Have you noticed there is always more than one side to any story? You have been looking at King David’s kindness towards a young man called Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan and grandson to Israel’s first king, Saul.
Let me help you see the stress implications behind the story from David’s point of view. That fateful day when Saul killed himself and Jonathan was killed was also a horrendous day for David. He lost his very best friend, Jonathan, and his mentor and a father-figure, Saul. David’s grief for Jonathan would be clear and unambiguous. A man he loved deeply had died.
But with Saul his grief was more complicated. Initially, Saul welcomed David into the Royal Court, but Saul’s jealousy and deep depression drove him to hatred of David and, on numerous occasions, he tried to kill him.
It’s a long running story but may I flag up a couple of episodes which created context for David’s kindness? During a pursuit of David, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. In the modern version it says Saul went into the cave to use the bathroom, although I doubt if there were any facilities there! Unknown to Saul, David and his men were far back in the cave. David could have easily killed Saul, but instead just quietly cut off a piece of his robe.
David followed Saul out of the cave and the conversation which ensued allowed David to show Saul that he was not his enemy and had spared his life. We’ll come back to this. (You can read this story in 1Samuel 24)
In spite of this, later in the story Saul pursued David again. David and his men creep up on the camp and find Saul asleep. Urged again by his men to kill his enemy, David refuses but takes Saul’s spear and a water jug from his side. (You can read this episode in 1Samuel 26)
After both of these incidents, David speaks to his men saying he will not kill the Lord’s anointed. After both incidents Saul apologizes and thanks David for sparing his life.
Interestingly, after the first incident, Saul asks David to promise that he will not cut off Saul’s descendants or wipe out his name. David so promises.
Forgiveness and kindness are also more than one dimensional. David’s forgiveness and kindness are characterized both by what he does in blessing Mephibosheth and honoring his promise to Saul. But equally, David’s forgiveness is hallmarked by what he refuses to do. Twice, he refuses to kill Saul, given the chance.
Others are experiencing David’s heart here, but David is also managing his own stress levels (though he would not have used the words).
Sometimes it is possible to paddle in the shallows of kindness and forgiveness. It is not only the words you say but the words you refrain from saying which reveal your heart. Forgiveness is not always after the fact, it is refusing to lash out when you could, it is refusing to wound when someone is vulnerable.
David was able to see past Saul’s behaviour to God’s anointing of Saul’s life. He was able to keep his promise before God as well as his kindness to Jonathan’s son. David was able to see outside of his own life story and his own interests and put the stories of his enemies as well as his friends into perspective.
David was called a man after God’s own heart, you can see the heart of God in this kindness, forgiveness and stress- banishing behaviour.
Work well today,
© Geoff Shattock November 2019
2 Samuel 4:4
4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)
2 Samuel 9:1-13
1David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. 3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” 4 “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” 5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. 6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. 7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” 8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons. 12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.
See also: 1 Samuel 31
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