Date: October 16, 2016
Bible Text: II Samuel 4:4, 9:1-12 |
It’s not that his name is difficult to pronounce. It’s his story that grabs and holds my attention. We don’t know much about the life of Mephibosheth other than a few verses about what happened to him when he was a five year-old child. In II Samuel 9 we read about him when we was a grown man with two crippled feet.
Mephibosheth’s name in Hebrew means --- “one who drives away shame” which is ironic because he was someone who knew deep down inside the power of shame. I mean, why else would he refer to himself as someone no better than a “dead dog?”
Well, this “dead dog” has a story with a powerful message; one that can remind us of the depth of love that our communion table symbolizes and why I refer to it as “The Table of Broken Bones.”
Mephibosheth’s story began years before we meet him in II Samuel 9 and years before David became Israel’s king; a call on his life God gave him when he was only a young teenager. Well, he may have been young when God called him, but David eventually became the greatest king in Israel’s history.
According to the Middle East custom of that day, when King Saul, Israel’s first king, died it was his son, Jonathan’s right to replace him as king. But, Jonathan was no ordinary son of a king. There was something more important to him than claiming his rights as a king’s son. Doing God’s will was more important.
An inner voice of persuasion convinced Jonathan that God wanted him to do something courageous; something sacrificial; something that would forever change his life, and David’s life, and the kingdom of Israel, and eventually the entire course of history.
Jonathan discovered something all of us do sooner or later; that there are times when God’s will leads us down a different path than the one we want to take or in a different direction than others try to convince us.
And whenever we yield to God’s will, we may never fully know in our lifetime the far-reaching impact it might have, as in the case of Jonathan as we will see when his story leads us to our passage in II Samuel 9 where learn about someone who thought he was no better than a “dead dog.” But, we’re not there, yet.
As he grew older, King Saul became mentally unbalanced and insanely jealous of the growing popularity of a young teenager named David; his son, Jonathan’s best friend. King Saul became so insecure he tried to assassinate David several times.
And that’s when Jonathan became aware that his father’s days as Israel’s king were coming to an end. Someone would be chosen to replace his father as Israel’s next king.
And that’s when Jonathan began to sense God’s Spirit speaking to him about God’s hand being place on his best friend, David’s life in a special way. He became inwardly aware that David was God’s choice to replace his father as Israel’s next king --- not him.
And that’s when Jonathan made a courageous decision. He gave up his right to replace his father and supported God’s choice; David. As I said, God’s will was more important to Jonathan than his rights as a king’s son. To paraphrase Jesus --- “Whoever wants to do God’s will must be willing to deny him or herself.”
In our passage of II Samuel 9, we read about David in his older years --- remembering the sacrifice Jonathan made for him when they were both young --- and the courage Jonathan demonstrated in yielding to God’s will. He also remembers that Jonathan and his father, King Saul were both killed in battle.
That’s why he wanted to do something to honor what Jonathan did for him --- and that’s when he learned about Jonathan’s son whose name was Mephibosheth --- a man crippled in both feet.
We read about him in II Samuel 4, when he was a child of five. His mother had died and his father, Jonathan was away fighting the Philistines; Israel’s most hated enemy. And young Mephibosheth was left in the care of a nurse, which is when his nightmare began.
According to II Samuel 4, one night word spread that the Philistines were coming. Mephibosheth’s nurse picked up his small body and ran into the darkness of the night. But, she couldn’t see in the darkness and she tripped and fell --- and Mephibosheth’s small body slammed against sharp, jagged rocks --- knocking him uncon-scious and he was left to die.
And in that fall his fragile legs were crushed and mangled. And when he regained consciousness, he discovered that he was crippled in both legs and would be for the rest of his life.
As he grew up, Mephibosheth began to experience some of the cultural values of his time, such as being cripple was not acceptable. It was interpreted as a sign of God’s judgment and who wants to associate with someone who is experiencing God’s judgment because of something they or their parents did to deserve it?
After all, why would he be crippled? But, think about this. If our worth as human beings is based on how much we know --- or how much wealth we have --- or what kind of job we have --- or the color of our skin --- or our cultural background --- or what faith group we belong to --- or our age --- or our looks --- or how long we have belonged to a church --- or ---
If our worth is based on any of those criteria, then no wonder many people, young and old, have a difficult time experiencing themselves as possessing intrinsic worth; worth that comes from being created in God’s image; an image of unconditional worth.
I once read a sign with these words --- “I’m O.K. and so are you ‘cause God don’t make no junk.” But, if that was true about Mephi-bosheth, then why did so many people look down on him in ways that devalued his worth as a human being created in God’s image?
In our scripture reading of II Samuel 9, when King David, his father’s best friend, invited Mephibosheth to live with him, why did he refer to himself --- not as someone with unconditional worth made in the image of God; not even as Jonathan’s son. He referred to himself as a “dead dog!” and you’d have to look far and wide to find something of value in a dead dog.
But, when King David looked at Mephibosheth he did not see a “dead dog.” When he looked into Mephibosheth’s face, David saw the reflection of Jonathan, his closest friend, which filled his heart with compassion. And that’s when David looked beyond Mephibo-sheth’s brokenness and saw his need for human kindness and gave him the gift of grace.
From a king’s compassion Mephibosheth was made to feel whole in spirit while crippled in body. He was now valued for who he was; Jonathan’s son and King David’s adopted son.
And I suggest that Mephibosheth’s story is no different than our story. We all probably have memories of times when we were made to feel like we didn’t count or judged because of something about us that was unacceptable to others.
And there have probably been times when we have acted like we had less worth than God created us to have. And there may even have been times when we felt that our worth was no better than a “dead dog” and that’s why Mephibosheth and Jesus and we share a common story.
Like Jonathan, Jesus surrendered himself to God’s will so that we could one day experience God’s healing power and forgiveness for our sins, which resulted in the broken bones of our spirits.
And like David, when God looks into the faces of our inner lives, He looks beyond our faults and sees our need and gives us the gift of grace. When God looks at us He does not see a “dead dog.” Rather, He sees the reflection of His Son, Jesus and remembers the sacrificial love that put him on the Cross.
God reaches down and embraces the broken bones of our inner lives and whispers the name of Jesus in the ears of our hearts and offers us the gift of forgiveness and salvation.
It is that gift of unconditional love that this communion table symbolizes. And when we symbolically meet around this table, we meet as a community of broken ones whose inner lives have been broken by sin and made whole by the sacrificial love of Christ. Our sins became the broken bones of his life as he hung on the Cross.
And so, because of a Jonathan named Jesus, we can become an adopted son or daughter of a David named God, Who invites us to live with Him in His eternal Kingdom for the rest of eternity. That is why we worship Him and that is why we lift up the name of Jesus.
And so my friends, my fellow Mephibosheths, welcome to the table of broken bones.