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Mephibosheth: Help for the Handicapped

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4:14, 2 Samuel 4:4, 2 Samuel 9:1-13
Date: 01/21/2012 
This sermon looks at a story of the grace of God in Scripture and how our entire status can be changed to a covenant that the Lord has made to save us. It's about Mephibosheth. God takes people from the prison to the palace.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

This morning I’d like to talk to you about a story in the Bible that I think is a beautiful illustration of the grace of God and how He adopts and accepts us – how we can get a new beginning and our entire status can be changed to a covenant that the Lord has made to save us.

And so, the story is really about Mephibosheth and it’s called ‘Hope for the Handicapped’. Mephibosheth – it’s kind of fun to say that. Do you want to all say that with me? Mephibosheth. I hope I’m saying it right. One more time. Mephibosheth. Of course it’s a Hebrew name – you’ll find out more about who that character is, but not right away. You know, in the Bible you can see a number of stories how the Lord transitions people in their status from that of maybe bondage to excellence. He takes people from the prison to the palace.

You know I mentioned to you once before about how Nelson Mandela is a modern example of somebody who was once imprisoned and then in virtually a day went from being a prisoner to being a president of the country that imprisoned him. Another example would be Lech Walesa in Poland. He was born poor – his father was a carpenter – he was an electrician, but he just did not appreciate the communist oppression that was happening. His father died at 34 because of the way the Nazis had treated him and he really wanted to see the freedom that we had in the United States also experienced there in Poland. So he began to organize the workers. He knew the only way to break the back there of communism in Poland was if the workers united against communism – which really might sound like a contradiction - and he was in prison many times for what he did. But finally in 1990 Solidarity formed and the power was broken. He was elected president. Went from being in prison there to being president. It’s happened in several countries in the world. Some who are considered dissenters are in prison, they come out of prison and next thing you know they’re elected – they become the president – both men and women – of these various countries.

You find a verse in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 4:14, “For he comes out of prison to be king, although he was born poor in his kingdom.” Can you think of some who are born poor but then they came out of prison to be king. Joseph went from slavery and prison to the palace in one day. You can also see that example of David. Though born poor – ended up being exalted to king. Daniel in one day went from the status of being a captive in Babylon to being the prime minister. And I could cite a number of examples like that. But one in particular we’d like to look at today is the story of Mephibosheth.

Now, you need to stay with me as I share the story with you. Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of King Saul. But you’ve got to go back in time a little bit. When Goliath came along and began to threaten the children of Israel and mock the God of Israel, Saul was the king – the first king of the united kingdom. There was one king for a brief period of time for most of the tribes called Ahimelech and he died when a woman threw a rock off the wall and hit him on the head. But the real first king of the united kingdom was King Saul – head and shoulders taller than everybody else. And when he started out and God chose him, he also went from obscurity to being king because God chose him – he had good things in him – he had a humble attitude, but then, with power often comes the temptation to abuse that power and with power comes pride and Saul he embraced the pride.

Pretty soon he grieved away the Holy Spirit. And about that time when David killed Goliath – Goliath was mocking all the soldiers in Israel. Some people were probably thinking ‘Why don’t we have Saul’s son Jonathan fight the giant?’ Because Jonathan was a brave soldier. Jonathan and his armor bearer went against twenty Philistines at a garrison by themselves and defeated them. You know two men against twenty – pretty bad odds. And so, he had great faith, he was a very dedicated man. Jonathan was a little different than his father in that respect.

But after David killed Goliath, Saul had David brought before him and Jonathan had an opportunity to really talk to this young shepherd that had the courage to fight the giant when everyone else was afraid and something clicked where David and Jonathan immediately bonded and became great friends. You know you can read about this in 1 Samuel 18 – 1 Samuel 18, verse 4. It’s a wonderful verse. “Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan, the son of King Saul, was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” – He saw in David some of the same courage and faith that he had in his own heart. – “and Saul took him that day and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore” – He took him as his armor bearer. – “and then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took the robe off that was on him and gave it to David and his armor – even his sword and his bow and his belt.”

And I don’t think Jonathan realized it at that time, but what he was doing was very symbolic. You see, Saul was grieving away the Holy Spirit and Saul and his descendants would no longer be on the throne. David had been chosen at this time to be the new king of Israel and in Jonathan who is the oldest son of Saul – he’s in line to reign – he is the crown prince. He sees that God has called David. He takes off his own armor and gives him his sword and his belt and his bow and just says, ‘These are for you.’ He just felt impressed by the spirit, ‘These belong to you.’

I was talking to a cowboy – this was a real cowboy, almost – up at our ranch. Oh, it’s been a few months ago. He rode by looking for some stray cows on his horse and then he got a cell phone call and I said, ‘You know brother this looks really – something wrong with this picture when a cowboy picks up his cell phone.’ And – but he had his cattle dogs with him and I was looking for another dog – one of our dogs was getting old and I knew we needed to have another one – he could train in. And he said, ‘Well, you know, in your life, cowboys say you’ll have one good dog and one good horse.’ And I remember my father telling me one time – I said – I was talking to my dad about friends and he said, ‘Oh, you don’t have as many friends as you think.’ He said, ‘In your life, when you look back on your life’ he says, ‘you’re going to find you can count all your real friends on one hand.’

