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Unexpected Kindness

David's generosity with Mephibosheth is a picture of God's grace and generosity with us.


I want you to imagine with me a hypothetical situation. You get a certified letter in the mail, and it's kind of mysterious. It looks like it's from a lawyer. You open it up and find out that it's from an estate attorney. Your uncle, let's call him Uncle Tex, has died. You knew that already. You heard about it from your family a while back, but you didn't realize there was an implication to Uncle Tex's death that you were unaware of. Uncle Tex has apparently left you something in his will.

Uncle Tex appropriately lived in Texas. To you growing up he was just a name. When you were five or six years old you visited him out there on a family vacation, but really he was just someone that your dad would talk about from time to time. So you're surprised to find that you're listed on the will as an heir to Uncle Tex's ranch, which is larger than you'd realized. And in the certified letter there's also a plane ticket for you to fly out and see what appears to be, to your amazement, your ranch.

So you take off work and you get on that plane and you fly out there. When you get to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport there's one of those guys holding a sign, like for the important people. And it says on the sign "McClellan," or whatever your name is—Wolverton, Yager—and you go, "That must be me." Uncle Tex must have done pretty well for himself. So you get in the limo and it takes you off to a place where limos can't really go, which means you have to get into a Jeep. You travel further into the country, way out, and then you see a winding driveway up on a hill. And the driver takes you up and drops you off, and there is a verifiable ranch. It has an estate home. It's nice.

By this time you're thinking, This is just too weird. You go in the house and there's a man there—they don't call them butlers in Texas, because butler and Texas just don't go together—but this man is the Texas equivalent of a butler. And he says, "Welcome, Mr. Oster," or whoever you are. He starts to lead you around, and there's a kitchen staff and a gardening staff and a ranch staff, because this is a thousand-acre ranch with a zillion head of cattle and it's working, it's functioning.

All of a sudden you think: This is just weird. I didn't picture myself living in Texas or being a rancher, or any of this. You can just barely process everything that has happened. And then something sinks in as you sit there. You realize, I don't know the value of this place in dollars, but I think it's safe to say I don't have to work anymore. Then something hits you. You feel a little bit bad because you think: I never gave Uncle Tex the time of day. I don't even know his email address. I bet I talked to him once on the phone. The last time I saw him I was five years old. There is no way that I should have all this—it doesn't make sense.

And in that point of confusion you would be echoing an emotion that comes out of our passage today, which we'll see in just a minute.

Open up your Bibles to 2 Samuel 9 as we continue through the story of David's life. This passage is a picture of kindness. It's a beautiful story. It's a heart-rending story. It's one of those soft, sweet stories in an otherwise bloody scenario. We've been in lots of battles and lots of conquering and lots of victories as we've followed David, but this is a whole different tone. We get a picture of kindness and grace that is extended in an unexpected way to an unexpected person. And really, it's a picture of what God has done in all of our lives.

A Big Opportunity for Mephibosheth

In 2 Samuel 9 things start off this way: "Then David said." That then is important. You have to back up all the way up to verse 13 of the previous chapter to see what the then connects with: "So David made a name for himself when he returned from killing 18,000 Arameans." A big victory. And then in verse 15: "He reigned over all Israel and administered justice and righteousness for his people." And then chapter 9 starts. What's the connection? It's as if David had been doing things really well, and God had been blessing him and giving him wisdom and warfare ability to win the battles, and he's feeling on top of things. And at that point—then, then—what happens? then David said, "Is there yet anyone left in the house of Saul that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?"

See, unlike many of us, when David came into a great fortune and a great victory and a great success, the first thing he thought was: This came from God's hand, so who can I bless? Who can I bless with what I've been given? That was his first thought. I think I would have been thinking about other things. You know: How do I manage all this stuff? How am I going to protect all this stuff? How am I going to take care of all this stuff? But David is thinking, Who can I pay it forward to?

