Summary: Readiness for the King’s return

“Messy Mephibosheth” II Samuel 19:24-30 & Mark 13:33-37 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts

Nearly every time Jesus spoke about His second coming, He stressed the importance of being prepared. In Mark 13 He warns, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with an assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone. Watch!” (Mark 13:33-37).

We’re to be on alert. A policeman, an Emergency Medical Technician, a soldier, all know what it’s like to have their routine suddenly shifted into high gear. It’s stressful, but not unexpected; it’s all part of the job. You have to have a high tolerance of change and uncertainty, and be able to handle frequent rushes of adrenaline.

Are we prepared for the return of our Savior? Some Christians are apathetic or willfully ignorant. They say, “No one can figure this stuff out; it’s way too complicated, and there’s too much symbolism, so why try?” Or they feel prophecy is too divisive, with differing views on what may happen, so why cause more conflict?

On the other hand, some Christians over-indulge in prophecy. They get so wrapped up in it that they neglect other (more important) teachings. Go to a Christian bookstore and you’ll be amazed at the number of books on prophecy, many written to satisfy the intense curiosity of people, and to cash in on people’s interest in the future. The popular “Left Behind” series of novels have all made the NY Times bestseller list.

Regardless of our prophetic viewpoints, we can all agree that we’re to be watching, waiting, and ready for whatever God brings. Our comfort is knowing that He’s in control of history, that it’s “His story.” We may be unable to unravel the mysteries concerning Christ’s return, but we can be certain about one thing—He will return. How we greet Him that Day is important. What should be day of rejoicing could turn out to be a day of regret.

In II Samuel 19 we read of Mephibosheth, the son of David’s best friend Jonathan, the grandson of king Saul. He had been crippled due to a childhood injury. David took compassion on him, and adopted him into his family, gave him an inheritance, and showered him with love. We too were crippled by sin, wounded by a Fall, but we’ve been adopted into God’s family. Mephibosheth is a picture of grace.

While David was hiding from the wrath of king Saul, he formed a bond with the king’s son, Jonathan. When David became king of Israel he wanted to fulfill his covenant with Jonathan, so he began to search for any descendants of Saul and Jonathan. He was told about Ziba, who was a servant of Saul until the king’s death. Ziba was summoned and told David about one surviving son, Mephibosheth. David sent for Mephibosheth, gave him all the properties that belonged to Saul, along with Ziba and his household as his servants. David also gave Mephibosheth the honor of sitting at his royal table as a son.

In chapter 19 we see David returning home from battle, and Mephibosheth has been caught unprepared; he hastily rushes to greet David. He appears to be surprised, flustered, and unaware. We don’t know exactly why; we’re given two stories, but we aren’t told which is true. He may have been lazy, insolent, or irresponsible, or he could’ve been “set up” for embarrassment. Mephibosheth appears like a student who shows up for class, engages in some small talk with fellow students, opens his textbook, and then discovers that there’s a test! He didn’t study, and he’s not ready. Most tests are scheduled and announced, but sometimes teachers give “pop tests”. We need to remind ourselves that Jesus will return without warning. His second coming is imminent—it could happen at any time. Biblical prophecy gives some clues, some signs, but doesn’t give a specific date, to keep us on our toes. Jesus said that He will return like “a thief in the night”.

All Mephibosheth apparently knew was that David was supposed to return sometime soon. He is not properly groomed; he’s downright scrufty! However, there’s another explanation: Ziba indicated to David that Mephibosheth had chosen to stay in Jerusalem, hoping David would be killed in battle, which would put him in line to gain the throne of his grandfather, Saul. David has had to deal with so much treachery, so many faithless people—is Mephibosheth one more who has betrayed his love? If David could be betrayed by his own son Absalom, why wouldn’t Mephibosheth, with a legitimate claim on the throne, also betray him?

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Autumn Kinsley

commented on Sep 27, 2014

This is a horrifying misinterpretation of the passage of scripture to which you are referring. To vilify and call into question Mephibosheth's motives in order to illustrate the point you are trying to make is proof-texting, plain and simple. We should never use scripture to force a point. Scripture has plenty of good examples of real truth and should be handled sacredly and correctly. It is obvious, upon examination of the passage that Mephibosheth was not only tricked by Ziba, but Ziba took advantage of Mephibosheth's disability for his own greedy gain. To try to make Ziba a possible hero is despicable given his deceitful intent. As far as Mephibosheth being "messy, unready, shabby etc." The description is ignorant and clearly not thought through logically. Someone who was supposedly plotting to take over the throne would have done just the opposite. He would have presented himself in the best finery, the best outward (that's a key word) condition possible in order to claim his "prize". Instead, from the moment David left, Mephibosheth humbled himself and was in mourning, as was typical for that culture at that time. The only person who had ever shown Mephibosheth any consideration or care was in danger. Why would he be worried about his own clothes or care at all. His outward appearance was equivalent to sackcloth and ashes. You are right to assume that this story is very symbolic and has very real correlations to our life as Christians today, but NOT in the way you described. It grieves me to hear sermons of this nature. It's the little liberties that pastors take with the scripture that do the most harm. May God have mercy and grant you great discernment in the future.

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