II SAMUEL – DAVID: THE SECOND OF THE KINGS
IN ISRAEL AND MEPHIBOSHETH
"And David said unto him, Fear not, for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually (II Samuel 9.7)."
Predestination from Genesis to Revelation is not at all difficult to see for those who have been made to love a sovereign God. For all others it is probably foolishness. In this series of articles, we have attempted to set forth God's determination of all events, both in time and eternity. This determination of all events we call absolute predestination. By this definition, we mean that God has determined all events before they come to pass. If so, God's will and pleasure can never fail.
These Old Testament events from which we write are figures of those things declared to us in the New Testament. Call them types, shadows, figures, or pictures; all the events of the Old Testament lead us, in some measure, to a fuller view of the great work of redemption. We shall now examine the remarkable story of one such event: David's kindness to Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth.
Events leading up to II Samuel 9
Saul was the first king of Israel. God then rejected him (I Samuel 15.26ff) for David (I Samuel 16.1). According to Acts 13.21, Saul reigned for 40 years. When Saul died in battle (I Samuel 31.1-6), three of his sons, Abinadab, Melchi-shua, and Jonathan also died. Another son, Ish-bosheth, was made king of the 11 tribes of Israel by Abner, but his leadership was soon aborted. The house of David waxed stronger and the remainder of Saul's house waxed weaker (I Samuel 3.1). Eventually, Abner was slain by Joab, David's chief-of-staff. Ish-bosheth was murdered in his bed; his head was brought to David, who commanded his young men to slay Ish-bosheth's murderers (I Samuel 4.1-12). It was a bloody and unsettled period. The transition from Saul to David produced some spectacular moments; nevertheless, all went according to the unerring plan of God.
We first read of Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, in II Samuel 4.4. He was five years of age when news came that his Father, Jonathan, and his grandfather, Saul, were slain in battle. There is no mention of his mother; only the nurse that took him and fled, no doubt fearing vengeance on Saul's household by one of his enemies. During this flight, made in haste, Mephibosheth fell. The fall resulted in lameness in both feet.
Mephibosheth was a cripple for life. The incapacitated were often considered unworthy in ancient times. They were thought to have committed some glaring sin which resulted in their infirmities. Such was the opinion of our Lord's disciples when Jesus observed a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind (John 9.2)?" Ridiculous opinions usually produce ridiculous questions. The Lord, however, had a blessed answer for His confused followers. It applies as well to Mephibosheth as the man born blind. "Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him (John 9.3)." God had a purpose in the man being blind. It was to manifest His works in his deliverance. God also had a purpose in the lameness of Jonathan's son. If any are too timid to call this purpose predestination, we beg of them to explain to us what it is.
Mephibosheth's affliction was part of the eternal plan of God. It was for his good and for the glory of God. Would the deniers of God's sovereignty prefer to say all this was the sad result of bad fortune in the life Mephibosheth? Consider then: "I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord (Zephaniah 3.12)." Just so, Mephibosheth was afflicted and poor, left alone, deserted, helpless, living out his days until deliverance came by David. Accordingly, Mephibosheth did trust in the name of his Lord at the appointed time.
David's desire to show kindness
"And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan's sake (I Samuel 9.1)'?" David was a great man in practically every aspect of his interesting life. Despite his great and noble qualities, David was also a bloody man of war; fierce, and often uncompromising. Many of his foes found this out to their grief. Why then, at the time of conquest, of near absolute authority over the whole realm, would David pause to show this unknown cripple his kindness? The answer is not difficult to discover. For those taught by the Lord the answer is this: God controls our affairs. We are not directed by our whims and wishes, except as they fulfill the eternal purposes of God. "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps (Proverbs 16.9)." That applies to David as well as us today. Again, "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand (Proverbs 19.21)." Though David devised, the Lord's counsel alone would prosper. We may conclude then, whatever did come to pass, was from the counsel of the Lord.
Behind the compassion of David to an unknown cripple was something far superior to sudden impulses to show momentary kindness. David's actions reveal (by illustration or figure) the very core of the elect sinner's relationship with a saving God. David had put himself under covenant obligation to Mephibosheth before the lad had ever been born. Not just once did David covenant, but at least three times he swore himself to this unknown heir. "Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul (I Samuel 18.3)." "And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the Lord, that I die not: But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever: no, not when the Lord hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth, So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the Lord even require it at the hand of David's enemies. And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul (I Samuel 20.14-17)." "And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city (I Samuel 20.42)." The reader will pay due attention to the wording here: "...between my seed and thy seed for ever." And finally, "And they two made a covenant before the Lord: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house (I Samuel 23.18)."