I thought, ‘Oh, that’s so sad.’ But, you know, as time goes by, you have a lot of friends and a lot of acquaintances but real friends that you can really bare your soul with, you can just have one or two – you’ll be able to count them on one hand – of people that you really click and connect with in that way. But that happened with David and Saul and they loved each other. Matter of fact, when – I’m sorry, that happened with David and Jonathan. They really loved each other and even at the end of Jonathan’s life, when he died, David said, ‘I loved you more than a man might love a woman.’ But it wasn’t talking about that forbidden kind of relationship, he just meant that they just had the real love of a true friend.

And so because of this they made a covenant between them. I just wanted to impress you with that – that there was a great love between the two of them. Eventually Jonathan became aware - as his father grieved away the spirit and that the monarchy was going to be taken away from King Saul. Saul had just become very stubborn and very proud and he would not listen to God, he would not listen to the prophets of God and he finally became very jealous because word had reached King Saul that Samuel the prophet – who, by the way, had anointed Saul to be king, had afterward later gone to Bethlehem and anointed one of the sons of Jesse to be king. And when Saul got wind of that he thought Jesse or the son of Jesse, David, is going to be my replacement and he started to hunt for David. Where, before he had loved him, now he became threatened by David. And David barely escaped from Saul’s presence a couple of times. Finally David had to flee from the capital and he was living out in the woods and he sort of became something of a Jewish Robin Hood, except he lived before Robin Hood – I think Robin Hood stole it from David.

He said everybody that was discontent and everybody that was in distress and everybody that was in debt – they all came and joined themselves to David and David was sort of living out in the woods and kind of living off the fat of the land and building an army and during that time Jonathan came to him in the woods and he said, ‘I know that God’s chosen you to be king in my place.’ And I want you to make a promise – and you can read in 1 Samuel 24, verse 21 – I’m sorry, 1 Samuel 20, verse 14 “And thou shalt not only, while yet I live, show me this kindness of the Lord that I die not, but also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house forever. Do not exterminate my descendants. No not when the Lord has cut off the enemies of David everyone from the face of the earth.” He knew there was animosity between Saul and himself and he said, ‘Don’t kill off my family.’

Now understand that when there was a change in monarchies and you’ve got one king that he dies and the new king arises, that new king wants to make sure that the old descendants of the other king don’t try to affect a coup and take over – they would kill them all. You see this happening many times in Israel. Now, in Judah, the kings were always the sons of David, from David on. But in Israel they were the sons of Jereboam and they were the sons of Baasha and they were the sons of Ahab and they were the sons of Jehu and there were many changes of king families and dynasties – sometimes two or three descendants would reign – sometimes only one or two – and so whenever a new king came into power, for instance, when Jehu came into power following Ahab – eighty sons of Ahab all killed. All the immediate heirs were killed. When Athaliah saw that her son was dead, she wanted to kill all of David’s children, remember? But one was hidden in the temple of the Lord. And even Solomon killed one of his brothers, Adonijah, who wanted to be king instead of him. And so, they would not tolerate anybody who was going to threaten to take the throne – that was called treason – and to make sure it never happened they would just kill them all.

And so, now when Jonathan and Saul realized that God had chosen David – they’re not even from the same tribe – Saul’s from the tribe of Benjamin, David’s from the tribe of Judah. They said, are you going to exterminate our family when you become king? Even Saul – here he’s hunting David to kill him – David has a chance to kill Saul and he doesn’t do it and Saul realizes that David’s a better man than he is and he gets David to make a vow. And this is 1 Samuel 24, and Saul pleads with David, he says, “Therefore, please swear now to me by the Lord” – 1 Samuel 24:21 – “’Therefore swear now to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, that you will not destroy my name from my father’s house.’ So David swore to Saul. Saul went home and David and his men they went up to the stronghold.” This is when David was in exile and he’s running and hiding out in the woods. They knew that David was going to be king – that God had chosen him and that God was with him and that the spirit had been withdrawn from Saul and they were afraid ‘what will happen to our descendants?’ So, David made this promise.

Well, then there was the battle of Gilboa then. The Philistines arrayed themselves against the people of Israel and they had a tremendous battle on the mountains of Gilboa – Saul tried to get some advice from a witch and that did not go well. A demon appeared as Samuel the prophet and just totally discouraged him and then they went out on the field of battle – Saul lived long enough to see his three oldest sons, including Jonathan, were slain on the battlefield. Saul became discouraged – he fell on his own sword and the house of Saul pretty much died out. There was one son – Ishbosheth – that lived for a while and he was eventually murdered by some of his own men on his bed. And, by the way, when David got word of that, he killed the murderers of Saul’s son who had been king.

