I was touched the first time I heard a message preached in youth group about Mephibosheth. It’s humbling to think that King David took in a man with a handicap and provided for him to eat at the king’s table.
When I think about my own life, it’s humbling to think the Lord would graciously provide for me, a blind person, to be one of His chhildren–a child of the King. His grace and mercy bring me to tears.
But let’s look closer at Mephibosheth’s story. We’re introduced to him in 2 Samuel 4:4 when he became lame at the age of 5. How sad.
2 Samuel 4:4–And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son that was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.
Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. Mephibosheth’s nurse fled with him, and he fell, which badly injured him.
The accident marred him for life. He may have been disqualified to compete as a contendor for the kingship of Israel after Saul’s death.
Mephibosheth is one day brought before King David.
2 Samuel 9–
1. And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?
2. And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he.
3. And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet.
4. And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar.
5. Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar.
6. Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!
7. And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.
8. And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?
9. Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house.
10. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.
11. Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons.
12. And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth.
13. So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.
It’s years later when David meets him. Mephibosheth had been living in the household of a man named Machir who may have been wealthy, based on 2 Samuel 17:27-29, where he helps provide food for David and his men when they were in exile from Jerusalem. Thus, Mephibosheth had likely had no lack for the things he needed.
Also, he has had his own son by that time. We’re not told more about the kind of life he led, but it didn’t preclude him from having a family.
It’s important to note why David took in Mephibosheth. It goes back to the time before David was king.
David and King Saul’s son Jonathan had a rare kind of friendship. In 1 Samuel 18:3 they made a covenant with one another. In chapter 20 they agreed to look after each other’s posterity.
David remembered that covenant. He wanted to show a descendant of Saul and Jonathan the kindness of God. One thing led to another, and Mephibosheth was brought before King David.
Mephibosheth showed reverence to David and referred to himself as a dead dog. After all, what could the king possibly want with him? He wasn’t fit for much of anything physically. But a meeting with the king wasn’t to be taken lightly.
David awarded Mephibosheth with all of Saul’s estate, and he would eat at the king’s table in the royal palace.
David made sure Mephibosheth was provided for. Ziba and his family and servants would help meet his needs by working the land that had belonged to Saul. As a former servant of Saul, Ziba had prospered, as evidenced by the number of sons and servants he had. David was assigning him to put his resources to use for his purposes.
Note that David didn’t take in Mephibosheth because he had pity on him with his physical handicap. He likely would have elevated a physically whole descendant of Jonathan in the same way.
The key thing to note is that David didn’t see Mephibosheth as unworthy or less than deserving, in spite of his physical malady. He showed him kindness for other reasons.
That’s not to say David didn’t think of Mephibosheth with special regard for his handicap. But it wasn’t that handicap which caused David to elevate him to a place at the king’s table in the royual palace. He was not entitled to eat in that special place because he had two lame feet.
So it is with those of us today with various disabilities. Remember what God told Moses in Exodus 4:11. Moses was complaining about what he thought were his inadequacies.
Exodus 4:11–And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
Why the Lord chooses any of us–disabled or otherwise–is because it pleases Him to do so. He does all things for His glory, not because we are somehow deserving or entitled to His marvelous grace.
Moving on with our story, we go to 2 Samuel 16:1-4, where Ziba makes an appearance before David, but without Mephibosheth.
2 Samuel 16:1-4–
1. And when David was a little past the top of the hill, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and an hundred bunches of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine.
2. And the king said unto Ziba, What meanest thou by these? And Ziba said, The asses be for the king’s household to ride on; and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat; and the wine, that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink.
3. And the king said, And where is thy master’s son? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he abideth at Jerusalem: for he said, To day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father.
4. Then said the king to Ziba, Behold, thine are all that pertained unto Mephibosheth. And Ziba said, I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king.
It appears as if Mephibosheth forsook David in hopes Saul’s kingdom would be restored, perhaps to him. Ziba, who had originally served as a servant of Saul, does his best to look good in David’s eyes. David believes him and rashly gives to Ziba what belonged to Mephibosheth.
Later we see Ziba with his sons and servants mentioned again in 2 Samuel 19:15-18 because they were part of a large party of men who escorted David across the Jordan River when he returned to Jerusalem.
But in 2 Samuel 19:24-30 we learn Mephibosheth had not betrayed David, his benefactor. Ziba had tricked Mephibosheth.
2 Samuel 19:24-30–
24. And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace.
25. And it came to pass, when he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said unto him, Wherefore wentest not thou with me, Mephibosheth?
26. And he answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: for thy servant said, I will saddle me an ass, that I may ride thereon, and go to the king; because thy servant is lame.
27. And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.
28. For all of my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table. What right therefore have I yet to cry any more unto the king?
29. And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land.
30. And Mephibosheth said unto the king, Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house.
Mephibosheth’s scrubby appearance proved he had been in mourning for David. When David heard what he had to say, he showed mercy and offered to divide Saul’s estate, rather than let Ziba keep it all.
Mephibosheth didn’t care about that. He was glad the king could return in peace after the turmoil caused by Absalom’s rebellion.
David showed mercy to Mephibosheth one other time, as described in 2 Samuel 21:1-7. Saul had sought to destroy the Gibeonites, who Israel had made a covenant with. See Joshua 9.
God brought famine to the land as punishment for what Saul had done to the Gibeonites.
When david asked how he could make things right with them, they asked that seven of Saul’s descendants be killed. David complied.
Oddly, one of the 7 who were executed was named Mephibosheth, but he was from a different mother (2 Samuel 21:8).
However, David spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. He honored the covenant he had made years before with Jonathan.
2 Samuel 21:7–But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD’s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.
How many times has God shown mercy to each of us? More times than we know.
For those of us with physical disabilities, it’s an honor when we’re chosen by grace to be one of God’s children. But, as with Mephibosheth, it isn’t the disability that gives us entitlement to God’s love and mercy. God does what He does for His glory, not ours.
That said, it’s wonderful to know that God doesn’t count out those of us with disabilities. It makes me want to be His servant, in close relationship with Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Finally, looking back, Mephibosheth had been living well before he was given a place in the palace. But King David gave him a better life.
In a similar way, most of us as Americans have it pretty good. That has an impact on our spiritual lives. First world prosperity can make us soft and self satisfied. We could settle for the things this world has to offer and get distracted from living the victorious Christian life, or we can take what the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, has to offer us.
Consider His invitation in Revelation 3:20 to have one on one fellowship with Him.
Revelation 3:20–Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Praise God, we may eat at the King’s table.