I am Mephibosheth, sort of

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The news stunned him. Acid began contorting his stomach into a paroxysmal attack.  Ziba had just come back from the palace, dropping this bombshell, one he had been fearing ever since his dad and grandpa had been killed in battle.

Now that Israel’s true hero David, the one who had slain Goliath without hesitation, reigned in King Saul’s place, Mephibosheth had known this day would arrive.  He had expected it weeks, even months ago.  Everyone knew that new kings wiped out any and all people connected with previous rulers. The only explanation for his delayed execution was that David had more pressing enemies.

“Defeating the Philistines is keeping the new king busy.  Maybe he’ll….forget about me?  After all, what threat do I, a man who can’t even walk, pose.  It’s humiliating enough that my steward Ziba assigns men to carry me from my bed to the bathroom to the table to the veranda.  There is no way I could stage an overthrow to take back what is rightfully mine.”

Yes, Mephibosheth was the rightful heir to Saul’s throne as the only surviving male in the dynasty.  But his dad Jonathan had in effect given up the right to succeed Saul when he took off his ‘heir apparent’ cloak and placed it on his most trusted, beloved friend and comrade, David.  Jonathan had announced to Mephibosheth and little grandson Mica that David would be the next king, not he. Never had Mephibosheth pictured that his dad and his uncles would die in battle WITH the king.  He had trusted Jonathan’s friendship with David.  But all changed when Dad died.

Resigning himself to the inevitable execution in the next week days, Mephibosheth prepared his heart. If this summons meant an audience first with the King before dying, then he knew in what manner he would face David.

Little did he know David’s true intent:

2 Samuel 9:1: David asked,”Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Someone recalled Ziba, chief over all the attendants serving Saul’s household and family. Messengers located Ziba and then escorted him to the palace in Jerusalem.  From Ziba David learned that Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, survived.  Apparently, Mephibosheth maintained what he thought was a low profile up north in Makir’s house.  Ziba directed his men to transport this crippled former heir to dead King Saul.

Let’s pick up with the dramatic tête-à-tête:

2 Sam 9:6  When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. 

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“Your servant,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him,”for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.  I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Mephibosheth bowed down and said,”What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?

Reading Mephibosheth’s response stunned me. His self-description ‘dead dog like me’ accurately reflected his status.  He was dead meat, for sure, no better than a ‘dog’. Contemporary culture at the time despised canines, often categorizing their heathen enemies as dogs.

So, what was it that startled me enough to think deeply about this vignette in David’s life?

I am Mephibosheth….in some ways.  Seeing Mephibosheth’s self-assessment reflects my true status. What is that? Simply that apart from God’s grace toward me, I remain an enemy by nature and deserving execution.  Like Jonathan’s son,  I am also a cripple, incapable and resistant to being in the King’s presence.

But here is how we differ:

  • I don’t REALLY believe that I am like a dead dog, and all that expression carried back then.
  • Therefore, I am unconscious most of the time of what my life would look like were it not for God’s grace.

Here’s my question for myself:

“If this news stunned the humble and honest Mephibosheth, what will it take for you, Maria, to SEE the unimaginable kindness of King Jesus toward you? Why don’t you wake up every morning, pinching yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming, that your new status as friend of the King is REAL and SECURE ?  Where is your daily mirth, your transparent joy?  Does your face or any words or actions even hint at the enormity of this life-altering gift?”

I have no answer or excuse.  But I thank God for gently shining His light through His Word on my unholy responses to Him.

 

The prophet Samuel’s scumbag sons and God’s will

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Was the prophet Samuel a bad dad?  After all, the people rejected both his sons to be the next judge because of their immoral characters.

1 Samuel 8: 1-3 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel.  The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

Before today, I always concluded that Samuel, as godly a judge as he was for Israel, failed to train up his sons according to God’s word, sadly following the pattern of his predecessor and mentor, Eli.

Today I changed my mind, as I read this familiar passage.  When Samuel shares his disappointment and anger that the people don’t WANT his sons to succeed him, God says NOTHING about the character of his boys. Instead, God replies:  …..obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.

Why is Yahweh changing the routine now? Ever since Joshua died, God has raised up a new judge to rescue and guide His people.

I think it’s because the time has providentially come to set in motion a line of kings beginning with the good-looking, but weak-willed and jealous Saul all the way to the perfect King, Jesus.

God’s sovereign will trumps and overrides any action or non-action of man.

Did you get that?

Neither our GOOD actions nor our SIN determines the final outcome of events.

If we conclude that Samuel was a lousy dad and failed to train his sons properly, it is only out of speculation! The text is silent, contrary to what we read about Eli and how he fathered the other two priests, Hophni and Phinehas.  God explicitly rebukes Eli and announces severe punishment for Eli’s poor parenting.

1 Sam 3:13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them.

No such detail is given about Samuel to explain his sons’ greed and perversion of justice.  So we must beware of looking at their character and laying the blame at the Prophet’s feet. God has His reasons for each of us and each circumstance that we can only guess at.

I write this NOT to give me or you an excuse for not doing what we should.

I write this to correct our occasional false conclusions about our successes and failures.

What are you claiming is a failure in your life?  Yes, you might have exercised poor judgment or made some mistakes that led to this failure.  But could it be that God is actually directing the circumstances?  For His GOOD purposes which remain unknown to us at this time?

Likewise, we must beware of taking credit for good turns of events, what we often claim are successes due to us!  As Paul in Romans 12:6 teaches  – We have different gifts according to the grace given us.  And you can be sure that what God has given is for a specific purpose of His.

Resting in God’s sovereign control helps me both to NOT beat myself up when I fail nor to boast when I succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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