Surprised by Grace

  • Home
  • Resources
  • Articles
  • Surprised by Grace
    2 Samuel 9

    “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell in your holy hill?” David begins Psalm 15 with these provocative questions. The body of the psalm answers these opening questions. It describes that character and conduct of the person who pleases God. The last line of Psalm 15:4 tells us that a godly person is one “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” He keeps his word even when it costs him. She keeps her promises no matter what. The point is that godly people are promise keepers. David teaches that in Psalm 15. David exemplifies this in 2 Samuel 9, which is a part of what scholars call “THE SUCCESSION NARRATIVE OF DAVID.” It is a detailed account of Israel’s transition from Saul’s rule to the establishment of David’s reign. By 2 Samuel 9, David has accomplished great military victories and is enjoying peace, power, and prosperity. And during this period David lavishes kindness on a crippled man named Mephibosheth.

    There are two seasons of life that test and reveal a person’s character: (1) seasons of adversity and (2) seasons of prosperity. And this season of success clearly demonstrates that David was man after God’s own heart. And I want us to look at David’s heart as it revealed in his kindness to Mephibosheth so that through it we might see God’s kindheartedness toward you and me. STEVE JONES comments: “Just as x-rays pass through the human body and reveal an accurate picture of the heart to the physician’s trained eye, there are some important ways in which the actions of David revealed the heart of God. We get some of those x-rays in the remarkable story of Mephibosheth.” 2 Samuel 9 is a historical event that functions as a parable to teach us that the grace of God is a wonderful surprise that’s too good not to be true.

    In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, PHIL YANCEY writes a friend who overheard an interesting conversation on a bus one day. A woman was reading. And the man sitting next to her asked what she was reading. She told him. It was M. SCOTT PECK’S bestseller, The Road Less Traveled. The man asked what it was about. Admitting she had just begun the book, she answered by reading him the chapter titles from the table of contents. When she mentioned the section on “Grace,” the man interrupted and asked what grace was about. She replied, “I have gotten that far yet.”

    The same thing can be said about the Bible. No matter how much scripture you may read, study, or memorize; you have not gotten far into the Bible if you don’t know what is teaches about grace. Without oversimplifying the message of this expansive library of sixty books, I submit that the bible is simply about the glory of the grace of God. The grace of God is everywhere in the Bible. And it is not boring grace. It’s always a wonderful surprise of amazing grace. In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, not only did God not immediately strike them dead (sparing mercy), but he also clothed them in coats of skin to cover the guilt-induced shame of the nakedness (surprising grace). And throughout scripture – all the way through the book of Revelation – God keeps surprising us with amazing grace. Of course, the biggest surprise of amazing grace is the virgin birth, perfect life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. And David’s kindness to Mephibosheth illustrates the surprising grace of God that seeks us, welcomes us, and enriches us through Jesus Christ.


    2 Samuel 8 describes David as being in a place in his life where he didn’t need anything. But in 2 Samuel 9, the one who didn’t need anything was searching for something: HE WAS SEEKING SOMEONE TO SHOW COVENANT KINDNESS TO. And verse 3 makes it clear that David understood that his kindness was a derivative of the kindness of God. In other words, David wanted to be kind in order to imitate God. Don’t miss that. God is a kindhearted sovereign who is seeking and searching for someone to be gracious to.

    Because we can only see reality through the limited perspective of our personal experience, Christians often speak of our conversion to saving-faith in Christ in terms of us seeking God. But salvation actually happens the other way around. Romans 3:10-11 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; n one seeks for God.” Dig you get that? Unrighteous people don’t seek God. Every sinner does what the first sinners did. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, not seek God. And every unconverted sinner is a convicted fugitive on the run from divine justice who is only saved because of the personal missionary work of almighty God. I once read about an entire police force that was mobilized to catch a car thief who had stolen an old, beat-up Volkswagen bug. They even broadcast radio bulletins to find this suspect. These great efforts were made to catch this thief because the owner of the car informed the authorities that there was a box of crackers in the front seat that he had laced with rat-poison to kill some rodents in his house. So the police desperately searched for the man, not to lock him up, but to save his life. And that’s how the grace of God operates. In Luke 19:10, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

    GOD REACHES OUT TO US BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS. Nothing forced David to seek out Mephibosheth. And no one pressured him to do it. Something within David moved him to reach out and act in kindness. And it’s the same way with God. Mark it down. God does not owe you anything. More specifically, God does not owe you any good thing. Indeed, God owes each of us divine justice, holy wrath, and eternal punishment. But you don’t want God to give you what you deserve. And this is why grace is such a wonderful surprise. God has not treated us as our sins deserve. Instead, his reaches out to with sparing mercy, saving grace, and steadfast love. Ephesians 2:4-5 says: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

