Friday, May 20, 2011

Faithful in the waiting.

My daily Bible reading this past month has taken me through the second book of Samuel. The last half of this book doesn't exactly contain the most uplifting of stories. Perhaps, the primary reason why it's hard for me to read it is due to David's sins. I don't like to read how a man after God's own heart fails. However, as disappointing as it may be for us, the LORD still allows us to see how He redeems David's mistakes. Like the time of the Judges, when corruption and strife seem to be filling the land, there is always a ray of light and grace pointing towards the hope of the coming Messiah. As the story of Ruth upholds the hope of the future Redeemer, so does the story of Mephibosheth.
We are first introduced to him in 2 Samuel 4:4...

Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about
Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

Next, we hear of him when David calls a servant, Ziba, from the house of Saul. This is one of my favorite portions of 2 Samuel because here we see David at his prime. The ark has been brought back to Jerusalem, the scent of victory still lingers in the air from the defeat of Israel's enemies, and we are told just several verses before, in the previous chapter (8:13), that David "made a name for himself when he returned from striking down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt."
The LORD is pleased with him, blessing him wherever he goes, and the people are content with their king. However, David is not content. He has a great longing in his heart and he seeks to act upon it. That desire is probably the most strange thing a man of his position could ever see after. He seeks for anyone from the house of Saul that he may show them kindness for Jonathan's sake. The house of Saul? You mean, that arrogant fool that tried killing David one more than one occasion? Um, yeah. Can you even imagine what David's wives, concubines, servants, or children where thinking?
But here we see that God was giving Israel a living, breathing example of His heart for them through David.
As soon as David hears from the servant, Ziba, that a son of Jonathan still lives, David immediately sends for him. This just gets better.
Upon entering before the king, the first thing Mephibosheth does is fall on his face.

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." (2 Sam 9:6)

I'm trying to imagine the sense of awe and wonder that is filling this meeting between them. Immediately, David says 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." (2 Sam 9:7)

This is preposterous! Even Mephibosheth cannot fathom this:
And he paid homage and said, "What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?" (2 Sam 9:8)

David doesn't stop there, though.
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 lan
d 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. (2 Sam 9:9-11)

For a crippled young man whose family line was shame, no one could have thought his life to be redeemed, especially in those days. Oh the extravagant love of God!

As time moves on, we find that things quickly begin to change this joyful setting.
After David's in with Bathsheba, his house begins to fall apart. Incest, murder, deceit, rebellion, strife, battles. It's like an enormous cloud gets thrown over the kingdom and shadows all the souls. At this point, David's soul is humbled again before the LORD and he submits to the consequences that follow as a result of his sin, while still hoping and trusting in the goodness of God. David and his household have to flee from Jerusalem due to the uprising of his rebellious son, Absalom. After a great many turn of events, through more fighting and death, Absalom is killed and David returns weeping and mourning the death of his son. Shortly following this, David seeks to begin pardoning his enemies and those who turned against him to follow Absalom. I imagine his voice is filled with brokenness and sorrow, but with deep tenderness as well, as he tells them that they shall not die.
At this very moment, an unkempt, ragged young man approach the king. It's Mephibosheth.

He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety. (2 Sam 19:24)

We find out that Ziba deceived Mephibosheth and slandered him to David. Mephibosheth had not turned away from following the king. He had not delighted in the thought of receiving the kingdom of his father at the ruin of David. In fact, he had been waiting for his king to return safely. But Mephibosheth's focus remains on the kindness of his king.

"But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you. For all my father’s house were but men doomed to death before my lord the king, but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to cry to the king?" (2 Sam 19:27-28)

David sees the truth in Mephibosheth's words and is very willing to overlook the misunderstanding, as well as Ziba's sin.
And the king said to him, "Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land." (2 Sam 19:29)

Now, here comes the lines that, to me, speaks volumes:
And Mephibosheth said to the king, "Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home." (2 Sam 19:30)

This resonates with David's psalms:
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you."
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
(Psalm 16:2, 5-6)

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
(Psalm 27:13-14)

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Oh, let the world have it all, just give me my LORD!!

Mephibosheth waited. He didn't move from his place or think upon himself. He waited.

As I was thinking upon these portions of Scripture, I found the Spirit leading my heart to an unexpected lesson. I hadn't realize what an incredible picture this was of the saint's posture before God. I have this image of Mephibosheth bent over, rough and dirty, but quietly waiting. Maybe, at times, weeping. And weeping hard. Yet, still waiting.
Like the last half of 2 Samuel, life can become complicated and tumultuous. Our sin can get us into some nasty situations. Unexpected circumstances and difficult situations will arise. The answer to that one prayer seems to be going long unheard. There's no healing (spiritually or physically) for those who have been broken or afflicted. The doctors aren't reliable. Answers are hard to obtain. Victory over certain struggles, faults, or weaknesses haven't been granted yet. Direction on that one thing or for that one place hasn't been given.
Sometimes, giving way to inactivity and discouragement seems like the only options when the pressures of life become heavy.
But do we know the One upon whom we wait?

Mephibosheth waited upon a king who was imperfect. No doubt, he had known something of David's sins and faults. Yet, he loved and trusted in him.
We wait upon a King who is, in every way, absolutely perfect and good! And He fully delivers His promises!
It is frustrating when your heart begins to faint even though the incredible, wonderful facts of the Word are staring straight into your face. It's like I have to keep hammering the Truth onto my heart again. That is what daily meditation is, I suppose. Gentle, yet forceful hammering of the Truth into the depths of your soul.
O Father, I want to be faithful in the waiting, just like Mephibosheth! But I know that I haven't been...and I know that I could never be. So, my God, You must do this in and through me. I believe that I shall look upon Your goodness in the land of the living.

Waiting on Him for whom it is no vain thing to wait. ~ Jim Elliot


Majid Ali said...
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