Then he remembers—Jonathan. My dear friend, my blood brother Jonathan. We made a covenant with each other, and we said that we would always look out for each others' kids. We said that if one of us died, the other one would take the place of the father to those fatherless, and we would guard and be guardians for each others' kids.

Look what the text says: "There was a servant in the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. And they called him to David and the king said to him, 'Are you Ziba?' He said, 'I am your servant.' And the king said, 'Is there not anyone in the house of Saul to whom I can show the kindness of God?'" In other words: Is there anybody left I can keep my promise to? I feel bad that I sort of lapsed in this area and I want to keep my word.

And look what Ziba says. "Ziba said to the king, 'There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet.'"

How did Mephibosheth—that was his name—how did this son get crippled in both feet? Well, in a previous chapter we hear the story in passing. It says that when his father was killed, when Jonathan died in battle, there was a rush to get out of the house. And in the process of evacuating the home, somehow this five-year-old child, Mephibosheth, was either dropped on the steps or got his legs caught in a door or something that damaged both of his feet or his legs, and he was permanently disabled. And so Mephibosheth, now a grown man, is still crippled with the same disability that he suffered when he was five years old. It was one of those accidents that had long-term consequences.

So Ziba says: There is still somebody, David. His name is—well, he's from the house of Saul, Jonathan's son, but he's crippled in both feet.

Look what David says. David said, "Where is he?"

Now, Ziba has a choice to make right here. By conventional wisdom, David could be trying to exterminate any other threats to the throne. You see, that last living heir of Saul and Jonathan could at some point claim to be the rightful king and could rally people to his side. So Ziba has to think for a minute. If he discloses the location of Jonathan's last son, will David attempt to wipe him out? Because that's what kings did back then. That's what kings have always done. When you try to preserve your dynasty, you have to eliminate all competition. So Ziba was aware that this was a dangerous situation for Mephibosheth, and Ziba had to think to himself: Do I give away the location, or do I just say I've lost track of him? Or he was captured by the Edomites. Or he's in Egypt. Or you can kill me but I'm not going to tell you.

Ziba had a choice to make. He had to look into David's eyes and analyze what he knew from David's behavior and character and heart. Ziba makes a choice and he says, "'Behold, he is in the house of Makir the son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.' And David sent and brought him from that house."

Now look at verse 6: "Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself." Why? Because he was afraid of the same thing as Ziba. Mephibosheth knows that, having been summoned into the king's presence, there's a very good chance that he might lose his head. He's afraid. He's crippled, he's had a hard life already, and now it's getting worse and more intense.

But look at the first thing David says: "And David said, 'Mephibosheth.'" He calls him by name. And I have to think as David looked down there and saw him prostrate, trembling, afraid for his life—you know how it is when you look at a son and you can see the father right in that son's face? Or you look at a young girl and you can just see her mother right there? Here is this young man, Mephibosheth, before David on his knees, on his face, begging. And as he looks up, begging for his life, David looks down and he sees in those eyes of Mephibosheth his dear blood brother. He sees Jonathan. And he says, "Mephibosheth."

At this point Mephibosheth starts to think, Maybe this is going to come out okay, just judging from how David said his name. "And he said, 'Here is your servant.' And David said to him, 'Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father, Jonathan, and will restore to you the land of your grandfather, Saul, and you shall eat at my table regularly."

What? Yes, Mephibosheth, not only do you escape being punished or killed, I'm going to actually bless you—and not just in an abstract way. I'm going to bless you extravagantly. I'm going to restore to you the things that your family lost when your father was no longer a prince and your grandfather was no longer king. I'm going to give all that back to you. Not only that, I'd like you to come, if you're willing, and live here in Jerusalem with me. I want you to sit at my table and eat with me.

Mephibosheth is like: I can't believe this. A minute ago I was afraid for my life, and now he's treating me like—dare I say it—like a son.

