Summary: Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, had every reason to expect that the wrath and judgment of King David would fall upon him. He was the grandson of King Saul, and the nephew of Ishbosheth, both David’s enemies. Instead, he received grace from the king- he
Mephibosheth- Surprised by Grace
1 John 3:1- “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
Continuing our series on Unknown Faces from the Bible, remember that there are unknown characters in the Bible whose names and faces we may not recognize, but whose stories are significant in God’s plan and purpose in history. Today, we will look at a man named Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, a man who was totally surprised by grace. He expected judgment and death- but, received grace and adoption as a son. And, truly, he is a picture of the grace and adoption as sons that we have received through Jesus Christ.
The Bible seems to abound in difficult names- names like “Ne-bu-chad-nez-zar” and “Sen-nach-e-rib” and “Abel-beth-ma-a-cah”. My favorite is from Isaiah 8:1 & 3- “Ma-her-shal-al-hash-baz” (could you imagine naming your son “Mahershalalhasbaz”?) Today’s featured character has an unusual name- a real “tongue-twister”- “Me-phi-bo-sheth” (say that 3 times fast!) His name means “from the mouth of the shameful thing”- but, as we will see today, his life did not end in tragedy and shame. Mephibosheth was a special person, a son of Jonathan, David’s special, loyal friend. David made a covenant with Jonathan (a “binding agreement”), and along with that covenant, there was a promise that David gave to Jonathan- 1 Samuel 20:15- that he would “not cut off his kindness to the house of Jonathan forever.”
David always showed that kindness to his entire house. He went out of his way to prove his loyalty to Jonathan’s father, King Saul. He protected his family as far as possible. After Saul’s death, David was anointed king, and he took the throne- and, his house and his support grew stronger. And, Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, also took the throne- and, his house and his support grew weaker. The result was civil war. Even then, because of David’s respect for King Saul and his love for Jonathan, David went out of his way to try to make peace, but it was impossible. Ishbosheth continued to fight David, but he was defeated and killed.
After the civil war was over, David remembered that he had made a covenant of friendship with Jonathan and with his family. And, so, he searched for members of Jonathan’s family to bless and make good on his covenant. Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, was introduced- 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.” Mephibosheth had a life of much hardship and suffering. When he was only 5 years old, he had received word that he had become an orphan-both his father and his grandfather had died. Not only that, but he had every reason to believe that he was the king’s enemy, and would be the next one killed. The usual practice at that time in the Middle East was that the new heir to the throne would take the entire family of the displaced king and have them put to death, to eliminate the possibility of any future opposition and rebellion.