The story of David and Mephibosheth recorded in 2 Samuel 9 warms my heart, but it also teaches me as I dig through the layers.
As I was growing up, I loved the story of the friendship between David and Jonathan, Saul’s son. Even though the relationship between Saul and David was on-again/off-again because of Saul’s jealousy and paranoia, the bond between Jonathan and David remained unbroken. Jonathan did everything he could to protect David from his father’s wrath, and David made a covenant with Jonathan to “treat his family with faithful love” even if Jonathan were to die. (1 Samuel 20:14-17).
Saul and Jonathan died in battle on the same day (1 Samuel 31:6). The nurse in charge of taking care of Jonathan’s five-year-old son Mephibosheth learned of their deaths and was fleeing with him to safety when Mephibosheth fell (or was dropped) and injured both of his legs, injuries that remained throughout his life. (2 Samuel 4:4). Mephibosheth stayed in hiding into adulthood.
David was established as king and spent years attempting to subdue his enemies, but then a period of peace occurred, and he was able to concentrate on matters closer to home. He remembered his friend Jonathan and the covenant he had made to him. He started searching for any remaining family members and learned about Mephibosheth. David asked for him to be brought to Jerusalem.
1 Samuel 9:6-8 (NLT) – “When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.”
Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.”
7 “Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”
8 Mephibosheth bowed respectfully and exclaimed, “Who is your servant, that you should show such kindness to a dead dog like me?”
Mephibosheth fully expected to be executed, because that was what kings in that day did — they annihilated the previous king’s family to prevent an insurrection. In David’s presence, he referred to himself as a “servant” and a “dead dog,” admitting that he was completely at the king’s mercy.
David, however, didn’t just allow him to live. He adopted him into his own family, restoring the inheritance of his grandfather and bringing him into his home to eat “at the king’s table” for the rest of his life.
One commentary that I read recently as I was preparing to teach about this story shared a thought that has continued to stay on my mind. It said that in a spiritual sense, as we look at God, we will never be David but always be Mephibosheth. In other words, in God’s presence, we are NOT in an exalted position. Instead, we are in desperate need of mercy and grace because of our sin, and our posture has to be one of humility, awe and respect. But, in our relationship toward others, we should strive to extend the over-and-above kindness that David offered to Mephibosheth. In this passage, David gives us a glimpse of the overwhelming love of God toward undeserving people.
I had never thought of this story in that sense before. Maybe it will help you unpack another layer of the text as it did for me.