Well, David now became the undisputed king of both Israel and Judah. And as he came into the kingdom he had one battle after another. So, for several years, David was fighting the Philistines until he subdued them, he was fighting the Edomites, he was fighting the Moabites, he was fighting the Ammonites, he was fighting the Syrians in the north, and one by one God gave David victory over all of these enemies. But it took several years – he was a man of war for years – his army was a formidable army. They had become a crack fighting force during the time that they were living in the woods and they were running from Saul – talk about training, they were in training all the time. They had lived in boot camp for years. And so, David and his men were really tough. Even when Absalom rebelled against his father, his advisor – the advisor of King David – told Absalom ‘Don’t’ – he said – ‘You’d better not mess with David and his men – you know that they are all mighty men.’ You ever read some of the exploits of David’s mighty men? One guy killing 300 men?

I mean, just incredible feats of bravery that they were recorded for. And so you read about David and Joab and Abishai and their brother Asahel and so here you’ve got these mighty men are in his house. Well, finally, things settle down and David realized he had made a covenant to spare the descendants of Jonathan. And he began to think, ‘You know, the Lord’s blessed me. I’ve got peace on every side.’ And, for whatever reason, he remembered ‘You know, I promised’ – he was maybe missing his friend Jonathan. He had never found another friend like him. And he thought, ‘I remember I made a covenant with Jonathan to show mercy on his descendants. I wonder who’s left.’

And, at this point, the Bible records in 2 Samuel 4:4, “Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son” – Before Jonathan died he had a son – “who was lame in his feet and his name was Mephibosheth.” And it tells how he became lame. “He was five years old when news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel;” When there was this battle on the mountains of Gilboa and Jonathan died and Saul died, the Philistines were sweeping over the land – the family of Jonathan was in Jezreel – they thought ‘We need to flee’ – because the Philistines were going to occupy their cities and in fleeing for their lives, the nurse responsible for Jonathan’s little son – five-year-old son Mephibosheth – we don’t know exactly what happened, but he fell. I don’t know if she was lowering him over a wall to somebody else or what happened, but he fell and in falling he broke both feet. Now, they did not have the orthopedic surgeons that we have today, they did not have x-rays and they didn’t have time - because they were fleeing – to set his feet. And, by the way, right after Jonathan and Saul died there was a civil war between the house of Saul and the house of David and so, for whatever reason, his feet were never taken care of – or they couldn’t – and he was lame in his feet. And his name was Mephibosheth. Now, the word Mephibosheth means ‘destroyer of shame’ or ‘someone who puts away shame’.

So after David’s sitting in peace, and he’s beginning to think back, he says to his servants, and this is 2 Samuel 9:1 – matter of fact, this is where you want to go now, we’re going to spend the rest of our time – or most of our time in this chapter. 2 Samuel 9, verse 1. “David said, ‘Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul that I might show him kindness” – why would David show kindness to the house of Saul? That was the former cabinet. That was the former – I mean, they were completely different – different tribe – like Republicans and Democrats – a whole different party you might say. ‘Why would I show kindness to them? Saul wanted to kill me. Why would I show kindness to him?’ David explains it here, “for Jonathan’s sake?’” Now, do you know what Jonathan means? In Hebrew, the word ‘nathan’ means gift. If you meet someone named Nathaniel, that means ‘gift of Elohim’ or ‘gift of God’. If you see the name Jonathan, that means ‘Jehovah’s gift’. Basically the same name or – like with our son – just Nathan that means ‘gift’. And if you call him Nat, that’s a little bug. No – any of you know somebody named Nathan and they short it down to Nat? So, Jonathan means ‘gift of God’. It’s interesting what his name is. So for Jonathan’s sake he is going to show kindness to this son of his former enemy who should have been executed.

It is so different that it appears in the Bible as a remarkable incident of grace. Well, his servants are probably a little surprised and they said, ‘Well, yeah, there is that one boy Mephibosheth.” There was a servant of Saul who was still alive named Ziba – he had been one of the servants - Saul was king, he had a lot of servants. And they called him – David said to him, “’Are you Ziba?’ He said, ‘At your service!’” This is verse 2, 2 Samuel 9, verse 2 – “And the king said, ‘Is there not still someone from the house of Saul to whom I might show the kindness of God?’ And Ziba said to the king, ‘Well, there is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet.’” – As almost discounting him – he says, ‘There’s not much left, just this one who’s lame in his feet.’ “And so the king said to him, ‘Where is he?’ And Ziba said to the king, ‘Indeed, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, in Lo Debar.’ And the king David sent and brought him out of the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo Debar.

Now when Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, ‘Mephibosheth?’ And he answered, ‘Here is your servant.’” So, can you imagine, you’re Mephibosheth, and you live on the other side of the Jordan in a place called Lo Debar. Lo Debar means ‘no pasture’ or ‘barren country’. This is on the Eastern side of the Jordan opposite of where David lives. He was sort of living there trying to – I don’t know if you could say he was living in obscurity, but he wasn’t trying to make himself known – he figured he was very lucky to be alive when everyone else from the house of Saul was dead. And now you have somebody else who’s on the throne and he figured he’d better just keep low – don’t make a fuss. And then he gets a messenger shows up – royal messengers show up – soldiers – to the gate and they say, ‘Are you Mephibosheth?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you grandson of King Saul?’ ‘Uh, yes.’ You know you can’t hide it. ‘The king wants you to come.’ ‘Oh.’

