At The King's Table
2 Samuel chapter 9 depicts David firmly established on his throne with a desire to show kindness towards those who are left of the house of Saul. This intense desire is clearly and unambiguously expressed in his own words. All action in this chapter takes place on David's initiative, and he is also presented as the one who carries the undertaking into effect. It is not at all those of the house of Saul who beg the king for mercy, and are active in changing the king's mind to treat them favourably. It all has its origin in David's heart and it is all brought about by the king's word and action.
David does not express a desire just to show his own personal feelings toward Mephibosheth. Rather, he wants to show "the kindness of God" towards him who is the only one left of the house of Saul. The chapter tells us in a touching way how he is brought from Lo-debar to the royal palace according to the king's own command. What a transition Mephibosheth experiences as he is brought from the utmost depth of misery as a lame man of the house of the king's enemies, to the favour of the king. He becomes the trophy of that victory of kindness, and the object towards which this kindness expresses itself and shines in all its lustre.
This chapter first of all emphasises the source of this favour, and after that, gives prominence to the pinnacle to which the king's kindness raises Mephibosheth. Even more than the misery out of which he is brought, the author underlines the favour he finds in the king's sight. What moral distance there is between these two widely differing positions in relation to the king! The transition from the one to the other highlights the kindness of God. God's mercy brings this unworthy cripple to the king's own table, and this is the climax of the story.
In this well-known chapter we find one expression repeated four times. In his goodness David not only brought him to Jerusalem (compare 2 Sam. 14), nor only gave him back his inheritance, but gave him access to the royal table for the rest of his life. This is the climax in the chapter. Each time this expression occurs a new thought is added. These comments give different aspects of this culminating point. The different aspects do not, of course, conflict with each other, nor are they thrown into the text in a haphazard way, but they are presented systematically and in order, as becomes our God. The many-faceted glory of God's mercy finds expression in this way.
What about us? God has in Christ saved us out of a misery much worse and brought us into His own presence. This place of privilege at His own table, with all it implies for us of intimate fellowship, true spiritual honour and the greatness connected with this high position, should fill our hearts to overflowing with thankfulness and praise. To sit at the table of the king is no ordinary matter. "All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live" (Esther 4:11). Even the highest created beings, the angels, do not have such a privilege; they are but servants. The Lord teaches us about the greatness of this privilege in Luke's Gospel, where He Himself is so often found at different tables. "But which of you, having a servant plowing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go, and sit down to meat?" (Luke 17:7). From the context it is clear that a servant does not have this privilege. In Luke 22:27 the Lord Jesus asks a question which He answers Himself by putting another question: "For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat?" True greatness is connected with the honour of this position.
Let us look at the expression four times repeated in 2 Samuel chapter 9 and try to discover the different aspects presented to us there. We will also think of the effects this position at the king's table had on Mephibosheth and what it meant to the king himself.
"And thou shalt eat bread at my table continually"
"And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually" (v. 7). In this verse we have the first meeting between the king and Mephibosheth described. After having mentioned his name in verse 6, David's first words are these: "Fear not!" David knows that the lame man from the house of Saul is fearful that he will receive the diametrically opposite of what David has in mind for him. He lets David know later on what was in his heart at this time. "For all of my father's house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table" (2 Sam. 19:28). What can those who belong to the house of Saul expect from the king but death? "The wrath of a king is as messengers of death" (Prov. 16:14). Mephibosheth cannot assert any claims, but only submit to the king and accept his decision. We can conclude so far that he had every reason to fear, being of the house of Saul. He refers to himself as a servant in verse 6, but in verse 8 we see his response to the unexpected and surprising grace he met from David. He now judges himself even more deeply in the light of this mercy-not only, "Behold thy servant" as in verse 6, but, "What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?" To experience the king's favour instead of his wrath is both unexpected and overwhelming
David underlines the certainty of his goodness: "I will surely show thee kindness," and also makes clear the reason why it is so assured. It is not because Mephibosheth is so humble and submissive, nor because he would appease the king by his faithful service. What service could a lame man do to the king? No, this goodness was so sure because it was to be shown for the sake of another person altogether, namely Jonathan. How good for the believer to know, not only that he is forgiven, but why this forgiveness is so assured. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" (1 John 2:12). It is all pure mercy. Mephibosheth does not have a claim on anything from David. In chapter 7 of this same book we read that David went in and sat before the Lord and what amazed him was the fact that the Lord had blessed him according to His own heart. He was overwhelmed when he reflected upon what His mercy had brought him to. The Lord made a covenant with David, not a legal one, but a covenant founded on mercy. See also Psalm 89. In fact, David himself was the great example of mercy. When everything had broken down in Israel, the Lord intervened in sovereign mercy and raised up David, His servant. See Psalm 78. No wonder therefore that in his psalms God's mercy should be extolled. "How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures" (Psa. 36:7-8).
