GOD’S TABLE MANNERS OF GRACE
2 Samuel 9:1-13 ❧ 1 of 1
In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philipp Yancey writes of a friend who overheard a conversation on a bus one day. It seems a woman was quietly reading when the man sitting next to her asked what she was reading. She told him it was M. Scott Peck’s bestseller, “The Road Less Traveled.” The man asked what it was about. Admitting she had just begun the book, she answered by reading him the chapter titles from the table of contents. When she mentioned the section on “Grace,” the man interrupted and asked what grace was about. She replied, “I have gotten that far yet.”
This morning we’re going to look at a little-known passage that tucked away in the OT beautifully answers question what grace is about. Open with me to 2 Sam. 9. 2 Samuel chronicles the infamous 40-year reign of Israel’s most beloved king – King David. All twenty-four chapters openly display David’s roller-coaster career packed full of his breath-taking triumphs and heartbreaking failures.
Living at the half-way point between Abraham and Jesus – about 1000 BC, David’s achievements are virtually unparalleled. His leadership guided the nation of Israel to the zenith of its power. Under David’s watch he expanded the boundaries of Israel from the meager 6,000 miles attained under the previous king’s leadership to 60,000 square miles! His military force was stronger than it had ever been in Israel’s history with almost 300,000 troops ready for battle in a moment’s notice. One person observed: Other men of history have demonstrated military and administrative capacity, but David overshadows them all by the breadth and depth of his ability.
On the flips side of the coin, not everything about David’s life shined with success. Yet, despite his character flaws and blundering failures David is nonetheless a type of Jesus who will rule as God’s coming King. And perhaps what makes him the most like Jesus is, unlike any king before him or after him, he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
There is probably nowhere in David’s life we could look at that reveals the heart of God more clearly than 2 Sam. 9. (Read 2 Sam. 9). As I read this passage, count how many times you hear the expression: he ate at the king’s table regularly. Did you count them? I see no less than four times in 13 verses. In short, this passage teaches us God’s table manners of grace.
I want to spend some time this morning looking at God’s Table Manners of Grace. There are three aspects of the table manners of grace in this passage I want us to take a few moments this morning and reflect on: 1) Grace seeks us out. 2) Grace invites us in. & 3) Grace raises us up.
I. Grace seeks us out. David is at the height of his power – strong, successful, secure, and safe. The former king’s dynasty (Saul) was nothing more than a wisp of smoke left over from a blown-out candle; a happily closed chapter in Israel’s trying history. Now, for the first time in his life, David is able to set back and enjoy the fruits of his hard-earned accomplishments. There are two seasons of life that test and reveal a person’s character: seasons of adversity and seasons of prosperity. This season of success clearly demonstrates that David was man after God’s own heart.
While setting in his throne room one day he remembers a heart-stirring promise he’d made years before to his cherished and deceased friend Jonathan. On what was to be one the last, if not the last times of seeing his friend Jonathan, they made a pact to protect and preserve their friendship: May the LORD be with you as he used to be with my father. 14And may you treat me with the faithful love of the LORD as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love, even when the LORD destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David saying, “May the LORD destroy all your enemies!” And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself (1 Sam. 20:13-17, NLT).
I would guess all of us have probably had one or two special friendships in our lives where treasure the memory of that friendship. At times we find ourselves momentarily drifting down memory lane. Sometime ago while attending a conference I met an old roommate from college I hadn’t seen in more than twenty-five years. The memories of our early college days flooded my mind and heart. David was in a similar place, and he remembers the promise he and Jonathan made: Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? (2 Sam. 9:1). In David’s day Eastern kings normally destroyed any and all relatives of the former dynasty in order to make their throne more secure. So, to show “kindness” was shocking. David is saying, “Is there anyone I can show the kind of grace to God has shown me?” David’s own life was marked by the kindness of God every step of the way. God had raised him up from a simple shepherd boy to mighty warrior king. As you look at David’s life, he is constantly aware this and humbled by God’s grace. Notice he does not ask is there anyone out there who will strengthen my army, or who I can leverage against my enemies, or who I can use in my government. He is not seeking for his own benefit, but the benefit of the one he seeks.
