Have you ever made a promise and been tempted to break it? Maybe you have broken it? Perhaps when you were young, you and a friend made a promise to one another, which — at the time — you fully intended to keep, about something you would do for one another in the future. But as the years went by, you forgot the promise. Or perhaps you remembered it, but now in the present that promise no longer seems so important. As the years went by, you thought to yourself that it was only a foolish promise, and no one would expect you to keep it.
Many years before the events of chapter 9, David made a promise. He made a promise to Jonathan, who was Saul’s son and David’s close companion. And we read about the promise David made to Jonathan way back in 1 Samuel 20 when Jonathan asked David to show kindness or loyal love to Jonathan’s family. You see, Jonathan believed that David would one day be king. And in ancient times, when one king overthrew another king, very often the first act of business of the new king was to kill the descendants of the old king. You don’t want the old king’s son or grandson rising up in rebellion and trying to take revenge on the new king. So, in ancient times, new kings would wipe out the old king’s family. Knowing what the custom was in those days, and knowing that David would one day be king, Jonathan asked David not to do that to his family. He said to David: when the Lord has cut off every one of your enemies from the face of the earth and has made you king in Saul’s place, please spare my family. That’s what he asked David to do. And so, they made a covenant with one another and by means of that covenant, David promised to show kindness to Jonathan’s family.
And now, many years have passed. Jonathan is dead. His father, Saul, is dead. David is now the king over Israel. As we’ve seen, he’s now settled in Jerusalem. And the Lord has given him victory over his enemies. Time has passed. But David has not forgotten his promise to Jonathan. In verse 1 of chapter 9, David asked — and presumably he’s asking the members of his court, his advisors and helpers — David asked:
Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?
The key word here is the word ‘kindness’ which is the same word Jonathan used back in 1 Samuel. Back then, Jonathan asked David to show kindness to his family. And so, here’s David, asking is there anyone left of Saul and Jonathan’s family so that he can keep his promise and show kindness to them. Years have passed. Lots has happened. David is now king. But he hadn’t forgotten the promise he made to Jonathan all those years ago to show kindness or loyal love to Saul’s and Jonathan’s family.
Verses 2 to 5
And in verse 2 we’re introduced to this man, Ziba. He had been a servant in Saul’s household. And if anyone knew whether any of Saul’s family are alive, it would be Ziba. And presumably someone in David’s court remembered him and they knew how to get hold of him. And so, they summoned him to appear before David. And we read that the king said to him:
Are you Ziba?
And Ziba replied:
He’s saying: Yes and I’m your servant. I’m at your service. What can I do for you? And David repeated the question from verse 1, with a slight change. He doesn’t refer to Jonathan, this time; and he now refers to the ‘kindness of God’. And in fact, that’s the exact request Jonathan made of him all those years ago. Jonathan had asked David to show ‘the kindness of God’ to his family. And after all this time, David is ready to keep his promise.
And Ziba was able to tell David that one of Jonathan’s sons was still alive. He doesn’t mention the son’s name, but he adds the little detail that Jonathan’s last surviving son is crippled in both feet. We don’t know why Ziba mentioned that one detail. Perhaps he was letting the king know that here’s someone who needed the king’s kindness, because he was lame. Or perhaps he was letting David know that Jonathan’s son was no threat to the king, because he was a lame man and not a warrior. But we don’t really know why he mentioned it. And Ziba not only knew about Jonathan’s son, but he knew where he was living. And we read in verse 5 that King David had Jonathan’s son brought from Lo Debar, where he had been living.
Verses 6 to 8
And finally in verse 6 we discover the name of Jonathan’s remaining son. It’s Mephibosheth. We’ve come across his name before, because he was mentioned in chapter 4 when David learned about the death of Ish-Bosheth, who was one of Saul’s sons. And in chapter 4 we read that Mephibosheth became lame when he was only five years old and his nurse dropped him while she was fleeing after the death of Saul and Jonathan. Well, he’s now grown up and David wants to see him. Incidentally, whenever David speaks to Ziba in this chapter, he’s referred to as the king. It’s very formal and official, because he’s the king and he’s issuing orders to a servant. However, when David is speaking to Mephibosheth, the narrator refers to him as David. It’s much more personal and warm. In fact, look at how their conversation begins. Mephibosheth bows down before the king and the king says: ‘Mephibosheth.’ He knows his name. Ziba hadn’t mentioned his name. But David knows it. He knows this man by name.
