Whom the King Pursues

Sermon by David Felker on Jan 12, 2014

2 Samuel 9:1-13

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Samuel chapter 9.  2 Samuel chapter 9; it begins on page 260 in your pew Bible.  And just before we read, something to consider - when I was a junior in high school I was living in Fayetteville, Arkansas; it was 2001 and my dad is a football coach but he was out of coaching for a few years and was in private business.  And the head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks was a name that is very familiar to a lot of you.  It’s a man by the name of Huston Nutt.  And that football season they were kind of rotating these two quarterbacks and both quarterbacks kept getting hurt.  One’s name was Zack Clark and he had a bad shoulder and the other’s name was Robby Hampton and he was coming off ACL surgery.  And so a couple of games into the season, believe it or not, Huston Nutt as the head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks went out to the intramural football fields and he watched a couple of games and he recruited and then asked to join the team an intramural quarterback named John Rutledge.  And it was probably a week or two later and like clockwork the quarterbacks both got hurt again and so in comes this intramural quarterback into an SEC football game.

And maybe that really just says something about the state of Arkansas football at the time or about the lack of quarterback depth and of course the media was having fun with that stuff, but we love stories like that - stories like that of condescension are powerful to us where you have a man with great authority, Huston Nutt, and he goes and he pursues a young man with no authority.  We love stories like that.  And 2 Samuel chapter 9 is one of those stories.  2 Samuel chapter 9 is one of the sweetest stories in the Bible; it’s one of the sweetest pictures of love and loyalty and faithfulness that you will ever see.  David is king of Israel; this is a great reign.  The kingdom is now established and it’s unified; it’s a golden age.  The ark is back in Jerusalem and there’s peace and prosperity in the land.  And now David remembers this covenant that he made with his friend, Jonathan.  And so David, a man with great authority, goes after and he pursues the lame Mephibosheth.  And before we jump in, let’s look to the Lord in prayer.  Let’s pray.

Our great God and heavenly Father, we ask now that the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts would be pleasing and acceptable to You.  We ask that You would work through my lisping and stammering tongue to bring glory to Your name, and we ask that Your Word would be food for our hearts this morning.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

2 Samuel chapter 9 beginning in verse 1:

“And David said, ‘Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’  Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David.  And the king said to him, ‘Are you Ziba?’  And he said, ‘I am your servant.’  And the king said, ‘IS there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?’  Ziba said to the king, ‘There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.’  The king said to him, ‘Where is he?”  And Ziba said to the king, ‘He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.’  Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.  And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage.  And David said, ‘Mephibosheth!’  And he answered, ‘Behold, I am your servant.’  And David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.’  And he paid homage and said, ‘What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?’

Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, ‘All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson.  And you and your sons hand your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat.  But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.’  Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.  Then Ziba said to the king, ‘According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.’  So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.  And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mika.  And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants.  So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table.  Now he was lame in both his feet.”

I want to look at two points this morning.  First is that God’s covenant kindness stoops to the surprising and second that God’s covenant kindness exceeds expectations.  

I. God’s Covenant Kindness Stoops to the Surprising

And so first, God’s covenant kindness stoops to the surprising.  Again, years and years and years ago, David makes a covenant with his friend, Saul’s son, Jonathan. And in the covenant he promises that he will not cut off his love, he will not cut off his faithfulness to Jonathan’s descendants forever.  And it’s been years and years and years and David now remembers this covenant and he’s looking for someone of the now decimated house of Saul, decimated house of Jonathan to show kindness.  Is there anyone left that he can shower that covenant kindness upon?  