That doesn’t look very good. And so, maybe they’ve got a cart that they pile him in – or they give him a donkey – I’m not sure, but probably didn’t have to walk the whole way and so, he saddles up and ties his crutches onto the donkey with a bungee cord – they hadn’t invented bungees yet but – and he has to make this long journey from the southeastern side of Galilee across the Jordan river, up the steep hills to Jerusalem and all along the way what do you think he’s thinking? ‘Oh, I’m done for.’ And - or ‘He’s going to put me in prison’ or ‘I’m going to be executed’ or ‘They’re going to make sport of me because I’m crippled.’ And who knows what he was thinking because he hadn’t heard anything. Several years had gone by and David had executed all of his enemies and he thought, ‘Now he’s probably insecure that now things have calmed down I’m going to try and take the throne.’ So, who knows what he was going through, probably expected death.

And it says that when he came into the king’s presence – “when Mephibosheth” – verse 6 – “the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself.” Why do you think he did that? He’s basically saying, ‘I’m not a threat. I accept you’re king. You have no trouble coming from me. I recognize you’re king’ – he grovels in front of David and David says, “Mephibosheth?” He answered, “Here is your servant.” And David, obviously he can see that he’s terrified. And the first thing he says to him is “Do not fear.” Now, Jesus is called the son of David. What’s one of the common things that Jesus says to us? ‘Do not fear.’ When we approach the Lord and there is that day of reckoning, does he want us to be afraid? He says, ‘Don’t fear.’ By the way, that approach I’m talking about is supposed to happen in this life. He said, “Do not fear, I will surely show you kindness.” Did he deserve kindness? Or was he part of an enemy tribe? He was part of a different dynasty, I should say. He received mercy.

He received grace. He received unmerited favor. “I will show you kindness” – because you deserve it? No. “For Jonathan your father’s sake.” Now get this friends, “for the sake of the king’s son I am going to show you kindness.” ‘Because of my relationship with Jonathan I am extending kindness to you who I don’t know.’ Why would the father show kindness to us? For the sake of the son. It’s for Christ’s sake – the sake of the king’s son – that he is showing mercy to us. Not only does he say ‘I’m going to restore mercy,’ he said, “I will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather” – wow, Saul had a pretty big estate when he was king – “and you will eat bread at my table continually.”

You know what the plan of salvation is? It’s a plan of restoring what was lost. Has this world been kidnapped by an enemy? Is there a war going on? Is God going to restore the garden of Eden to us that was lost through the sin of Adam? And is it being restored because of Christ’s sake? The great restoration happens because of Jesus and God is wanting to restore that – not only to us as a people, but to you as a person. You know, when I read this I don’t want to rush past the story – you’ve heard me preach on it before, but it is a wonderful example of the same principle of grace.

You find it in the last chapter of Jeremiah – Jeremiah 52 – taking a little detour but we’ll come back. Jeremiah 52, verse 31. The book of Jeremiah ends with a story – as does 2 Chronicles – same story. When King Nebuchadnezzar first came and conquered Jerusalem – he conquered it twice – he carried off captive the son of King Josiah – Josiah was a good king – he had a son named Jehoiachin – Jehoiachin was a teenager when he became king and he probably wasn’t doing a good job – it said he didn’t follow the Lord. He’s carried off to Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar puts him in prison and he basically throws away the key. Prisons back then were not very nice. Even though it was a Babylonian prison, it probably was prison nonetheless – I doubt it had air-conditioning, ping-pong, and TV. And he didn’t have that many visitors, but here he was, going from the palace – being a king – to the prison. And he’s in that prison for 37 years. That’s a long time. And it says “In the 37th year of the captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah” – He’s 55 years old now – my age – “in the twelfth month, the twenty-fifth day of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon” – now this is right after Nebuchadnezzar dies.

The son of Nebuchadnezzar – he was only king for a short time – he was assassinated later – “Evil-Merodach” – it’s believed Daniel the prophet goes to him – Nebuchadnezzar was a pretty stern king and he made a law he didn’t change his law. He said, ‘I’m not going to let this king out of prison because I’m going to teach them and all my subjects a lesson.’ But after Nebuchadnezzar died, Daniel went to Evil-Merodach and he said, ‘You know, we had a great king named David. And that king has a descendant and his name was Jehoiachin – he was young and foolish – he did some things wrong – but he’s in prison now 37 years. Could you show him mercy?’ And Evil-Merodach says, ‘You know Daniel, because I respect you so much, and because of what you did for my father and what you’ve done for our kingdom, for your sake, I’m going to let this king out of prison. And not only will I let him out of prison, I’m going to show him mercy. I’m going to treat him like one of the other kings in my realm.

Listen to what the Bible says the king does. “Evil-Merodach, the king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, he lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, king of Judah” – that means brought him out of prison – lifted up his head. You know, before we have the Lord our heads are hanging down – he brings him out of prison! “He spoke kindly to him.” You want a king to speak kindly to you. Don’t make a king angry. He showed him mercy. Does God speak kindly to us? And he gives him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon.

