2 Samuel 9 is no doubt one of the most beautiful chapters in the entire Bible. It is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible for reasons you’ll see today. In fact, it’s so meaningful to me that after moving here to become the next pastor of SonRise Community Church 5 and half years ago, this chapter was the text of my first sermon in this pulpit. And like a fine wine the beauty of this chapter has done nothing but grow deeper and richer to me. So, it is a joy to once again preach this text to you, the treasured Bride of Christ that I so love to pastor.

In order to understand the reason why the events of 2 Samuel 9 occur we must go back. Long ago Jonathan helped David when he was in great need. Saul wanted to kill David, David had escaped, and was on the run. In 1 Samuel 20 we see this play out. David comes to Jonathan secretly and asks why his father Saul wants to kill him. Jonathan doesn’t believe it, David insists on it, and the two agree on a plan to find out the truth. After Jonathan learned the truth, that his father really wanted to kill David, he warned David of what Saul was planning. And in the moment of their parting these words were said. Jonathan said to David, “May the LORD be with you, as He has been with my father…do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth” (1 Sam. 20:13, 15). They both wept, exchanged goodbyes, and Jonathan had the last word, “The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring forever” (1 Sam. 20:42).

Fast forward to the present moment. Saul and Jonathan have died, David is king, and the Lord has cut off the enemies of David as chapter 8 systematically displayed.[1] What does David now set his mind and heart to do? David remembers his covenant with Jonathan and seeks to show steadfast love or kindness to Jonathan’s house.

Chapter 9 can be divided into two parts: Kindness Promised (v1-8) and Kindness Given (v9-13). Let’s dig in.

Kindness Promised (v1-8)

“And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 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.” And David said 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.” And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”

v1 begins with a question from David. A question that reveals to us David’s desire to make good on his promise to Jonathan years before. This question ought to astound us. Why?[2] Kings who take over a nation usually don’t show kindness to the family of the former king. When a new king took the throne the name of the game was to purge. You don’t have to look around Israel at the pagan nations to see this happening, you’ll only need to look within Israel to see this happening. Baasha (1 Kings 15:27-30), Zimri (1 Kings 16:8-13), or Jehu (2 Kings 10:1-11) are examples of kings within Israel who hunted down and eliminated the remnants of the previous regime. “This was conventional political policy: solidification by liquidation. Everybody knew it; everybody believed it; everybody practiced it.”[3] But with David this normal kingly pattern doesn’t persist.[4] No, he desires to show “kindness” to Saul’s house for the sake of Jonathan. Question: why? Answer: covenant. How do I get to that answer? The phrase in the ESV in v1 saying ‘show him kindness’ in the Hebrew is ‘do hesed.’ Hesed, as we’ve seen before, always has covenant in view. It is more accurately defined as ‘covenant faithfulness.’ This is what David has in mind in v1, v3, and v7 when he says ‘kindness.’ Don’t miss this. Because David and Jonathan made a covenant with one another long before, David now seeks not to just be kind to a man in need but seeks to make good on his covenant responsibilities to Jonathan.[5] David had been the recipient of Jonathan’s hesed, God had promised that His hesed would never depart from His house forever…so it isn’t a surprise to see David seeking to show hesed now. Things move quick the next few verses. In v2 Ziba, a servant of Saul’s house, is brought in who makes it known to David in v3 that there is still a son of Jonathan living, who is crippled in his feet. In v4 we learn where this son of Jonathan lives, and in v5 David sends for him.

Pause here Church. This is difficult for our world to wrap their minds around. I wonder if it is for you. It’s likely been 15-20 years since the moment David and Jonathan made their covenant but the mere pass of time doesn’t change David’s promise.[6] The agreement they made to each other before the Lord in the past still gladly binds him in the present. What the world doesn’t get is that love, if it’s true covenant love, gladly promises – gladly binds itself – even gladly obligates itself. Most of you here recognize this reality. When we welcome in new members, when we install elders/deacons, when we do baptisms, and when we marry a man and a woman what’s always in view? Covenant! Promises, vows, and commitments are always made. And everyone who’s made such a covenant knows that these covenants stand firm regardless how much feelings ebb and flow.

