1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?”
2 Now there was a servant of Saul's household named Ziba. They called him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “Your servant,” he replied.
3 The king asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”
4 “Where is he?” the king asked.
Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honour.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“Your servant,” he replied.
7 “Don't be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, “I have given your master's grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master's grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
11 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.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Grace is a word we often find in the Bible, and it is a concept we speak about in the Church regularly.
But what exactly is grace? Someone once said that ‘grace is getting what you don’t deserve.’ That’s a very good description, but it doesn’t really explain it. The Oxford Dictionary goes much further by calling grace “the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Not bad for a secular publication, if you think about it!
There are countless definitions of grace – some are very broad and others more specific, but probably the best way for us to understand the concept of grace is for us to see grace in action.
This morning we’ll be looking at a story from the Old Testament where we will clearly see grace in action.
It’s a story which has two central characters. Firstly there is King David. He is one of the main characters in the Old Testament, and most of the stories about him we know very well. He rose to prominence from the life of a simple shepherd to become a hero when he killed Goliath. David was a great warrior who eventually became king after Saul’s fall from grace.
Something else which is well-documented was the close friendship David had with Saul’s son Jonathan. He and David had been closer than brothers, so much so that when Jonathan’s own father was trying to have David killed, he stood by his friend, rather than his father (who also happened to be the king at the time too.)
Jonathan helped David escape, and before they split up, the two friends made a covenant.
That covenant is found in 1 Samuel 20:14–15. In this covenant Jonathan said, “If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
Basically what their covenant meant was that David would always do everything in his power to protect and take care of Jonathan’s family, even after Jonathan died.
The second central character in our story today is Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son. We first meet Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 4:4: “Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became crippled. His name was Mephibosheth.”
The circumstances of this introduction to Mephibosheth are rather sad. Jonathan and Saul, his father and grandfather had just been killed in a battle with the Philistines.
He was only 5 years old at the time, and as news about Jonathan and Saul reached his maid, she decided to protect him as best she could from the Philistines, so she picked him up and began running to a place of safety.
As they were running, she fell while carrying Mephibosheth, and he was so badly injured in both feet that he was crippled for the rest of his life.
Now we go back to our story in 2 Samuel 9. Here we find Mephibosheth in a place called Lo Debar. Lo Debar means ‘without pasture, desolate, or barren.’ Lo Debar was on the eastern side of the Jordan – it was outside of the Promised Land, and basically a place in the desert. Mephibosheth was the grandson of the former king of Israel, but we find him living in the middle of nowhere without any hope.
He was a member of the royal family. He should have been a prince or even the king. But instead he was in the barren place, crippled, and forgotten.
He had no hope and no future, and was just wasting away his dreadful life, one slow day after another.
But David had not forgotten his promise to Jonathan, and was determined to honour his covenant. He asks around and finds out that one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He’s also told that Mephibosheth is a cripple. Times have certainly changed. These days we quite rightly do what we can as a society to help and support people with physical disabilities. For instance, had this Church had been built on a hill rather than a flat piece of ground, we would have been required by law to have wheelchair ramps next to the steps leading into the building.
But there was a time like in Mephibosheth’s day when people with physical disabilities were regarded as a real nuisance. Cripples like Mephibosheth were banished from society, much like lepers were, and this is one of the reasons that even his royal heritage didn’t help him.
Society wanted nothing to do with people like Mephibosheth, but this didn’t deter David’s commitment to his covenant.
Regardless of Mephibosheth’s physical condition, David had him brought to the palace. Of course, he was petrified at the thought of being presented before the king, so he fell down on his face before David.
He had even bought into the lie and believed that he was worthless: “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
But David blessed him in ways which he simply cannot have imagined.
He told Mephibosheth not to be frightened, and even restored everything to him the things his family had once owned.
But the greatest gift was this: From now on, for the rest of his life, he would eat with the king at the king’s banquet table.
Mephibosheth went from desolate to the king’s table.
One day, he’s just existing, and the next day he’s living life to the fullest. Because of the king, Mephibosheth was a new man.
And that’s what grace looks like. Grace is unmerited favour.
David gave Mephibosheth everything just because he wanted to. He decided to be faithful to his promise, and he followed through on it. Mephibosheth benefited from something that he had nothing to do with. And this story paints a beautiful picture of grace.
We love to hear stories like this. We’re always touched when we hear of people reaching out to others for no other reason than they want to. We live in a desperately cruel and selfish world, but every now and then we hear these heart-warming stories which, even for the briefest of moments, make the world seem a little brighter and a little better.
