The messages for the next three weeks are a retelling of one of the most beautiful stories of grace in all of Scripture–David and Mephibosheth. You can read it in 1 Samuel 20; 2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 9; and 1 Chronicles 8:23-24.
Jesus Christ was born in the line of David and David’s life pointed 1,000 years ahead to the grace that Jesus would bring to the earth. This is a story for those who have suffered hurtful carelessness and neglect that have left them in dry, seemingly hopeless places of brokenness and shame. This interaction between the victorious king and the terribly wounded and shamed former prince expresses a universal longing for love, reconciliation and peace.
I relate the narrative from two perspectives. My words are inadequate to the greatness of this story. My telling it is intended to stir and encourage your own thoughts of grace and to point you to the Lord who loves you with an everlasting love.
I was a prince, a child of privilege, grandson of a king, running and playing in palace gardens, my every need provided.
Then trouble reached my family. My grandfather’s pride and arrogance brought the fall of our house. He was killed and my father with him when God favored his rival.
The person responsible for my care and well-being panicked and ran with the news. She was careless. She dropped my little body on the stone steps.
The fall broke my bones. Every step I take is painful. I am a cripple. Neither leg works right. I will never run and play again. I don’t even limp. I shuffle.
I live in Lo-Debar, which means “Nowhere:” No community, no cultivated fields and groves, just a hot, dry, unrelenting silence.
I endure it in this God-forsaken place only because I have no choice. I cannot run away. The few people here with me may have legs, but they might as well not because they too are nowhere and have nowhere to go.
Loneliness is like one of those spiny desert plants whose only reason for being is to prevent someone else from eating it. We live only to spite those who do not care if we die and do not care if we live. It’s all we have. It is nothing–but it’s our nothing. The ache fades to emptiness. I am grateful for the opportunity to pick the larger pebbles out of my bread before eating it.
There are stories, but I have long since refused to hear them retold. I’ve been told that my name given to me by my father Jonathan in grateful love at my birth was Merib-Baal, meaning “Child of God.”I don’t remember that.
Somehow the bitter expectations of my family and its followers for vengeance and their sarcasm over my weakness changed my name to a cruel joke. Now I am called Mephibosheth, “Exterminator of Shame,” but I am ashamed and there is no end to it. I am incapable of exterminating anything including the sorrow that echoes in the hollows of my heart.
It is also said that the new king swore kindness to my father and his family. But he wasn’t the king then. He was someone to whom everything came so easily: victories, songs, adulation, my Aunt Michel’s affection, my father’s friendship–even words. The words may have been the easiest of all–to say and to forget.
I cannot think of what might have been. The sand in the wind is stinging my eyes.
I long dreamed of this day. The fighting is over. I am victorious. The insults to my people have been avenged. There are no serious threats to my rule. There is stability. I can govern.
It was at this point that I think that my predecessor began to go wrong. Saul believed, “If I don’t do it, it never will happen.” He never accepted the blessing. He always wanted more so he was never at peace. He never trusted that the dark hole of insecurity inside him would be filled.
Saul had everything, looks, wealth, power, and the blessing of God, but it wasn’t enough for him. When there is never enough for you, there will always be less for you. I saw this in his seething ambition at his table, in the manipulation of his family, and in his hatred of everything that wasn’t him.
I don’t want it to be that way with me. Right here, right now is when I have to decide how it’s going to be. I think it starts with keeping promises and forgiveness.
“Is there still anyone left of the House of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
That’s what I ask my servants, and they introduce me to someone who might know. “His name is Ziba, he was a servant in the house of Saul.”
“Are you Ziba?” I motion him to step forward.
“I am your servant.”
“Is there anyone left from Saul’s family, that I may show the kindness of God to him?”
He clears his throat before telling me. “There is still a son of Jonathan. He is a cripple.” He drops his eyes from mine and says no more. I know why he doesn’t.
I don’t like the blind and the lame. People know that about me. If I lost my legs or my sight where would I be? I don’t even want to think about it. The world belongs to the fit, the strong, and the quick. If I lost my legs, I wouldn’t be able to fight and I would be vulnerable to my enemies.
The Jebusites knew my fear of the crippled and taunted me about it before I took Jerusalem from them. I said on that day, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” I meant it too.
But Jonathan’s son . . . Already, I’ve moved too fast and said too much without waiting, just like Saul did. It’s tougher to be the king than I thought. Will I honor my word as a friend or insist on my command as the king? I will look weak and equivocal. What will it be: my pride or my promise?
