2 Samuel 9:1-13
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 summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”
“At your service,” he replied.
3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from 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 lame 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 honor.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“At your service,” 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 steward, 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 Mika, 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; he was lame in both feet.
The children were filing through the lunch line one day in the winter and things were moving especially slow. The flu was going around and the cafeteria was short on workers. So next to a basket of apples there was a sign, which read, “Please take only one. Remember, God is watching.”
As the children reached the end of the line, one little boy was seen loading his tray up with cookies. When a friend asked him why he was doing this he said, “It’s okay, God is watching the apples.”
I really like lunch. It is among my three favorite meals of the day. However, I remember a time when lunch was a lot more stressful. That’s right, even more stressful than today, trying to feed a picky 3-year-old son and a 13-month-old daughter who insists that she use a fork to feed herself. Lunch was a very stressful event back in high school.
You surely remember how this went down in your school. You wait in line, pick up your tray of tater tots and green beans, and then you look around. You look to see if there are seats available with the jocks. You look to see if there are seats with the cute girls. You look to see if there are seats near the cool kids. But the only seat available is next to the kid who smells like diesel fuel. However, you don’t want to sit by Dusty the Diesel. One reason is that you never know if that kid is just going to spontaneously combust. Another is that there is also a chance that you might smell like diesel by the time lunch is over. But most importantly, you are afraid to sit by Dusty because to sit by the stinky kid means that you are not cool.
Who you eat with has always been a marker of one’s social status. Do you dine with royalty or do you dine with the common folks. Are you invited to a royal banquet, or are you sitting at home alone making frozen pizza like I was earlier today. In this world, across national boundaries and social structures, with whom you eat with says a lot about who you are.
We have come to the half-way point in our sermon series on the life of David. Today we continue to answer how David was a man after God’s own heart by comparing certain aspects of David’s life to the life, death, and resurrection of the full manifestation of God, that is, Jesus of Nazareth.
Today we turn our attention to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, not to be confused with his uncle Ishbosheth, who we looked at last week. And no, Bosheth was not their last name. Bosheth is the Hebrew word for “shame.” Ishbosheth was probably not even his given name as “ish” is the Hebrew word for “man.” It would not make sense for Saul to have named his son “man of shame” because he would have only been a baby at the timeJ.
Mephibosheth literally means “from the mouth of shame.” This also isn’t a very appealing name and I am guessing that it too was not his given name. I believe that both Ishbosheth and Mephibosheth were nicknames given to these men, for reasons we will look at shortly. I think that it is important to keep the meaning of these names in mind as we consider how David exhibited Christ-like love to Mephibosheth.
Our passage for today beings with David sitting around, very bored, with nothing to do. The life of a king must be pretty sweet! He seems to have the kingdom in good order because he has the time to ask out loud if there is anyone from Saul’s family who is still alive.
On one hand you might expect that David is looking out for his own wellbeing by asking this question. You know the saying, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” But the text never gives any reason to think that David is worried for his life or his throne. It simply tells us that David is looking to show “kindness” to Saul’s relatives that are still around for Jonathan’s sake.
However, I think that our modern translations don’t do this verse justice. The word that David uses here that is translated as “kindness” is the Hebrew word “chesed.” Chesed is considered by some Jewish philosophers to be the primary virtue of Judaism and it closely resembles the Greek word agape. Elsewhere in the Old Testament chesed is translated as “steadfast love.”
So David isn’t just looking to do a random act of kindness to some random member of Saul’s family. David is looking for a descendant of his dear friend Jonathan so that he can show his steadfast love.
Remember that David made a covenant with Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:14-15a, where Jonathan says, “But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family.” Again, the word that is used in this passage is chesed, agape, or steadfast love.
David sends for a man named Ziba, who had been a servant in Saul’s house. Ziba informs David that indeed there is a living member of Saul’s family. He is actually a son of Jonathan’s and his name is Mephibosheth. Ziba also makes sure to point out that Mephibosheth is crippled, lame in both feet.
But Mephibosheth had not always been lame. There is a brief reference to 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 disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.”
I think that it is important for us to remember that people with disabilities were not always viewed in the same way we view them today. Leviticus 21 lays out a number of rules pertaining to people with disabilities and their limitations in acts of temple worship. We know that the offerings that the people made in the temple were to be “without blemish” and those making the offering were to be free from any disability as well. Other passages suggest that disabilities were God’s curse upon those individuals. And when we get to New Testament, we find passages like John 9 where the question is asked of Jesus, “Who sinned that this man was born blind, him or his parents?”
