Read II Samuel 5:1-9:13
The Object of God’s Kindness
King David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul
to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
II Samuel 9:1
Go Deep: The Hebrew word for “kindness” in this verse is very interesting—its “chesed”. It is a complex word that is narrowly translated as “love”. It describes a love that is more than just an idea or a feeling or the spontaneous emotion of the moment. Rather, it refers to a sustained action.
You might say that “chesed” is kindness with hands and feet. It is undeserved, unconditional, un-repayable, unrelenting kindness that is offered without regard to shifting circumstance, personal convenience or one’s emotional state du jour. Actually, “chesed” is God’s love—the way God loves you and me.
We see this kind of Old Testament “chesed” in action in Titus 3:3-7 and as the New Testament marriage of God’s kindness and love for us:
“At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another…”
That is, we were like Mephibosheth, who at the time David found him, was living in bitterness and fear in Lo-Debar. (II Samuel 9:4) Literally, Lo-Debar means “the barren place”. And as the only living heir to Saul’s dynasty, Mephibosheth’s whereabouts was kept secret, for obvious reasons now that David was the new king. He grew up as a refugee in this barren place with his kingly identity suppressed, his royal privileges denied, with no hope for the future except obscurity, poverty and, if he’s ever discovered, execution. And to make an already bad situation worse, his physical handicap was a painful, frustrating, and constant reminder of the princely life he had lost and the kingly life he would never know.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior…”
Sound familiar? King David asked, “Is there anyone from Saul’s house I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (II Samuel 9:1)
“So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life.”
Notice the similarity to something repeated four times in II Samuel 9:7, 10, 11, and 13: “Mephibosheth will always eat at my table.”
You will also note that Mephiboseth’s name is repeated 7 times. Why the repetition? David is going out of his way to show that Mephibosheth has a permanent place in the king’s family—that is now his new destiny—royalty restored! David’s also going out of his way to show that Mephibosheth’s name is no longer an object of loathing, but an object of loving. Mephibsoheth, which was likely a nickname, means “seething dishonor”. (I Chronicles 9:40) But the king whispers his name, and a hopeless refugee is now a redeemed child—that’s his new identity.
Now if that is not a picture of our reconciliation to God through Christ I don’t know what is! Think about it! We are Mephibosheth in this story: We too, suffered a fall that left us crippled! We have a permanent sin-limp to prove it. We too, were estranged from God—distant in Lo-Debar, the barren place—a place of emptiness and dissatisfaction. We too, lived under the fear of judgment.
That was our identity—refugees apart from grace. But out of his covenantal kindness and faithfulness and love, we were brought into God’s family, given a place at his table, given a new identity and destiny, and showered with grace, not due to our own merit, but for the sake of Jesus—Hallelujah!
So let me suggest you now go back and re-read this obscure chapter. Change the names to read yourself and Jesus into the story. David was a type of Christ and you are Mephibosheth. And take a moment to rejoice, since it is you who is the recipient of God’s undeserved, unconditional, unrelenting, un-repayable love!
Just Saying… The good news is, God really does prefer you as the object of his kindness. As Tertullian said, “The lovingkindness of the Lord is an essential part of Himself; His severity is accidental. One belongs to Himself, the other to external circumstances.”