BIG LITTLE PEOPLE - MEPHIBOSHETH, LOVED TO LOVE
Dear friends in Christ, `
July of every four years is the time for political conventions. We just went through that time. As a child I remember dreading those two weeks. There was no cable TV then, so CBS, NBC and ABC were the only three television networks. They all carried the conventions. No regular programming. No Andy Griffith Show and Opie. No Red Skelton! If there was a rainy stretch and we couldn’t get outside, it was like prison.
We do mature and we learn to appreciate the political process. Government officials to run our nation are important. We are the ones who elect them. As people of God we need to be informed what they stand for. We need to investigate. But it seems like politics has deteriorated to why not to vote for the other person than making a case for why vote for them. There is divisiveness and rancor of every sort. There is slander and evil. Unfortunately we get accustomed to it; we get caught up in it. We participate in it. You know who is having the best time of all? The Devil and his demonic band! Let’s acknowledge our sin, dear people! Let’s repent!
In our rancorous political times the Scripture we are studying today gives guidance to the child of God. As we continue our look at Big Little People of the Bible, we turn to someone who has my favorite name in the Bible – Mephibosheth. In fact, it is such a favorite that I would urge those families who are expecting a baby, if it is a boy, if you aren’t going to name him Larry then give him the name Mephibosheth. He is a Big Little Person in the Bible – loved to love.
Who is Mephibosheth? King Saul, the first king in Israel, was his grandpa; Jonathon was his father. King Saul, the first king in Israel, reigned for forty years. By the end of his life, his poll numbers must have been close to zero. In the original Pew poll, God’s poll, he was definitely at zero. While God chose him to be the first king is Israel, he started well but it didn’t take long before power went to his head. Every day that passed he seemed to fall further and further from the one he really needed, the Lord.
What about Jonathon? Generally we say the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree - a son is like his father, a daughter is like her mother - but in the case of Jonathon and his father Saul nothing could be further from the truth. Jonathon’s best friend was David, God’s chosen one to succeed Saul. Even though that meant that God would rip the kingship away from Saul’s family and from Jonathon himself, Jonathon accepted and respected God’s will. Saul did not - the fool.
Saul fought the Lord but the Lord won. He wanted to secure the throne for his family so he spent so much time trying to assassinate David, the Lord’s anointed, than paying attention to the affairs of Israel. Saul strayed so far from the Lord who put him in power he even consulted with the occult power of a witch rather than surrendering himself to the Lord from whom nothing is hidden. To make a long story short his demise and the demise of his family came when he went to war against the Philistines. Jonathon and his other brothers lost their lives. Saul was wounded. He decided to literally fall on his sword and took his own life. He chose the hell on the other side over the hell he had created on this side.
Saul’s family and friends and allies scattered. Among them was Mephibosheth, Jonathon’s son who was all of five years old. He was riding the shoulders of his nanny who was running for her life. She tripped and fell and Mephibosheth came tumbling to the ground. Mephibosheth was hurt badly. He would never walk again. In so many respects his life depended on the mercy and love of others. To go from one place to another he needed people to love and help him.
But finally, if you think about it, everybody is a Mephibosheth. The day we are born we need the mercy and love of our parents. No baby can exist if parents are selfish and self-centered and don’t put aside themselves to take care of their little one. But there are other times in life when that’s true too. A bad back leaves someone immobilized. A disease that incapacitates. When we breathe our last breath, someone needs to deal with the flesh and bones and bones left behind. We really are Mephibosheth’s.
Maybe that sounds odd or even morbid, but we are sinful people living in a sinful world. Sooner or later we all find out that we aren’t indestructible and self-sufficient as we would like to think. It’s humbling, but that’s good for us to discover.
First it puts us in the proper perspective in our relationship with the Lord. We are all Mephibosheth’s before our God. Sinful egos need to be cut down.
Humbled people have the Lord in proper perspective. The Lord is up there. We are down here. Humbled people are ready for the Lord. Humbled people can only look up. The humbled tax collector cried out, “God, please be merciful to me a sinner!” We need to be loved. We need God’s love.