Now the Lord had established his kingdom, and David who himself had experienced this mercy wanted to give expression to it in his kingdom. The loving-kindness shown by the king reaches its climax in these words: "and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually." We get the impression that David had great satisfaction in saying this directly to Mephibosheth. The Lord's love is so great that He desires to have our fellowship. To have us at a distance would not satisfy His love. In Luke 15 it is the Finder who has the greatest joy. The Father had found His son who had been lost and His heart overflows with joy. We are to be there to satisfy His heart.
"In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain" (Prov. 16:15). "The king's. favour is as dew upon the grass" (Prov. 19:12). Does this not speak of life in freshness and fullest vigour? Could God's favour have lifted us higher? This is the basic fact-meeting the sinner's need, but more than meeting it. Mephibosheth would never have thought of seeking such favour. "Thou set Thy servant among them that did eat at Thine own table. What right, therefore, have I yet to cry any more to the king?" (2 Sam. 19:28). This is wonderful. It is the highest possible position. What more could he cry for? This went much further than he would have expected in his brightest moments. It was overwhelming. The king himself announced this good news directly to the favoured one. The effect on Mephibosheth is seen in verse 8.
"Mephibosheth, thy master's son, shall eat bread alway at my table"
"Then the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul, and to all his house. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth, thy master's son, shall eat bread alway at my table" (2 Sam. 9:9-10). David speaks about the inheritance, and those who are to serve Mephibosheth in taking care of it. In this connection he says: "Mephibosheth, thy master's son." From now on, when he sits at the king's table, Mephibosheth will keep his background in mind and this will make him wonder even more at the greatness of this grace as the overwhelming wonder of it dawns upon his soul. He sits there fully aware that he is "thy master's son," i. e., Saul's son. (See v. 7: "Saul thy father"). In Ephesians, where our high position in Christ is revealed to us, we are also asked to remember our past in the flesh (Eph. 2:11-12). Will this rob us of our joy as we sit there at His table? Not at all. It will only the more enhance to us the greatness of His goodness and mercy, and a deeper understanding of this will increase our joy.
"As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king's sons"
In verse 11 another aspect is emphasised. It is the king's will that Mephibosheth should sit there in the consciousness of being one of his sons. If he sat there only thinking of the fact that he belonged to Saul's house that would be very burdensome. His heart would not be free in the presence of the king. But as we see in this verse it was the pleasure of the king's will to impress upon Mephibosheth this most glorious blessing of his favour-to be like one of his sons. "As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king's sons" (v. 11). The verse begins by stating what Ziba said to the king as to the task he is to perform for the king in relation to Mephibosheth. Then suddenly the king speaks once again concerning this same matter, but with this additional thought, that he wants to have Mephibosheth there not as a stranger, not as one who would naturally feel shy and reserved in such company, but as "one of the king's sons." One gets the impression on reading this that it was the king's urgent desire to bring this decision home to Mephibosheth's heart and mind. But it also reveals what was in David's heart and mind-it was his pleasure to have him there like this. Does this not remind us of Ephesians 1, where we are informed that it is the pleasure of God's will to take us "into favour in the Beloved" (v. 6, J.N.D. Trans). Higher we cannot be lifted, but we need enlightened hearts to take in the fullness of this grace which otherwise is beyond our apprehension. In reading the New Testament we get the impression that it is God's urgent desire to lead us into the enjoyment of this truth. It is not only His will, but He has revealed it, He has sent His Spirit into our hearts to make us conscious of this surpassing and stupendous fact, and to preserve us in the daily enjoyment of it.
