The whole point of my Jesus Is series has been to look at some of the Biblical figures with parallels to Jesus. This makes David probably the most obvious candidate, since we’re specifically told that David is a man after God’s own heart, and Jesus traces his ancestry to David’s line, in addition to his birth in Bethlehem, David’s hometown.
There are many different ways in which we can compare David and Jesus, but one in particular stands out to me above all the rest.
Throughout 1 Samuel, we’ve seen the various challenges that David has faced – he’s been anointed to be Israel’s future king, and triumphed over Goliath, rising from the youngest son with low status to a servant of the king, Saul. But David suffers from one misfortune after another – Saul’s irrational fear of David driving him to try, over and over, to kill the young man. David spends much of his youth on the run, fleeing from Saul, fighting against the Philistines, and even joining Israel’s enemies after he flees from his own country.
But by 2 Samuel 8, things finally seem to be going right for David. Saul is dead, David’s enemies have been defeated, and his reign over Israel has been firmly established. God’s promises to David have finally been fulfilled.
This is why what follows in 2 Samuel 9 is all the more remarkable (please, stop reading this post here; read the chapter, then come back.) Saul was David’s enemy, whom he had every right to despise and fight; yet David never took advantage of his opportunities to slay Saul, and indeed even mourned his death in battle. Most of Saul’s line has been wiped out, since his sons fell in the same battle that claimed his own life; so David asks around to see if there is anyone left of Saul’s house to whom he might “show kindness” (2 Sam 9.1). A servant named Ziba tells David about a son of Jonathan who still lives: but this son, Mephibosheth, is crippled in both of his feet.
In the world of the Bible, crippled people were essentially considered defective, even unclean in some cases and not allowed to worship in the temple. Mephibosheth would have had no honor and no standing at all. He was so obscure that Joab, David’s bloodthirsty army commander, didn’t even bother slaying him to protect David’s right to the throne.
David owes Mephibosheth nothing. He has no obligation to this crippled descendant of Saul – who describes himself as nothing but a “dead dog” (2 Sam 9.8). David also has nothing to gain from this; in his culture, David’s associating himself with a crippled son of a dishonored family would have been seen as shameful. But because of David’s love for his friend Jonathan, he takes Mephibosheth into his own household and gives him all the rights of one of his own sons. Mephibosheth has all the land that once belonged to Saul restored to him, and he is given the right to eat at David’s table for the rest of his life (2 Sam 9.7).
To me, this is one of the most beautiful and poignant stories in the entire Bible. There’s hardly a more beautiful picture of grace in the entire Old Testament than the story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. We see a glimpse of the otherworldly love that is so counterintuitive, so completely alien, that it seems capable of changing the world. That’s exactly what it does when Jesus is born hundreds of years later.
Jesus is the true David, the promised King who was oppressed and suffered like his ancestor, to a far greater degree. And Mephibosheth is us; trapped in our sins, we are dishonorable cripples, dead dogs, and deserving of nothing from God. Yet because of God’s great kindness, compassion, and love, Jesus not only took us into his house, making a place for those who believe in him in the New Creation; he has adopted us as his children. We are not merely tolerated, but elevated to a place of undeserved honor in God’s house, and our former status as sinners and beggars has been permanently erased by our new identity: holy and blameless, always intended for adoption through Jesus, redeemed from the shame of sin, recipients of the knowledge of God’s redemptive plan for creation, and destined for an inheritance in the New Creation (Ephesians 1.)
This is why we praise God; this is why we worship a God who is infinitely worthy of all our praise, because what he has done for us is ten of thousands of times the magnitude of the grace David extended to Mephibosheth. Our very identities are transformed when we follow Jesus; we are no longer slaves to sin and fear, but are clothed in power (2 Timothy 1.7).
In the humdrum routine of daily life, it’s easy to lose sight of why God is so great and worth of worship. And one of the reasons I love the story of David and Mephibosheth is because it helps me to remember, every time.