Well, you know, when the king of Persia was on his throne following Babylon it says there were 127 provinces. So this king of Babylon’s got a lot of other kings of different provinces that sit at his table and he gives Jehoiachin a more prominent place than all of those other kings. You know where you sit at a table – I tell you, if you want to make somebody mad, arrange seating at a big wedding. And if you don’t put people at the head table, you better just go on the honeymoon with the bride and the groom because you’re going to get into trouble. Seating – where you sit in relation to people says a lot. You remember how the chief scribes were always seeking out the chief seats and Jesus said, ‘When you go to a feast don’t worry about the chief seat – you take the lowest place – it’s much better for them to say, ‘oh no, you don’t belong there, you belong up here.’’ But if you go try and nudge your way into first class and the flight attendant comes along and says, ‘Let me see your ticket.’ They say, ‘No, you’ve got to go back to third class.’ It’s pretty embarrassing. Don’t ask me how I know that. No, I’ve never done that. But it’s much better off to take the low position and be upgraded.

But here he goes from prison to not only sitting at the king’s table, but a more prominent seat at the king’s table. What did Jesus tell the apostles? He says, ‘When I sit down in the kingdom with my father, you will sit on twelve tribes with me.’ Wow. Jesus is the king of the universe and He’s offering us the opportunity to sit at that table with Him in a prominent place like that.

We’re not done – back to Jehoiachin – we’re still talking about Jehoiachin – prominent seat. “He changed from his prison garments” – What do you think he changed to? When you come out of prison you take off your rags – filthy rags – from prison. They didn’t have probably a regular Laundromat in the Babylonian jail. And he was given – what are you going to wear if you’re going to sit at the king’s table? Remember when Esther was called? They gave her a wardrobe and said, ‘Pick something from the wardrobe.’ So here the king gets to pull something from the wardrobe of the – Babylon – Babylon, they had nice clothes. You know why Achan died? Because he couldn’t resist a Babyloniash garment. So, boy, it’s like the Parisians – you know they had – the fashion designers were in Babylon. They had the walkway there – what do they call that? So he changed his garments “and he ate bread regularly before the king all the days of his life.”

In the Lord’s prayer ‘give us this day our daily bread’ all the days of his life. You know, another way you can say ‘eternal life’? All the days of his life. “And as for his provisions,” – that means on top of his being able to eat at the king’s table, he gets an allowance – “there was a regular ration given him” – he was given a company credit card. That’s what that means. There’s a ration given him by the king “a portion given him every day until the day of his death, all the days of his life.” And since Babylon was the golden kingdom, they had a pretty big expense account – he went in one day – Jehoiachin – you know, I’m so thankful that his story ended well – it didn’t end so well for his brother Zedechiah – Nebuchadnezzar put out his eyes and killed all his sons and he died in Babylon. But Zedechiah’s younger brother Jehoiachin – after 37 years in prison, he went from the prison to the palace in one day. New food. New clothes. New status. Showed mercy. Gets an allowance for the rest of his life.

What happens when we come to Jesus? Does He take us from the prison to the palace? And He lets us eat at His table. And he gives us a new status. He gives us a new name. He gives us new clothes – we have robes of righteousness that we wear. We get to eat the bread from His table. Jesus is the bread of life and His Word. Everything changed for him in one day.

Now back to Mephibosheth because it’s a similar story – it’s really the story of the gospel. When Mephibosheth comes before the king and David speaks kind words to him – you know, it’s like it says in Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people says the Lord.” That’s Isaiah chapter 40, verse 1. God speaks words of comfort to us. 2 Samuel 9:8, “He bowed himself to the king” – Mephibosheth says, “What is your servant that you should look upon such as a dead dog as I am?” Mephibosheth is overwhelmed – I wish we could find a nickname for him – that’s a real mouthful, isn’t it? Mephibosheth. What do you want to call him? Can’t call him ‘Mephib’ – that doesn’t roll off the tongue. Anyway, better stick with the whole thing for right now. No, I can’t think of anything. You let me know what a good nickname would be for Mephibosheth – I always believe in an economy of words. You don’t have to call me Douglas. You don’t even have to call me Doug – you can just call me Duh – saves time. It was actually the first name ever recorded. Cavemen said, ‘Duh’ and then as they grew they said, ‘Duh ug.’ A friend told me that once – I got a kick out of that. It says, ‘Why would you show such kindness to a dead dog as I am?’

Now, they used to believe that if a person was lame, they were somehow separated from God. Do you know the crippled and the lame could not come into the temple of the Lord as a priest? They were forbidden. And so, these people believed they were separated. And here Mephibosheth says, ‘Not only has my family been rejected by God from the monarchy, and not only am I – I’ve lost my family, they’re all dead – I’m living, you know, across the Jordan – I’m banished to ‘place of no pasture’ – Lo Debar – it’s just a barren, hot, parched piece of the hills of Gilead there – and he said, ‘But you’re inviting me to live with you? Why would’ – and dogs. How does the Bible feel about dogs? ‘Don’t give that which is holy to the dogs.’ And the dogs will turn and rend you, right? ‘A dog returns to his own vomit.’ Dogs are outside the New Jerusalem –

Now, I’ve got dogs – I like dogs too – I’m not talking about the pets – I’m not talking about Fido – I’m talking about in the Bible principles you know that dogs don’t always have the best manners. I won’t go into what the details of that are, but I think you all know that dogs can do the most embarrassing things if they don’t have really good training – because they act like animals. And so to be a dog was a scavenger in the Bible. They were considered unclean. And so Mephibosheth says, ‘I’m just a dog. Why are you showing me such mercy?’