    GOD REACHES OUT TO US FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER. The external reason why David sought out someone to show kindness to wasn’t because of Mephibosheth. It was because of Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan. Jonathan and David were best friends. In fact, Jonathan loved David so much that he protected him from Saul’s wrath and supported his ascension to the throne of Israel, even though he was Saul’s son who was next in line to be king. In 1 Samuel chapters 18 and 20, David and Jonathan entered into covenant agreement with one another. David promised to be kind to Jonathan’s house after his promotion and Jonathan’s death. And in 2 Samuel 9, David now seeks out someone from the house of Jonathan to whom he can show the loyal love of God. David was gracious to Mephibosheth for the sake of another – JONATHAN. And God is gracious toward us for the sake of another – Jesus.

    In the movie The Last Emperor, the young child who is the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command. “What happens when you do wrong?” his brother asks. “When I do wrong, someone else is punished,” the boy emperor replies. To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is beaten. The Lord Jesus Christ reversed this pattern for our sakes: When the servants erred, the King was punished. Isaiah 55:4-6 says, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    GOD REACHES OUT TO US IN SPITE OF US. Ziba was a servant of Saul who was administrating Saul’s estate. And when David summoned him and inquired about the surviving members of Saul and Jonathan’s family, Ziba singled out Mephibosheth – even though there were others he could have mentioned. Interestingly, he does not mention Mephibosheth by name. In verse 3, Ziba introduced Mephibosheth by his condition: “he was crippled in his feet.” When the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan reached the royal family, they fled. 2 Samuel 4:4 tells us that Mephibosheth was just five-years-old at the time. And in the haste to flee, his nurse dropped him, leaving his feet permanently crippled. It seems that Ziba reports Mephibosheth’s condition to say to David that he was not worth David’s time – he could neither help nor hurt the king.

    Undeterred by Ziba’s unflattering description of Mephibosheth, David replied, “Where is he?” Ziba then reports that Mephibosheth was hiding out in the home of benefactors who lived in Lo-debar. The name “LO-DEBAR” means “no pasture.” We do not know much about Lo-debar. But scholars agree that its name was meant to indicate that it was a barren, unfruitful, terrible place. Mephibosheth was a crippled man from a fallen dynasty living in a horrible environment. Yet David reached out to him in kindness. Verse 5 says, “Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” That’s grace. It’s what grace does for us. The grace of God reaches out to us in spite of us. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


    No doubt, David’s kindness came as a complete surprise to Mephibosheth. When the king’s soldiers knocked at his door and carried him to Jerusalem, he must have seen his whole life flash before his eyes. Mephibosheth knew how it went. When a new king arose, he would put to death the family of the previous dynasty so there would be no revolts or rebellions later. So Mephibosheth must have entered David’s presence like a cornered enemy. But David embraced him like a long, lost friend. And David’s warm welcome of Mephibosheth teaches us two important things about grace.

    GRACE MEANS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF GOD’S WRATH. Can you imagine the sense of terror that must have consumed Mephibosheth when he met the king? He feared David. He was scared of being brutally tortured and executed. He was afraid because there was absolutely nothing he could do about whatever was about to happen to him. Imagine his surprise when King David says to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness…” David’s kindness removed Mephibosheth’s fear. And God’s grace does the same for us. So we can confidently sing Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

    One day, President Thomas Jefferson was riding horseback cross-country when he and his companions came to a swollen river. A wayfarer stood at the banks as several of the party passed by. But when President Jefferson approached, he hailed him, asking if the president would carry him across the river on his horse. Once on the other side, on the group asked the wayfarer why he selected the president to ask this favor of. “The president,” said the man with surprise. “I didn’t know he was the president. All I know is that on some of the faces is written the answer ‘no’ and on some faces is written the answer ‘yes.’ His was a ‘yes’ face.”

    That’s a good definition of grace. Grace is the smiling face of God. Grace communicates God’s acceptance, approval, and affirmation. God’s grace means that we have to fear the judgment, wrath, and condemnation of God. In John 10:28-30, Jesus says: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father’ are one.” Praise God that you don’t have to be afraid of death, hell, and the grave


    GRACE MEANS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF YOUR WEAKNESS. David promised to show kindness to Mephibosheth. David vowed to restore Saul’s estate to Mephibosheth. And David assured Mephibosheth that he had a permanent place as the royal table. Naturally, these royal favors overwhelmed Mephibosheth. And he moved from being surprised by grace to becoming skeptical toward grace. Verse 8 says, “And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?’” One of the most degrading things you could call a person in David’s day was a “dog.” And for a person to call himself a dog would be a great act of self-deprecation that expressed humble submission before a superior authority. But note that Mephibosheth does not just call himself a dog. He calls himself a “dead dog.” That’s how Mephibosheth saw himself. Less than nothing. Worse that the worst. Lower than rock bottom. But that’s not how David saw Mephibosheth. And that’s not how God sees you.

