Carried to the Table
I have been reading the Old Testament a lot lately. Sometimes I find it difficult to understand. Occasionally, even when I understand the content, it seems so far in the past that application becomes a struggle. As someone who teaches teenagers, connecting the Old Testament to the gospel of Christ can be one of the more challenging tasks in my ministry. However, as I have labored through passages of Law, Poetry, and Prophets, I have come to find a deeper understanding of redemption’s history and the way in which it connects to the work of Christ.
One such story in the Old Testament depicts the gospel in what I consider to be David’s finest hour. This may not be the story that comes to your mind when you think of the greatest king of Israel - the one who slayed Goliath, survived Saul’s many attempts to kill him, and fathered Solomon. This story is not a great battle, a conquering of one of David’s many enemies, and it is not where God makes eternal promises to David’s family. This story reveals why David was called a “man after God’s own heart.” It is the story of a dinner party with an unexpected guest.
After David ascends to the throne of Israel, he asks his servants an unusual question: “Is there anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1). It turns out that there is a son of Jonathan named Mephibosheth. David invites Mephibosheth to join him at his royal table, and in doing so, paints a glorious picture of God’s plan of redemption on our behalf.
Observations about Mephibosheth:
1. He is unworthy to be at the table.
David’s royal beginning is met with conflict at the hand of one man: King Saul. Saul pursues him, attacks him, slaughters his followers, and refuses to yield the throne of Israel to the one God chose to succeed him. Once David finally takes his rightful place as king, all the benefits and honors of the kingdom belong to him. David’s formal claim to the throne means there is no obligation to show kindness to Saul’s descendants. In fact, the only ones welcome at the king’s table are his own family and his most trusted servants. Mephibosheth is not either of these. Neither is he one of David’s mighty men whose great skill and loyalty make them an asset to the kingdom. Surprisingly, Mephibosheth is a grandson of King David’s enemy, Saul. There is nothing about Mephibosheth that merits access to the presence of the king.
2. He is unable to get to the table.
Beyond his unfortunate ancestry, Mephibosheth’s physical limitations keep him from drawing near to the king’s table. He is lame in both feet and lives in someone else’s house, most likely because he cannot care for himself. He is likely very poor, and his physical ailment deemed unclean, making him unworthy to be in the presence of royalty. Even if he was invited by the king, he cannot make it to the table on his own. Someone would have to carry him to the king’s table.
3. He is unashamedly given a seat at the table.
Remarkably, not only is Mephibosheth given a special invitation to join the king, but he is also honored by King David. Mephibosheth is given more than a one-time opportunity to have dinner at the king’s table. He is given a permanent seat at David’s table, and a great inheritance - all the land that had belonged to his grandfather, Saul (2 Sam. 9:7-13)! This is more than a one-time honor. This is an inheritance fitting only for a son of the king. David permanently welcomes in Mephibosheth as if he were his own son. Not only does David treat Mephibosheth with kindness by granting him access for a moment, but he makes him like one of his own sons for the rest of his days.
How we are like Mephibosheth:
1. We are unworthy to be welcomed into the presence of the King, to join Him at His table.
The Bible says our sins make us enemies of God, which means for us to come into His presence would bring only death (Rom. 6:23). Our sins not only make us unworthy; they make us unclean and unable to be in God’s presence. He is the King of Kings.
2. We are incapable of coming to the King’s table on our own (John 6:44).
We cannot fix what is broken within us, the sin that separates us from God the King. We can never change our status or make ourselves worthy to join the King. We need someone to carry us to the table, and that is exactly what Jesus did for us. Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection provided the way for us to have access to the King. We can be made pure, clean, and righteous in God’s eyes through Christ. Because Jesus paid the price for our sin through His death and resurrection, we can now be welcomed into the presence of the King without fear of guilt or rejection.
3. We have been given a seat at the King’s table and the inheritance of the King’s son.
Mephibosheth was not entitled to David’s table or inheritance by birth. In fact, he did nothing to even acquire them! It was a free gift, undeserved, born out of the kindness of the king. The same is true of God’s grace to us. We are not only welcomed as a guest for a moment; we are made heirs with Christ (Gal. 3:29)! We are now children of God, who have an inheritance we did not earn that has been eternally secured for us (1 Peter 1:1-4), because the one who carries us to the Father also unites us with Him. We now look forward to that same inheritance: eternal, unbroken fellowship with God, where He is, without shame or fear of being removed.
And the most glorious truth of all: we deserve none of this. God is not obligated to offer us communion with Himself or an inheritance reserved in heaven for us, but He chooses to give these good gifts to His children (Ephesians 1:3-5). Like David seeking to show kindness out of his love for Jonathan, God offers us grace out of His perfectly loving character, that we may share in the kind of love only God Himself knows. We are invited to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (Colossians 1:12). As a child of the King, we will one day sit at the table with the King - at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9) - where we will see the King in His glory, to gaze upon His beauty and be welcomed into His family forever.
In the words of St. Athanasius: “The son of God became man that men might become sons of God.” To God be the glory.
Joseph Bradley is married to his wife, Ashley, and is the Student Pastor at Second Baptist Church in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He has contributed to Youth Pastor Theologian and has a passion for philosophy and apologetics.
- Old Testament, Salvation