The Old Testament is full of narrative stories that are carefully crafted to foreshadow the gospel and the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but these stories are written in such a way that they present fascinating dramas in their own right. One of my favorite stories in the entire Old Testament is the story of Mephibosheth and David told in 2 Samuel 9.
As the scene opens, David the anointed king is at the zenith of his powers and is living in Jerusalem in splendor. But Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, is in very different circumstances. Let us consider where Mephibosheth is at this time and consider in detail the circumstances of his life.
The first thing that we discover about Mephibosheth is that he is crippled in both feet (9:3; later in 9:13). That means he is physically damaged and defective. He is useless for any sort of meaningful work. He has nothing to offer David the king. Damaged, defective, rejected.
Also, we see that Mephibosheth views himself as an enemy to King David. He is a descendant of Saul and is the son of Saul’s son Jonathan, and as such, he is doomed. In those days, when a king conquered a people, he usually killed all the male descendants of the previous king to make sure there were no heirs who could threaten the new king’s reign. By rights then, Mephibosheth should be hunted and killed by David.
Mephibosheth is living in Lo-Debar. Perhaps this is to hide from David or perhaps this is just where he has ended up, but Lo-Debar means “no pasture,” so this is a dry and desert place where there is no pasture that is far away from the place of God in Jerusalem. He is far from God in a dry and desert place where there is no pasture.
And so what is the hope of Mephibosheth? His only hope is that his miserable life in Lo-debar will not be cut short and that the anointed king will not find him and bring him into judgment. He has no hope of an inheritance, for his forefather Saul lost everything through his disobedience and his sin and now his descendant only inherits his failure and his shame. Mephibosheth has no hope of a land, for all his lands have been lost.
Indeed, Mephibosheth cannot even improve his lot in life, for he is in a desert, a place of “no pasture,” and he is physically crippled in both feet. His situation is literally hope-less. His life will be spent in hiding in Lo-debar far from the king and far from the palace. Mephibosheth will limp along, making the most of his miserable situation, but he has no hope because he is an enemy of the king with no way to be reconciled to the king. Fear and shame will mark his days and finally he will go down to the grave.
This story is beautiful because what happens next is so unexpected. While Mephibosheth is hiding in Lo-Debar, David is seeking him out, but not to kill him, but to show him the kindness of God. In an explosion of kindness and grace lavished on Mephibosheth because of a covenant between David and Jonathan, we see calling, response, repentance, confession and adoption, all important gospel themes.
- Mephibosheth is called from the far country into the palace of the king;
- Once in the king’s presence, he falls down and worships the anointed king;
- He confesses his unworthiness (9:8);
- Mephibosheth is allowed to eat at David’s table as one of the king’s sons (9:10-11); This means that he was adopted as a child of the king.
The anointed king calls the miserable cripple from the far country, from the place of no pasture and brings him to the city of David, the city of Zion, the place where God will choose to place His glory. The king then gives him back all the land that Saul, his ancestor, lost by his disobedience, and insists that Mephibosheth eat at the king’s table as one of the king’s sons.
- We are Mephibosheth. By faith in the Lord Jesus, we are those people who have been called out of the far country, the place of “no pasture,” to the table of the King to eat at His table as His adopted sons and daughters.
- In this story, David pictures for us the Lord, who overlooks our sin and our shame and our defects because there is a covenant of grace in place. The Lord seeks us in the far country and then raises us up with Christ and seats us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2).
- Even though Mephibosheth is still crippled in both feet, he no longer sees himself as crippled, no longer defines himself by his “first birth.” He defines himself by his adoption and identifies himself with the king who adopted him. He is now treated not as a cripple, but as an adopted son of the King and enjoys all the privileges of sonship. In the same way, we who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ enjoy all the privileges of sonship. The sin and shame that used to define us and that gave us our self-image has been washed away by the blood of Christ.
- The Hebrew name Mephibosheth means “dispeller of shame,” but it is clear that the man Mephibosheth is not himself the dispeller of shame. In fact, Mephibosheth cannot dispel any shame. Instead, he is the one who needs to have shame removed from him. But notice that his shame is dispelled by King David when he brings him up to the palace in Jerusalem and adopts him as his son. Now this elaborate screenplay is presented to us to show what happens to us as followers of Jesus. We need to have our shame dispelled, the shame of our sin and our failures and our rejection and evil and filth, but we have no ability to dispel any filth. We are trapped in our shame. But when we come to faith in the Lord Jesus, He dispels our shame and removes our guilt and wraps us with a robe of righteousness and washes us from all our iniquities so that our sin and shame are removed. Jesus Christ is the great and final dispeller of shame, and He has removed and dispelled all the shame of all those who have placed their faith in Him.
SDG rmb 5/31/2018