But this story in 2 Samuel 9 is far more than some random act of grace three thousand years ago – it is an illustration of the grace which is available to all of us today.
So often Old Testament stories are illustrations of how God acts toward us, and this is one of them.
God is represented by David here, and we are all Mephibosheth.
We are Mephibosheth. We may not be living in a desert town in the Middle East and we may not have crippled feet, but we have been crippled since birth.
We have been crippled with a deadly disease called sin.
It’s a condition we were born with. We can’t escape our sinful nature. We can’t even remember our first sin, because it has been so ingrained in us since birth, and sin defines us. Sin has crippled us and shaped us into the hopeless people we have become.
Oh, there are many people out there who are far worse than we are, but deep down we know we’re guilty.
With every passing day the weight of sin on our shoulders becomes heavier and heavier.
So we try to do something about it. We try and try to do better.
But we take one step forwards, and two back. Just when we think we’re getting somewhere, we stumble and slip back.
We may look good on the outside, and we wear masks that tell the world that our lives are just fine, thank you very much, but on the inside we’re in Lo Debar.
Our hearts are desolate and barren, missing something that we can do nothing about, and it haunts us.
It is spiritually exhausting to get out of bed every morning, knowing that today is going to be just like the day before - hopeless. Of course, there are brief moments of happiness, but nothing really changes. The ‘trying harder’ becomes exhausting.
The act grows old, we get tired of wearing the same mask each day, and we finally reach the point where we resign ourselves to the fact that this is all there is. It looks hopeless…
But there is a King that’s looking for you. And this King is greater than an earthly king like David. This King is full of grace and mercy. This is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
This is the One who created the universe, the earth, and you.
And He made a covenant on a Roman cross two thousand years ago for you.
His covenant was this: “Whoever looks to me and believes will be free.”
Free from sin, free from desolation, and free from hopelessness.
Jesus offers grace to you today, not because you deserve it. Not because you’ve earned it, because you haven’t. He doesn’t offer it to you because you’ve changed your life.
No - He offers it to you simply because of who He is. He offers you grace because He loves you.
As I mentioned earlier, the way we regard those less fortunate than ourselves, the physically infirm in particular, is very different to ancient times. Today we quite rightly treat people with the dignity and respect we would all like to be treated with.
But there is also an interesting parallel here with how we regard sin these days too. Sin is a word you don’t usually hear outside the four walls of a Church building. satan has fooled the world into blaming everything that is wrong with the world on all kinds of things. It’s the government’s fault, it’s society’s fault, or it’s my parents’ fault.
We no longer want to take responsibility for our own bad choices – our sin. But in order for you to fully appreciate and experience the grace of God, you need to accept first that you are a spiritual cripple.
When Adam and Eve first sinned, the Lord asked them a question, and He asks that same question to you today: “What is this you have done?”
If you will only answer that question truthfully and honestly, you will then begin to understand the amazing grace of God. He doesn’t despise you. He’s not out to get you.
Jesus offers you a place at the King’s table. Your background doesn’t matter. Your past doesn’t matter. Your upbringing doesn’t matter.
All He wants is for you to come to Him.
All He wants is for you to come clean, and to admit your spiritual lameness, and then reach out to Him.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon died in 1892. He has been called ‘the prince of preachers’, and this is what he had to say about grace in one of his sermons: “Ah!’ says one, ‘God knows I am willing, but still I do not think I am worthy.’ No, I know you are not, but what has that to do with it? It is not ‘whosoever is worthy,’ but ‘whosoever will may come.’ Listen, sinner, it says ‘whosoever.’ What a big word it is! ‘Whosoever!’ There is no standard height here. It is of any height and any size. Little sinners, big sinners, dark sinners, fair sinners, old sinners, young sinners, aggravated sinners, sinners who have committed every crime in the whole catalogue – ‘whosoever.’ Does this exempt anyone? Who can be excluded from this ‘whosoever?’ It matters not who you may be, nor what you may have been. If you are willing to be saved; free as the air you breathe is the love and grace of God. ‘Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”
That’s grace. We can try to define it in words, but grace is best expressed in action. King David expressed it by inviting a cripple to his table.
Jesus Christ expressed it on a cruel cross – for you. And because of what He has done, you are invited to eat at the King of King’s banqueting table for eternity.
The God of grace and mercy offers you forgiveness, and an escape from the emptiness and hopelessness of a life without him.
He offers you an escape from behind the mask. All it takes is a response of faith in order to receive blessings which will last for all of eternity.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” His grace is there for you.
King David offered undeserved grace to Mephibosheth, and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords offers you infinitely more.