In this chapter we have a special side of the kingdom. Here we do not see the power and majesty of the kingdom, but its kindness and love. The king of that empire is not only concerned with security and fighting and subjugating enemies, but he is also concerned with some poor, little souls. Mephibosheth is an example of such a poor, little soul. He is not only a picture of a sinner who receives grace and is therefore not killed. The grace that David shows him makes him a man who may continually be at the king’s table.
When David is exalted king over all Israel, he wants to prove mercy to the house of the fallen king Saul. He also wants to reward his friend Jonathan for the love he once had him swear before the LORD (1Sam 20:12-17,42).
The report of David’s act of kindness marks the end of the first part of his government’s history. Perhaps it is better to speak of an appendix to that history. In this appendix we see how David, at the height of his power and glory, thinks of a friend’s love and wants to prove his gratitude for it.
1 - 4 David Wants to Show Kindness
1 Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 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.” 3 The 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.” 4 So 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.”
David has defeated his enemies and maintains justice in the land. We have seen that in the last chapter. Then he thinks of Saul’s house and wants to show kindness to Jonathan. David has been closely associated with Jonathan and wants to show the kindness of God to Jonathan’s descendants, although Jonathan’s descendants belong to the house of Saul.
In this David is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is the perfect proof of God’s kindness towards a human race that deserves nothing but judgment. In Him “the kindness of God our Savior and [His] love for mankind appeared” (Tit 3:4). Through Him God saved us, while we only had rebelled against His authority.
David cares about the offspring of someone who has persecuted him with deadly hatred. David has a reason for showing his kindness. That reason is Jonathan who was near him in the time of his rejection.
The descendants of Saul had to be sought, because they had hidden themselves. Saul is the picture of the enemy, of what we are by nature (Tit 3:3). When we were still enemies, God gave His Son for us. Man is not only a sinner and powerless and godless, but also an enemy in mind.
Ziba (verse 2) is not lame. He is a servant of Saul and he remains so, for he is content with it. On the other hand, we see poor Mephibosheth, a son of the king. Through Ziba David hears of Mephibosheth. In 2 Samuel 4 there is also a short mention of Mephibosheth, just in a verse in between (2Sam 4:4). There something is said about the cause of his paralysis. In his paralysis, Mephibosheth is a picture of man paralyzed by sin. He is powerless to serve God and to live to His glory. He cannot do anything that is pleasing to God.
Mephibosheth is in “Lo-debar”, which means, among other things, “for him there is a meadow”, which in his case means that for him there is a place of grace. He is in the house of “Machir”, which means “sold”, “the son of Ammiel”, which means, among other things, “people of God”.
5 - 13 Mephibosheth with David
5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. 6 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!” 7 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.” 8 Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” 9 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. 10 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.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table as one of the king’s sons. 12 Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who lived in the house of Ziba were servants to Mephibosheth. 13 So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king’s table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet.
Mephibosheth comes to David, falls on his face and prostrates (verse 6). Does he know what David is planning? What can he count on? He can only think of one thing and that is that this is his last hour. The only person he didn’t want to meet is David. The only person who can do him good is David. And that happens. When David has found him, there is no tirade of accusations, he is not accused, no verdict is pronounced. He experiences only grace. When David sees him, he only mentions his name (verse 6). “Mephibosheth” means “radiation of Baal”.
The reaction of Mephibosheth is: “Here is your servant.” It is reminiscent of the reaction of Mary when the Lord Jesus reveals Himself to her. He did so by calling a deeply distressed Mary only by her name: “Mary!” Mary’s reaction is like that of Mephibosheth: “She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher) (Jn 20:16).
There need be no fear with Mephibosheth. David did not call him to end his life, but to give him a much richer life than he has had so far (verse 7). He gets everything back what belongs to his family. This suddenly gives him an enormous property. But that is not the only thing. He gets much more, for he may be constantly in the presence of David. It is said three times that he may be at the king’s table.
Once again, and if possible even deeper, Mephibosheth prostrates (verses 6,8) upon receiving so much grace. He calls himself “a dead dog”. This is how David once called himself (1Sam 24:15; cf. 2Sam 16:9; Mt 15:26-28). Mephibosheth is aware of who he is in himself. This consciousness must also penetrate us well. In ourselves we are nothing but a dead dog, nothing more. In Israel, a dog is already something despicable, let alone a dead dog. Mephibosheth is not only interested in being saved, but it is knowing that David’s attention is on him. He is overwhelmed by the goodness of David in what he gives him. In the picture it is about a dead dog becoming a son of God.
David gives Mephibosheth an abundance of food, much more than he can eat (verse 10). So it is with the riches of the Christian. And David does not leave it to the provision of food. He goes even further. Mephibosheth is regularly allowed to eat together with David and even live in Jerusalem, in the immediate vicinity of David.
This is how God has dealt with us. He has delivered us from a state in which we could only expect judgment. He has given us who are so reprehensible in ourselves a treasure in heaven. And already now we may have contact with him, be in his presence, without fear of judgment. Convinced of His perfect love there is no place for fear (1Jn 4:18a).
In verse 11 we see the contrast between someone who is a servant and also satisfied to be so and someone who is a son and for whom that is his greatest good. Ziba is meaningfully referred to in verse 9 as “the servant of Saul”. His sons and servants must have their share of the income. That is a considerable portion, as is evident from the number mentioned. Ziba has fifteen sons and twenty servants. They will need a lot of what is there. We see here: “When good things increase, those who consume them increase” (Ecc 5:11a).
All who live in the house of Ziba are servants of Mephibosheth. They are all busy with his possessions and live therefrom. They do themselves too well, because they are out on their own advantage. The Jews have a saying: “He who multiplies servants multiplies thieves.” Ziba is now satisfied, for he loves the riches and has them at his disposal in abundance. He promises the king that he will act faithfully with it. It even seems that he says he wants Mephibosheth at his own table and will treat him like a real king’s son. David does not go into that, for he wants him at his own table. How unfaithful Ziba has been, we will see later (2Sam 16:3).
In verse 12 we see that the blessings are not only for Mephibosheth, but also for his son, “whose name was Mica”. ‘Mica’ means ‘who is like the LORD?’ In the naming of his son, Mephibosheth has already expressed the faith that is in him. For that he receives through the treatment of David now the reward.
The last announcement about Mephibosheth (verse 13) is the memory of what he is by nature. That makes what he has become and where he has been brought all the bigger. He is and remains a sinner in himself, for the flesh never changes. In ourselves we are and remain as powerless as ever, but it is not the case that we always has to be busy with that. We should not, so to speak, look under the table. We look on the table and especially over the table to Him to Whom the table belongs. We do not keep ourselves busy with ourselves, but with the Lord Jesus. It is about the constant fellowship with Him and not only about the fellowship at His Table once a week to celebrate His Supper.
Once Mephibosheth lives in Jerusalem, no longer is spoken about his property and not about his origin, but still about his lame feet. We can apply it to ourselves as follows. It remains an eternal miracle that I, who is naturally powerless, may now be so close to the Lord Jesus and eat at His table, that is, have fellowship with Him. In the grace of David which he shows to Mephibosheth, I see the grace of the Lord Jesus for me. He is so overwhelmingly good to me, He has given me so much. The greatest thing is that I may have fellowship with Him and be in His presence, even though I am a dead dog in myself and have no power to live to His glory.