And Mephibosheth responds as Ziba had done: I’m your servant. I’ve at your service. What can I do for you? Though he was once grandson to the king, he now accepts that he’s only the servant of the new king.
And look now at David’s next words which are: Don’t be afraid. Presumably Mephibosheth had no idea why David had summoned him. And who knows? Perhaps the king had summoned him in order to execute him. After all, that’s what kings did in ancient times: they wiped out all their rivals. So, Mephibosheth may have been afraid for his life. And so, David reassures him: Don’t be afraid.
And he went on to explain that he wanted to show him kindness for the sake of his father, Jonathan.
And there were two things he wanted to do for Mephibosheth. Firstly, David was prepared to restore to Mephibosheth all the land that belonged to his grandfather, Saul. Now, he’s not referring to the land Saul ruled over as king. He’s referring instead to all the land Saul possessed as part of the family inheritance in the Promised Land. Whenever the Israelites entered the Promised Land, it was divided up between the tribes of Israel. And then it was divided up among the clans and the families so that every family possessed part of the Promised Land. And there were laws to ensure the land was handed down from one generation to the next so that none of the people of Israel would be dispossessed and would lose their inheritance in the land. Presumably, someone else had taken possession of Saul’s land after Saul’s death. But now, David was prepared to show kindness to Mephibosheth by returning the land to him. He was to receive back his inheritance.
And then secondly, David promised that Mephibosheth would always eat at David’s table. And what a privilege that was, because it meant that every day you got to dine with the king and eat the best of foods, which were prepared for him. Even though he had his own land to farm, he didn’t have to worry about his crops and whether he had enough to live on, because the king himself was going to provide for him always.
So, David was going to give him back his inheritance. And David was going to give him a seat at his table. And remember: Mephibosheth was Saul’s grandson. And Saul had regarded David as his enemy; and for years he had pursued David from place to place because he wanted to kill David. Saul regarded David as his enemy. And so, we wouldn’t have been surprised if David has been reluctant to help anyone related to Saul. We wouldn’t be surprised if David wanted to take vengeance on Saul’s family. We wouldn’t be surprised if David thought this was his chance to get even with Saul. Many other people in David’s position would have taken revenge. But instead of taking revenge, David showed this remarkable kindness to Mephibosheth. And it really was ‘the kindness of God’, because just as God shows kindness to sinners like us who by nature are his enemies, so David was prepared to show kindness to this man who was descended from his enemy, Saul.
And how did Mephibosheth respond to David’s kindness? He responded with humility. He bowed down and said:
What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?
He regarded himself as nothing more than a dead dog. He felt that he was nothing. He was no one. And yet, how wonderful. How wonderful, because the king was prepared to look upon him and to show him such kindness.
Verses 9 to 11
The king once again summoned Ziba. That’s in verse 9 and once again the narrator goes back to referring to David as the king. And the king told Ziba what he had done. And he added that Ziba and his sons and his servants were now to serve Mephibosheth. We’re told in verse 10 that Ziba had 15 sons and 20 servants. Clearly he had done well for himself, if he was able to afford such a big family: only a rich man can afford 15 sons and 20 servants. And so, perhaps as well as serving Saul, he had been serving himself and making himself rich. But now, he was under orders from the king to serve Mephibosheth.
Verses 12 to 13
And the chapter ends with the narrator telling us that Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. It mentions his son, Mica, although nothing more is said about him. Instead we’re reminded that all the members of Ziba’s household served Mephibosheth; and Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table.
This is a remarkable story because it foreshadows so clearly the kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Great King. Though we are by nature Christ’s enemies, he is prepared to show kindness to us. We are his enemies by nature, because all of us are descended from Adam and are born into this world as guilty sinners, so that it’s perfectly natural for us to disregard his word and to disobey his commands and to rebel against him. We’re born into this world as sinners and we sin against him continually. We are by nature his enemies, who follow the ways of an unbelieving world and who follow the ways of the Devil. And therefore we deserve to be condemned by God and cast out of his presence to be punished forever. We deserve to suffer the wrath and curse of God because of who were are and because of what we have done. We deserve to be cast into the lake of fire with the Devil and all who have sided with him in his rebellion against God.