The motive that moved David to inquire of any that remained of the house of Saul is clear. David was bound by a three-fold covenant to show kindness to the seed of Jonathan. Serious investigation respecting the necessary qualifications to receive the beneficence of David are revealing. David sought someone in particular to redeem his covenant pledge to Jonathan. What then was the first and foremost qualification necessary to receive this particular kindness from the hand of David? Simply this: one must be of the house of Saul. The covenant benefits would fall only to such as had a family tie to the first monarch of Israel. It was someone from the house of Saul being sought out. Well-wishers, close allies, servants or neighbors need not apply. David had entered a covenant! The terms involved the seed of David and Jonathan. Seed! Let the opponents of a seed union disparage the truth if they must. It is cause for rejoicing that a greater covenant than that of David's was made to embrace the seed of the Lamb of God. "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation (Psalm 22.30)." "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53.10)." "That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed (Romans 9.8)." Clearly, this cannot be speaking of the fleshly seed of Isaac, for the language is ". . . they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God."
Ziba, Saul's servant
"And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he (II Samuel 9.2)." Ziba was a cunning fellow. With some diligent searching, most anyone can uncover his treachery and deceit. Someone, left unnamed in Scriptures, brought Ziba before David. It is probable Ziba was thought to be the best prospect for the king's kindness. David, though familiar with the house of Saul, did not recognize Ziba. It is very likely Ziba avoided public scrutiny, and for obvious reasons, as will be seen. Ziba also was well practiced in the polite platitudes of palace prevarication and polish. "Art thou Ziba?" David asks. "Thy servant is he" was the swift response of Ziba. No allegiance to Saul from Ziba at this critical juncture. In this writer's opinion, Ziba says, "I'm your man! Look no further."
David, however, looked beyond Ziba. He had not summoned servants or slaves to honor his covenant with Jonathan. The recipient of David's kindness had to be of the seed his covenant embraced, and Ziba did not fit the qualifications, no matter his intentions. Was this simply good will on the part of David? "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21.1)." Unless this text is only wasted verbiage, and may the Lord forbid, David, the king, was turned in heart whithersoever God willed. In this case, it was toward Mephibosheth, the seed of Jonathan. (Is it not amazing that Arminians can accept the wildest theories respecting free will and yet either ignore or deny the force of such texts as Proverbs 21.1?)
"And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet (II Samuel 9.3)." Ziba might well have abandoned his cunning desires, but he did not. The king's request appeared to be void of any prospects that Ziba would receive David's kindness, but Ziba had strong reason to press his personal agenda. Notice the response of Ziba, how it was colored with language detrimental to Mephibosheth. "Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet."
Did those words exhibit pity or compassion? Anyone who believes Ziba provided this information from compassion for Jonathan's poor, crippled son has not been well-schooled in the study of human nature. "A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer (Proverbs 29.19)."
Ziba clearly understood the words of David. The king would restore the estate of Saul to the remaining seed, thus Ziba could not give a fair answer. Though what he said was truth, it was designed by Ziba to be prejudicial. The cripple was not able to handle the vast properties left by Saul, and this point Ziba would press upon David; Mephibosheth was lame on his feet.
"And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar (II Samuel 9.4)."
Several points are prominent in this response. First, the whereabouts of the seed of Jonathan was unknown to David, the very person who should know of his residence. Second, Ziba, a servant to Saul prior to the king's death, knew exactly where Mephibosheth resided. Moreover, Ziba did not hesitate to reveal the location.
Mephibosheth was far to the north in Lo-debar, which apparently means barren, or no pasture. It seems Machir, the benefactor, was himself in poor straits. This, Ziba obviously thought, would further render Mephibosheth undesirable in the eyes of David.
How perverted are the opinions of the carnal minded. Paramount in the thinking of Ziba, however, is the necessity of keeping David and Jonathan's crippled son apart. Ziba was prospering on the former estates of Saul, while Mephibosheth languished away in poverty and obscurity. According to verse 10, Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants under his care. The loss of Saul's former estates would cripple Ziba financially as sure as Mephibosheth was crippled naturally. Ziba was no friend to David's plan! Ziba had no desire for David to show kindness unless he received it.