"As one of the king's sons." Strange as it may seem the description of the king's sons as chief rulers or princes in 2 Samuel 8:17 could be translated "priests." While there were those who officially acted as priests in the temple, the main idea with regard to being a priest is the privilege of coming near the Lord. "And the priests also, which come near to Jehovah, shall hallow themselves." (Ex. 19:22, J.N.D. Trans.). The king's sons had this privilege of drawing near to the king at any time, and this is probably the reason why the expression is used in this context. However, according to the law "whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous" (Lev. 21:18). In spite of the fact that Mephibosheth could not come near to offer the bread of his God, he could eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy (Lev. 21:21-23). Here we find Mephibosheth at the table, able to eat what is provided for him to the king's great pleasure.
It may seem strange that his son should be mentioned here. Verse 12 tells us that he was still young and that his name was Micha. The name Mephibosheth means "exterminator of idols" and in 1 Chronicles 8:34 he is called Merib-baal, which means "one who contends against Baal." The kindness of God had so captivated his heart, that there was no place for idols. His son's name means: "Who is like Jehovah," a name that is more like a challenge in view of all those idols who try to attract the human heart. Here is the antidote to being attracted to the idols, namely being fully satisfied at the king's table and in the king's company. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, even of Thy holy temple" (Psa. 65:4). "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures" (Psa. 36:8). These two verses tell us that those who are given the privilege of drawing near in God's house, will be satisfied, yea abundantly satisfied.
It seems to me that the Scriptures allude to the meaning of this name Micha, at least once. In the book of the prophet who bore this name we find a sublime conclusion where the prophet praises God's name in the following way: "Who is a God like unto Thee,. He delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18). There is obviously a play upon the prophet's name here. What a battle-cry this name is, in view of all idolatrous influence which would rob our God of His glory. "Who is like Jehovah?" Who will utter such words? Only one who is completely satisfied with the Lord, and has no idol in his heart! Mephibosheth is a satisfied man, abundantly satisfied by the ample provision on the king's table. He does not at all long to go back to Lo-debar. His heart was not captivated when "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (2 Sam. 15:6). David had won his heart and when the many went with Absalom, he was still devoted to David. During Absalom's rebellion he was loyal and faithful. If we remember what our background is, belonging to the house of the enemy, and the stupendous grace that has raised us to the position of sons, the more our appreciation of our God will grow-"Who is like Jehovah?" To state the question is to proclaim his glory.
"So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king's table; and was lame on both his feet"
This complete satisfaction is at the same time a protection against the enemies' attack. "So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king's table; and was lame on both his feet" (v. 13). Jerusalem is the safe place. "Jerusalem!-mountains are round about her, and Jehovah is round about His people, from henceforth and for evermore" (Psa. 125:2, J.N.D. Trans.). To find fault with the Lord results in leaving Him; to be satisfied with the Lord keeps us in the safe place. "Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?" (Jer. 2:5). Why was Mephibosheth in the safe place? Why did he continue to stay there? "For he did eat continually at the king's table." To enjoy the Lord's fellowship according to the favour bestowed upon us is in itself a protective power. "Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee" (Prov. 4:6). If we cling to the truth, the truth itself will be our protection from all evil ways. The rest of 2 Samuel shows how true this was in Mephibosheth's case.
Mephibosheth was satisfied and continued to be so. What about the king; did he receive anything in having him there? "While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof" (S. of S. 1:12). He will have His part. It is His glory and joy to have us at His own table, and He values highly the response of our hearts to the favour shown. "Let us eat, and be merry" (Luke 15:23).