LOVE AND KINDNESS (2 SAMUEL 19:24-30)
Here is one of the most beloved brotherhood stories, also recounted in The Book of Virtues by William Bennett:
Horror gripped the heart of the World War I soldier as he saw his lifelong friend fall in battle. Caught in a trench with continuous gunfire whizzing over his head, the soldier asked his lieutenant if he might go out into the “no man’s land” between the trenches to bring his fallen comrade back.
“You can go,” said the lieutenant, “but i don’t think it will be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you may throw your life away.” The lieutenant’s advice didn’t matter, and the soldier went anyway. Miraculously he managed to reach his friend, hoist him onto his shoulder and bring him back to their company’s trench. As the two of them tumbled in together to the bottom of the trench, the officer checked the wounded soldier, and then looked kindly at his friend.
“I told you it wouldn’t be worth it,” he said. “Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded.”
“It was worth it, though, sir,” said the soldier.
“What do you mean; worth it?” responded the Lieutenant. “Your friend is dead.”
“Yes, Sir” the private answered. “But it was worth it because when I got to him, he was still alive and I had the satisfaction of hearing him saying, “Jim…, I knew you’d come.”
One of the greatest stories of brotherhood is that of David and Jonathan. Three times the Bible recorded that Jonathan loved David as his own soul (1 Sam 18:1, 3, 20:17). Jonathan was not the only child of Saul to love David; Michal the daughter of Saul and the wife of David, loved David (1 Sam 18:20) as well, so David owed Saul’s children a lot, especially Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan. Out of kindness for Jonathan, David restored all the family land to Mephibosheth and invited him to eat at his table continually (2 Sam 9:7) and charged Ziba, Saul's servant, to till the land for him (2 Sam 9:10). At David’s second exile at old age, however, Ziba deceived the disoriented David into giving him all that belonged to Mephibosheth by saying that Mephibosheth was glad the kingdom of his father Saul was restored (2 Sam 16:3-4).
Have you been depicted and portrayed as heartless and hostile like Mephibosheth was? Have you been deceived, denied and deprived of what you rightly owned? How do you remove a barrier, return a favor, reduce a tension, rebuild a trust and restore a relationship?
Rebuild the Future
24 Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also went down to meet the king. He had not taken care of his feet or trimmed his mustache or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely. (2 Sam 19:24)
President Eisenhower once admitted to the National Press Club audience that he was not a great speaker. He once said: It reminds me of my boyhood days on a Kansas farm. An old farmer had a cow that we wanted to buy. We went over to visit the farmer and asked him about the cow’s pedigree.
The old farmer didn’t know what pedigree meant, so we asked him about the cow’s butterfat production, He told us he didn’t have any idea what it was. Finally we asked him if he knew how many pounds of milk the cow produced each year.
The farmer said,’ I don’t know. But she’s an honest cow, and she’ll give you all the milk she has.’”
Eisenhower said, “I’m like the cow, I’ll give you everything I have.”
Mephibosheth did not “do/make” (in Hebrew) his feet, beard and clothes, nor washed since the day David departed from Jerusalem when the king was humiliated, hounded and hunted by his beloved, boastful and beastly son Absalom. Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth came to meet David not for retribution, revenge or redemption or redress, nor because his servant Ziba and household of fifteen sons and twenty servants (2 Sam 19:17) left him with all that belonged to him. He greeted the king out of compassion, concern and conscience for the safety of David, whom his father Jonathan loved as his own soul (1 Sam 18:1). Previously Mephibosheth was cheated out of his family heritage by his servant Ziba (2 Sam 16:4). Can you imagine the king meeting a person like Mephibosheth, whose feet beard and clothes were so unkempt, unsightly, untidy, unattractive and uncivilized? His servants had left him, but he was undaunted, unflagging and unbounded.
Nobody thought Mephibosheth could make the demanding, dire and difficult trip because he was lame, not just his right or left feet, but on both his feet (2 Sam 9:13). What a loving and loyal person was Mephibosheth, a trait so demonstrated by his father Jonathan to his friend David. His servant Ziba had painted him into a corner, left him high and dry and portrayed him as a traitor, but the failure was never Mephibosheth’s, but David’s to blame and bear. David was the one who was desperate, deceived and distressed. The aging and anxious king could not distinguish between foe Absalom, fiend Ziba and friend Mephibosheth; Absalom the adversary, Ziba the actor and Mephibosheth the ally; the menacing son, the manipulative servant and the misunderstood successor. It did not make sense for Mephibosheth to say that David’s exile meant the kingdom of his father would be restored (2 Sam 16:3) since David’s son Absalom was a cruel, clever and calculative man bent on killing his father David. He who did not spare his father was unlikely to spare his father’s rival family.
There was no doubting that Mephibosheth had been in a mourning, miserable and misgiving mood since hearing of David’s troubles with his son Absalom.
Mephibosheth was a genuine, gentle, good and grateful person. Mephibosheth could have chosen to cut his nails, chop his beard and change his clothes, but that was not his concern, even though it could have made a difference if he had shaved cleaner, smelled nicer and showered more. The king could be less agitated, annoyed and appalled, but Mephibosheth was just glad David survived mayhem, madness and malice.
