Unexpected and Extravagant Kindness
Preached by Mike Aiken
Kings and Queens are royalty we cannot relate to as Americans living in the United States. The closest we have come to royalty in our country, in recent years, is the Kennedy family.1 Most Americans have heard of John F. Kennedy who was elected President the year I was born (1960) and was tragically assassinated in November 22, 1963. His father Joe was a powerful and influential man (U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain) who had high aspirations for each of his children. The oldest of his sons was killed as a pilot in WWII. John was wounded in the same war and was a hero. He later became a senator and eventually President as I mentioned. Joe, his father, had a daughter named Rosemary who was not as well known. She was born in 1918 and was a beautiful girl with a beautiful smile. She was on the front cover of People Magazine, September 14, 2015. She had struggles with depression and in those days, they treated things differently than today. Her father decided to have a procedure performed on her called a lobotomy which failed and made her much worse. She was only 23 years old and lived the rest of her life as an adult with the mind of a two-year old. The cover of People Magazine with her picture smiling was “The Hidden Kennedy.” She lived in obscurity (Wisconsin) since that failed procedure. She was never mentioned publicly and not visited by her siblings. According to People, “she was seen as a threat—and abandoned in an institution for decades.” I guess you could say she was an embarrassment to the family name which was known for its high achievers. With that in mind let’s turn to 2 Samuel 9:1-13 where we will see one who was hidden from public view as well and was living a life in exile and obscurity.
2 Samuel 9:1-13
1 And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 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.” 3 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.” 4 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.” 5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 6 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.” 7 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.” 8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” 9 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. 10 And you and your sons and 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. 11 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. 12 And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. 13 So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.
I. David’s Kindness to Mephibosheth- vv. 1-13
a. Kindness planned and promised- vv. 1-8
b. Kindness acted upon and realized- vv. 9-13
II. God’s Kindness to us in Christ
To set the table for today’s message about “the kindness of the king”, it is important to see what leads up to our story today about Mephibosheth. David at this point in his life is firmly and undisputedly the king of Israel. Saul, the first king of Israel was killed in battle along with his son Jonathan who was David’s close friend, and Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth with Abner sought to usurp the throne but failed. David was appointed by God through the prophet Samuel to be the next king of Israel. Chapter 8 shows the great strength of David as he has victory over his enemies. He subdues many nations which surround Israel and David is known for his power. He is a famous and successful “warrior king.” Many strong single leaders abuse the power they have, but with David we will see a different picture.
In the story before us we see “unexpected and extravagant kindness” by a king who could have easily done otherwise, humanly speaking, but David is a man after God’s own heart and he wants to show “the kindness of God” to a potential enemy- Mephibosheth. Though David’s reign is not perfect as we will see in sermons to come, he nevertheless, is imaging for us God’s Kingdom. As one commentator said it, “in his reign something of the character of the kingdom of God is on display.”2 We see in 2 Samuel 8:15 that David “reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people” (ESV). The NIV says it this way, “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” This sums up David’s reign as king which is pictured for us in his kindness to Mephibosheth.
Let’s look at the text itself to see the kindness of the king. In verses 1-8 we see that kindness is planned and promised.
1 Samuel 9:1 And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
This verse and verse 7 are key verses. The word for “kindness” is the Hebrew word Hesed3 which refers to God’s covenant love which is a faithful love. “Lovingkindness” is the older translation of the word which gets to the heart of what Hesed means. David in his question is showing that he is a “covenant keeper” for David is being true to the covenant he made with Jonathan 15-20 years earlier.
1 Samuel 20:14-17 “If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the LORD take vengeance on David’s enemies.’ And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.”
1 Samuel 20:48 “Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’”
These verses show us the formal pact of covenant love and faithfulness sworn between David and Jonathan. David didn’t say, “that was 15 years ago, and I was young and naïve when I made that vow to Jonathan” or “I feel differently today, I didn’t really know who I was then.” No, David was a man of his word and was true to his covenant vows as we should be in all our covenants, be they marriage, church membership, business agreements. As believers in Christ we should be known for keeping our word- as Jesus said let your yes be yes and your no, no. “Franklin Roosevelt made a speech in Pittsburgh in 1932 advocating restraint in government spending. Four years later he wanted to speak there in favor of government spending. He asked one of his advisors how he could manage anabout-face without seeming two-faced. The counsel was straight-forward: Deny you made a speech in Pittsburgh in 1932.”4 King David was not a “typical politician” who wouldn’t keep his word!
1 Samuel 9:2-8 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?”
Do you see how unexpected and extravagant this kindness is? It is “unexpected” because new kings usually killed those from the old regime who could be a threat to their rule. It is “extravagant” in that is more than just allowing a potential enemy to live. David promises to give Mephibosheth all his grandfather’s personal property and secondly, he promises that Mephibosheth will always eat at the King’s table which is a sign of the King’s favor and blessing. That is extravagant! Here was a potential enemy in exile, hidden in Lo-debar, which would be like living in Loysville in Perry County. It was far from Jerusalem where the King lived (probably east of Jordan river and north of Jerusalem).
Further proof that this “kindness” was “unexpected” is in Ziba’s reference to Mephibosheth’s disability and to Mephibosheth’s response to David. David could sense he was afraid (v.6) by how he said what he said, “Behold, I am your servant” and in verse 8 he showed doubt when he said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” Mephibosheth did not expect this- he’s a DEAD DOG! UNEXPECTED AND EXTRAVGANT KINDNESS!
It is one thing to plan and promise something, it is another thing to follow through with it. As is often said, “the road to hell is filled with good intentions.” Many people have told me their intentions to quit a habit or do the right thing. Words can be cheap but not with God and not with a man of God. David follows through with his plan and promise of kindness. In verses 9-13 we see Kindness acted upon and realized.
1 Samuel 9:9-13 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 and 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 Mica. 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.
As Benjamin’s sermon last week was entitled, “Far More Than We Can Ask or Imagine” so his title aptly fits what comes true for Mephibosheth. He is receiving from King David far more than he could ask or imagine! He was a dead dog living in exile in fear in a little unknown place called Lo Debar. Now he is a rich man! One day he was dirt poor and the next day he was a millionaire! From rags to riches all because of the faithful love of his father’s friend who promised to bless his household. What a picture of God’s forever love and grace. Totally undeserved and lavished upon his enemies- that’s the gospel. Our God’s love is forever and he will keep every promise he has ever made.
Now we move to the second point of the message: God’s kindness to us in Christ. In this beautiful story of Mephibosheth we see our condition as sinners before the King of the Universe- Jesus. Contrary to many commercials which tell us we deserve something (like a car), we deserve death. We are like Mephibosheth- dead in our trespasses and sins. Alienated from God, living in exile and hiding, like our first parents did when they sinned in the garden after taking of the forbidden fruit. Jesus shows kindness to us, his enemies, by dying for our sins on the cross and rising again for our justification. As Romans 5:8,10 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” This is the condition of every sinner before they come to God. It is because of God’s forever covenantal love that anyone is ever saved from the wrath of God and is transferred from being an enemy to a friend of God. This kindness was given to us in Christ but you must receive it by placing your faith in Jesus Christ who died and rose again for you. If you have never trusted in Jesus to save you from your sin I beg you to turn from your sin to Jesus today!
Lastly, there is a big application of this story today for us a Christians. We must like David care for those who are hidden, weak, and helpless like Mephibosheth. We must stand up for those who are unable to defend themselves. We often hear criticism of Nazi Germany and the death camps, and this is rightly condemned, but what about the millions of innocent helpless children in the womb whose lives are taken from them by an abortion in the name of convenience, or “it is my body and I can do what I want with it.” Consistent Christianity speaks out against such injustices and prays for a change in people’s hearts and behavior. Contrary to the charge of some atheists (Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins), Christianity is caring and compassionate. It is a help to the helpless, the homeless, the weak and the sick, the forgotten.
I close with two Christian theologians who exemplified this care for people who were sick or disabled. The first one is one of my heroes from the Reformation, Martin Luther, who risked his own life by taking into his house those who were dying from the plague. Secondly, the story of B.B. Warfield, the famous theologian who is least known for his untiring care of his invalid wife. Warfield for most of his marriage caring for her, nursing her every day. She fell ill during their honeymoon. He never left her for more than 2 hours and didn’t take speaking engagements far away because of his devotion to his wife. Church history is filled with true stories of men and women who sacrificed their time, talents and money to care for the forgotten and hurting of society. They showed kindness.
The challenge for us is to show kindness to our enemies and to those who are the weak and helpless around us. If you are doubting God’s love, look to David’s greater Son Jesus who has given us unexpected and extravagant kindness by his death and resurrection. As he promised to every believer, we shall sit and dine with him in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 19:9; Mt. 26:29).