Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lame In Both Feet While Sitting at the King's Table

My favorite chapter in the entire Old Testament is II Samuel 9. It's the story of Mephibosheth (sounds like "Me - Fib - O - Sheth"). His story is my story. His story is your story. His story is the story of us.  II Samuel 9 is the John 3:16 of the Old Testament.

Mephibosheth is a cripple, "lame in both feet" (II Samuel 9:3). King David wished to show kindness to Mephibosheth "for Jonathan's sake" (II Samuel 9:7). Jonathan, Mephibosheth's father, had died at the hand of the Philistines. Mephibosheth's nurse tripped and fell while fleeing from the Philistines with the young prince in her arms. When the nurse fell, Mephibosheth's vertebrate broke, causing the son of Jonathan to be a cripple (see II Samuel 4:4).

So Mephibosheth is just like you and me. Due to a tragic fall, he no longer was the person he was born to be. Crippled and broken, he grew up hiding from others in the little city of Lodebar. His name changed to Mari-baal to possibly reflect his shame and loss of fame. Baal was the god of culture in Canaan, and somehow, the son of Jonathan found himself lost in Lodebar, following the gods of Canaan.

Yet King David, in sovereign grace for a cripple, "fetched" Mephibosheth from his dark place "for the sake of Jonathan."

King David is a type or picture of our heavenly Father who shows kindness to crippled sinners "for Jesus sake." Religion tells you God is kind to saints for their religious performances. Christianity tells you God is kind to cripples "for Christ's sake." God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ (II see Corinthians 5:19).

So the story of Mephibosheth is the story of grace.

David fetched Mephibosheth from Lodebar, "and he sat at King David's table like one of the king's sons" (II Samuel 9:11). So too, when God saves us by His grace in Jesus Christ, He fetches us in our dark, shameful places and brings us to His table and meets our every need by His grace, for our good and for His glory (Philippians 4:19).

Lame in Both Feet

What strikes me in this fascinating story of grace is the description of Mephibosheth at the beginning of the story (II Samuel 9:3) and at the end of the story (II Samuel 9:13). At both the beginning and the end, Mephibosheth is described in this manner:

"He was lame in both feet."

One would think Mephibosheth's story of grace would end like this: "And God healed Mephibosheth of his lameness and he sat at the table of the king as one of his sons." 


Mephibosheth's story begins with lameness, and Mephibosheth's story ends with lameness. 

However, there are two Hebrew words in II Samuel 9, both translated lameness.

The first word, which begins Mephibosheth's story is nakeh, which means stricken, or smitten. It is used of lameness of both body and soul. It speaks of a broken spirit. In other words, while hiding in shame in Lodebar, Mephibosheth was a broken man, both on his feet and in his spirit. 

The best way to illustrate nakeh is with what I've seen in hundreds of suicides. It's been my job during the years of my work with police departments to go to scenes of suicide, take the note that is often left, and inform next of kin of their loved one's death. These suicide notes are filled with nakeh. They are written by broken spirits. 

This describes Mephibosheth prior to the experience of the king's grace.

The second word translated lame in II Samuel 9 is the Hebrew word pisseach. It is ONLY used in Scripture to refer to physical lameness. 

When we first meet Mephibosheth in II Samuel 9, he is a broken man in body and in spirit. At the end of II Samuel 9, after experiencing the king's grace, Mephibosheth is only broken in body. He remains lame under the king's roof, but he's learned "to be content regardless of his circumstances" (Philippians 4:12), because "he's learned he who is by the grace of God" (I Corinthians 15:10). 

God's grace may not cure your cancer, but God's grace will definitely cure your lack of contentment. God's grace may not heal your body, but God's grace will definitely heal your soul. You will sit at the King of Kings table, and have all your needs met, but sometimes what is wanted may remain. 

Grace changes the heart to teach us contentment in all things.

God Looks with Favor on Those with a Nakeh Spirit

I am often asked what I think about lesbians, gays and transgendered people. I sometimes wonder why I'm not as often asked about how I feel about gossips, over-eaters, egotistical, and controlling people. It's amazing how we tend to categorize sin, emphasizing those sins with which we don't struggle. But, let me respond. Do I love sinners? Of course. Will God treat them with favor? 

It depends.

The only other time the Bible uses the word nakeh is in Isaiah 66:2. Listen to what God says.

“But on this one will I look with favor:
On the one who is poor and contrite (nakeh) in spirit."

God is gracious and shows kindness "for Jesus' sake" to the one who is crippled in spirit and realizes nothing good is deserved from God because we "have fallen and can't get up." We are not as He created us to be. To boast and brag and demand that we MUST be accepted and loved in our sin is to not feel brokenness and contriteness over our sin. There is no Savior for anyone who feels they have no sin.

But God looks on the broken in spirit with favor. 

That's why we who sit at the King's table are still lame.

We have nothing of which we can boast but Him.


Bob Cleveland said...

It's been said that David's treatment of Mephibosheth is the key to why God said David was "..a man after my own heart". At a time when a successor king might be expected to eliminate all the former king's family, David took in Mephibosheth. That's not like society, but it's very much like God.

I'd be in a heap of trouble is He wasn't.

Donald Johnson said...

I have read that his name was Meribbaal and he was given a "nickname" of Mephibosheth (in effect, substituting "shame/bosheth" for Baal) in order for Israelites to avoid using a name that honored Baal.

Wade Burleson said...

Don, that could be correct. I take my view from the Hebrew scholar John Gill. He says his name was changed to Maribaal.

Unknown said...

The inner, spiritual lameness could be the greater handicap than the physical loss of body functions. I am caregiver for my wife who has Parkinson's with Lewy Body Dementia. I do not have any noticeable physical disabilities but i do struggle with inward limitations of the mind and spirit. As I experience these struggles I find Help and healing in God's grace. I suggest the addition of the last few verses of Isaiah 33 beginning with verse 20 to this discussion of "lameness." Note especially the last phrase in verse 23 - "the lame take the prey." There the word for "lame" is the same as the word you mentioned as describing Mephibosheth after David's act of kindness.

Christiane said...

"There is no Savior for anyone who feels they have no sin."

and yet these are the very people who are often the most broken of all

Wade Burleson said...


What a wonderful testimony!

Wade Burleson said...


Yes, that's true. Probably the worse condition is to be broken and not know it.

Christiane said...

"God's grace may not cure your cancer, but God's grace will definitely cure your lack of contentment. God's grace may not heal your body, but God's grace will definitely heal your soul."

in this way, many of the miracles at Lourdes have been experienced ..... the peace of Christ that comes to heal the visitor's spirit