When we come into David’s palace – when we come into Jesus, the son of David’s, presence should we come humbly? Should we come as a servant? Should we come to see that we are unclean? Shouldn’t that be our attitude? You know, the son of David, Solomon, he said this: ‘For him who is joined to all the living there is hope for a living dog is better than a dead lion.’ You know, David, when he sang about King Saul and Jonathan he said they were like lions because in the battlefield they were brave, they were courageous, they were powerful, like lions. And here, Mephibosheth, he’s alive but he’s crippled and he’s young and he says, ‘I’m just a dog.’ But, you know, a living dog is better than a dead lion, for where there is life there is hope. Have you heard that? And so David says, ‘No, I’ve made a promise and I’m going to show you mercy. And not only am I going to show you mercy, I’m going to bring you into the palace and you’re going to eat at my table.’ Verses 9 and 10, 2 Samuel – back in 2 Samuel, verses 9 and 10.

So the king calls Ziba, Saul’s servant who had been responsible for all his property, and he said to him, “I have given your master’s son all that had belonged to Saul.” The king says – David says, ‘I speak and my word is law and I’m making a declaration here that everything that belonged to Saul now goes to Mephibosheth. I’m doing a judgment on his estate. I am the king. I am the judge.’ “Everything that was Saul’s is going to Mephibosheth. You, therefore, and your sons” – Ziba, chief steward – “you’re to work the land for him and you’re to bring in the harvest that your master’s son may have food to eat.” In other words, that there’d be an abundance and there’d be crops that could be sold. “But Mephibosheth” – you personally – “your master’s son he’s going to eat bread at my table always.”

What a privilege that God would say that He wants us to sit at His table and eat with Him. Can you imagine that? What a beautiful picture that is. Does Jesus want us to feast with Him? Think about that. Luke 22:30, “That you might eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” Is Christ offering you and I the same thing that David offered Mephibosheth? How big is the universe? How vast is God’s creation? How many creatures are out there? He opens His hand and He satisfies the desire of every living thing, that’s true, but not everyone sits at the table with Him.

Karen and I went on a couple of cruises and on one cruise in particular, for whatever reason – we didn’t ask for it – they sat us at the captain’s table. And that’s supposed to be a great privilege to sit at the captain’s table when you’re on a ship with hundreds of people. And we weren’t sure how we rated – we were definitely the youngest people at that table besides the captain. We went on a cruise that was – a lot of gray hair – but it was fun meeting the people there. But that’s supposed to be great privilege – everyone was enjoying the feast but only a few were at the captain’s table.

Where here, David says ‘You’re going to sit at my table. You’re not going to go out to the table with my servants.’ You remember what Uriah did? David sent a meal home with Uriah but Uriah went out and slept and ate with the servants of the king. He was happy to be with the servants of the king. But David said, ‘Oh no, you’re not eating with my servants – and they ate pretty good. The prodigal son came home and he said, ‘Even my father’s servants eat better than this. If I could just be one of them.’ But he says, ‘No, you’re coming into the house with me.’ And Jesus says we’re going to eat and drink at His table – ‘My table.’ Have you ever thought about that? It’s called the captain’s table. Revelation 19:9, “Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’’” It’s one of the last statements in the Bible.

We’re invited to a special feast for the Lamb. Revelation 3:20 – you all know this verse – in the message of the church of Laodicea, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come in and sup” – dine, eat, feast – “with him and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit down with Me on My throne as I am also overcome and sat down with My Father in His throne.” Wow. Think about that for a second. Did you get that? How do we get to sit with Jesus on His throne in His palace at His table? ‘As I have overcome and sat with My Father.’ We get to sit with Christ as Christ sits with the Father. Wow. Do you believe that? A dead dog named Doug like me gets to sit with Christ as Christ is seated with the Father? That we live and reign with Him? What a privilege. Can you imagine Mephibosheth saying, ‘That’s very nice of you David, but you know, I’ve got other busy things to do back in Lo Debar. I can’t accept.’ Really. Why would you turn down an invitation like that?

Why would we turn down an invitation like the one Jesus has offered us? Wouldn’t that be an insult to the king? Here I’m giving you the estate of the monarchy of Saul and you say, ‘No, I want to go back to my shack in Lo Debar – no pasture. Wouldn’t that – why would you do that? And yet, you know, that’s what a lot of people do. We get to eat and feast with the king.