“Where is he?” I finally ask.
“He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-Debar,” says Ziba.
“Send for him and bring him to me.”
I will be leaving Lo-Debar after all, but not because I have a choice. It really can get worse, I find out. King David has sent for me. From nowhere to death isn’t much of a stretch.
Kings eliminate their rivals. That’s how they remain kings. That’s what my grandfather told my father Jonathan when he berated him for befriending David. As long as I draw a breath, David will see me as a threat to his rule. Why doesn’t he just kill me here? He must want to see my face as he runs me through with his sword.
David’s men pick me up and sit me on a donkey. My twisted spine and legs hurt with every rut and rock in the path as we ride up the mountains to Jerusalem.
The journey ends in front of a large stone and cedar compound. A guard opens the gate. I clench my walking stick and follow a servant in. I walk slowly and stop frequently. The servant turns, glares, but says nothing. I have to think about every painful step, willing my legs forward against their limitations.
Another massive door opens before me. I slowly lift one leg over the threshold and then drag the other one over. My eyes adjust to the dimmer light.
King David, his title is alien to me, holds court at the end of the room the way that my grandfather used to. “I am Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, and I belong here,” I think for one moment. I take two clumping steps forward, but I forget myself. This is not my home. I am no longer a prince. I am a cripple, twisted and ugly. I do not belong here.
It is all too much for me as I face the throne. I drop to my knees and then put my face against the cool stone floor. My last sensation on this earth will be the touch of hard, smooth coldness. Fitting, isn’t it?
“Mephibosheth!” I hear the lyrical voice of David from days of feasting and song that I’ve tried to forget.
I pull myself up with my stick, but I do not raise my head. I dare not raise my head. “It is me. I am your servant,” I force the words out awkwardly. My voice quivers. I hate myself.
“Do not fear,” the king says slowly, waiting for the words to sink into me. “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I am giving all the land of your grandfather Saul back to you and you will live here at the palace and eat at my table every day, forever, as one of the family.”
“Not this! Not now! ” Thoughts that I have long since put out of mind and heart, tumble inside me as if fighting for air. For a moment, I think I am going to be sick. Tears well up, but I force them back. David won, Saul lost. I lost my family. I lost my rights. I lost myself in a place called Nowhere. I am a broken, useless gimp. Why should I receive this kindness?
I shuffle and twist my hands together before I speak. Later on, I’ll think my words were ungracious and bitter-sounding, but I blurt out, “Who am I that you should pay attention to “road-kill” like me?”
I am the king. There are things that I can do and it feels good to do them. I am getting the hang of this. It doesn’t matter what Mephibosheth thinks. It matters what I do. I hold up my hand to silence his stammering.
“Bring in Ziba,” I tell the guard. Proud, opportunistic Ziba is going to serve the house of Saul again. I am interested in what his reaction is going to be when he hears this.
Ziba can’t help taking one contemptuous look at Mephibosheth before turning to me. Ziba has fifteen sons and twenty servants. I can see that he’s landed on his two good feet. He is a long way from Lo-Debar standing here in the palace.
“I’ve given everything that belonged to the house of Saul back to Mephibosheth, his grandson. Ziba, you and your sons and your servants are going back to work to serve Mephibosheth.
Ziba is an “operator,” I’ll grant him that. He is smiling, but pompous in his flattery. “What ever you want me to do, my master and king, I will do without question.”
Suspicion stirs in me at Ziba’s oily glibness. Is he treacherous? Probably. I will have to keep my eye on him, but his assent is enough for now. I wave at both of them to leave.
David’s children always make it to the table before me, but I get there in time for every delicious meal.
The beautiful table cloth covers my twisted, crippled legs and feet and I sit there as one who belongs. So does my little son, Mica. He loves it here, where there is good food and a safe place to play. We are part of the royal family again. The king is gracious to me. He is a man of his word. Ziba’s entire household now serves me as it did my grandfather.
I couldn’t ask for more. When I thank the king, he says, “It’s God’s mercy that I’ve shown you. Thank Him.” I am still lame, but I am a blessed and happy man. Grace has made all the difference and I am forever grateful.
For as long as I can remember, I wondered what I, a cripple, was supposed to do with the name, “Exterminator of Shame.” Now I know that my name is not my burden. It is a gift pointing me to the Lord, the Giver. He is the true Exterminator of Shame–ruthless in his kindness, relentless in his love, devastating in his mercy. Let my story speak this truth to you.
Next week, the story will continue with a new betrayal and more grace.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alask