    There is a sociological concept that is called “the theory of the looking-glass self.” The idea is that we have a way of seeing ourselves through the eyes of other people – so much so that we incorporate their views of us into our own self-concept. This is why so many of us have such a perverted view of life. We only see ourselves through the lens of other people’s opinions – parents, siblings, lovers, teachers, the media, church folks, etc. But grace leads us to look at ourselves through the mirror of God’s amazing grace. And there, we don’t have to be afraid of what we see. Faith is God’s grace is simply about accepting God’s acceptance of you. I know you are crippled. And I know that you are may be in Lo-debar. But I have good news for you. God loves you. There is nothing that can make God love you more. And there is nothing that can make God love you less. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


    Verses 6-8 record David’s conversation with Mephibosheth. Then verses 9-11 record David’s conversation with Ziba about Mephibosheth: “Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.’ Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, ‘According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.’ So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.” These verses illustrate three ways in which the grace of God lifts up the fallen.

    GOD’S GRACE GIVES UNDESERVED RICHES. That’s what David did for Mephibosheth. He restored to him all the land of Saul and Jonathan. David didn’t have to do that to keep his promise to Jonathan. He could have just put Mephibosheth on a kind of royal “welfare system” and kept Saul’s estate for himself. But David gave it all to Mephibosheth. And it was apparently so great that verse 10 says it would take Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants to care for all that land. With one decree of sovereign grace, Mephibosheth went from living in someone else’s house in Lo-debar to owning his own royal estate. This is what grace does. God’s grace enriches us. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

    GOD’S GRACE GIVES UNCONDITIONAL FAVOR. Four times in this chapter – verses 7, 10, 11, and 13 – we are told that David gave Mephibosheth a permanent place at his royal table. This gracious act was definitely not a subtle form of house arrest to keep an eye on Mephibosheth. And it was not a royal handout to meet his physical need for food. David had already given Mephibosheth so much land that it would take more some thirty-five people to care for it. So this was not about food. It was about favor. Verse 11 says that Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. In a real sense, David adopted Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was not just a guest at the royal table. He was a member of the royal family. Verse 13 says, “So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.” Mephibosheth remained crippled. But his crippled feet were hidden under the king’s table. That’s what grace does. It covers us. Romans 5:20 says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, graced abounded all the more.”

    GOD’S GRACE GIVES UNENDING SECURITY. 2 Samuel 21:1-7 illustrates David’s ongoing protection of Mephibosheth. Saul had waged an unjust war against Gibeonites. But the punishment for Saul’s sin didn’t fall on Israel until David’s reign. A three-year famine struck the land. And when David prayed about it, God told him about Saul’s sin. So David went to the Gibeonites to make restitution. And the Gibeonites demanded that David hand over seven of Saul’s sons that they may hang them. And David agreed. But 2 Samuel 21:7 says that David would not give them Mephibosheth.

    A certain man sought to adopt a troubled teenager. As the process of adoption was going on, the young girl did a terrible thing to break the man’s heart. And all of his family and friends warned him that he should immediately end the adoption process. “After all,” they argued, “she’s not really your daughter.” But the man resolutely replied, “I know. But I told her she was. And I am not going to change my mind.” This is how the grace of God treats us. Lamentations 3:22-23 says: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

    How should you respond to grace and goodness of God? Let me answer by telling you about another episode from Mephibosheth’s life. It’s recorded in 2 Samuel 19:24-30. David’s kingdom was threatened by a political and military revolt led by his own son, Absalom. And during this conflict, David became a refugee in exile from his beloved city of Jerusalem. Ultimately, David prevailed. Absalom was defeated and killed in battle. And David finally returned to Jerusalem. Upon his arrival, he had to settle some issues with several people. One of them was Mephibosheth. When David fled Jerusalem, Mephibosheth remained behind. Ziba told David that Mephibosheth stayed behind because he had turned against the king and sided with the enemy. But when David returned to Jerusalem, he was met by Mephibosheth who had not bathed or shaven since David’s departure. And in this apparent state of mourning, Mephibosheth gave his side of the story. Ziba left him. And being crippled, he had no other means of fleeing. David, not knowing whose story to believe, decided to split Saul and Jonathan’s estate evenly between Ziba and Mephibosheth. But in 2 Samuel 19:30, Mephibosheth says, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.” Did you get that? We ought to be willing to give our all back to the Lord who has given so much to us.




    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.

    Fellowship With God

    This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is…

    Jesus Has The Last Word

    And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the…

    Praying With The End In Mind

    To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of…

    The Most Important Commandment

    And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34 Armies win…