Mephibosheth: a snapshot of grace

There is a little snapshot of grace in 2 Samuel’s account of the establishment of David’s kingdom. Once he is in place as king in Jerusalem, David’s thoughts turn to the family of Saul and Jonathan.

It is striking that despite Saul’s jealousy and animosity towards David, David remained respectful of the man whom he regarded as the Lord’s anointed. Even when news came of Saul’s death, an event which cleared the way for David to be king, it was a time for mourning.

As his thoughts turn to Saul’s family, he wonders if there is anyone left. Jonathan was dead, killed with his father in battle; Ishbosheth, a rallying point for those who wanted to see a continuation of the Saul dynasty, had been murdered by two of his own military officials. It turned out that there was still a grandson of the old king, a son of Jonathan. His name was Mephibosheth.

In telling the story of the murder of Ishbosheth, 1 Samuel 4 prepares us for the later story of Mephibosheth in a short aside. When news of the battle which had claimed the lives of both his father and grandfather reached home, his nurse grabbed him to escape. In her hurry, she dropped him and as a result he spent the rest of his life unable to walk. He had been 5 years old at the time.

There are three parts to his story.

  • Fall – as described in 1 Samuel 4. Despite the fact that he had been born in the royal family, he ended up, unable to walk and living in a place called Lo-Debar which may mean a place of no pasture. A one time royal son, unable to walk, exiled to a place in the desert.
  • Fear – when David sent for him. Perhaps Mephibosheth was unaware of the exact details of his uncle Ishbosheth’s death: what if David had been involved, or at least approved? Would Mephibosheth be next? Why would the king send for the last remaining member of his rival’s family?
  • Favour – not only did David dispel his fear, but he went on to show him great kindness. Mephibosheth moved from the desert to the palace; his family inheritance was restored to him; and he ate regularly at the table of the king.

I’ll leave you to draw the parallels between David’s kindness and the grace of his Greater Son, Jesus.


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