There is another thing that we need to remember. God wants his people to show his love shining through them. Exercise machines in a gym stretch muscles and make people stronger. People in need are like those machines, where God’s people get to stretch the muscles of faith and actually practice love by helping others. We need Mephibosheth’s.
Sometimes we are Mephibosheth when God puts us in the position to be the object of love, when he puts on our backs and we need help. Unfortunately sinful pride isn’t always ready for that. When our son was born prematurely many years ago, the hospital bills were overwhelming. 47 days in the hospital netted us a huge stack of bills for hospital charges, specialists and even special equipment. Sure we had insurance, but it was 1980. Insurance wasn’t as sophisticated and inclusive then. We were put in a position of needing other’s love. I didn’t do that well.
A kindly pastor and a leader in our church body called one day and said he was going to send us a very substantial check to pay the hospital bills off. Yeah, I was a pastor, but I was also a proud and arrogant man who didn’t want to accept charity. I was taken to the woodshed in a kind and gentle but firm way. Pastor Weichmann pointed out very clearly that God’s people wanted to help. That’s what God’s people do. I was hindering that from happening. I was getting in the way of God’s work. Remember that sometimes you might be put into the same position. Put the pride aside and accept the help. We need to be loved.
Now let’s look at this story from David’s perspective. Saul, who declared war on David, was out of the picture. God’s plan was in place. David was king. He had a lot to be thankful for. He saw how he was loved. God took him from the pasture as a shepherd to the palace to be king. Lots of things happened in between. The good Lord was his shield and protector that day in the Valley of Elah when that giant of a man had challenged any Israelite to fight for their nation. God gave him the courage to go forth. God gave him the protection through a couple of stones in a slingshot. The Lord saved David. The Lord saved the nation.
The Lord saved David through those confusing days when all he wanted to be was a loyal patriot and Saul considered him public enemy number one. But now running for his life and the plotting and scheming of Saul was finally behind done. Finally by consensus David was the man that Israel wanted as their king. But there were many more blessings that showed that he was loved by none other than the Lord himself. He was gifted with the ability to write words and make music. He wrote so many of the psalms that were given to him by the Spirit of God. In fact, besides Jesus no other person is mentioned more in the Bible.
Most importantly he was given charge of the most important nation ever to exist on this earth. Not because they were inherently great or brave or righteous, but simply because God in his grace would bring from them the Savior of the nations, Redeemer, the Light of the World, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Messiah, the Christ, the Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world. He would be even be called the Son of David.
God’s kindness and love to David moved him to make sure that there was no animosity for Saul’s family. “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” 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.”
Ziba worked in the palace of Saul. He told David about the crippled son of Jonathon. David sent for him. He had been hiding in the land of Gilead, a good distance from Jerusalem. There was reason. In those days, when a coup occurred, the family and friends of the former leader were done away with. Imagine Mephibosheth’s surprise when David’s representatives came looking for him. Imagine how Mephibosheth must have felt when David made it clear that he wasn’t going to destroy him but make him a part of his family. He reserved a place for Mephibosheth at every meal. He was now clothed in royal garments and at royal food, the same food served to the king. No more war. No more hard feelings between the houses. David gave back the land that belonged to Mephibosheth’s family. That’s how God’s people let their light shine.
Of all the verses that make up our Scripture reading today, one verse really stands out. It is the question that David repeated, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” You see, dear Christians, there is kindness and there is God’s kindness. That word has sometimes been translated “loving kindness” or “mercy.” In the New Testament the equivalent is the word “grace.” It is a kindness that is undeserved and unconditional. It can never be repaid. It is the kindness and grace that God shows. We see it best as we look at the cross. We see it best in Jesus’ shed blood. We see it best when he gave his life for all. That’s grace – undeserved and unconditional. That’s the grace we are given to then give. That’s the love with which we are loved so we can love.