April 16 – 2 Samuel 9
Main focus: In the story of David and Mephibosheth we see the sort of scandalous welcome that we receive in Jesus, a welcome that Jesus calls us to extend to others.
This week is a stand-alone week, when each Vintage location picks their own passage for the sermon. At Downtown, Jordan Penley taught from 2 Samuel 9 for Church Planting Sunday. Next week all locations will sync back up with the first week of our verse-by-verse series through 1 John.
Before we launch into 2 Samuel 9, we’ll start discussion with some background on who in the world this Mephibosheth (muh-FI-buh-sheth) guy is and why it’s a big deal that David welcomed him at his table. We’ll trace a route through three scenes in 2 Samuel, 1. when David first heard of Saul and Jonathan’s demise (1:1-12), 2. Mephibosheth’s tragic origins (4:4), and 3. David’s ascent to the throne (5:1-5). Of course there’s tons more behind the story, like God’s rejection of Saul in favor of David (1 Sam 16:1-13), David’s strained relationship with Saul (i.e. Saul tried to spear him a couple times; 1 Sam 18:11, 19:10), and David’s incredibly close friendship with Jonathan (1 Sam 20). But this will help set the stage for us to appreciate David’s action and the weighty symbolism of it.
Two more things will help us fully appreciate what’s going on here. First off, in this day and age it was not uncommon for a conquering king to have his predecessor’s entire family murdered. If a son or grandson of that predecessor survived into adulthood he could serve as a rallying point for rebellion, thus ancient kings preferred to clear the whole slate rather than risk getting stabbed in the back one night. But not so with David, who had made a solemn promise to his friend Jonathan to not harm his family in any way.
Over and above this, David repeatedly showed deference to Saul throughout his life, even after being anointed the rightful king. For example, once when Saul was hunting David down he fell right into David’s hands; Saul picked a cave to use like a Portajohn, and unbeknownst to him David was hiding in the exact same cave (go read the whole story in 1 Sam 24, it’s a hoot). But David chose not to touch him because Saul was still, at that time, the Lord’s anointed king of Israel. Out of David’s fear of the Lord, he chose not to take his kingdom by force but instead to have it established upon the Lord’s vision of justice and righteousness.
Second, you’ll notice Mephibosheth’s disability is mentioned twice in the chapter (v.3, 13). That’s because, in this time period, having a disability wasn’t only an impediment to work or a certain way of life. Sure, there were none of the modern helps we have, things like access to medical care, adaptive equipment, insurance, etc. But worse than that, a disability was wrongly seen as an embarrassment, a source of shame, or a divine punishment for sin. Think of when Jesus and his disciples walked by a man born blind and they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
So, according to the supposed wisdom of the time, Mephibosheth had two strikes against him as the grandson of the former king and as a disabled man. However, through David God communicates the kind of king and kingdom he’s interested in. What we get here is a glimpse of the sort of scandalous welcome of the kingdom of God, a welcome we see in full through the ministry of Jesus. In discussion we’ll turn to Mark 2:13-22 to see how Jesus welcomed the last, the least, and the lost. Like David, he dined with folks who, according to the supposed wisdom of the time, he never should’ve given the time of day. Like David, he was a king marked not by power, nor by might, but by mercy.
But lest we leave ourselves out of the picture, this sort of tender mercy isn’t only called for in particularly bad cases like Mephibosheth or tax collectors. You and I need the exact same; with Mephibosheth, tax collectors, and sinners, we are in good company, for we all suffer desperately under sin and in need of Jesus’s healing touch. Reading these passages can help us remember afresh the scandalous joy that it is to be welcomed into Jesus’s presence, to approach his throne of mercy with confidence, and to anticipate an eternal day when we will approach God’s table not in fear but in friendship (Rev 19:6-9).
• We have four passages to read—could someone (or a couple someones) read 2 Samuel 1:1-12, 4:4, 5:1-5, and all of chapter 9 for us?
• How do the first three passages help us understand what’s going on in chapter 9?
• How do you think Mephibosheth felt going into this meeting with David?
• In this time period, disabled people were treated as shameful and embarrassing. What do you think David’s welcome of Mephibosheth communicate?
• Could someone read Mark 2:13-17?
• In what ways does Jesus embody the same values as David?
• How can these passages help you consider how Jesus has welcomed you?
• Specifically with vulnerable individuals in mind, how do you think God has called you to welcome others as Christ has welcomed you? (Rom 15:7)