II Samuel 9:1-13
1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 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. 3 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.” 4 “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” 5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. 6 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. 7 “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.” 8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. 12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.
1. David’s Kind Overture 1-5
As the years passed a kind thought occurred to David and he acted on it. Remembering his good friend and for his sake he thought he would like to do something good for the ruined house of Saul. He took action even before he knew that the recipient of his kindness would be a son of his friend Jonathan. Since Mephibosheth would have been about five years old when his nurse fled with him and he became crippled and now he had a son of his own, we know that a number of years had passed. “Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika” (v12). David’s action was kind, but it was also late. He had promised to be kind to Jonathan’s family and many years passed before David did what he said he would do. Kindness done late is better than no kindness, and certainly better than unkindness, but best of all would be immediate spontaneous kindness flowing out of a pure heart that did not have to debate with itself whether to do the kindness or not. Perhaps it would be good for us too to think back over the experiences, relationships and friendships of our past and recall if there is anything we could do to follow David’s example of kindness—for someone in our past.
In the New Testament, Paul gave an encapsulated reference to the life of David saying in Acts 13:36, “. . . . when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.” David made it his business to do good, but there was a limitation on the good he could do; he had to be alive. He died and was buried. We must do our good while we live, that is, before we die. David had an opportunity to do good and he did it. He might have satisfied his promise to Jonathan if he had just been ready, upon any request that came his way, to do good, but David took the initiative. He asked about Saul’s descendants first. He did not seek to do just the minimum; not “Is there any to whom I may do justice,” but “to whom I may show kindness?” Isaiah 32:8 says, “But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.” Some clamber to receive charity, but there are also others, like Mephibosheth, about whom we would never know unless we asked.
David specifically ask about Saul’s family. He mentioned his friend Jonathan but did not limit his desire to do a kindness to just those of Jonathan’s family, no it was Saul’s family. The one who had mistreated him. I Chron 8:33 tells us Saul had a large family. “Ner was the father of Kish, Kish the father of Saul, and Saul the father of Jonathan, Malki-Shua, Abinadab and Esh-Baal.” Esh-Baal was also know as Ish-Bosheth. “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Saul had a bloody family, but it was reduced. In chapter 21 we learn that there were indeed other descendants of Saul, but they are not mentioned in chapter 9. In chapter 21 we note that God held the family of Saul guilty for Saul’s sins. No matter that, David would not. He showed kindness to the family of his enemy.
Saul was David’s sworn enemy, and yet David would show kindness to his house with all his heart. David was far from asking “Is there any left of the house of Saul, that I may find some way to kill, to prevent them from disturbing me or my or my successors?” Judges 9:5 says, “He (Abimelech) went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding.” II Kings 11:1 says, When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.” So compare David’s kindness with those two examples. Theirs were usurped kingdoms; David’s was a promised kingdom.
David trusted God. David was kind and forgiving. We too can show the sincerity of our forgiveness by showing acts of kindness. Not only do we not desire to avenge ourselves, we want to do more than that; we want to show kindness. The Son of David taught, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). And I Peter 3:9 says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” This is the way to overcome evil, and to find mercy for ourselves, when we need it. For if we hope to be a good leader in the work of the Lord, we must learn to serve. We will need all the friends we can get and good relationships with them. Such friends and relationships are the fruit of kindness. Our promises of kindness, we keep and we remember our friendships—with kindness. Does it seem strange that this lesson should include so much about kindness when we are learning about leadership? It should not. Kindness and good leadership go together.
David and Jonathan were friends, but their friendship and the promises between them, by mutual decision, were to out-last their lifetimes. I Sam 20:42 says, “Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.” God was witness to their covenant. Kindness is one way we can follow God’s example, for we must be merciful as He is. He is lenient towards those over whom He has the advantage, and so must we.
Jonathan’s request to David was for a high quality of kindness, like the Lord’s kindness. I Sam. 20:14 says, “But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed,” The kindness of God is surely greater than one can ordinarily expect from men and David’s kindness to Mephibosheth was of that quality. Mephibosheth was to live in Jerusalem and eat at the kings table. We will get to that later in this lesson.
Ziba was a part of Saul’s family; not by blood but by position in Saul’s staff. Ziba knew the state of Saul’s affairs. Ziba informed the king that Jonathan’s son was living, lame and stayed in obscurity, probably among his mother’s relations in Lo-debar in Gilead, on the other side Jordan. So the king sent for Mephibosheth, probably sending Ziba. Verse five says, “So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.” We will meet Makir again later in the life of David for he was one of the friends of David who helped David during the time he fled from Absolom. II Sam. 17:27 says, “When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils.”
When David called Mephibosheth to Jerusalem, Makir was relieved of taking care of him. Makir apparently was a generous free-hearted man, and apparently entertained Mephibosheth out of his own kind desires. Interestingly, David’s kindness to Mephibosheth and Makir is repaid by Makir when David fled from Absalom. Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” This principle or law seems to have been fulfilled in David’s life. When he took Mephibosheth from Makir’s care, David little thought that the time would come when he himself would some day need help from Makir.
2. A Gracious Conversation 6-8
Mephibosheth presented himself to David with all great respect. Verse 6 says, “When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.” Even though he was crippled and bowing would not be so easy, he bowed down to David. At an earlier period in David’s life he himself had bowed down to Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan, “After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most (I Sam 20:41). Now affairs of state are completely reversed. David is royalty and Saul’s grandson is a commoner. There is a time to give honor and a time to receive honor—a time for everything under the son according to Solomon. Each in its own place can be done graciously. Receive honor without pride and give honor without either resentment or intimidation.