Ziba had cast his lot into the lap but the whole disposing of the matter would be of the Lord. We shall return to the subject of Ziba shortly.
"Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar (II Samuel 9.5)." Of the many expressions used throughout the Bible to indicate a bringing unto, fetched seems the most expressive. The primary meaning of the word, fetch, in our dictionary, is to go after and come back with. This is precisely what David willed, and nothing less than Mephibosheth appearing before the king would satisfy his intentions. David sent and fetched this crippled son of Jonathan. This is beautifully illustrative of our Lord gathering His elect to Himself from their awful condition. Like David, the Lord fetches.
David sent no invitation to Mephibosheth. Nor did he suggest the cripple drop by when convenient. He tendered no offer of crutches or a walking stick to assist the cripple in his journey. David determined to have Mephibosheth before him so the kindness of his covenant might be conferred. (It would take the daring of a demented devil to suggest David had anything in mind other than the personal appearance of the crippled son of Jonathan as soon as possible.) Moreover, it seems clear that Mephibosheth would come by being fetched; nothing more; nothing less. From first to last, the entire plan, and all necessary to implement the plan, flowed from the heart of David. Mephibosheth was totally passive throughout.
David sent and fetched Mephibosheth out of the house of Machir. There was no message to the cripple warning him to leave his surroundings. Modern religion might have suggested that David say, "Mephibosheth; if you will just take the first step I will meet you the rest of the way." "Please; won't you come now? Tomorrow's sun may never rise. O, why not tonight?" May God be praised, no such nonsense came from David. His purposes and resolve were equal to the circumstance. David sent and fetched Mephibosheth for he was determined to show him kindness. There was no offer involved. No contingencies encumbered the issue. The only qualifications necessary for Mephibosheth to be fetched was his seed relationship to the covenant makers. Mephibosheth had all the necessary qualifications before he was ever born. David had all the necessary resolve to bring the matter to its designed end. No conditions or probabilities here.
When David fetched Mephibosheth, he not only drew him out of the house wherein he resided, he fetched him from Lo-debar! Some rays of the resplendent glory of our deliverance shine through from this episode between David and the seed of Jonathan. Mephibosheth was fetched from Lo-debar. Just so are all the vessels of mercy, chosen in Christ before any of them were born, fetched from the waste howling wilderness of this life's sojourn. All the chosen are raised up from their Lo-debar and translated from the kingdom of darkness and despair to the marvelous kingdom of light where our King David shows us the kindness of His covenant. Surely, King Jesus has called His sons from afar! As certain as is His purposes, when our King calls, we answer.
Who can tell the unlimited number of precious sermons that have been preached from this wondrous theme? Even some in the conditional camps have recognized this as a beautiful type of the saints' heavenly calling. Sadly, however, they have not recognized the obvious threads of divine colors woven throughout the whole. If indeed this story is a figure of deliverance, then it must be so by God's approval Himself. It is doubtful any but scoffers would disagree on that point. But, if this figure has God's sanction, then could the story have unfolded any way except as it did originally? Certainly not. So then, as we view back at the major points of this story, we see their importance unfolding.
David must survive all the many dangers he encountered on coming to the throne. No David; no kindness. Jonathan must die so David could fulfill his covenant commitments. Had Jonathan survived the war with the enemy, when his brothers and his father, Saul, were slain, David would not have needed to seek out Mephibosheth. The son of Jonathan had to endure his unforeseen fall at the time his nurse sought to deliver him from any possible pursuers. Mephibosheth must become a cripple. He must become lame on his feet. Just here we pause to re-examine our thesis, that this episode is a divinely-sanctioned figure of God's delivering His covenant seed.
Question: has God sanctioned events of the Old Testament (such as the one here under consideration) to be used as types, shadows, examples, and figures? If not, we are sadly mistaken. We have then completely missed the meaning of such texts as Romans 15.4; I Corinthians 10.6 and Hebrews 8.5. Happily, most agree here. However, if this figure, where Mephibosheth becomes a fallen cripple, could somehow be another way, then did God give us figures hashed together with variables or contingencies? Was it possible that Jonathan's son not become crippled in his feet? Yes or no? If yes, then why did God give it to us this way? Moreover, would the type or figure have been complete had the lad remained whole and had not fallen, becoming a cripple? It is not difficult to see how admitting the possibility of events being any way other than they are, is to say God is not sovereign.