Watch: again he prostrated himself and he said, "What is your servant that you should regard a dead dog like me?"In other words: Why do you even care? Why do you even notice? I've never done anything good to you. I've never helped you in any way. I'm completely unknown to you. You don't even know who I am.

But David is thinking: It doesn't matter who you are; it's who you know, Mephibosheth. When I look in your face I see Jonathan, and that's all it takes. I made a promise, and I keep my promises. "In as much as you have done it unto the least of my brethren, you've done it unto me," Jesus said. And as David looked down there and saw Mephibosheth, he said: You're the closest thing to Jonathan on this earth, and I want to bless you extravagantly. I want you to be unafraid. I want you to come in here and be dressed like a prince. I want you to sit at my table like my sons, and I want you to be honored that way for the sake of your father, Jonathan, whom I loved.

Talk about a big day for Mephibosheth. He can hardly believe it. But it gets even better. The king called to Saul's servant Ziba and said to him: Hey, Ziba, all that belonged to Saul I have given to your master's grandson. I'm restoring it all. And look what else: You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him. Because after all, he's not a very good farmer; he can't even walk. So you, Ziba, you and your sons are going to work for him now. Meet your new boss. Mephibosheth, meet your servant. And Ziba had 15 sons and 20 servants. That's 36 people now answering to Mephibosheth. Pretty good for one day, huh? His whole estate is restored to him. He's treated like a prince. And the king has said: I want you to live here with me and eat at my table.

Ziba said to the king: "According to all that my lord the king commands, so your servant will do. So Mephibosheth ate at David's table as one of the king's sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Micah, and they all lived there." Then in verse 13: "Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king's table regularly. Now, he was lame in both feet." What a strange way to end the story. Just a little reminder at the end in case we've forgotten that Mephibosheth was lame in both feet.

A Big Opportunity for Us

What are we to make of this story? David, having great success, having lots of resources to work with, the first thing he says is: I'm going to bless somebody else. I want to bless and keep my promises, and I'm going to bless vicariously. I can't bless Jonathan anymore, but I can bless his son. So I'm going to pass the blessing from one generation to the next. I'm going to do that vicariously, and I'm going to do it extravagantly, generously.

Sometimes I think we miss the joy of giving because we do it in a minimalist way—in sort of a stingy way. You know what I mean. When you're calculating your tab and the tip at the end, you're thinking, What's the minimum I need to do to look respectable? You should do that at least, of course; those waiters and waitresses work hard. But there's no joy in just doing the smallest amount you can get away with. The fun comes when you're a little extravagant and you give more than you have to because you want that waitress to have some encouragement that day.

I think we see a lesson from David's extravagance in that he gives lavishly. I mean, he has a lot to give, granted, but he gives lavishly. And that's the fun part of giving, of blessing not in a stingy way, but in a very generous way. In other places, the new covenant calls that a joyful, hilarious giving—when you give more than you're technically supposed to. The first mile you walk because you have to; it's the second mile that's the fun one because you don't have to do it.

But David blesses not just vicariously and generously, he also does it personally. He says: I want you to be with me. I want you to be at my table.

By the way, are you paying attention to how many times the word table is mentioned? Count them. Verse 7: "You will eat at my table regularly." Verse 10: "You shall have food." Verse 10 again: "Will eat at my table regularly." Verse 11: "Ate at David's table." Verse 13: "For he ate at the king's table regularly." Guess what—food is sort of theological. This is an image, a picture of how sitting at a table with someone is one of the best extensions of blessing and personal fellowship and presence with another person. The best place to be in David's favor and blessing was sitting at the king's table. To be invited to sit at the king's table is a great honor and a great blessing, and it's food that is the metaphor for that kind of fellowship.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and share a meal with him." That's what it says in Revelation 3:20. Food has been a picture of worship and fellowship with God since Leviticus, when people brought animals that were sacrificed. Because when the animal was sacrificed, part of the celebration was eating the food together in God's presence. When Jesus wanted to communicate to his disciples his deepest personal presence, he said, "I want you to share a meal with me tonight. Go and prepare the Passover. I deeply desire"—that's the word he uses—"I deeply desire to eat a meal with you." It was over that meal that he washed their feet and showed them his presence in a very personal way. And one day, he will call us to a great marriage supper, a great feast, a great banquet. "Blessed is everyone who is invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." You see? Even in Revelation the last picture of God dwelling with his people is at the dinner table.

