It is good to have you here, this afternoon. Today, I want to talk to you about faithfulness and thankfulness, by going back into the Old Testament and looking, again, at the life of David. If you were here in the past weeks, you know that we have been in II Samuel for a while, now. I hope that you have enjoyed the many lessons you have heard. I know I am excited about some of the things I found. So let us go back to the text, once again, and let me remind you of our story.
At first, Saul is king over Israel and David is a young shepherd boy. But Saul has fallen away from the Lord’s favor and, now, he has problems. One of his problems is that he is filled with an evil spirit. From time to time, this evil spirit will plague him and he will go insane. It makes everyone, around him, miserable. Finally though, one day, one of the servants of the king says, “What we need is someone to play a musical stringed instrument for the king and, perhaps, that will soothe him.” So they go out and search until they find this young boy, David, who is very accomplished at playing a stringed instrument. They bring David to Saul and every time Saul goes into one of his rages, David begins to play. So David and Saul begin to build a relationship with each other. And time passes.
The next thing we find is that the army of Israel is about to fight with the Philistines. But they are afraid and are not moving forth. Out there, in the valley, is a giant, named Goliath. He is over nine feet tall and he keeps crying out to the army of Saul to send one man for a fair fight. “The winner will take it all,” he says. Of course, no one dares to go fight. Everyone is hiding until one day when David shows up with food for his brothers and their chief. He is there, also, to inquire about their health. He hears the giant, Goliath, and he fumes with anger. He goes into the valley and fights and, by the help of God, he wins. Now, Saul takes David into his house. Saul and David become like father and son. Meanwhile, a friendship is also developing with Jonathan. David becomes a military leader. He goes out and fights and wins every time. God is blessing him!
But, there is a problem. Saul is becoming jealous. The people, in the streets, are crying, “Saul has killed his 1,000’s; but David has killed his tens of 1000’s. And Saul becomes increasingly jealous. He becomes so jealous that he, finally, seeks to kill David! And David, now, must run for his life! He leaves the land of Jerusalem, even the land of Israel. It is a difficult time. There are several dark, black years of discouragement. But it’s in that time that God shapes the young boy. Saul’s kingdom will pass and David will rule!
Now the tradition was this. When a new king came to the throne, the first thing he did was to kill all the family members of the previous dynasty. That was standard practice. And Jonathan and Saul knew that. They knew, also, that God was blessing David. They could see he would, sooner or later, rise up to take the throne. So, one day, Jonathan says to David, in I Samuel 20:15, “….” In other words, he says, “When you become king, remember me and my family.” And even later, more than that, in I Samuel 24:20-23, you find Saul, in one of the rare moments when he had his senses. And he says, “…” So David promises!
And when you continue, you find, now, that Saul and Jonathan die. And David becomes king. It seems like the family members of Saul’s household, either, don’t know of the oath we read about; or they don’t trust David. For now, in II Samuel 4, you read what they do next. There is a little boy there who is the son of Jonathan. His name is Mephibosheth. And we read, in verse 4, what the family nanny does with him. “….”
And, now, with all that background, we begin II Samuel 9. Lots of water has run under the bridge. David, here, is thinking about Jonathan. His servants are gathered around and he turns to them and says, in verse one, “….” The servants don’t know. They look around and, finally, find a man, named Ziba. Ziba was a long-time servant to Saul. So David asks the same question of him. “Is there anyone left, to show God’s kindness to, from the house of Saul?” Ziba answers, in verses 3-4, “….” Now, I don’t know how significant this is, but the term, “lo debar”, in the Hebrew, means “no pasture land or land of desolation”. And, perhaps, Mephibosheth has found comfort, in the house of a man, who has desert land. Now try to put yourself in the moccasins of Mephibosheth. How would you feel about David? Probably Mephibosheth is prejudiced, biased in his attitude, maybe a little sour. Sometimes, going to bed, he might think, “Had it not been for David, my grandfather, or my father, or some relative of mine would still be king. Was it not for David, I would not have these crippled feet! And I would be in a land with pastures!” But, you know what the text says. More than anything, he is afraid of David. He thinks, if the king finds out about him, his days might be short. And so, he hides. But, one day, his worst fear is realized. There is a knock on the door and when they open it, the men, from David, are there. They say, “Mephibosheth, the king wants you!” Can’t you feel the terror pouring out of this story?