And yet, how wonderful. How wonderful, because the Son of God was prepared to leave the glory of heaven and come down to earth as one of us to pay for our sins with his life and to cleanse us from our guilt with his blood. And even though we were his enemies, he died to save us from our sins and he was raised to give us life.
And he shows kindness — the kindness of God — to all who believe in him, because as well as forgiving our sins, he promises to give us an inheritance in the new and better world to come. The New Testament refers to our salvation as inheriting eternal life. So, the Lord Jesus spoke about the meek who will inherit the earth. He was thinking about eternal life in the new and better world to come. Peter, in his first letter, says that we were born again into a living hope through Christ’s resurrection from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, but which is kept for us. David was prepared to give Mephibosheth his inheritance, so that he would have a place in the Promised Land of Canaan. And the Lord Jesus Christ died and was raised so that all who believe in him may inherit eternal life in the new heavens and earth. And even now, the Lord Jesus is preparing a place for his people, he’s preparing their inheritance, and when the time is right, he will return to this earth with glory and in power to gather his people together and to give us our inheritance, which we do not deserve and cannot earn, but which he freely and graciously gives to us, because of his marvellous kindness to sinners.
And not only did David give Mephibosheth an inheritance, but he also gave him a seat at the king’s table. And that’s what you can look forward to as well if you believe in Christ the King and are trusting in him for eternal life. In Matthew 11, the Lord Jesus spoke about a time when many will come from the east and the west to take their places at the feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Those who don’t believe will be thrown outside, but those who believe will be invited in. He was saying that we will sit down together at a feast in the life to come. And then, in Matthew 22, he told the parable of the wedding banquet. The kingdom of heaven, he said, is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. And in Matthew 25, there’s the parable of the foolish virgins who were not ready for the wedding banquet. Again and again he likens eternal life in this presence of God to a banquet, a feast, prepared by the king. And in Revelation 19, we read about the wedding supper of the Lamb and how all those who are invited are blessed, because the day is coming when all of God’s people will sit down at the table of the king and they will rejoice and be glad.
And, of course, the Lord’s Supper which Christ has given us for our good is a foretaste of that, because when we gather in church for the Lord’s Supper, we’re gathered in the presence of Christ our Risen King, who invites us to his table to eat bread and to drink from his cup as a foretaste of the real thing when we will come into the presence of our Great King to be with him forever. And, as I say when we receive the Lord’s Supper, we come not because any goodness of our own gives us the right to come; no, we can only come because of his kindness to us. We can come to the Lord’s Table in church because of his kindness to us. And we will come to the Lord’s Table in eternity because of his kindness to us. Mephibosheth had no right to David’s Table. He was not part of David’s family. In fact, he was descended from David’s enemy. But out of kindness, David invited him to come. And the Saviour invites sinners to come to him for salvation. And he promises a place at his table to those who do not deserve it
But notice something else, which I heard another preacher say. Two times we’re told that Mephibosheth was crippled in both feet. We’re told it in verse 3 when Ziba was telling David about him. And we’re told it right at the end of the chapter. He was crippled before he was invited to David’s table; and he was still crippled after he was invited to David’s table. David showed him remarkable kindness, by giving him his inheritance and by giving him a seat at his table. But David could do nothing about his lame feet. And while you and I must go through this life with all kinds of weaknesses, and our bodies will only become weaker as we get older, we know that when we finally come into the presence of our King in eternity, we will be changed. Our perishable, mortal bodies will become imperishable and immortal and they will become like Christ’s glorious body. All the corruption of this life, all the weakness of this life, all the struggles of this life, will be removed. While we go on living in this life, there will be struggles because of our many weaknesses. But in the life to come, they’ll be nothing to make you sigh or weep and old aches and pains and disabilities will be gone.
And until that day, while we wait for it, Christ our King calls on his people to display the same kindness to others as he has shown to us. So, instead of bearing grudges, instead of taking revenge, instead of being selfish and unkind, we’re to be kind to one another and compassionate towards one another, forgiving one another as in Christ God forgave you. That’s how you’re to live as you wait for Christ the King to come to give us our inheritance in the life to come and a seat at the table of the King in glory.