And that word kindness is the Hebrew word, “hesed” - covenant love, steadfast love.  And three times in our passage David mentions it.  Verse 1 he says, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul that I may show him kindness,” that I may deal with him in a hesed way?  Verse 3, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul that I may show the kindness of God to him?”  And then verse 7, “Do not fear for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father, Jonathan.”  And so to pursue this, David summons Ziba, Saul’s former servant, and asks this question.  It’s in verse 3 - “Is there anyone left that I can show covenant kindness?”  And Ziba tells David about this descendant and sends for him.  And we need to hear this - not because there was anything in this descendent that would in any way benefit David.  This young man had nothing to offer.  He was called because of the kindness and the integrity, the covenant faithfulness of the king, the covenant faithfulness of David’s heart.  And so Ziba goes and he brings Mephibosheth before King David.  It’s one of the great Bible names.  Kids, don’t do this now, but when you get to the car say Mephibosheth five times as fast as you can!  Mephibosheth - it’s one of the great Bible names.  

Mephibosheth: A Story of Desperation and Grace

Who is Mephibosheth?  Just a couple of details about Mephibosheth.  He is the son of Jonathan, the grandson of Saul.  He has had a tough life.  He was a prince, perhaps a future king, and in one battle his father and his grandfather died, virtually ending the house of Saul.  And so if you turn just a few pages back to 2 Samuel chapter 4 in verse 4 we have a little background.  We read that “Jonathan the son of Saul had a son that was crippled in his feet.  He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel and his nurse took him up and fled and as she fled in her haste he fell and became lame.  And his name was Mephibosheth.”  And so Mephibosheth is crippled in both feet.  That really seems to be stressed both in chapter 4 and in chapter 9.  If you look in chapter 9, that actually brackets this section.  In verse 3 when he’s first mentioned it says, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.”  And then if you look at the end of our passage in verse 13 that “Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem for he ate always at the king’s table.  Now he was lame in both his feet.”  And so it’s certainly stressed in our passage that Mephibosheth is a cripple.  And so our story is approximately fifteen years after the event that crippled Mephibosheth.  So he’s lived approximately fifteen years as a cripple in the ancient world.  And so he’s lost his family, he’s lost his position, he’s lost his wealth, he’s lost his potential future, and he’s crippled.  

And not only that, if you look at verse 4 it says he’s been at the house of  Machir in Lo-debar which is in the middle of nowhere.  I mean, that’s tough to weigh because that is where you take people like Mephibosheth because he’s an enemy of the state.  He’s an enemy of the state because he’s associated with the house of Saul, someone who over and over and over again tried to kill David.  So he is despised by many people because of his connection to Saul. One commentator put it like this, that “when a new regime or dynasty came to power, the name of the game was purge.  The new king always needed to solidify his position and so he wiped out the old regime.  It was convention, political policy that you didn’t live if you were associated with the old regime.”  So what this means is that the only way for David as king to really be secure is if he hunted down every other direct descendent of Saul’s and killed them.  And so Mephibosheth would have been a potential rallying point for Saul’s opponents, which is probably why when he goes to David, Mephibosheth is most certainly visibly shaken - David says in verse 7 he says, “Do not fear.”  Mephibosheth is afraid because he thinks he’s a dead dog.  That’s what he says.

And so you see the picture.  This is Mephibosheth’s résumé.  He has lost his family, he’s lost his wealth, he’s lost his position, he’s lost his potential future, he’s crippled, and he’s an enemy of the state.  That’s not the best résumé.  He has nothing on his résumé sufficient to be at the king’s table.  And not only that, just imagine to be called into David’s house to be before the king.  “Why would you show this kind of favor to someone like me?  The standard policy for someone like me is to be in exile, to be killed, to be a nobody.”  He could have never imagined what was going to happen that he would receive the kindness of the king.

I remember a few years ago I was an intern at this church and Derek Thomas was preaching through 1 and 2 Samuel on Sunday nights and I remember when he preached this text he said, “Imagine David’s table.”  He said you would have had Amnon, David’s eldest son, Tamar who was believed to be extraordinarily beautiful, there was Absalom and it said of Absalom that from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet there’s no blemish in him.  You would have Joab, a nephew of David’s, the captain of the army - so a soldier, a man’s man - and then Solomon the future king.  And so just imagine Mephibosheth hobbling into that room, into that sight, every day for the rest of his life.  He must have been daily reminded as he slid his knees up under the king’s table that, “I do not deserve to be here.  I do not have any bargaining chips.  The king’s love stoops to people like me.”  Don’t you love the line in the hymn, “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place,”  where is reads, “While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast, each of us cries with thankful tongue, ‘Lord, why was I a guest?’”  That is Mephibosheth’s story.

