Mephibosheth — An Heir of Promise
Many have been the sermons and many have been the preachers who have preached on Mephibosheth. The facts related about him have formed the basis of many a disquisition and have supplied a Biblical illustration for gospel messages without number, and rightly so.
He Was Lame
Was he not lame on both his feet? (2 Sam. 9:13). This robbed him of the ability and strength to walk, as evidently his feet needed constant care. He was not able to go with David at the time of Absalom’s rebellion because his servant had deceived him and had not provided him with the ass that he had requested. And while David was out of Jerusalem he did not dress his feet, so they must have needed looking after by a competent chiropodist. Yes, he was lame, poor Mephibosheth, and it affected his walk!
He Had Fallen
Was not his lameness due to a fall? (2 Sam. 4.4). It was that fall that lamed him for life, and it was a woman’s failure that caused that calamitous fall! And are we not all the victims of the fall, and as a result of that fall we have all walked according to the course of this age, according to the prince of the power of the air, the one who energizes the children of disobedience. Yes, the fall has permanently affected everyone’s conduct, and of this Mephibosheth is an illustration.
Brother J. M. Davies has spent many years in the Lord’s work in India. He also has ministered the Word of God to assemblies in Canada, the United States of America, Britain, and other parts of the world. At present he is visiting the assemblies in Tasmania.
A Probable Idolator
Does not his other name … Meribaal .. . suggest that at his birth he was dedicated to Baal, dedicated to be a worshipper of Baal? And was he not thereby constituted a child of wrath, subject to the judgment of the Lord God? Yes, surely.
A Possible Enemy
Was he not of the family of David’s bitterest enemy — Saul? Yes, Saul had persecuted David to the bitter end. For some five years David was a fugitive hiding in caves, hunted as a partridge on the mountains. The wilderness of Engedi and the cave of Adullam were among his hide-outs because Saul and his army had sought his life. In this way Mephibosheth is an illustration of the fact that we are not only without strength and sinners, but enemies (Rom. 5.6-10). Yes, we were enemies by wicked works, and thereby alienated from God.
The Kindness of God
Was he not the recipient of the kindness of God? Did not David ask “Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him?” Yes, in a marvellous way he illustrates the fact that we too have been the objects of the “kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man” (Tit. 3:4). David showed great magnanimity of heart, after God’s own heart, when he sought for any that might still remain of the family of his inveterate foe.
The Distance Bridged
Was not Mephibosheth away in Lo-debar in the house of Machir when David made the enquiry and made the necessary arrangements to fetch him? Yes, he was away in a far distant place, a place of poverty, a place of no pasture. And so were we “far off” (Ex 19:16; 20:18 Eph. 2:11). At Sinai the people removed and stood afar off. The law generated a spirit of bondage and fear. Even Moses said: “I exceedingly fear and quake” (Heb. 12.21). And doubtless poor Mephibosheth passed his days in Lo-debar in fear of the possibility of being cut off. The sword of Damocles, as it were, held by a mere thread hung perilously over his head. In Lo-debar he could have no peace of mind or heart. It is undoubtedly a Spirit-drawn picture of our position and condition by nature, even though we were not conscious of it, and may have lived a careless life. Yes, we were in the far country and in great danger.
Did not David’s four-fold message to him foreshadow the content of the gospel? Yes, surely. Note four points and consider them separately. The first is “Fear not.” The very arrival of the messengers from David in itself must have begotten a fear in his heart and it may have even struck terror. Did their coming herald retribution? Possibly the words of the hymn of McCheyne would express his fears: “When legal fears shook me, I trembled to die.” But the words “Fear not” brought peace and tranquility to his troubled breast, even as the words of the Lord, “Peace be still,” calmed the storm-tossed waves, and there was a great calm. And as we entered into the enjoyment of peace with God, we were able to sing, “It is well, It is well with my soul.” Perfect love, His love, had cast out fear.
David’s second word must have filled Mephibosheth with wonder and amazement, “I will show thee kindness for Jonathan, thy father’s sake.” Not only was his fear cancelled but he was assured of favour, and that not because of any mere pity for his lameness but because of another.
This would be the basis of his confidence, even as it is ours. It is because of another that the clouds of wrath have been scattered and we are basking today in the clear sunshine of His love.
“And I will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father.” This third word of David introduced him to wealth which he had never thought he would ever enjoy. The lost inheritance was restored, and restored in full! What amazing grace! But it is beggarly compared with the riches of His grace, and the exceeding riches of His grace toward us in Christ Jesus. In this way grace reaches its high water-mark, its zenith.
“And thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.” This, the fourth and last word of David to Mephibosheth, crowned it all. Little wonder that Mephibosheth bowed himself, and said, “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” Such transcending grace brings rebel sinners nigh, even into the banqueting house, making them partakers of the Lord’s Table daily, privileged to enjoy the provision and fellowship of that table day by day. All this is foreshadowed in the final or fourth word of David.
In the day of Absalom’s rebellion Mephibosheth was tested as to his fidelity by the subtlety and slander of Ziba. But during David’s absence he “neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes.” While David was away he was a mourner. The absence of David deprived him of every motive to adorn his person (CHM). And when David returned, Ziba’s slander was made very evident. Had Mephibosheth accepted the offer of dividing the inheritance with Ziba, it would have incriminated him immediately. His preparedness to let it all go fully exonerated him from the false charge of Ziba. May he be an example to us, for we too must and will be tested by subtleties and slander. The Apostle spoke of having been “slanderously reported.”
Then again, was not Mephibosheth spared when requisition was made for blood at the hands of the Gibeonites? (2 Sam. 21:7). Yes, he was spared when seven others of Saul’s family died under the curse, hanging on trees. He was spared because of the Lord’s oath, the oath that was between David and Jonathan.
This brings us to the final word about Mephibosheth. He was an heir of the promise and the oath, the covenant between David and Jonathan. He was not an Ammonite or a Moabite. He was not a Gentile, and therefore does not prefigure those who are strangers to the commonwealth of Israel and the covenants of promise. Rather, he is an illustration of the words of Romans 11:5. “Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” During the whole of the Gospel era there have been many Mephibosheths, many like Saul of Tarsus, who as “heirs of promise… confirmed by an oath… have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them.” The way Mephibosheth was spared at the end illustrates the way the remnant will be spared in the dark and cloudy day, the time of Jacob’s trouble, the time of the “great tribulation.” A large company, 144,000, will be sealed and preserved through that day of wrath to meet their Messiah at His return in power and great glory.
Whereas the “middle wall of partition” has been broken down, and thereby the Jew is on the same ground today as the Gentile, yet we are assured that “God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew” or foreordained. The unfulfilled prophecies, and the unabrogated covenants make their restoration to favour inevitable. God’s promise and His oath are immutable, inviolable.