For Mephibosheth, no such question would have been asked. He was born with two working feet. They were injured when he was a boy. Mephibosheth was not permitted to participate in certain acts of worship. He was believed to be a sinner, cursed by God in the form of two bad feet.
Now the “bosheth” makes a little more sense. Because he was assumed to have committed some great sin, Mephibosheth was a shame to his family, his friends, and himself.
When David hears that Mephibosheth is still alive he sends for him. They meet and Mephibosheth is understandably a little frightened. This is the king, the man whom his grandfather had tried to kill. What could he want with Mephibosheth, this man of shame? Was David going to kill him to wipe out Saul’s lineage?
Nope. David restored all of Saul’s land to Mephibosheth and his family. He puts Ziba in charge of tending the land, and David tells Mephibosheth to join him at his table…every night.
Giving back the land to Mephibosheth seems a little silly to me if David is just going to feed Mephibosheth every night. But remember, David wasn’t just looking out for Mephibosheth. He was looking out for — offering chesed to — the descendants of Jonathan and Saul. The land could be passed down from generation to generation, feeding the family of Jonathan for the foreseeable future.
David did not see Mephibosheth as a man of shame. No, David reached out and cared for, offered steadfast love to Mephibosheth because he was a part of Jonathan’s family.
One of the metaphors that we find in the Bible for what Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection is that he took away our shame. We find this in the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53. We read it again in Romans 10:11. Jesus was beaten, stripped naked, and put on display as a sign to everyone of what would be done to anyone who dared to oppose Rome.
Death on a cross was not simply painful. It was shameful. And when you consider that Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk the face of the earth, it becomes all the more shameful to consider what was done to him. Somehow, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus took our shame upon himself.
But I want to draw your attention back to my high school years, sitting with Dusty the Diesel at lunch. I get the feeling that Jesus wouldn’t have searched for a seat with the jocks, cheerleaders, cool guys, or anyone else. I think he would have received his tray of tatter tots and went right for Dusty.
Jesus was always dining with those who society deemed “shameful.” But he did more than dine with them. He broke all sorts of rules. Not only did he eat with the outcasts, he touched the lepers, risking getting cooties. He even interacted with women of ill repute.
When Jesus is in the home of Simon the Pharisee a sinful woman anoints Jesus with an alabaster jar filled with perfume. The Pharisee says in Luke 7:39, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus says, “Oh, I know.”
I think of the woman at the well that Jesus meets in John 4. Jesus strikes up a conversation with her and asks her for a drink. She says in verse 9, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)”
It is almost like she is saying, “Do you know who I am? I am a Samaritan woman. Jewish men do not talk to Samaritan women.”
Jesus says, “Oh, I know.”
I come back to David. When he first inquires of Ziba as to if there are any more descendants of Saul alive, Ziba mentions Mephibosheth and he emphasizes that Mephibosheth is lame. It is like he is saying, “Yes, there is one son of Jonathan remaining. But you don’t want anything to do with him. He is lame in both feet; obviously a sinner.”
David says, “Oh, I know.”
And when we look at verse 13, the end of this story, the author sums things up by saying, “And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.”
Bosheth no mo sheth. That shame is gone. This guy is eating with the king.
This is the point that I want to make: your status is not determined by if you sit with the jocks or the cheerleaders. It is not decided by the car you drive, the clothes you wear or the style of your hair. It doesn’t matter who you know or how many friends you have on Facebook. Your past victories and past failures are all insignificant. That shame is gone. Because today to are invited to sit at the table of the King of kings, Lord of lords. Your significance is found in Christ.
We were created without a sense of shame. The Creation Narrative in Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve were naked and they felt no shame. I believe that through Jesus we are called to get back to that point. Not that we need to walk around naked, but to feel no shame. There is nothing that you have done that Jesus doesn’t already know about. There is nothing that you have done that others haven’t done as well. And if you try to use what you have done as a reason to not eat at the table with Jesus, don’t worry, he already knows. And he is motioning you over to his table. He is scooting over to offer you a seat. Your shame is gone. He took it and nailed it to the cross.