To take the point a step further, let the reader remember this; our conditional friends admit God predestinated our eternal salvation. They agree that Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 reveal the predestination of God in saving His people from their sins. Every circumstance necessary for that salvation is embraced in the predestinated plan. (Of course, they will attempt to extricate God from culpability respecting the sins from which He delivers His elect.) Then, we ask; why would not the types and shadows of that great salvation, as seen in the Old Testament, and as recognized by the New Testament writers, be also certain and predestinated?
How could Mephibosheth be a figure of our great deliverance if he had not fallen; if he had not been a cripple; if he had not lost his estate? On and on we might go but it can be fairly seen by those who love the Word of God that God has ordered all things. He has made them sure by His eternal predestination.
Mephibosheth before David
"Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence, And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant (II Samuel 9.6)!" Honesty compels the reader to confess that, from first to last, David directed this union of the seed of Jonathan and himself. It was David's design, it was David's command that brought Mephibosheth before the throne. Had this poor cripple even dreamed of seeking kindness from the new king, he could neither dare or try. Kindness, like grace, is undeserved. It flows from the will and purpose of the giver and from no other source. David here beautifully represents the eternal throne from whence flows all the kindness of heaven to miserable, fallen cripples, who, despite their condition, are heirs because they are the seed of the covenant.
Mephibosheth was come! The wording compels us to consider just how passive the cripple was when called. The text does not say Mephibosheth came, as if he were actively responding to a summons. Rather, he was come, denoting something accomplished. Accomplishments were not in Mephibosheth's bag of tricks. No, his bag was empty.
When Mephibosheth was come unto David he fell on his face, and did reverence. This was Mephibosheth's second fall. His first fall rendered him helpless and this fall rendered him subservient to his restorer.
Who but the blind could fail to see the beams of holy light streaming forth from this scene? This was deliverance the outcast could never even hope for until his covenant king ascended the throne, and it is questionable that he was even aware the war was over and victory belonged alone to David. But, at the appointed hour, deliverance came. Mephibosheth fell before his king. It was the time for reverence. Let the opponents of predestination inform us what portions of this lovely story they dare leave to chance or free will.
Words of Comfort
"And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually (II Samuel 9.7)."
So full is this text of the glory of God's great salvation that we may barely touch the surface. "Fear not." How familiar are these words to all the royal seed of Christ.
Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismay'd!
I, I am thy God, and will still give the aid,
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
Deliverance had come. David would surely shew kindness. Was not his kindness firm as his decree? Moreover, since Mephibosheth was Jonathan's seed, David would restore all the land of Saul to him. Such bounty could not be imagined but there it all was; simply because Mephibosheth was of the family unto whom David was pleased to show the favor of his covenant. There was more!
"And thou shalt eat bread at my table continually." Come and dine, Mephibosheth! All things are ready. Eat at the king's table. Make no preparations; come as you are. The kindness of the king is as complete as his will. Mephibosheth's mind had been set at ease; his future was secured and all because of the love David and Jonathan shared. If this does not give us a complete figure from the Old Testament of our great salvation, where then must we look for it?
Back to Ziba
Mephibosheth confessed himself but a dog. David then called to Ziba, Saul's servant and said "...I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread always at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants (II Samuel 9.9,10)." There could hardly be anything possible that would more crush the spirit of this squatter. Ziba was no small time beggar, bleating his case at the hearts of the charitable. No! Ziba had fared sumptuously on the estate of Saul with at least 35 able-bodied men to reap his harvests for him. Now, however, in one pronouncement from David, Ziba is back in the business of being a servant himself. It can hardly be wondered then that Ziba would one day attempt to stab the cripple in the back, for so he did (II Samuel 16.1-4).
Ziba and all his house were servants afterwards to Mephibosheth (verse 12) but Jonathan's son "...did eat continually at the king's table; and was lame on both his feet (II Samuel 9.13)." It cannot be only a casual repeating of the description of Mephibosheth when the chapter ends with "...and was lame on both his feet." As a figure of the delivered sinner we see the son of Jonathan restored to favor at the king's court and find him eating daily with the monarch. However, none of this changes the condition he acquired in his fall. He remained a cripple in the flesh. Mephibosheth would take the effects of his fall to the grave. Those readers with an understanding of the old and new man in a believer will see the significance of this.
J. F. Poole
Volume 14, No. 1