things.
Mephibosheth must have been terrified of what was coming as he bowed before the king (v.7), but David reassures that he means to show him kindness. He makes two promises –
i) The family lands of the house of Saul would be given to him. Instead of Lo Debar (“no pasture”) he is suddenly blessed with enormous wealth. Financial security guaranteed, and a secure place in society for himself and his family.
ii) He is told that from now on he is to eat at David’s table. It’s mentioned four times (vv.7,10,11,13) as if to stress the point, because it is such a startling blessing. Mephibosheth is not merely pardoned, he is to be treated as “one of the king’s sons” (v.11)
An extraordinary reversal – the helpless cripple from Lo Debar is abundantly provided for, and the enemy is given all the privileges of sonship. And we should wonder at “how great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1) What an inheritance has been given to us. Marvel at the kindness of our King.
Possible starter question