by Jodi Hiser
The book of II Samuel tells the story of a man who suffered from two lame feet. But he hadn’t always been that way. Mephibosheth spent the first five years of his life in the royal court as the healthy grandson of King Saul and son of Prince Jonathan. When his father and grandfather died in battle, Mephibosheth became an immediate threat to the new Davidic throne. In great haste, Prince Mephibosheth’s nursemaid took him up and fled, escaping his imminent execution. While they were on the run, Mephibosheth had a tragic fall that disabled him for life. As time ticked on, the little boy was forgotten. He grew up, secretly isolated in a faraway town, hidden as a runaway fugitive from the king, disabled and forsaken.
As Mephibosheth grew into a man, the isolation and physical disability must have caused deep despair. Chained to a body with unworkable feet, he was unable to own land or work for himself. He was unable to gather his food and draw his water. While others attended weddings and ceremonial feasts, he was bound to a borrowed room, imprisoned in a broken body, existing as a discarded nobody in the eyes of Hebrew culture.
But this man didn’t suffer in vain. His unique story is stamped in biblical history, recorded in the canon for our benefit, teaching us that Mephibosheth’s physical deformities and unrelenting misery reflect the spiritual depravity of our own human hearts.
We are all affected by brokenness.
In the beginning of time, Adam and Eve’s sin changed everything. As our federal representatives, their sin became our sin. And as a result, no one can escape the brokenness of a fallen nature, or the effects of a fallen world.
Ephesians 2:1-2 explains this bad news: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience”. Our situation is dire. In our unconverted state, we are unable to walk in anything but trespasses and sin; we follow the course of this world, the passions of our flesh, carrying out our own selfish desires.
And contrary to popular culture, no amount of self-help can pull us out of that brokenness. The hard truth stands: our brokenness marks us with a disability that cannot be removed, no matter our level of intelligence, wealth, initiative, diligence, or social status.
Our greatest efforts cannot reverse the brokenness.
The Old Testament scripture repeatedly emphasizes that Mephibosheth was “lame in both feet”. It purposefully repeats this truth, circling back to the fact that his status was unchangeable. He was forever imprinted with his inability, enduring all the affliction that came with it.
Likewise, our spiritual brokenness cannot be reversed by any effort of our own. Ephesians 2:3 says that we are all “by nature children of wrath”. The word “wrath” in the Greek means “anger exhibited in divine punishment”. We deserve a divine punishment for our sinful depravity, and our situation, like Mephibosheth’s, seems hopeless.
That is, until Someone steps in.
One day, everything changed for Mephibosheth. A knock sounded at his door, revealing the king’s messenger, requesting the presence of Mephibosheth at the royal palace.
It is easy to imagine the thoughts that whirred through
Mephibosheth’s mind at that moment. Did he experience disbelief? Shock? Confusion? Terror?
Once he arrived in King David’s court, Mephibosheth fell on his face, afraid even to look at the king. But David bent down and looked into the eyes of Mephibosheth and said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather, and you shall eat bread at my table continually” (II Samuel 9:7).
Right there, out of the blue, David gave Mephibosheth a substantial amount of wealth and land with a swarm of servants to work it. And if that weren’t enough, David granted the highest favor to Mephibosheth by giving him a seat at the royal table. This seat gave Mephibosheth the privilege of dining in the presence of the king, embraced as one of David’s own sons, enveloped within his inner circle of fellowship.
And the beauty of this story is that we, in Christ, have an even better message of good news.
We have a greater High King who seats us with Him in the Heavenly places.
Ephesians 2:5-6 reminds us that God’s redemptive story doesn’t end with bad news. The good news says that God “made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. Christ awakens the heart, gives the gift of faith, and allows new life in His presence. In a very real and spiritual way, we are present where Christ is, and He is present where we are.
This is a phenomenon that easily blows the minds of even the greatest theologians. Christ systematically unraveled the curse for us, giving us life from our state of death. He raised us toward a heavenly focus, lifting us away from our magnetic bent towards the world. He seated us in the heavenly places, giving us the privilege of full acceptance. And now, instead of being children of wrath, we’re accepted as His adopted children. Instead of being cast away, we experience His hand of fellowship.
This is why grace is so amazing: a spiritually disabled fugitive can sit in the presence and fellowship of the High King Jesus, fully accepted as one of His children.
But our Heavenly Father doesn’t stop there.
Our High King gives us new feet to walk in good works.
When Mephibosheth sat at King David’s table, he must have pinched himself, wondering if this royal privilege was truly real. Even more perplexing, he must have felt like an intruder when he peeked underneath the tablecloth and looked at his feet, remembering the stamp of social difference that separated him from all of society. And yet, there he was: an outcast at the king’s table. Nothing had changed in him. His feet still hung in limp deformity.
But this is not so for the believer in Christ. For the believer’s transformation in Christ not only changes her heart, but also her feet.
Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Not only are we made alive, raised with Him, and seated with Him in the heavenly places, but we are given the feet to walk in the good works that He has planned for us.
Christ enables us to walk in the good works He’s already ordained. Our disability no longer stands; we are free to walk in the newness of life. We are no longer spiritual outcasts.
But if we only focus on the application of this story to our own lives, we miss the full message of Mephibosheth’s narrative. For even though this rags-to-riches adventure is like an ancient biblical fairy tale, the real hero isn’t our immobile underdog. The champion of this story is King David, who lavishes his great love on an insignificant person out of great love for another.
David said in II Samuel 9:7, “I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake”. Twenty years before Mephibosheth’s existence was uncovered, David had made a covenant with Jonathan to continue his steadfast love towards Jonathan’s descendants forever, and this covenant was the grace-filled incentive that moved David’s heart into action.
And likewise, our Heavenly Father lavishes His grace upon us, not because of anything deserving within us, but because of His great love for His Son, Jesus Christ, and the covenant of redemption made long before the foundation of time.
The grace of God outshines our deepest disability.
Mephibosheth’s story teaches us to look beyond our brokenness and see the character of God who lavishes grace over our depravity. He takes the outcast in her shame, seating her as an honored guest at His banqueting table. This is a humbling truth that reminds us of how far we once were from God until Christ stepped in as the Great High King of grace.
And now, with souls liberated from brokenness, we are free: free to walk in new life with Christ.