David received him with all possible kindnesses. He spoke to him as one pleasantly surprised. We do not know if Mephibosheth resembled his father or not, possible, but not necessarily. But undoubtedly David saw Jonathan in him in some way for he was, in fact, the son of his good friend. And Mephibosheth would at the time be approximately the age that Jonathan had been when David and Jonathan were close. David remembered his name. “Mephibosheth!” The meeting between the two would have been filled with emotion. The son of David, the good and great Shepherd, knows his sheep by name. They come when He calls.
But David’s kindness went beyond mere sentimentality. His next words were words of comfort. How kingly of David! David told him not to be afraid. This too was the royal way and much like the Son of David. “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.” Very possibly the sight of David, his father’s friend now the king, could have been a horribly intimidating experience for a crippled and possibly poor man who lived in a comparably remote part of the country across the Jordan. He did not know what to expect. It is questionable that Ziba (knowing Ziba’s character) would have given him words of comfort as they traveled presumably together to Jerusalem.
Great men take no pleasure in the unsure and timid appearance of inferiors. Surely our great God does not, and neither should any gracious leader, either man or woman of position or authority in the hierarchy of church or religious organizations. Pity the person who thinks that his or her superior position gives them the right to intimidate another of God’s beautiful children.
Look at the gifts David gave. “I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table. David gave him what Saul and Ish-Bosheth had possessed. This was a real favor, and more than giving him a kind word. True friendship will be generous.
And then, though he had given him a good estate, easily able to maintain him and his son, yet for Jonathan’s sake, he will receive him as a regular guest at his own table, where he will be comfortably fed and enjoy company to match his birth and quality. Though Mephibosheth was lame, David took him to be one of his family. How like ourselves he was, though crippled by failure, scars of lost battle and falls, yet feasting at the banquet table of our Lord, Superior, Benefactor and King. God welcomes us and gives to us abundant reason to follow His example and receive and welcome others to His royal table.
Mephibosheth was not guilty of presumption; he did not have an attitude of entitlement. He did not assume that this kind of treatment was his right. He accepted David’s kindness with humility and self-abasement. He did not take every favor as a debt, and think he deserved what good things were given to him; rather he spoke as one amazed at the gifts David gave to him (2 Sam. 9:8): He bowed and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” The son of a prince, and grandson of a king, his family being under guilt, judgment and wrath, himself poor and lame, he called himself adead dog before David. It is good to have the heart humble under humbling circumstances. Those who humble themselves shall be exalted. We are not entitled to the blessings and position we have in Jesus Christ. We accept them humbly, and this helps us welcome others to the team—as equals.
How he magnified David’s kindness! Give me my family’s land? It was simply giving him his own. Did he take him to his table? My grandfather took you to his table when you were but a shepherd. But no, he took the attitude that David himself had earlier displayed. I Sam. 18:18 says, “But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” None of us deserve our position in heavenly places with Christ. May the Lord raise up in His Church today a holy priesthood of kings and vice-regents who, though royalty and nobility, yet have the kind of humility that makes those around them comfortable, at ease and happy to be a part of the Christian family, organization or church.
3. David’s Arrangement with Ziba 9-11a
A practical matter of administration and management is also addressed thorough the provision made for Mephibosheth. The grant of his father’s estate is confirmed and Ziba is called to be a witness to it and to serve it. If we recall Israel’s history at that period, we would remember that Saul came from a wealthy and ideal inheritance. II Sam. 9:9-10 says, “There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
If we assume that that was all passed down from Kish to Saul to Jonathan to Mephibosheth, then Mephiposhet too was a man of position. So why was Mephibosheth being cared for by Makir? Judging form the character of Ziba, which we can easily see from a later story involving David, Mephibosheth and Ziba, perhaps (we don’t know) Ziba and his many sons and servants had taken possession of the estate—the fields and lands—or at least enjoyed too much the benefits of managing such a place.
And now by the graces of king David, Mephibosheth is master of it all. The management of the estate was committed to Ziba, who knew what it was and how to make the most of it. So Mephibosheth, who had few needs since he was eating at the king’s table and with houses and lands managed by someone else, plenty coming in and no need for expense to be paid out, is a picture of wealth and ease with few responsibilities. So Ziba’s, the managers’s, family, its size and the number of servants in it, is included in this description of Mephibosheth’s new position. David said to Ziba, “You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants)” (10). So we leave Ziba and his family and servants living and working on the estate of Saul and Ish-Bosheth. When we see Ziba again in another period of David’s life we will see that either Ziba’s character changed over the years of managing the nice estate or that the bad character that had always been there, but was hidden, is revealed at long last. We will see Ziba again later.
4. Mephibosheth’s Blessed Circumstance 11b-14
“So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons” (11:b). “ Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.” David wanted him at his own table, and Mephibosheth is as well pleased with his new life in Jerusalem as Ziba is with his new position of prestige on the former king’s estate. How unfaithful Ziba was to Mephibosheth we shall find out later.
How like Mephibosheth are all we Christians today. We have daily access to the king. We dine with him. He cares for all our needs. He arranges for the management and administration of all our affairs. He takes care of our family too. (We can assume that young Mika was also provided for.) We have been through battles and have scars. We have fallen and are crippled. We cannot walk right. But we have the privilege of companionship with nobility and royalty at the kings table. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. If this position and privilege makes us proud so that we lead by lording it over others, how unlike the model our king has given to us we have become. When He wrapped a towel around himself and washed the feet of his disciples, He also invited us to do the same for each other.
For those of us who humble ourselves before him, and commit ourselves to him, He restores the forfeited inheritance and entitles us to a better paradise than that which Adam lost, and takes us into communion with himself, sets us with his children at His table, and feasts with us with the delicacies, dainties and nutritious food of heaven. How blessed we are because the Son of David has been kind to us.