Summary: David chose to invite Mephibosheth to the king's table and took care of all his needs. Why would he do this and what can we learn from his example? Check out these thoughts from Scott Jewell, our Family Minister.
We’ve been looking at a number of “children’s stories” from the Bible this summer. I finally get a turn to share what has become one of my favorite stories because of how it’s been connected to the week of church camp at the Ark, where Jeff and I have been faculty. I’ll talk more about that later.
Now, when I was at a different church camp, I would make a deal with the 5th-6th grade boys in my cabin. I’d offer the same offer today, but some of you may take me up on it. When it came time for lights out, I would tell a Bible story that maybe isn’t as well-known, we’d pray, and then we’d go to sleep. If they did a good job, I’d tell another story the next night. Only once in 5 years did I not get to tell one of the stories. I got to tell a story like this- (read or tell the events of 2 Samuel 9:1-13).
There are a few angles from which I want to look at this narrative. First, is the historical event that took place. Now, back in the time when David became king, it was typical for the new king to get rid of all potential rivals. They would seek out relatives from the previous regime and take them out before a rebellion could begin. But not David, he seeks out Mephibosheth, invites him to the king’s table, and sets him up for life. Why would he do this, why give honor to the grandson of the man who tried to kill him?
I believe David remembered the promise he made to Jonathan. Back when Saul was king, he hired David as an armor bearer. God had sent an evil spirit to torment Saul after he had disobeyed God and David would play the harp to soothe Saul. But with the many victories David had in battle, Saul became jealous and tried multiple times to take David’s life. After one of those occasions, David fled to find Jonathan to tell him what was happening.
This had to be a difficult position for Jonathan. David was his best friend, but Saul was his father. Like Jonathan, I think it would be a tough pill to swallow to be told that your father is trying to kill your best friend. The two hatch a plan. Saul had invited all the big names, including David, to a special dinner. David would skip out and Jonathan would make his excuse- he was with his family for a sacrifice. Jonathan would gauge his father’s response and report to David. Then they went outside to get away from any ears in the palace that may have been trying to listen to what was happening and this exchange takes place in 1 Samuel 20:12-17 (read).
Jonathan knew he wasn’t going to inherit the throne, in fact, he was looking at the heir. He still agrees to help David out and makes David then promise to never cut off the steadfast love of God from him or his household, even after the regime change. Now that David is king, he remembers the promise he made to Jonathan. Of course, there were no witnesses, so no one would have ever known if David had changed no one would have known. There was no one to hold him accountable, but David was a man of integrity.
David sought a way to keep his word. If these events were happening today, I think David would have gone on Facebook and use the recommendations feature. I picture him posting the question, “Does anyone know of any relatives that remain from the household of Saul? I’d like to show kindness in honor of Jonathan.” I bet various people would make comments about how they weren’t aware of anyone, then someone would tag Ziba, saying that maybe he would know of someone. So David would then reach out to Ziba, who tells David that there is a son of Jonathan who is still alive, but there’s something you need to know about him (read Samuel 4:4). When Mephibosheth was 5 years old, the battle in which Saul was defeated and Jonathan killed, news of the defeat reached the palace and people began to flee. Mephibosheth’s nurse, we’d probably call her a nanny or babysitter today, scooped him up to run, but dropped him and his legs have been crippled ever since.
Now, too often, we get presented the opportunity to be around someone with special needs and we’re not sure what to do. It may be something physical that makes it quite obvious that something is wrong. It may be something less obvious, but it tends to make us uneasy. After the last couple years at camp and some of the things I’ve experienced at our schools, I’ve learned that even with their special needs, they’re people too. They want someone who will spend some time with them and listen to what they have to say.