Tuesday, January 20, 2015

David's Dead Dog - or - Ripples of Grace

He was damaged goods - the only survivor of a failed empire. In the great escape when his grandfather and father died in battle and the new king came to power, his governess dropped Mephibosheth, and he was injured - crippled for life. He was only five years old at the time. His older brothers were all killed in the people's zeal to eradicate all traces of his grandfather's kingdom.

Servants carried him to safety and he lived a quiet, unassuming life, far from the public eye. He stayed out of harm's way as the battles for the control of his country raged near and far. He contributed nothing to the war effort - he could not. His life depended on staying safely anonymous. 

And he thought he did. 

Then, the tables turned - he received a summons to appear before the king. "This is it," he must have thought. "I'm dead meat." 

But the king did something totally unexpected, way over the top. "Your father was my best friend. I want to make sure you never want for anything. So I am restoring your grandfather's land back to you. It's yours," King David told him. "Your grandfather's servant Ziba will look after it for you, it's all arranged. And as often as you like, every day if you want, you can eat with me and my sons at my own table in the palace." 

David was within his rights to have Mephibosheth - and his son Mica - killed. Yet because of Mephibosheth's father, Jonathan, David chose to be generous to this young man. You can read the story for yourself in 2 Samuel 9.

"Who am I," Mephibosheth marveled, "that you would look at a dead dog like me?" He was keenly aware that he was a cripple. He KNEW that he could contribute nothing to the king's wealth or power, that he was actually a drain on the king's resources. 

Photo "Nicely Arranged Table" courtesy of marin at
But David was true to his word - he restored all of Saul's lands and appointed Ziba and his sons to look after it, and Mephibosheth? 

Mephibosheth ate - sumptuous fare beyond what he could imagine- every day in the private residence of the king. He was waited on hand ... and foot. He became a treasured part of the family. 

And he knew it. Never again did he ever have to ask King David if it was okay for him to walk into the palace. He just walked in. The right was already his. It was a done deal.

And he never - ever - forgot what the king did for him. He never took it for granted. He had a new life. He had a new start. His son Mica had a future. Gratitude was his daily companion. He grew to love the king.

Gratitude, love, and devotion are always the natural response to grace.

And even when David messed up big time, and eventually had to go on the run again (this time from his own son) Mephibosheth remained faithful, loyal to his benefactor. In fact, he made a vow that he would not cut his hair until the king returned to his home from being in exile. 

In the meantime, Mephibosheth's servant Ziba lied to David, saying that his master had designs on the throne. David believed him and gave Saul's lands to Ziba. But Mephibosheth stayed at the palace. He had been given that right, and it was never taken away.

After Absalom's death and David's return to the palace, Mephibosheth was able to tell the king the truth - that he had never wanted to return to the monarchy - that Ziba had lied.

David didn't go back on his word to Ziva - he just said that now Ziba and Mephibosheth would be co-owners of the property (remember that in those days, land was wealth...)

But this time it was Mephibosheth's turn to surprise David. "Let him have it all," he said. "I just want to stay with you."

"I just want to stay with you. Yes, Ziba wronged me, spread lies about me, and stole the inheritance you gave to me, away from me. But as long as you and I are together, my king - that's all I really want."

If we'd been able to ask Mephibosheth how he was able to let go, why he was so devoted to the king, I'm sure he would have said, with a shrug, "He rescued me." In other words, "He had every right to have me killed but he showed me mercy instead. I already have everything I need with him; why would I hold onto something else? I hold no ill will toward Ziba - I just want to be with the one who chose me." 

That's how grace works - from the top down - from the inside out. It creates ripples that touch everything and everyone with whom we come in contact. It remakes us. It transforms who we are, how we think about ourselves, and inevitably how we think about the people in our lives.

Life eternal - and grace so big - what's not to love about that?