They take him to Jerusalem and, now, he falls to the ground, before the king. And we read, in verse 7, “….” Never did the young man expect to hear that. Have you ever gone, expecting to get bad news? And instead, you get there and find good news? Maybe it goes like this. You are in school and your name is called on the intercom. The principal wants you, in his office. And you are afraid. You wonder what you’ve done. But you walk into the office and the principal, instead of screaming at you, shows kindness. He tells you that you have been selected for a scholarship, at Harvard. And Mephibosheth thinks he is about to die. Bud David says, “Don’t be afraid. See verse 6. “…” What a statement! First, David says, “You get all the land that belonged to your grandpa, Saul!” Can you imagine? Saul was a king! He was rich. He had lots of land! And, now, Mephibosheth is also a rich man! And David says to Ziba, in verse 10, “….” But there is more than that. In that statement, not only does he receive land, but, secondly, he also receives a promise and an invitation. David says, “From this day forth, you will eat at my table.” That means when David would gather together with his family, his sons and daughter, crippled Mephibosheth would be there. That means he would be like his son. And thirdly, when David would entertain dignitaries, from other kingdoms, Mephibosheth would have a chance to be at the same table. Can you imagine?
But that’s not the end of the story. Years pass. Mephibosheth eats at the table of David. But David starts having many problems. It is mostly his fault, his doing. But one of the worst problems he has comes from a child of his: from his third son, Absalom! And for years, Absalom plots to see how he will overthrow his father and take his crown. Finally, one day, he is strong enough to do it and he comes right out in the open with his schemes. His father has to run from his home, from his city, and as he goes, the scripture says, “tears are falling from his eyes”. His heart is broken.
Few of his loyal, faithful servants accompany David! And it looks, at this point, like Absalom will be king and David will be killed. In fact, all the people, in Israel, believe this will come to pass. But David runs. And some people come to his help. One of them, at one point, is Ziba, the servant assigned to Mephibosheth. Ziba, in II Samuel 16, has a string of donkeys. He has cakes, loaves of bread and wine. And we read, in verse 2, “….” And now David is excited and a little comforted. He thinks of Mephibosheth and asks, “Where is Mephibosheth?” And Ziba says, in verse 3, “…” Do you understand what is happening? Ziba says, “David, Mephibosheth has betrayed you! He thinks, today, your kingdom will fall and they will search for a new king, from the previous dynasty. He thinks he will be the new king!” How would that make you feel? Does it make you a little angry? Have you ever done something very, very kind for someone? Have you ever treated someone wonderfully, perhaps given them a gift and then they respond in betrayal, to have them hurt you? Mephibosheth, according to Ziba, has betrayed David! And, yes, David is angry. David says, in verse 4, “….” And now, David keeps marching, with an ever, heavier heart!
But Absalom catches up and now David is forced to fight. God blesses David, though, and the generals of his army route the enemy. Absalom runs and, in his flight, his hair gets caught in a tree. He hangs there, all tangled up. And the Bible says that’s why a man shouldn’t wear long hair! No! But Joab comes and kills Absalom and ends the crisis. Davis is destroyed by the news. He still loved his son. But now, he can go back home!
On his return, guess whom he sees! It is Mephibosheth. And it is one of the most pathetic sights he can ever see! Mephibosheth has not trimmed his facial hair; he has not trimmed his toenails or cleaned his clothes. He is filthy dirty. He has been letting himself go, since David left Jerusalem, according to the Bible. And, in chapter 19, verse 25-28, we read, “….” Mephibosheth says, “David, Ziba lied. I didn’t betray you! I wanted to get on my donkey and follow you; but they deceived me. All I wanted to do to you was to be loyal!” Let us stop right there and look at two or three important things!
I. Sin will cause you to become a cripple.
Let us look at Mephibosheth, a little closer, and put yourself, if you can, in his shoes! Let me ask you this question. What crippled Mephibosheth? What cripples him? The answer is sin! Not so much his own sin, but the sin of his grandpa, Saul! God had intended for Saul to be king forever, and then his son, and then his grandson. But Saul sinned. And God took the kingdom away! And as a result, Mephibosheth had to be hidden and he fell and became a cripple. That really shows that sin always cripples. Always!