There’s a pastor in the Chicago area associated with Moody Bible College named Joseph Stowell.  And Joseph Stowell tells the story of going to visit a ministry that they were supporting called The Shepherd’s Home for Children.  And The Shepherd’s Home for Children was a ministry that cared for and housed little kids that had Down syndrome.  And so Joseph Stowell was going and was getting a tour and was hearing about this ministry and the director was showing him around.  And the director said, “Pastor Stowell, we teach the Gospel here.  We teach that Jesus lived a perfect life, that Jesus died for sin, and that Jesus is going to come back and make all things right.”  And then the director said, “Pastor Stowell, do you have any idea what our biggest maintenance problem is here?”  And of course that’s kind of an odd question.  Pastor Stowell had no idea.  And the director said, “Dirty windows, because every day these kids run up against the glass and they press their hands and their faces against it and they say, ‘Is today the day that Jesus is going to come again?  Is today the day that Jesus is going to make all things right?’”  

Enemies at the King’s Table 

Do we realize that what qualifies us to be recipients of God’s kindness, of His faithfulness, is our neediness?  Will you own that you are a Mephibosheth today?  That’s who the king pursues.  Sinclair Ferguson says, “The greatest enemy of rejoicing in grace is the thought that God will be gracious because of something He sees in me.”  David loves Mephibosheth not because he’s attractive, not because he’s good, not because he’s productive, not because he’s faithful.  David loves Mephibosheth because of a covenant.  And so here we have a snapshot of Christianity.  We have a covenant keeping King who brings in a poor, crippled, broken, outsider enemy and gives him a seat at the table.  Is that not what Paul says in Romans 5?  That, “While we were still weak, while we were His enemies, Christ died for us.”  King Jesus’ kindness stoops to people like Mephibosheth.  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.  He went to a remote place to find His crippled, broken enemies and given them a seat at the table.  Will you own that you are a Mephibosheth today?  That’s who the King pursues.  So first, covenant kindness stoops to the unexpected.

II. God’s Covenant Kindness Exceeds Expectations

And the second thing I want you to see is that covenant kindness exceeds expectations.  Look at verse 7.  Verse 7 really forms the heart of this chapter.  “Do not fear for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father, Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father and you shall eat at my table always.”  Now remember we said that David made a covenant with Jonathan.  That is back in 1 Samuel chapter 20.  Jonathan actually says in 1 Samuel chapter 20 verse 15, “Do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever.”  And David swore to that.  That’s what he pledges and promises.  And I have no idea if when they made that covenant if all that David meant was that he wouldn’t kill Jonathan’s descendents, that he would be kind to them.  I think everyone would have said that if you don’t wipe them out it’s incredibly generous.  I mean, you know Saul did try to kill David a number of times, Jonathan is now dead - I don’t think anyone would have blamed David if he just kind of did the bare minimum.  But look what he does.  He does more than not kill him, he does more than spare him - he showers blessings upon him.  He showers him with kindness.  Can you imagine?  That’s why Mephibosheth says, verse 8 - “What is your servant that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”  In other words, “Why me?  Why would you be so favorable?”  The point here is that Mephibosheth realizes that his king does not just give the bare minimum.  

Notice all that David extends to Mephibosheth. Ralph Davis, in his commentary on 2 Samuel, says that verse 7 here is “the hinge and heart of this chapter.”  He says, “The king promises three things to Mephibosheth.  He promises protection, provision, and position.” 

The King’s gift of  Protection

And so look at verse 7 - first protection.  David says in 7a, “Do not fear for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father, Jonathan.”  Again, I would love for us to be able to put ourselves in the place of this poor, crippled, rejected young man who is scared to death as he stands before this king, this king whose life was made so difficult by his grandfather, and to hear the king say, “Do not fear.  I will shower my love on you.”  So the first thing is protection.

