February 23, 2020

2 Samuel 9:1-13

During the 1996 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, the torch was carried into the stadium and it was passed off to a man named Antonio.

At a young age, Antonio contracted polio. It affected both legs, and it disabled him for life.

However, as he grew, he found a sport in which he could excel, archery. Antonio wasn’t just sort of good. Antonio was one of the best marksmen in Spain.

He was chosen from a field of 200 to fire a flaming arrow to light the Olympic cauldron.

I remember watching that night as he shot the flaming arrow from hundreds of feet away as it lit the cauldron to the gasping amazement of the audience and millions from around the world.

Few people were even aware that a disabled man fired the flaming arrow. It wasn’t his legs that people were looking at, but his amazing ability to put that arrow on its mark.

We have gifts, achievements, skills, and knowledge. Still, we are all wounded by things that have happened to us in the past: sexual abuse, divorce, addiction, depression, a miscarriage, betrayal, abandonment, fear, panic attacks, PTSD, cancer, bankruptcy, sin.

We limp into the day after a sleepless night. We tell people we are fine when we are not. We put on a fake smile, and we push through our work. We run through our day, but inside we are a mess.

We work very hard to hide our issues from others. Who wants to know anyway? It’s so unbecoming.

We had rather people see the part of us that sends the flaming arrow to hit its intended target than to look down and notice that we have difficulty standing to our feet.

When I was in seminary, those of us preparing to be pastors had opportunities to preach in different parts of Kentucky on certain Sundays of the year.

Traveling to and from those places was interesting as we met new students, pastors, and members of churches.

On one trip, I met Jim, a middle-aged man with a dark tan, rough hands, and a country accent.

As I sat next to Jim, I noticed that he had an artificial arm.  Even though I knew he’d been asked a thousand times, I wanted to know his story.

He told those of us in the van that he had an accident on the farm that changed his life.

While operating his tractor, it overturned onto him, severing his arm and his leg. I had noticed his artificial arm, but his artificial leg was hidden, so I had not even noticed it.

He told us of the way God worked to save him from death and of the amazing grace of God that gave him a second chance to live. He was taking that chance to tell others about God’s love and His grace.

There is a story of love and grace in the ninth chapter of Second Samuel.

The story is about a teenage boy named Mephibosheth. At the time of his birth, he had the finest of everything any child could have.

His future was secure as he stood in a direct line to inherit all King Saul had. King Saul was his grandfather.

But at the age of five, this young boy experienced a devastating change of circumstances. In a battle with the Philistines, his grandfather, King Saul died.

The Philistines wounded him critically, and before they could finish him off, Saul fell on his sword. Three of Saul’s sons were also killed. Among them was Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan.

Jonathan was the best friend of David, who was the man God had chosen to be the next King.

Jonathan had saved David from being killed by his King Saul and, in effect, had abdicated the throne to David because he could see God’s hand upon David’s life.

So for a brief period after King Saul’s death, the cities were left unprotected.  There was no king, a defeated army, and no one to assume the throne.

The people had to run for their lives as the Philistines came to make their claim. Amid the mass exodus from the city, five-year-old Mephibosheth was swept up by the nurse who was caring for him.

But somehow, in the struggle to escape the city, the young boy took a terrible fall. The bones in his feet or legs were crushed. Perhaps they were run over by a chariot or stepped on by a horse, but whatever happened, from that day on, he could not walk.

In a one day, five-year-old Mephibosheth lost his grandfather, his father, his uncles, his country, his home, his promising future, and his ability to walk. He also lost any inheritance he stood to gain from his grandfather.

Fortunately, because of God’s mercy and an attending nurse, he did not lose his life.

One day, about ten years later, Mephibosheth woke up to what must have seemed like just another day. But something happened that would change his life forever.

A special entourage from the King arrived at his home in Lo Dabar.

A King’s entourage was once a common sight when he was a child, but as a teenager, he had been far removed from royalty. What would be going through a teenager’s mind for an entourage from the King to be showing up and requesting his presence at the palace of King David?

You might think Mephibosheth would have been excited, like someone receiving a visit from Publisher’s House Sweepstakes.  This could be good news! Think again.

It was customary during this time for a new dynasty to wipe out all possible connections with the old.

No doubt, he had heard stories of how his grandfather ruthlessly put to death the Gibeonites, even though the Israelites had agreed not to kill them.

