2 Samuel 4:4
Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was lame 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 it happened, as she made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.
“Broken” is the first word that comes to mind to describe Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. His story is told in three different episodes in the book of Samuel, and throughout his life he is–as many of us are–broken. Mephibosheth is broken in body, broken in family, and often broken in spirit. But Saul’s grandson also displays other characteristics that ought to remind us of how we ought to be.
Was Jonathan being ironic when he named his son “Mephibosheth,” which means “Idol-breaker”? That sounds more like the name of a prophet than a man who must depend on the kindness of others. Perhaps Jonathan had high hopes for his son’s future, seeing him as a warrior and the heir to the throne of Israel, the one who would overthrow the worshipers of Baal. (His name is given in 1 Chronicles 8:34 as “Merib-baal,” which means “Quarreler of Baal.”) One thing we should remember about the Word of God is that names have meaning–sometimes ironic, often prophetic, but nearly always expressing something about the character of the one so named.
When we first encounter Mephibosheth in the verse above, he is a child, an innocent. Caught up in the chaos after the death of his father Jonathan and his grandfather King Saul, the young lad is swept up by his nurse as she tries to hide him from Saul’s enemies. The war between Saul and David only lasted as long as it did because of Saul, who persisted in hating David even though David only sought peace with him. When Saul died, David was as distraught as any of Saul’s companions, but the war was far from over as the servants of Saul and David continued to fight. No doubt, then, Mephibosheth’s nurse thought the young prince was in danger and she sought to hide him from the continuing murder and battles. But her good intentions brought about the injury that scarred him for life.
Sometimes it is best to run away from the evil that arises in our lives. Often, we are left to face the consequences of our parents’ sins, and when we finally extricate ourselves from those situations, we are as broken as Mephibosheth. We walk with emotional and spiritual limps for the rest of our lives, and we may even try to hide from God. But God will still seek us, and He never intends us harm. Instead, He is calling us to His table.
2 Samuel 9:6-7
6 Now when Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself. Then David said, “Mephibosheth?” And he answered, “Here is your servant!”
7 So David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.”
No matter what our scars, no matter what are the sins of our fathers and mothers, no matter what road we have traveled, no matter how long we have hidden our face from God, He still seeks us out. God wants to give us a place of honor at His table! David could have persecuted the descendants of Saul, hunted them down to their end, and yet he chose instead to show them “the kindness of God.” (2 Samuel 9:3) God Himself wants to show us His lovingkindness.
Jesus is inviting us to dine with Him. He is inviting the broken and lame, the sons and daughters of sin and shame, those who have fled from God and those who never knew Him. Jesus has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11)–you and me and everyone else who were once slaves to sin and who now seek righteousness. Ours is not to be a bitter cup but a cup overflowing with mercy. Ours is not to be a one-time snack of crumbs but a seat at a banquet with the King of kings every day.
Earlier I mentioned that Mephibosheth’s name means “Idol-breaker.” This grandson of proud Saul, the son of Jonathan the best friend of David, might have set himself up to be so much more. He might have grown into a man full of his own importance, and he might have had others feeding his vanity simply for their own gain. But God allowed the boy to be broken so that he might learn dependence on Him, dependence on the mercy and kindness of God and of those who served God. There is no room for false idols in such a life.
But Mephibosheth is an “idol-breaker” also in how he reacts to David’s kindness toward him. The young prince might have stood in defiance before the man who seemingly usurped his grandfather’s throne. He might have stood indifferently before the new king, knowing that his lameness would not change at the word of a mere man. Instead, Mephibosheth humbled himself, prostrating himself before the king. With two bad feet, the young man must have known it would be difficult to rise again from such a position, and yet he lay down nonetheless. He even went so far as to ask why David would be so kind to a “dead dog” such as he. (2 Samuel 9:8) David’s favor and the restoration of Saul’s family lands and honor was all the answer the young man ever needed.
Will we approach the throne of grace so humbly? Will we break the idols of our own pride and rebellion, and fall before the Son of God and seek His mercy? Will we come before God just as we are–a product of our family’s past and yet possessing our own desire for God and His love? Will we prostrate ourselves, knowing that only God Himself could ever help us up from there?
This day, the King of kings has sent out a summons to all the sons and daughters of God, calling them to come to Him. Jesus Christ seeks not to destroy us, not to judge us by the sins of our fathers, not to humiliate us nor degrade us, but to lift us up, to feed us from His own table, to have us with Him continually. He who is scarred is able to overlook our scars. He who was broken for our sins is able to heal our broken relationship with God. He who is the epitome of humility and obedience seeks to show us God’s love and grace. Come now, and let us break our idols and cast down our crowns, and let us humble ourselves before the mercy seat of Christ Jesus, so that He will lift us up again to share in His glory forever.
Gracious Lord God, humbly I fall before Your throne this day. Like Mephibosheth, I know I am broken and must depend on Your strength and Your providence. Like David, I know my own sinfulness and need for Your mercy. So, please, Lord God, hear my prayer. Teach me humility and obedience, teach me love and mercy, teach me kindness and comfort. I come to Your table, Lord Jesus, hungry and thirsty only for You. Amen.