In 1997, there was a young man, in Humble, Tennessee, named Doug Mansfield. He was a football player. He was a senior in high school. And that year, they had an exceptional season with the football team. They went all the way to the State finals. But something happened, at the end of the game, and Doug’s team lost 14-13.
After the game, Doug was in a hot rage. He jerked his helmet off his head and slammed it to the ground. He leaned over as though he were going to tackle someone, with all his might. He started to run toward a brick wall. Don’t ask me why. It’s one of those macho things. When he hit the wall, his spinal cord severed, at the base of his neck, and Doug became a paraplegic, all because he lost his self-control, all because he lost his temper. Sin crippled Doug Mansfield.
But sin crippled more than just him. Think about his mother and father and his brothers and sisters. All his family became crippled because of his sins! And I find husbands and wives and young people, continually, crippled because of their own sins! And there is something else about Mephibosheth.
II. Sin will cause you to hide.
When we first hear of Mephibosheth, after his fall, we find him in a far away place, as if he is hiding! And that doesn’t surprise me this afternoon! Because I have found that sin always makes me want to hide. Maybe not right in the beginning, but when I begin to be called into account, I always want to hide. There have been those times when I wanted to hide from my parents because of my sins. There have been those times when I wanted to hide from my wife because of my wrong doings. And I remember Genesis, Chapter 3, when Adam had sinned, before God. And when God came to see him, what was Adam doing? He was hiding!
Of course you will always want to hide from the one who can call you to account because of your sins. And so, you look at Mephibosheth, this afternoon, and you see how his sins crippled his life and you see how he had to go into hiding because of his sins!
III. Be faithful in view of God’s grace.
And then I want you to look at David. And in him, I think, you will see a little about God. You know, we’ve talked a lot about grace. But I am not sure we fully understand it. But grace is defined easily when you look at David’s life or Mephibosheth’s. Grace is receiving a gift that you do not deserve and a gift you could never, ever repay! What Mephibosheth received, from David, was grace. He deserved death! But he got a seat at David’s banquet table. He deserved none of his land; but he received the full inheritance of his father! And guess what! What David did, for Mephibosheth, is exactly what God did for me and exactly what he did for you. We were all lost, in our sins. And we were all crippled and hiding because of our lives. And God didn’t have to lift a finger to help. But, while he didn’t have to, he sent his son, Jesus. And Jesus died on the cross; that I might live, as the child of the king; that I might sit at his banquet table, every, single dayoi of my life. He gave me the inheritance I didn’t deserve.
But, here is the point I want to make, this afternoon. What is my response to grace? What response do I make, in view of what God did for me? We need to learn from Mephibosheth because his response was one of thankfulness and faithfulness. See, while David is gone and while everyone, all over the nation, is saying, “Absalom will be king; let’s find his favor!” Mephibosheth remains faithful! From a worldly point of view, it makes no sense. If he can make friends with Absalom, maybe he will keep his land and his place at the banquet table! But Mephibosheth has received such kindness and he is not about to do that! And he stands in plain view, mourning for David. He knows he might be killed for doing so; that he might endure hardship. But he will not shave and take care of his laundry. And patiently, he waits, day after day, after day. He does not know if David will ever return! But he waits, just in case he does! He will not violate his relationship with the one who gave him such a wonderful gift! Do you comprehend what it means for us? When we recognize God saves us from the pit of sin, our response needs to be one of faithfulness. We need to say, “God, no matter what happens, no matter what pressure comes to my life, I stand by your side!” That’s why I don’t mind asking people to come to church, to dig in their pockets to give to Him. That’s why I don’t mind asking people to keep themselves unspotted from the filth of this world. That’s what we ought to do because of what God did for us. Here you find the secret of faithfulness!
What a powerful impact we would have if all the Christians said, “No matter what, I stand on God’s side! Even if they want my life! I’ll wait, as long as God wants me to wait. And I’ll suffer for as long as he wants me to suffer. And I’ll work for as long as I need because I am on his side!” Is this your attitude, this afternoon? Do you stand by His side? Why don’t you commit to do so, while we stand and sing!