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Wednesday Word: Mephibosheth

November 11, 2020 | Jay T. Smith

Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the report of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened that in her hurry to flee, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

The king said, “Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet.” 4 So the king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar.” 5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. 6 Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” 7 David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” (2 Samuel 4:4, 9:3-7 NASB)

The narrative of Mephibosheth and David is a powerful story with powerful truths. It is the story of mercy for the house of Saul, when any other king would have slain every member of the family. It is the story of mercy for a crippled man, who could barely take care of himself. It is the story of respect between David and Jonathan, Mephibosheth’s father. It is the story of love and obedience from a crippled man to David, his savior and King.

Misguided Vitriol

Why Mephibosheth today? November 11th of each year is Veterans Day in the United States. On this day each year, Americans give thanks to our armed forces veterans for their service to the nation. Quite frequently, many Americans either show disdain or ignore these men and women completely. The people who hold these attitudes tend to either disagree with specific conflicts, or they are pacifists who disagree with the very idea of war.

These are legitimate complaints, but the vitriol being heaped upon these people has been misguided. These men and women simply carried out the mission upon which our government sent them. Truly, they are making the ultimate sacrifice for this country. They return to the United States changed by the human carnage of war. If they were not directly involved in combat, they were prepared to carry out their mission even if it meant the sacrifice of their own lives, and personally knew many who gave their lives in combat.

Showing the Kindness of God

So, again, why the story of Mephibosheth?

Today, when veterans are struggling to survive on the streets, manage their PTSD, or come to terms with their prosthetics, we need to be as David was to Mephibosheth. King David in 1 Samuel says, “Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” That is the way of God in this world. It is the way of Christ, and should be the Christian way as well. The “kindness of God” is love in action. Veterans — wounded, injured, and proud of their service — deserve our attention, our praise, and “the kindness of God.” We may not agree with why our government sent our military into a given situation, but that does not change the fact that they deserve our thanks and, indeed, “the kindness of God.”

I pray today that all Americans show their appreciation for those men and women who served us, the citizens of the United States, with their time, their devotion, and even their lives. More importantly, Christians, we need to “be” the kindness of God to our veterans.

The story of Mephibosheth and David comes straight to the heart of what it means to be a Christian in our world. As children of God, we do not get to choose how we will honor God or how we will treat our neighbors. It is literally spelled out for us in our Scriptures. Being the “kindness of God” to those around us, who need us, is exactly what Jesus demonstrated for us through His life and, more pointedly, in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is time for us realize that “being” the kindness of God is not only what our veterans need to experience; it is what Christians need to be.

Jay T. Smith

President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Dr. Jay Smith leads the Yellowstone Theological Institute as its president. Dr. Smith has served as minister of youth, music and as senior […]

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