The term “grace” means many things to many people. Grace can mean coordination of movement such as displayed by a ballerina. It can mean a prayer, such as saying grace before a meal. Grace can refer to the dignity and elegance that the Queen of England brings to an event.
More importantly, grace can mean unmerited favor—extending special favor to someone who doesn’t deserve it, hasn’t earned it, and can never repay it. For this latter definition, 2 Samuel 9 is one of the best illustrations of grace in all the Old Testament—King David extends grace to Mephibosheth, the grandson of his enemy.
In verse 1, David asked, “Who can I show grace to?” At some point in David’s reign, he reflects on his friendship with Jonathan and the promises they made to each other (1 Samuel 20:13-17). He also remembers the promise he made to King Saul (1 Samuel 24:20-22).
David doesn’t ask, “Is there anyone qualified?” or, “Is there anyone worthy?” He simply asks, “Is there anybody still living who ought to be a recipient of my grace?”
Mephibosheth was the least likely candidate for special favors. Normally, when a king came into power, his first order of business was to eliminate all the members of the former royal house. He would get rid of any and all rivals. When Mephibosheth was summoned to the king, he probably thought his life was over. He probably expected to be executed.
On top of that, Mephibosheth was a nobody from nowhere. His servant, Ziba, doesn’t even call him by name (3). He was living at Lo-debar (5) which means “no pasture.” One writer calls it a howling wilderness, an obscure, barren place of unimaginable desolation.
Worse yet, Mephibosheth was a cripple (3b), the result of a childhood accident (2 Samuel 4:4). In answering David’s inquiry, Ziba seems to be saying, “Are you sure you want to do something for this person? He’s a cripple, after all. He’s not going to look very good in your court.”
David doesn’t ask, “How badly is he hurt?” He doesn’t even ask how it happened. He only asks, “Where is he?”
In their encounter, David illustrates the characteristics of grace in his treatment of Mephibosheth.
- Grace is not earned or deserved (6, 8). Mephibosheth assumed a position of humility before David. He referred to himself as David’s servant and a dead dog.
- Grace comes through others (7a) David acted for Jonathan’s sake.
- Grace involves restoration and a new position (7b, 11b, 13) David restored all the land that previously belonged to Saul and invited Mephibosheth to join him at the king’s table and become one of his sons.
- Grace provides what we need (9-10). Being handicapped, Mephibosheth could not manage the estate David gave to him. Ziba was appointed as Mephibosheth’s servant. He and his sons would farm Mephibosheth’s land for him.
Grace for Today
|Mephibosheth once enjoyed fellowship with his father, Jonathan, the son of King Saul.
||Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden and enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship.
|When disaster came, the nurse fled in fear and Mephibosheth suffered a fall. It left him crippled for the rest of his life. He lived in fear as an outcast.
||When they fell into sin, Adam and Eve hid in fear. Because of their sin, men and women became spiritual invalids.
|Out of sheer love for Jonathan, David demonstrated grace to his handicapped son.
||God, out of love for his Son, Jesus Christ, and the penalty he paid on the cross, demonstrates grace to the believing sinner.
|Mephibosheth had nothing, deserved nothing, and could repay nothing. He was hiding from the king.
||We had nothing, deserved nothing, and could offer God nothing. We were hiding when he found us.
|David took Mephibosheth from a place of barrenness and gave him a place of honor.
||God takes the broken, handicapped person from a barren hiding place and brings us to a place of plenty, right in the courtroom of the king.
|David adopted Mephibosheth into his family, and he became one of the king’s sons.
||God adopts the believing sinner and makes us sons and daughters of the king.
|Mephibosheth’s disability was a constant reminder of grace.
||Our ongoing struggle with sin is a continual reminder of our need for grace.
|At the table of the king, Mephibosheth was treated like any other son of the king.
||At God’s banquet table, we are equal members with Peter, James, John, Elizabeth, Paul, Dorcas, Augustine, Calvin, Martin Luther . . .
(Chart adapted from David: A man of passion & destiny, by Charles R. Swindoll, Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1997, pgs. 176-178.)
It will take eternity for us to adequately express our thanks to God for choosing us in our sinful and rebellious condition, taking us from a barren place and giving us a place at his table, and, in love, allowing his tablecloth of grace to cover our sin.
God’s grace is truly amazing!