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.
So, Mephibosheth was a fugitive, living in fear, constantly harboring the dread that one day he would be found and put to death himself. Not only that, but we read that as he was fleeing as a young child, being carried by his nurse, she dropped him and he was crippled for life as a result of this accident.
Now, as Mephibosheth reflected on his life at this point, his response must have been, “Why me?” He saw his grandfather go practically insane and lose control of himself and his kingdom. He may not have completely understood what was happening at the time, but he knew that something was desperately wrong in the palace. “Why me?”
He received the news that both his father and his grandfather had died. His home was shattered. He had no father to guide him, no grandfather to shower him with love and affection. Who would take care of him? Who would feed him, clothe him, or put him to bed at night? Imagine how alone he must have felt. Imagine the pain of the memory of his father and grandfather. Imagine the insecurity of no more home that he could call his own. “Why me?”
Imagine the pain of the memory of being in the arms of the only one he knew and trusted, fleeing with his nurse. Then, in the rocky hills in the Mahanaim area, she slipped and dropped him. He came crashing down on his feet, and severe pain overtook him. Both of his feet were broken. But, they could not think about getting to a doctor at this time. They must only think about survival. She picked him up and continued to carry him. The bones never mended correctly. He would never walk again. Imagine his pain inside as he watched the other boys and girls his age running and jumping and playing- and, he knew that he would never be a part of that. He would be dependent upon others just to transport him from place to place. And, as he reflected on his misfortune, one wonders if he thought to himself again and again, “Why me?”