Redeem the Present
25 When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?” 26 He said, “My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me. 27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever you wish. 28 All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?” (2 Sam 19:25-28)
On a sailing vessel the mate of the ship, yielding to a temptation, became drunk. He had never before been in such a state. The captain entered in the log of the ship the record for the day: “Mate drunk today.”
When the mate read this entry he implored the captain to take it out of the record, saying that when it was read by the owners of the ship it would cost him his post, and the captain well knew that this was his first offense. But the obdurate captain refused to change the record and said to the mate, “This is the fact, and into the log it goes!”
Some days afterward, the mate was keeping the log and after he had given the latitude and longitude, the run for the day, the wind and the sea, he made this entry: “Captain sober today.” The indignant captain protested when he read the record, declaring that it would leave an altogether false impression in the minds of the owners of the vessel, as if it were an unusual thing for him to be sober. But the mate answered as the captain answered him, “This is the fact, and into the log it goes!”
This is a good example of how, by an accuracy of statement, but by misrepresentation of circumstances, one can injure the reputation of another.
David was in a foul, frosty and forlorn mood that day, probably from the after effects of weeping, mourning (2 Sam 19:1) and crying (2 Sam 19:4) for the loss of his son Absalom early in the chapter. He directed an unfair question to Mephibosheth crippled in both feet and accused by his servant before the exiled David previously: “Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?” (v 25). Why in the world would the king burden and bully a lame man to follow him is beyond understanding. To complicate and worsen matters for Mephibosheth, a man from the same family of the house of Saul by the name of Shimei (2 Sam 16:5-13) had cursed David without end, threw stones at him and cast dust at David as he departed Jerusalem. David could have put two and two together and come to the conclusion that Shimei was from the same clan and was sent by Mephibosheth to despise, degrade and denounce him.
Mephibosheth, however, could not have been more humble or honest in attitude and answer. The phrase “my lord the king” (vv 26, 27, 28) and “my lord O king” was all so familiar to David because it debuted in the Bible not too long ago by David in his first exile in the wilderness when he twice begged the reigning king Saul (1 Sam 24:8, 26:17), Mephibosheth’s grandfather, with the same words not to misunderstand him. Mephibosheth did not go with David in his exile not because he had no heart or honor, but no health or help. Not only was he lame, his two asses were conveniently stolen by Ziba to be given as presents to David for his ride out of Jerusalem (2 Sam 16:1), so the crippled Mephibosheth had no means of conveyance and communication.
Mephibosheth did not fully or faintly press his advantage when David asked the perfect question in Hebrew, “Why not you ‘walk’ with me?” Mephibosheth was too much of a gentleman to reveal or respond that he was lame on both his feet (2 Sam 9:13), not merely lame. Mephibosheth did not go with David for other reasons but one: he was a hindrance and a handicap (pardon the expression) to the aged king, who himself needed people living with him and looking after him.
Respect the Past
29 The king said to him, “Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the land.” 30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has returned home safely.” (2 Sam 19:29-30)
Abraham Lincoln said, “Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and loss of self control. Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.”
David came to his senses in the end and partitioned the land between Ziba and Mephibosheth, making Mephibosheth the big winner. Half of the land was given to him, which was more than what he needed or requested. The verb “order” (v 29) is not in the original text. David surprisingly did not use an imperative, but a regular verb “divide” (v 30), on Mephibosheth.
Like his father Jonathan, the respectable, righteous and reasonable son of Jonathan did not cry for justice, champion his cause, counter the king, contest the finding, clarify his situation, continue the argument and cause more heartbreak. Mephibosheth was a gentle, giving, grateful, genuine and good man. He had his father’s head, heart, honor, humility and hospitality. Just as his father’s relationship with David was defined by kindness (1 Sam 20:8, 20:14, 15, 2 Sam 9:1, 3, 7), Mephibosheth could not be disrespectful to David, discontented with and disappointed by the king.
The word “safely” (v 30) or “peace” (shalom) contrasted the attitude of David and Mephibosheth and compared Mephibosheth with his father Jonathan. David only cared for his son Absalom’s “peace” (2 Sam 18:29, 32), but Mephibosheth cared for David’s “peace” (2 Sam 19:24, 30). Mephibosheth continued in the strong tradition of his father who cared for nothing but gave up everything for David’s “peace” or safety. In the famous episode and chapter where Jonathan and David made a covenant with each other, the word “peace” appears four times, three times from the mouth of Jonathan and one from David (1 Sam 20:7, 13, 21, 42).
Conclusion: It is always better to hold out hope than to hold a grudge, to help a person than to humiliate a person, heal a wound than to harden one’s heart. As much as possible we must check the facts and clear the air, not create a scene or come to blows. Do you have the courage to confess and correct your wrongs or weaknesses? Do you act or react impulsively, irritably or intolerantly towards others when you are discouraged or disappointed?