That's where we are invited to be, at the king's table. And like Mephibosheth, we don't deserve to be there. We scratch our heads and say: "Lord, I don't really understand. Why me?" That's exactly what Mephibosheth was feeling; it's a natural response when you've been blessed in an extravagant way, in a generous way, in a personal way, and you've been invited to sit at the king's table.

For Mephibosheth, it was simply because he was born to the right guy. And the new covenant tells us that when God looks down upon us, covered in Christ's righteousness, he sees Christ. Just like David looked down and saw Jonathan looking up, when we are covered by the righteousness of Christ, God sees his beloved son and he says: I will bless you. You get the blessings that I would bestow upon my son, because now you are now adopted into my family as a beloved son.

What a picture of grace. What a picture of a fresh start for Mephibosheth, who's had a very hard life. All his life he's had to deal with the pain of these lame feet, of being dependent on other people. He never could guarantee where his next meal was coming from. And all at once, in one day, the table is turned and now he's in charge of an estate and he's the foreman and he's invited to sit at the king's table. That, folks, is a picture of what happens when God invited us to his table. David blesses extravagantly, personally.

I think there's a reason why that last phrase is there: "Now, he was lame in both feet." A lot of the people that were close to David were also successful people. In fact, at the end of the last chapter it lists his cabinet, his advisors—all competent people. Later on we're going to read about what's called David's mighty men. They were his body guards, his rangers, his paramilitary force that he had around him. And it lists all their exploits as warriors and how powerful they were. David was a powerful man and he surrounded himself with powerful men. And that's the contrast when you look at Mephibosheth. Let me ask you this: Could Mephibosheth help David in any way? Not really. Not with the ways that David was used to getting help. He couldn't even farm his own land. Mephibosheth would never be a warrior. He would never be someone to offer anything back to David. And I think that's exactly the point. David not only blesses vicariously and extravagantly and personally, he also blesses people who really can't give him anything back.

And boy, isn't that a test of giving? I mean, Jesus said even the pagans will be nice to people who are nice back. Even the Gentiles will give to people who give back. He said the real test is to give to someone who can give nothing back. Who does that? David does.

And maybe us. Because once we've been blessed by God, it's very natural to want to be a blessing to someone who can't repay us. Maybe you should think about that right now. Is there a way that you could bless someone around you—someone in need or someone who's had a difficult time? They don't even have to know about it. Maybe it's in secret. But it's someone who can't pay you back, someone that could use a little encouragement. Think about that. Maybe God's calling you to be David to someone like that.


I know that God is calling us to be grateful for our invitation to sit at the king's table. Think about God and his grace to us. He not only withheld from us the punishment that's deserved—that's mercy. But then he bestowed and lavished upon us all kinds of spiritual blessings.

I know what you're thinking. What are those blessings again? Because I don't feel real blessed this morning. That's normal. We forget sometimes. We forget that sitting at the king's table means we'll never, ever have to pay the price for the weakness, the vulnerability, the sin, the deception, the anger, the lust, the jealousy, the competition. These are all the things that define us in our efforts to make sense of the world, but God says: I'm going to cover that with the righteousness of Christ for everyone who is willing to come to the king's table.

For Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach? ____________________________________________________________________________

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it?

Dave McClellan is senior pastor of The Chapel at Tinkers Creek in Streetsboro, Ohio, and an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University's Cleveland campus and at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School's Akron campus.

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Sermon Outline:


I. A Big Opportunity for Mephibosheth

II. A Big Opportunity for Us