The King’s gift of Provision 

The second thing is provision.  David says in 7b, “I will restore to you all the land of Saul, your father.”  This is a king.  Land was power.  Land was riches.  Land was wealth.  “I am going to, by an act of my love, move you from poverty to riches, a riches that you could not earn, a riches that you do not deserve.  I am going to do that as a result of my love for you.”  You have to imagine that Mephibosheth’s knees are getting weak as he takes in the grace that the king is bestowing on him.  

The King’s gift of Position 

And the third thing is position.  David says in 7c, “You shall eat at my table always.” This really is the capstone.  In other words, “You will be one of my sons. You will live in my courts.”  Imagine this young man without a father, without a home, and for the king to say to him, “You are my son.  You are a child of the king.  You will banquet at the king’s table.”  And David promises protection and provision and position and that’s what he extends to Mephibosheth.  

And yet this is our story too.  Out of the bounty of the King’s heart He has protected us.  And wherever you are at this morning and whatever you are dealing with, remember and hold fast to the promises of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who protects His people.  Listen to Isaiah 54:10 - “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, not my covenant of peace be removed.”  Isaiah 46:4 - “Even to your old age and grey hairs I am He.  I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you.”  And He gives us provision.  He has provided for us.  Psalm 84:11 - “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  Romans 8:32 - “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things.”  And He’s given us position. He’s given us an identity.  He’s adopted us.  Romans 8 - “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  John 1 - “To all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave us the right to become children of God.”  The point is, our King showers us with blessing after blessing after blessing.  He gives us protection, provision, and position.

I am the middle of three boys.  I have an older brother, two years older, and a younger brother who is six years younger, and my sweet mom has always talked a really big game from the time that we were kids that when Christmastime rolled around all three of us would get an equal amount of Christmas presents.  And so she put a lot of time and energy into making sure that it was fair.  That’s what I’m for - just make it fair!  And she did a really, really good job for about twenty-six years.  And three and a half years ago I got married and so Lauren spent our first Christmas with my family in Starkville.  And you know, I’m not great at math but the numbers looked pretty fair and then mom just keeps coming in with more and more presents and Lauren quadruples the cap!  And you know, she kept saying, “Susan, this is too much.  Ya’ll are being too good to me.  This is too much.”  

Recipient of the Riches of Grace

Is that the posture of our hearts towards Jesus this morning? “You have been too good.  How could You be so faithful to me?  How could You pursue me and forgive me like You do?”  Christian, you are engraved on His heart and unsnatchable from His hand.  You are beloved in Him, betrothed to Him, kept by Him.  Your citizenship is in heaven.  You’re in robes of righteousness.  Your hairs are numbered.  You have been loved well.  And are you regularly recounting the ways that God has been faithful to you?  Are you reminding your heart and fathers are you reminding your children?  Are you raising up Ebenezer stones and reminding yourself that this is your story?  Mephibosheth didn’t deserve all of this - all of Saul’s land, all of Saul’s possessions - but Jonathan did.  And Jonathan’s work and Jonathan’s covenant faithfulness is given to Mephibosheth.  And in he comes, into the king’s presence and to the king’s feast and to the king’s table.  You and I, we don’t deserve this, but Jesus does.  And His work and His covenant faithfulness is given to us so in we come, to the King’s table and to the King’s feast.  “While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast, each of us cries with thankful tongue, ‘Lord, why was I a guest?’”  Is that your story?  Will you own that you are a Mephibosheth this morning?  May God help us to be able to say with great joy, “My hope, my only hope is in the bounty of the King.”  Let’s pray together.

Father, we thank You that You have made us Your people.  Great is Your kindness and great is Your mercy to come to us and so we give You thanks and praise in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Please take your hymnals out and we will sing number 378, “Hear O Lord, I See Thee Face to Face.”

Hear the Lord’s benediction.  Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, now and forevermore.  Amen.

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