And then I want you to think about what it must have looked like. Now get this picture – get your Bibles real quick. I’m taking you to chapter 8 – 2 Samuel chapter 8 – it’s the chapter immediately prior to what we’ve been reading – and I want you to read verses 16 to 18. See in chapter 8 of Samuel it talks about all the battles that David won – finally he settles down – he’s got peace – and it tells about the cabinet of David – who else is at this table. It says, ”Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army;” – so you’ve got the general there and probably with his brother Abishai – “and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were the priests.” So here you’ve got the treasurer of the empire, you’ve got the general of the empire, you’ve got a time where they actually had two high priests – Zadak and Abiathar. You’ve got Seraiah the scribe, the chief recorder in charge of records, you’ve got Benaiah the son of Jehoiada – he ended up becoming, for Solomon, the general, but at this time he’s in charge of the honor guard, which are called the Pelethites and the Cherethites, and David’s sons were chief ministers.

So you’ve got the sons of David. So here David’s got his house built finally – Hiram, the king of Tyre sent cedar down and built a beautiful house for David – and he sits in his banquet hall once a day – they would sit together and eat – they’d go over the government business and as they’re getting ready for dinner, you know, Joab, he’s hungry - he’s a soldier. He comes in muscles bulging, got his armor and all his medals flapping against his armor and he pulls out the chair and makes a big screech in the judgment hall and he sits down at the table and his brother comes in – Abishai – have you ever read about him? He just always wanted to kill everybody. He told David ‘Let me push – let me kill Saul.’ Shimei made fun – Shimei was a Benjamite from the house of Saul – or Kish – that made fun of David and Abishai said, ‘Let me go cut off the head of this dog.’ David said, ‘No, be patient.’

And then he comes and sits down with his brother Joab, by the way, these are the nephews of David. And then in come the two high priests in their royal robes and all their attire, and then the sons of king David come in and you’ve got Adonijah – he was a good-looking boy, Absalom – best looking of all – just looks like a movie star. This is a red carpet even when they came in. And after they’re all seated there in the judgment hall, then you hear the door open up – it creaks on its hinges – and in the silhouette coming through the door you see someone that’s hobbled over two crutches comes dragging in. And you can hear the ‘swish-clop, swish-clop’ of him making his way across the floor and it echoing through the banquet hall there and here comes Mephibosheth who was an intelligent, probably good-looking young man – he might have been tall had it not been for his feet, because Jonathan was probably tall – Saul was a tall man – but he had crippled feet. And he comes and he makes his way to the table and he sits down. And once he sits down and that tablecloth covers his feet, he looks like all the rest of them, doesn’t he? And that’s what the Lord is offering us. Look who’s come to dinner.

I wonder what the angels think when you and I come hobbling in. Look who’s come to dinner. You mean them? The Lord has invited us to this feast. Do you remember that story in the Bible – where Jesus brings in the ones you think would be left out? We have all been crippled by sin. We are all lame in our feet. What does it mean when you talk about the feet in the Bible? It’s talking about your walk. Luke chapter 14, verse 21 – who gets invited to that feast?

Remember the king makes a feast for his son in this parable Jesus tells? And there are people that get the printed invitations, but when the time comes and they are sent a reminder – you know a good doctor, a good dentist they schedule your appointment – how many of you get a phone call ahead of time to make sure you come? It costs them too much money because we tend to forget. So someone goes around for the king and sends a reminder and says, ‘Okay, don’t forget the feast this week – you’re going to be there.’ And they say, ‘Oh, oh you know, that’s so nice of the king to invite me but I bought a wife and I married a cow and I got a piece of land’ – I got that backwards, didn’t I? ‘I bought a cow and I married a wife and I got a piece of land and I just – you’ve got to excuse me.’ And the king is mad. Do you remember what he says? He says to his servants that come back and tell him this, the master of the house being angry – Luke 14:21 – “He said to his servants ‘Go out quickly into the streets and the lanes of the city and bring in here to my feast the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’”

Why would you want to bring all these crippled people into your son’s feast? Jesus said, ‘When you have a feast don’t bring your friends, everybody does that, but you go out into the highways and the byways and you bring in people who can’t pay you back.’ Jesus has invited us to his feast. We have all been crippled by sin. Christ is offering to heal our walk, but you can come to Jesus as a cripple. Mephibosheth came as he was and that’s how we come. Micah 4, verse 6, “’In that day’ says the Lord, ‘I will assemble the lame and I will gather the outcasts and those whom I’ve afflicted and I will make the lame a remnant and the outcast a strong nation.’” Who is God’s nation composed of? It’s a nation of people who are handicapped by sin. Isn’t that what I just read? It said, ‘I will assemble from my remnant those who are lame, those who are afflicted, and I’m going to make a nation out of them.’ And David understood that. You know who his army was first composed of? It was all of the off-scouring of society. And what does Paul say the church is composed of? ‘Not many wise, not many noble, but God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty.’

God uses us, faulty though we are – now he wants us to overcome our faults, don’t misunderstand – but we all come as we are and he transforms us and makes us new creatures. Hebrews – one more – Hebrews 12, verse 12 and 13, “Therefore strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees and makes paths – straight paths for your feet so that which is lame may not be dislocated but rather healed.” Does the Lord want us to stay lame? Or does he want us to be healed?