V. 2 goes on: Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” 3The king said, “Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet.” 4So the king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar.”
Ziba has known all along Jonathan had a son. For reasons of his own, probably to protect his own position of power (v.10 Ziba has 15 sons and 20 servants), Ziba had kept his lips sealed about Mephibosheth’s whereabouts. He is careful to point out to David, “He is crippled in both feet, and he doesn’t have dime to his name. He’s living off of someone else.” All of this to mean, he is of no value. No consequence. No importance. He’s just a helpless, penniless, insignificant, broken man.
2 Samuel 4 tells us Mephibosheth had been crippled since he was five years old. One day while he was playing on the floor news came of the king’s death, his grandfather, and his father’s death. Fearing for his life, the nurse scooped him up in her arms and began to flee to safety. In her rush he fell and became lame. Seeing a doctor was not even a question. Sparing his life was more important. His accident left him permanently crippled.
Ziba even points out where he lives, Lo-debar (In Hebrew it means a barren place; it could be translated “no pasture”). Lo-debar, it seems was a place worthlessness; a place that matched how Mephibosheth felt! Born a prince, he was living the life of a prisoner – a prisoner of fear of being found, a prisoner imprisoned by his broken body, a prisoner of circumstances he was hopeless to change. Not only was his body crippled, but his life was crippled as well.
What a telling picture of God’s grace toward us! God, from His throne room in ages past, decided to seek us out – not for His benefit, but for ours. Before God found us, we were struggling just to make it through life overwhelmed, stressed, broken, fatigued by our handicaps emotionally, physically, relationally, spiritually. Not only were we crippled by our past, but our whole life was crippled as well. And the last thing we wanted was for God to find us. God finding us meant terrifying judgment, shameful exposure, even death!
If we’re not afraid, it’s because we are indifferent to God. As a general rule, many people do not seek after God … mainly because they don’t know WHO He is or HOW He can be found. We may know there is a God. But we don’t really KNOW Him until He makes Himself known to us. God is not lost, we are!
It is said that when Henry David Thoreau, the naturalist, was near death, he was visited by a pious aunt who asked him, “Henry, have you made your peace with God?” His reply to her was, “I didn’t know that we had ever quarreled.” That answer revealed profound spiritual ignorance. So many people are like him. They are completely unconscious of the fact that they have sinned against God. They have no idea that they are lost and separated from Him. They don’t know that the first step in coming to Christ is to realize that they are lost sinners who desperately need to be found and saved. At least Mephibosheth knew he was officially an enemy of the King. He knew there was nothing he could do to make things right. Unless the king came and sought him out, he was doomed to hide all his life. How little we understand God’s grace.
Grace does seek us out because of what we have to offer God. Nor does grace seek us out to harm us. Grace seeks us out purely and remarkably for our benefit. The late pastor Donald Barnhouse described grace the best when he said, Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace. The first thing we learn about God’s table of grace – Grace seeks us out. Second…
II. Grace invites us in. Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar (2 Sam. 9:5). Grace seeks us, summons us. Could you imagine how Mephibosheth felt the day David’s entourage of soldiers came galloping up to his house? Terrified!
We have to read between the lines here, but my guess is David anticipated Mephibosheth’s initial response at seeing David’s men. David knew Mephibosheth would probably flee for his life the moment he heard David knew of his whereabouts.
Before Mephibosheth saw the soldiers, I wonder if David didn’t send one of his best spokesmen to break the news to him gently. We’re not given all the details, but you can bet it was with nerves jittering uncontrollably and mouthing silent prayers for mercy that Mephibosheth made the long journey to Jerusalem. He probably believed his life was about to come to a sudden end.
V. 6 picks up: Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” 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 all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” (2 Sam. 9:6-7). You can hear him as he entered the king’s throne room, clump…scrape…clump…scrape…clump…scrape… as his crutches advanced and his lame feet were slowly pulled toward the king. Stunned, trembling, terrified –
Mephibosheth collapsed on his face before the king. To his surprise, his first glimpse of the king was not one of stern anger, but gentle compassion. As the king warmly spoke to Mephibosheth, he could hardly believe his ears.
