So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king’s table. And he was lame in both his feet. (2 Samuel 9:13)
One of the greatest privileges we have as Christians is complete reconciliation to God through Christ. This grace is beautifully illustrated through David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan whom David had loved as a brother. There was no greater honour that the king could extend than to invite someone to share his table. It speaks of fellowship, of friendship, and of absolute reconciliation, and in Mephibosheth we can easily see ourselves. This story points to the wonderful grace extended to us through Christ – the spritually lame, the spiritual outcast, the enemy of God, is invited to draw near and to feast at His table.
Between the power of the cross and the marriage feast of the lamb is the wonderful truth that we are reconciled to God, and welcomed into fellowship with Him.
Today’s verse points us beyond the familiar motif that David is a foreshadowing of Christ. It brings identification and eternal love into the illustration, reminding us of the power of what Christ achieved for us on the cross. To understand this a little better, we need to see David in the light of his relationship with Saul’s family – their traumatic and tumultuous history, and the fact that we could not have blamed David if he’d wanted simply to see the last of any descendent of the king who had caused such trail, pain, and hardship in his life. These truths remind us of the infinite grace inherent in being reconciled to God. Like David, He could justifiably have simply turned His back on those who declared themselves His enemies by word and deed.
Mephibosheth is, in many ways, a ‘prototype’ of fallen man, a wonderful example in understanding what it is to be reconciled to God. His name actually means ‘shame,’ and he was also sometimes called ‘Merib-baal’ which means rebellion. When only five years old, he had narrowly escaped after Saul and Jonathan – his grandfather and father – were defeated at Jezreel and had been dropped by his nurse, resulting in him being permanently lamed. He had grown up in fear of his life in a time when followers and family of Saul were assassinated by men seeking to gain King David’s favour.
Other factors make this young man our spiritual equivalent. He, too, was subject to the consequences of the sins of his ancestors just as we suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin. He lost his inheritance, as we had lost our spiritual inheritance, and lived as a cripple just as we live as spiritual cripples, stunted, twisted, and outcast from the destiny God intended for us. One who was born to live as a royal now lived in fear. Like Mephibosheth, we too lived ‘outside the royal gates’ with no way in and no prospect of being reconciled to God.
It’s important that we see that it was David, not Mephibosheth, who initiated the reconciliation. In this simple act, he beautifully demonstrates the grace and mercy of God. It was the king who actively set out to find this young man and restore him. Many other kings might have sought him simply to get rid of him. He belonged to the family of David’s enemies, those who had tried to destroy Him, and David might have been excused for wanting to rid himself once and for all of that hated house. We are so much like that young man. Being reconciled to God is an active, eternal truth – He sought us out, crippled and undeserving as we were.
The reason behind David’s mercy is simple. He did it for Jonathan’s sake. The bond between David and Jonathan was powerful, and the love the king had for his friend empowered him to reach out in reconciliation. When God reaches out to us, it is for Christ’s sake. Just as David, each time he looked at Mephibosheth, saw something of Jonathan, so God sees Jesus when He looks at us. Reconciled to God, is essentially, identification with Christ. This is made possible because He so fully identified with us. Now, when we believe, we enter into that identification. As we see ourselves crucified with Jesus and raised with Jesus, we assume His nature and fully identify with Him.
It’s also important that we see past the surface of reconciliation. Being reconciled to God is not about the feast, or about the honour of being seated at His table. Again, Mephibosheth beautifully illustrates this point. David could, simply to make himself look good in the eyes of the people, have seated this young man at his table and gone no further. In essence, Mephibosheth would have been little more than a prisoner, a kind of hostage to the king’s prestige, paraded as a living symbol of the king’s power and victory over his enemies. But David takes this reconciliation to the fullest extent possible. He restores to Jonathan’s son all the land, honour, and privileges of his father’s inheritance.
In essence, David was according Mephibosheth royal status, because the house of Saul was a royal house. This is quite staggering when we consider the almost paranoia of many kings and queens throughout history, where family of a defeated royal faced death, humiliation, and imprisonment. Yet David accorded Mephibosheth the full honour of his royal inheritance. We are, by God’s grace, no different. When we are reconciled to God, He bestows on us the full royal inheritance that is Christ’s. We are so fully identified with Jesus in God’s eyes that we truly become a ‘royal nation.’
Our blessings in being reconciled to God are so much better than those given to Mephibosheth, because they are eternal. This does not preclude the possibility of material or physical blessings. God will bless us abunantly in His own time and in His own way, according to His perfect purpose in our lives. What is important is that, whatever else may manifest in our lives, we who were once lame and blind, crippled and deaf, and shunned and outcast are now members of the family of heaven. We are invited, every day, to sit at the King’s table, to fellowship with Him – not as ‘visitors’ or ‘hostages’ but as royal children.
Mere words cannot fully explain, and our limited human human understanding can never fully comprehend the magnitude of this blessing. To draw near to God in full assurance that He looks on us as He looks on His only begotten Son, to be able to call Him ‘Abba’ and delight in His presence, is an incredible gift. While we should never live in condemnation, it is healthy to remember what we were and where we came from. Pride is a subtle deception. It’s all to easy to presume on our royal status, to assume that our righteousness is of ourselves rather than only of Christ. We are reconciled to God only through the love and sacrifice of His Son.
In this, Jonathan is a much a type of Christ as David. This young man saw the anointing of God on his friend’s life. Instead of responding with jealousy or resentment, he embraced His friend’s calling. Jonathan put his own life and security on the line for David. Of course, Christ’s sacrifice was so much greater, but the principle is clear to see. Because of Jonathan’s selflessness – his sacrificial friendship – David was moved to reconciliation with Mephibosheth. It is the sacrificial friendship of the Son of God that moves God to reach out to us. Christ obedience to the Father is what makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God.
The real grace lies in the fact that it is to the crippled, the lame, the blind, and the deaf that God reaches out. It is the outcasts and the shunned that He invites to His table, because it is those who recognise who and what they are who can see the spiritual blessing of being reconciled to God. Mephibosheth had lived in fear for his life for long enough to enable him to know that he, in human terms, could expect no mercy from the king. He knew who and what he was, and he knew that he had nothing to offer the man who was his king, his judge, and quite possibly, his executioner. This is the humility that touches the heart of God.
In verse 8, Mephibosheth says:Then he bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?” How many of us come close to recognising our own ‘nothingness’ as this? Pride will always remind us of the good we’ve done, that we’re ‘not that bad,’ or that we’re better than others in so many ways. But true humility is the heart that weeps for it’s real condition. It is only when we have the courage to face ourselves and see the ‘servant’ and the ‘dead dog’ that we can fully experience the beauty, the grace, and the true joy of being reconciled to God.
Thank You, Father, for teaching us through Your word, for showing us daily the truths that build our faith and remind us of Your grace and mercy. If we have presumed on our standing in Christ, we ask Your forgiveness. Help us to see ourselves with honesty and humility, and to hold fast to the truth that it is only through Jesus that we come to feast at Your table.