Thursday, July 12, 2012

Repeating Sinai (part 1 of 2)

In the ninth chapter of the second book of Samuel, we encounter one of the most endearing Biblical stories concerning King David, that being the story of David and Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul.  This makes him a grandson of King Saul, who had been responsible for David’s life of exile, and from whose subjugation God had entered in so as to rescue David and set him over Israel---delivering David so that he could be a deliverer of God’s people. 

Having been well established on the throne, David asks “If anyone still left from the family of Saul, so that I may extend kindness to him for the sake of Jonathan?” (2 Samuel 9:1)  David knows that Saul’s house is in exile.  As David asks this question, he very much finds himself in the role of Israel’s God, who previously looked upon His people in Egypt and desired to show them kindness for the sake of the promises that had been made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God looked upon Israel, showing them kindness so that they might fulfill God’s covenantal promise to bless the whole world through Abraham.  In this instance, perhaps surprisingly, it is Saul and Jonathan that stand in the role of the patriarchs, while Mephibosheth stands in the role of Israel.  This point is made even more poignant as we move forward when David is informed that “One of Jonathan’s sons is left; both of his feet are crippled” (9:3b). 

When Israel was in Egypt, in bondage and in servitude, it must truly be said that the nation to whom God refers as His “son” and “firstborn” (Exodus 4:22), lay crippled, unable to provide deliverance for themselves, and unable to return to the land that had been promised to their forefathers.  Concerning Mephibosheth, David asked where he might be found, and the response came that “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar” (9:4b).  The fact that Mephibosheth is in Lo Debar is incredibly fascinating.  As if the connection between his situation and that of Israel in Egypt was not clear enough, this mention of the place in which he was residing, wedges his story even more tightly into the overall Scriptural narrative. 

Lo Debar is generally translated as “no pasture,” which is terribly significant in relation to the theme of exile.  Indeed, not only is it thought of as a place of no pasture, but as the lack of pasture, or land, is considered within the framework of Israelite hope, along with the tremendous importance of land in relation to God’s promises to His people, Lo Debar has also come to be thought of as a place of no pasture, and no hope, and as a place of total desolation.  Is that not exile?  Is that not the situation in which Israel was living in Egypt?  Is that not what is presented by the promised curses of Deuteronomy twenty-eight, and their presentation of exile?  Could the exile of God’s people not be described as being devoid of hope and rife with desolation?  Absolutely, they could, and this is where Mephibosheth is to be found, with crippled feet, and as far as he would have been concerned, awaiting the judgment of David to fall upon him because he was a member of Saul’s house. 

King David, in act of mercy and grace towards a member of Saul’s house that posed zero threat to him, in accordance with promises made to Jonathan, reaches into the life of Mephibosheth and “had him brought from the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar” (9:5), to be made to stand in his presence.  So too did the God of Israel, in an amazing act of mercy and grace, in accordance with promises made beginning with Abraham, reach into Egypt, gathering His people to bring them up from their desolation and subjugation, so as to stand before Him at what came to be referred to as the mountain of God (Mt. Sinai). 

In a replay of what took place at Mt. Sinai (before that pesky golden calf incident), “Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed low with his face toward the ground” (9:6a).  There, he spoke to the king and said “at your service” (9:6c).  As we might imagine, Mephibosheth was trembling in fear, unsure of the reason for which he was standing before the king, just as Israel stood before Mt. Sinai in fear, unsure of what lay before them following their exodus (redemption, rescue, deliverance, salvation, vindication, resurrection, restoration).  Mephibosheth might have believed that he now stood before David so that David might bring his exile to its full consummation, by execution.  David, however, looked upon Mephibosheth with compassion, desiring to provide him with exodus (redemption, rescue, deliverance, salvation, vindication, resurrection, restoration). 

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