The first thing he hears is his name: “Mephibosheth!” I find myself wondering if David wasn’t momentarily taken back by this stooped man’s resemblance to his father Jonathan. Despite Mephibosheth’s glaring handicap and his melting fear, David could see the face of his old friend who was about the same age the last time they met.
Then next thing he hears is: “Do not be afraid! . . . I will surely show kindness to you.” (V.7). He says to Mephibosheth, “I am so sorry you’ve lived all these years in fear and hiding and shame! You weren’t born for such a life. You’re a prince! And I want to show the same kindness to you the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – your God, my God – has shown me.”
V. 8 Mephibosheth responds, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” “I’m as harmless and worthless as a dead dog to you. Why did you take the time and trouble to find me?”
Have you ever felt that way toward God? Maybe you feel that way right now. “What do I have to offer you God? Why do You bother?” Because that’s what makes grace amazing. Grace seeks us out in our broken obscurity, it stoops down to where we live and invites us to a life we long for in our hearts but cannot gain for ourselves. When you awaken to the reality that he (God) finds you precious and valuable to him, it just drives out that crippled mentality. Have you accepted God’s invitation of grace? One author said it best: Grace received but unexpressed is dead grace.
The best response to God’s grace is to accept it. God wants to trade your past of fear and hiding in shame for a life of His presence, His grace, the very grace you could not find anywhere else because it can be found nowhere else. Don’t try to earn it. Don’t run from it. Don’t live in fear of it. Don’t try to repay it, you can’t. Just accept it. That’s what grace is. It seeks us out, invites us in, knowing full-well we can never repay its kindness or be deserving enough. Third…
III. Grace raises us up. Then the king called Saul’s servant Ziba and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce so that your master’s grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall eat at my table regularly (2 Sam. 9:9-10). When David spoke these words every mouth in the room probably dropped in astonishment. The king massively exceeded the known boundaries grace. David more than restored Mephibosheth, he raised him higher than he ever imagined!
David issues three important commands: 1) He orders ALL the land Saul had owned to be restored to Mephibosheth. 2) He orders Saul’s servant Ziba to now serve Mephibosheth as he did Saul (a demotion for Ziba). And 3) He gives Mephibosheth a permanent place at his table reserved for the king’s family! David more than restored Mephibosheth, he raised him to a whole new level!
What I want us to see is that no less than four times we read Mephibosheth would eat at the king’s table as one of his sons (7,10,11,13). Mephibosheth had done nothing to deserve David’s kindness. He was embraced by David’s grace at the expense of another – Mephibosheth’s father Jonathan (v.7).
Can you imagine what it must have been like to set at the king’s table as one of his sons? As they looked across the table at each other and enjoyed a king’s meal no one saw Mephibosheth’s crippled feet. The tablecloth covered them. In much the same way, when we set at God’s table of grace, He does not see us as crippled strangers, but restored sons and daughters. Who can be compared with the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high? He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth. He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, even the princes of his own people! (Psalm 113:8, NLT).
If you notice some striking parallels to God’s relationship of grace with us, it’s not an accident. There are a number of them, but let’s look at four of them:
1. Like Mephibosheth, we too were intended for royalty, but sin dethroned us and left us destitute and permanently crippled in fear, shame, and guilt. We did not want God to find us.
2. Like Mephibosheth, God sought us out, welcomed us in His arms of grace and unconditional love and invited us to a place of restored royalty and sonship. You’re not just a saved servant, but a secure son. In Ephesians 1:6. The apostle Paul says that we are accepted “In the beloved.” We are fully acceptable to God purely because we belong to His Son, Jesus Christ.
3. Like Mephibosheth, we come to God’s table at the expense of another – God’s Son Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He purchased for our sin on the cross.
4. Like Mephibosheth, as God’s children we live continually in the presence of and have the ear of the King. As we come to His table, His grace the crippled feet of our broken past.