The theologian B.B. Warfield is a great example of this.[7] Warfield is known mostly for his contribution to theology. His work on the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of Christ are some of the most faithful, insightful, and helpful ever written. But most don’t know about his marriage. In the late 1870’s he and his wife Annie lived in Leipzig, Germany while he was pursuing his studies. On one occasion he and Annie were hiking through the Harz Mountains, they got caught in a terrible thunderstorm, and had to hunker down and wait it out. Annie never fully recovered from the shock of that fright and became more or less an invalid for the rest of her life. For the next 39 years Warfield took care of Annie, never leaving her side for more than two hours at a time. Being aware of Warfield’s strong theological prowess one of his students was stunned to see him walking his wife around the Princeton campus one afternoon and commented, “…the gentleness of his manner was striking proof of the loving care with which he surrounded her.” Warfield knew what kind of husband he promised to be to Annie regardless what kind of wife she would be to him. What kind of love is this Church? Covenant love. This is David in v1-5.

When we get to v6 we see more beauty. “And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage.” This isn’t the first time we’ve met Mephibosheth. Back in 4:4 our hearts broke a bit when we saw his nurse drop him in her haste resulting in him being crippled in his feet the rest of his life. We now meet him again and our hearts are warmed. He immediately knows what to do if someone like him is brought in to see the king, in v6 he falls on his face indicating his submission to the king’s authority and doesn’t say a word. You can imagine the fear one would feel if for the first time in your life the king was summoning you to the throne. ‘What does he want? Out of all people why does he want me? Have I done something wrong? Have I not done something I should have? What does he want with me?’ It wouldn’t have been an easy task but a very painful one for him to fall on his face being crippled. Why does he do it? Because he knows what happens to relatives of the former king, so you can imagine the fear and dread within him.

But David, being a wise and gracious king, knows his fear and responds to a prostrate Mephibosheth by saying in a loud and (I like to think) friendly voice “Mephibosheth!” Before David can continue what he was just about to say Mephibosheth quickly inserts, “Behold, I am your servant.” Picture it in your mind. David yearning to show kindness to his best friend Jonathan, a heart full of love and warmth, hands graciously overflowing with abundance for this poor crippled man – it would have been a scene to behold. David’s first words in v7 soothe this terrified soul, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness (do hesed) 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.” Here David gives Mephibosheth three things: protection (David will show him hesed), provision (David will give him all of Saul’s land), and position (David will see that he remains at his table always).[8] Mephibosheth responds the only way he could’ve in such a moment of wondrous grace and says in v8, “What is your servant, that you should show such regard for a dead dog such as I?”

This really is a stunning scene to see.[9] In this culture Mephibosheth, being a cripple, would’ve been viewed very lowly. He couldn’t get around town to move about in the markets and do business for goods or food, people must carry him from point to point. So he likely felt the sting of being a burden to many and felt the weight of people acting like he didn’t exist, just walking past him, maybe even shielding their children’s eyes from him. He knew who he was, he knew his worth was about the same as a dead dog on the side of the road. Into that deeply wounded heart, enters the grace of the king. Notice though, David doesn’t come with any statement denying his lame-ness, no. He comes and extends grace and abundance knowing his need. Mephibosheth also, didn’t come hiding who he was, he wasn’t even able to hide his lame feet because someone probably had to help him (maybe even carry him) into the throne room. But hearing his words “Do not fear” would have been like a warm spring rain on a cold dry soul. It’s as if David’s saying, “I know who you are Mephibosheth. Never again will you lack, all that was your father’s is now yours, and from this point forth you will sit at my table and feast with me. No longer will you be defined by your disability. You are now a son of the king.[10]

Kindness has been promised, now see…

Kindness Given (v9-13)

“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 land 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. And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.”

Interesting way to end the chapter though right? It seems that a stress is put on Mephibosheth not only being able to dine at the King’s table but also that he is crippled. Why do this? What was the author thinking? Perhaps this is meant to show that the grace of the King is costly. It would have meant hiring more servants to wait on Mephibosheth, helping him, attending to his every need. Not only so, but the other fortunate people to dine with the King will now have to endure the company of a cripple for the rest of their lives. The kingly community in David’s house would have to adjust to this new adopted son. Lesson? Life together in David’s house was messy, but so good! Perhaps the chapter ends this way to give us one last reminder that Mephibosheth is at the table by grace, not his own merit.

Now that we’ve read through the whole chapter, I wonder if you noticed something about how the author refers to David? Each time Ziba is present in the scene the author refers to David is ‘king David’ or ‘the king.’ It changes with Mephibosheth. Never does the author refer to David as ‘king David’ no, with Mephibosheth it’s just ‘David.’ Lesson? There’s a personal touch in this the author wants us to notice that Mephibosheth receives.[11] A personal touch that only the redeemed enjoy. The grand meta-narrative of redemption is present here richly.

