Loyal-Hearted, Though Not Lion-Faced

Mephibosheth was a very different sort of man to the Gadites with "the faces of lions," who were "swift as the roes upon the mountains," and "could handle shield and buckler," and were "fit for the battle" (1 Chr. 12:8). David needed such men as they were, for he was a man of war, but he was also a man with a heart, great and tender, and he valued above all things devotion to his person; and who shall say that the crippled son of Jonathan did not give him more pleasure in the long run than the fearless veterans of his old guard?

David was chosen of God to be the saviour, shepherd and king of His people Israel, and in these respects he foreshadowed our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of men and the coming King. It is this that makes his history so interesting and instructive. The men that came into contact with David showed by their attitude towards him how far they understood God's thoughts and ways at the time; and in like manner Christ is the test of every man today.

"What think ye of Christ is the test
To try both your state and your scheme."

It is from this point of view that we will talk about Mephibosheth and his relations with David.

One thing is certain. David found great pleasure in showing him kindness "for Jonathan's sake." He called what he did "the kindness of God," and seemed happier in doing it than in slaughtering his foes. In this one incident he stood out prominently as the man after God's heart, for we know that God finds His delight in bestowing blessing upon needy, helpless men. That part of Mephibosheth's contact with David is beautifully told in 2 Samuel 9.

The question is, How did Mephibosheth react to David's great kindness? He could not do great and brilliant things, he would have been useless and a burden on the field of battle, yet there was something be could do — he could appreciate David's kindness and he could keep a heart loyal to him. He certainly seems to have been grateful to David for all the benefits he bestowed upon him, but sometimes a man may appreciate favours and have very little true love for the benefactor. It may even be so with us; we may value the blessings that come to us through Christ and yet not have much loyalty of heart for Him. It is a sad thing to contemplate, but it may be so, and assuredly the test will come.

The test came to Mephibosheth. Absalom, the favourite and spoiled son of his father, rebelled against him, and David had to flee the city of Jerusalem. There never had been such a day of sorrow for David in all his chequered career, he reached then and there the very nadir of his fortunes, and the strange thing was that Jerusalem seemed glad to see the back of him, and to welcome the traitor-son. What would Mephibosheth do? When the full story is told we learn that he would have shared the sorrow and evil of the King if he could have done so, but it was not to be. Robbed and slandered by his servant, he was forced to remain behind in the city that had cast off David. The city rejoiced, it held high revelry, but Mephibosheth did not join in the festivities; he held himself in strict separation from it all and mourned for the absent King. He "neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the King departed until he came again in peace" (2 Sam. 19:24).

Do we realise, O Christians, that the true King is rejected by the world, that the devil has usurped His throne, and is both god and prince of the world? This the Scriptures teach most plainly, and since this is true, what should we do, who are left in it? If we are devoted to the Person of our Lord as Mephibosheth was to David we shall feel that a great moral gulf lies between us and it, that we have nothing in common with it, and that practical separation from it becomes us.

"Its grand fete days, and fashions and ways
Are all but perishing things."

Yet not because of this only but because it is enmity against God and Christ, and lies in the wicked one, we must go through it as Christian and Faithful went through Vanity Fair in John Bunyan's book.

It is exceedingly interesting to see what Mephibosheth said to David when he returned in triumph to his throne and city. He rejoiced that the King had come back to his own, and he wanted nothing for himself. The King's rights and not his own were everything to him. He claimed nothing for himself, but he made his boast in David's grace and in David's word. Hear what he says, "All of my father's house were but dead men before my Lord the King." Dead men have no place or rights; they cannot claim anything, especially when they are dead under the sentence of a righteous law. And it was this that this grandson of Saul, David's great enemy, meant, so it seems to me. But if he could claim no place in the King's palace and favour because of what he was, he could rely on David's word and boast in his kindness. "Yet," he said, "didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table." David had said that he should eat bread continually and always at his table as one of the King's sons, and he knew that the King's word would stand and he wanted nothing more.

He struck the right note, and it is happy for us if we can tune our boasting to the same key. We had no claim upon God, for we were all dead men before Him, but He is rich in mercy, and for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, He quickened us, and saved us, and set us among them that eat at His table. In the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us He has made us His children in an unchanging, everlasting relationship. Shall we not boast in this? Mephibosheth could not forget David's kindness. In this last incident in his life's story it stands out as the one thing that dominated him and expressed his relationship to his King. And can we forget? It would be a strange and unnatural thing if we did.

As we consider Mephibosheth his moral greatness grows upon us. He was no whining, time-serving sycophant, thinking only of his own advantage. His loyalty to David in rebellious Jerusalem was great; the entire absence of self-conceit and self-seeking on David's return increases our admiration for him, and his reliance on David's word and boast in what David had done for him were evidence of true gratitude. His joy at the King's return in peace was so great that he does not even ask that his slanderous, thieving servant should be punished. He desired no property, he sought nothing for himself. The person of the King was everything to him, and that the King should have his rights was all his desire. Everybody may not agree with me, but I set Mephibosheth, lame and apparently useless to the King, as the greatest of all the King's men, and I am inclined to think, that in those closing years of the King's life he found more pleasure in Mephibosheth than in any other.

We are looking for the time when our Lord will come into His rights, when the long years of His rejection shall close, and the nations shall see Him and own Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. It will be the day of His glory, and a happy day for us if some of the traits of Mephibosheth are showing themselves in us now.