But we all come into the palace of the king and he accepts us – you come just like you are. We’ve all been crippled by sin. You know, it’s beautiful here as, basically, David adopts Mephibosheth. Jonathan is dead. Saul is dead. David said, ‘I’m going to bring you into the house and I’m going to sit you down at the table with my sons.’ And it says in 2 Samuel 9:12 and 13 – and even Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Micha – “And all who dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants of Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king’s table. And he was lame in both his feet.”

You know, the prophet Elijah said to the children of Israel, ‘How long do you limp between two opinions? If the Lord is God then serve Him. If Bael is god then serve him.’ And the word limp there – it means ‘you halt’ – it means you limp because you’re crippled in your feet between two opinions.

Some of us are still lame and we can’t figure out who we want to serve – we’re going back and forth between the world and the devil. We’re hobbling - we can’t make up our mind. The Bible says, ‘strengthen those things that are weak.’ I’m so glad that Jesus got down and washed the disciples’ feet. Can He wash and heal our feet? And can he transform our lame walk?

The Bible doesn’t say but I’ve often wondered – David had the best of everything in his kingdom – I wonder if he had a physician and, after Mephibosheth was adopted, if he had said, ‘See if you could do anything to help Mephibosheth. It may not be too late to maybe break and re-set his bones or something so that he walks better.’ But for the rest of his life he ate at the king’s table and that’s a wonderful opportunity that he’s offering each of us.

We become adopted by the king. We become kings. The Bible says that we are sons and daughters – ‘Behold what manner of love the Father’s bestowed on us that we should be called sons and daughters of God.’ We become adopted into the family just as Mephibosheth was. That’s a wonderful promise. Revelation 5:10, “He has made us kings and priests of our God.” Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the spirit these are the sons of God for you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba Father.’”

You know, I love the story of Mephibosheth because it tells us that – while we might be exiled or prisoners, we can get a message from the palace of the king from the son of David and he says, ‘Come to my house. Come as you are.’ And he shows us mercy. He speaks kind words to us. He gives us new clothes. He gives us new status. He gives us an allowance. He gives us new bread. And he says, ‘You’re part of my family now, for as long as you live.’ And that’s the Bible vernacular, the spiritual analogy forever.

What he did for Mephibosheth he’s offering to do for each of us. And he can heal us from our crippled walk. We can begin to walk like Jesus walked. Did Jesus heal the lame? Now David might not have had a physician that could help Mephibosheth, but Jesus, the son of David, is a very good doctor and He can give us a new walk.

Can I – one of the stories – I think I shared it with you – for a remarkable story from history – deals with Wilma Rudolph. Wilma Rudolph was born as the 20th of 22 children – very poor – and when she was only four years old she contracted double pneumonia and polio. Well, the doctors didn’t know if she was going to live and if she did live they didn’t think she’d ever walk again – especially one leg was damaged. Well, by the time she was nine years old she had braces on her legs – she stunned her doctors when she was nine and she removed – at that point she still had one leg brace – she took off the leg brace. And by the time she was 13 they were shocked that she had developed the ability to walk with a certain rhythm that seemed normal. And then she wanted to run. And she started entering races in school and it was sort of pathetic because she always came in last and people told her ‘Why are you bothering?’ Because it was kind of – they’d see her hobble and just way – they’d pass her three times before she finished a race. But she enjoyed running so much because she’d been bound by these braces all through her youth and through the encouragement of her family and prayer – she prayed that she’d be able to run like other children – she kept running. And believe it or not, one day she actually won a race. And it was amazing, but from that time on she never lost a race. And she kept running and running – eventually she went on to win three Olympic gold medals.

‘All things are possible’ the Bible tells us ‘to him that believes.’ And He can heal us from our lameness. We can all come to Jesus and accept the grace that he’s offering – like Mephibosheth – eat at His table, wear the new royal robes, have a new seat, be adopted into the family.

What better example of grace is there in the Bible than this story? And why – why does David do it? Because he made a covenant with Jonathan. He said, ‘I make a promise that I’ll watch over your sons. For Jonathan’s sake. Why does the father do it? Why do we get adopted? Whose name do we pray in? For Christ’s sake. We can be adopted into that family and eat at His table forever. What a wonderful promise. This is not just a story friends, these are the – this is the science of the Gospel – this is true. And you can have that experience and you can eat at that kingdom and you can feast at that table – you can get a new walk if you come just as you are. You can be a child of the king. Would you like that? Is that your prayer? And that’s going to be our song. I know we’ve sung it before, but I like it so – I’m the pastor, we have to sing it again. ‘I’m a Child of the King’ – but I forget the number. #468 – why don’t you get your hymnal – let’s stand and sing that together.

(MUSIC)

We’ve got one more verse – I want to extend the appeal just a little farther. Some of you out there might have felt like you – you’re beyond God’s grace. You say, ‘I don’t know why He’d want me – I’ve just been living like a dog and I’m crippled in my walk. I’ve got to first get things straightened out before I come to Jesus.’ If this story tells us anything, it tells us that we can come limping – just as we are – and that’s when we’re accepted. You come just as you are. But then, He loves you too much to leave you just as you are – He can transform you in every way.

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Daniel: A Reader's Guide by William H. Shea

Daniel: A Reader's Guide by William H. Shea
God's Promises




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