Conclusion:

So far in 2 Samuel David’s kingdom has shown us much of Christ’s Kingdom.[12] David’s kingdom was powerful and prevailed over much opposition just as Christ’s Kingdom is powerful and is now prevailing over opposition and will one day prevail overall. David’s kingdom expanded to the four corners of the compass as the wealth of the nations streamed into Jerusalem just as Christ’s Kingdom is now expanding to the four corners of the globe and will one day receive the wealth of the nations as those from every nation believe in the gospel. David ruled his kingdom with order and justice just as Christ rules and reigns over His Kingdom with perfect order and justice. Lastly, David’s kingdom expanded and David’s name was made great just as Christ’s Kingdom expands and makes much of the name of Christ. These things are beautiful to see. But I hope it’s clear now that we don’t just see similarities between these two kingdoms, we see similarities between these two kings. 2 Samuel is after all, a tale of two kings. In chapter 8 we saw a preview of Christ’s conquest over the wicked, now in chapter 9 we see a preview of Christ’s covenant mercy to sinners.

Hear me clearly. Long before Mephibosheth was born his family became enemies to God and to God’s chosen king, so too, long before we were born our family fell into sin and became enemies of God.[13] And until you and I come to see that we too like Mephibosheth are lame we cannot be healed. Sure, you may or may not be lame like Mephibosheth, but the reality is that you and I, and everyone in the world, have lame hearts. We’re not just lost, we’re not just broken and hurting, we’re dead in sin and under God’s just displeasure.

Even so, there is a greater hesed, a greater covenantal kindness that chases us down. Years after this moment, God’s people would rejoice as God’s great hesed and covenant kindness would once again be announced beginning also with ‘Do not fear.’ “…for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). In Jesus Christ God pursues the lame, and seeks and saves that which is lost, such that, “…the blind receive their sight…the lame walk, lepers are cleansed…the deaf hear…the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:5). Mephibosheth knew who he was in life, and responded adequately by saying, probably through a stunned joy, “Why would you show such marvelous grace to a dead dog like me?” This is not a morbid view of self, or a person who merely needs a boost in self-esteem. This is acknowledgement of need, of the lack of his ability to save himself. It is humble, gut level honest, and very God-honoring. Are these things you know yourself to be? Only those who honestly admit their sinfulness, their need, and their lack find redemption, find abundance, and find in Jesus all that their hearts could ever desire. 

I wonder if any of you see the grand kingdom reality, that God’s grace is like water, it only flows downhill.

Church, was David’s kindness to Mephibosheth exhausted when he brought him into his home? No! It continued strong forever and kept him in his home and at his table all his days! So too rejoice in this, all those who come to Christ will find Him not just strong to save us from our sin but strong to keep us secure and satisfied in His presence all our days![14]

Or as Paul says in Gal. 4:4-7, “…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoptions as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

David is first and foremost, in his kindness, a preview of Jesus Christ. But he is also an example, in his kindness, of what life in God’s kingdom looks like. Every Christian has countless reasons to be grateful to God for His grace and we show it by not only praising Him and giving our all to Him, we show it not by being not cul-de-sacs of grace but conduits of grace. Being so blessed by God in Christ, we now seek to be a blessing to all those around us. The house of King might be a messy place with so many lame sinners in it, but what a house it is!


[1] P. Kyle McCarter Jr., II Samuel (Garden City, N.Y: Anchor Bible, 1984), 262.

[2] Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Revised edition (Fearn, Ross-Shire Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 126.

[3] Davis, 126.

[4] Richard D. Phillips, 2 Samuel (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2018), 178.

[5] John L. Mackay and J. Gary Millar, ESV Expository Commentary: 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles, ed. Iain M. Duguid, Hamilton Jr James M., and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2019), 351.

[6] Davis, 2 Samuel, 121.

[7] Davis, 122.

[8] Davis, 123.

[9] Some believe David’s intentions here are less than kind. Critical scholars believe David is seeking to imprison the last of Saul’s line to ensure his own line’s future. Some call it a luxurious imprisonment. This couldn’t be farther than the case. ‘Hesed’ is the theme here. This drives David throughout this scene, and previews the greater and more surprising love of Christ to sinners like us.

[10] Robert Alter, ed., The David Story: A Translation With Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel, Stated 1st Edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Co Inc, 1999), 243.

[11] Davis, 2 Samuel, 123.

[12] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 255.

[13] Phillips, 2 Samuel, 178.

[14] Phillips, 182.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: