In 2 Samuel 9, we encounter an unlikely story in the kingdom of Israel. We find King David in the beginning of his reign extending an unlikely invitation to an unlikely candidate. Shortly after David takes the throne from the family of Saul, we expect to find him seeking to firmly establish his reign by wiping out all of Saul’s family. So when we read in 2 Samuel 9 that he was calling for Saul’s descendants, we should be holding our breath for the murder that is about to take place. Instead, we experience the opposite: David is seeking Saul’s family not to condemn and kill for the furthering of his kingdom, but rather to extend grace and mercy for the sake of his former friendship with Saul’s son Johnathan.
Let’s take just a moment to consider what it must have been like to be Johnathan’s son, Mephibosheth. The story tells us that he was crippled in both feet, because he was dropped as a child while fleeing from David himself. So he has grown up his whole life not only in exile, but crippled, making him totally dependent on the people around him. The dreams of the royal family are long gone, and the riches that once would have been his are a distant memory. He has become identified by his crippled feet and ashamed by his heritage being that of the former king. He probably grew up with a very real fear that King David might discover he is still alive and then choose to kill him in order for his own kingdom gain.
It may feel like we can’t relate with the story. Not many of us can relate to living in a kingdom and fearing for our lives by the hand of the king, but in a very real sense Mephiboseth represents a very deep reality we all find ourselves in at some point in life. We’ve all been crippled by the realities of sin in our lives, we all have experienced the ways in which the world is not right, and there is something within us that is not right. We are crippled and helpless to get out of the situation alone. Often, as a result of our crippled reality, we find ourselves in hiding. We attempt to hide how bad life really is, and we attempt to make light of our situation. We hide the parts that don’t look so good, or we cover up the areas of life that we have convinced ourselves no one will like. We hide our true identities and just hope no one figures out about the depression, the anger, the divorce, the diagnosis, or the past mistakes. If we can just get through life without the other people knowing, then maybe it will be alright. We spend so much energy hiding that we sometimes convince ourselves we aren’t really that crippled or that life isn’t really that bad. We just don’t talk about that one story or that one feeling.
Mephiboseth’s story doesn’t end with him as an outcast in a kingdom that he was once meant to rule. Rather, when David discovers Mephiboseth is still alive, he invites him into his family. He fully knows who he is, the condition of his feet, and the reality of his heritage, yet none of that seems to matter. King David doesn’t bat an eye at all the things Mephiboseth has been working so hard to hide. He knows, and he still wants him to be part of the family. He does not just give him riches and send him on his way, but asks him to sit at the table every day and participate in the riches of the kingdom as if he still was of a royal heritage. Why? Simple because he is the son of David’s best friend, Johnathan. It was nothing that Mephiboseth did or ever would do but simply because of who he was.
In all of our hiding, God invites us to his table. He seeks us out of the far edges and invites us to live a story that is not in hiding. A story that is not defined by our crippled condition or shameful past, but a story that is instead defined by who we are as children of the King. He not only restores us to riches, but invites us to sit at the table. Knowing fully the condition we are in, He comes and finds us, and when we expect death, He gives us abundant life. This is a picture of grace and mercy that is often beyond our comprehension. This is a reminder that we have a debt we cannot hope to repay but that Christ has cleared because of His work. The question is not, “Am I good enough to I have a seat at the table?” The question is, “Have I chosen to take my place at the table?” God is inviting us into His Kingdom, but we have to choose to leave our hiding and find our home in a place where the King fully knows and fully loves every aspect of who we are. Mephiboseth took a chance to accept a life he thought he would never have again. Will you too take a chance and leave your hiding place, and take your seat at the table?
By CRA Student Chaplain LilyAnn Matchett