Kings were notorious for having little mercy when it came to protecting their dynasties.
So, when these soldiers showed up to escort him to the King, Mephibosheth feared for his life.

The picture of this scene is dramatic. Soldiers bring a disabled teenager into the courts of the King of Israel. They place him before the King.

The boy, no doubt already on the floor, bows his head in fear for his life.

The King calls him by name. “Mephibosheth!” Then he says, “Do not be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father, Jonathan. I will restore you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat bread at my table.”

“Always eat bread from the King’s table.” These words did not sink in. He had just been extended words of grace and love from the King of Israel.

Instead, with his head still bowed, he asked why the King should notice to a dead dog such as himself. He knew he was not worthy of such an honor. What had he done to deserve the right to eat bread from the King’s table?

Of course, he had not done anything to receive the King’s unmerited favor. The grace of the King was being extended to him because Mephibosheth was a descendant of Jonathan.

I mentioned that Jonathan and David were the best of friends. Jonathan had helped save David’s life from his jealous father.

David was hiding from King Saul and did not want to come out of hiding unless he knew it was safe.

So he and Jonathan worked out a plan. Jonathan shot some arrows his way for a servant to retrieve.

If the arrows were shot in one area, David knew it was safe to come out of hiding. If they were shot in another area, he knew he had to leave, or the King would kill him.

The arrows were shot in the area that told David he had to leave and from then on, David was on the run from the King.

Jonathan knew God’s favor was on David, so he and David had an agreement that David would never cut off Jonathan’s family when he became King. (I Samuel 20)

After many years of being King, David remembered the covenant.  When he found out that Jonathan still had a living son, he fulfilled his commitment.

Mephibosheth’s good fortune was not due to luck or fate, nor because of some inherent goodness on his part. He received the grace of the King because of the relationship David had with Jonathan.

Because of this story, we have one of the most powerful pictures of grace given in the Old Testament.

Our relationship with God is possible because Jesus extends his grace to us.

Paul wrote to his friend Timothy:

I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man; yet because I had acted in ignorance and unbelief, I was shown mercy. 14Andthe grace of our Lord overflowed to me, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:13-15 NIV).

Sometimes the damage that is done to our souls is due to no fault of our own.  But, like Paul, there are other times that we are our own worst enemy as we rebel against God and His ways.

Either way, our Lord comes and stands ready to receive us, to walk with us, and to bring healing to us.

Healing is possible if we will form a relationship with Jesus.

Some of you limped into church this morning. Emotionally, spiritually, financially, or even physically, the Lord knows what struggles you have.

Some of our wounds are obvious, but we keep others well hidden.

This morning when you come to the Lord’s table, I want you to picture the King of Israel breaking bread with Mephibosheth at the great banquet table of the King.

Can you see the great, royal banquet table, surrounded by all the exquisite furnishings of the banquet hall, with the King seated at the table with Mephibosheth?

The way we usually picture this, Mephibosheth’s crippled feet would be hidden underneath the table. We are more comfortable with that picture.

Rarely did our nation see President Franklin Roosevelt compromised by his polio. His condition was almost always kept hidden from the public, lest the nation think less of him.

But the banquet table in King David’s day would have been one where the King and his guests would have reclined on skins of animals with their food spread before them.

Mephibosheth’s feet would not have been hidden by a table.  David was fully aware of Mephibosheth’s condition.   The King’s grace wasn’t conditioned on whether he could walk but on whether he would accept the invitation of his love.

Our invitation to the Lord’s table is not conditioned on whether we are walking entirely in the Lord’s commandments because few of us ever are.   Of course, that is the goal.  The invitation to this table is conditioned on whether we will accept the Lord’s love and forgiveness.

Will you?  Will you accept the love of Jesus who allowed his body to be nailed the cross for our transgressions?

Our invitation to the table is conditioned on whether we will accept his grace for those times when we have not listened and ended up wounding ourselves and others by our disobedience.

Coming to this table is conditioned on whether we desire to walk in the ways of God and if we will come confessing our brokenness to the Lord.

The beautiful thing about coming and eating for the King’s Table is that these elements symbolize forgiveness, healing, and peace, which are available to all who come.

The King invites you now to come and share bread at His table.

Photo credit: Christianity.com