David tells Mephibosheth, “Don’t be afraid, because I will certainly extend kindness to you for the sake of Jonathan your father” (9:7a). The grandson of King Saul hears words that are far removed from the continuation of vengeance that he might have been expecting. This is akin to what Israel would hear from God, though the mountain before which they stood was shrouded in the fire that they had to believe could only signify wrath and divine judgment. David would add to this: “I will give back to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will be a regular guest at my table” (9:7b). Here, we remember that the promise of land was the essence of exodus. The promise of land was the foundation of God’s act of covenant faithfulness that had begun with Abraham. Mephibosheth was being given the promise of land, by the one that could make that promise.
When God brought His people out to Him, he did so because of His promise of land and blessings, both for them and for all nations. God was going to bring His people to His land of promise, though like Mephibosheth, they had done nothing to require this of Him, and indeed, were even unable to do so, having been crippled under the crushing weight of Egypt’s oppression. Mephibosheth’s amazing and heartfelt and thankful response, which should be the response of each and every person to ever experience the extended hand of God’s mercy and grace, when dragged out of exile into the light of the world of exodus, was “Of what importance am I, your servant, that you show regard for a dead dog like me?” (9:8b) This is reminiscent of David’s response when God spoke to him about establishing him and his kingdom forever, as well as that of King Saul, when he was first anointed as king.
Unfortunately, we do not see such a response emanating from Israel when exodus comes to them, which should render us un-surprised at their rapid descent into idolatry, complaints, and rebellion at the first sign of difficulties following their deliverance. Following this penetrating statement from the one experiencing a costly act of sacrificial love, David “summoned Ziba, Saul’s attendant, and said to him, ‘Everything that belonged to Saul and to his entire house I hereby give to your master’s grandson. You will cultivate the land for him---you and your sons and your servants. You will brings its produce and it will be food for your master’s grandson to eat. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, will be a regular guest at my table’.” (9:9-10) Naturally, this causes us to think about the promises concerning the land of promise, and of its bounty and its fruitfulness, and of its being a land that flowed with milk and honey. It was a land that God intended His people to cultivate, so that it might produce food for His people, and ultimately, for the nations. This is not unlike what we see in Genesis, with a creation that provides bountifully, along with a telling reminder of the loss of that abundance when Adam rebelled, losing that blessing for all that would follow from him.
Ziba responds to the instruction by saying “Your servant will do everything that my lord the king has instructed his servant to do” (9:11a). Ironically, it is with these words that Ziba actually steps in to the place occupied by Israel, as the history of the people would show. When Israel received the Lord’s instruction through Moses, what was their response? They said “We are willing to do all the words that the Lord has said” (Exodus 24:3b). To this they would later add, “We are willing to do and obey all that the Lord had spoken” (24:7b). Obviously, a quick scan of the pages of the Scriptures reveal that these words were patently untrue, especially in their coming from the group of people whose bodies would be strewn in the wilderness because of their faithless rebellion against Moses and against their God.
When we move further into the story of the life of King David, we find that the Ziba corresponds with Israel quite well, in that when give the opportunity, he actually rebels against this instruction, and rebels against David, as he bring a false and slanderous report about Mephibosheth to David during the temporarily successful coup of Absalom. This would not be unlike the unfavorable report of the spies that returned from the promised land, which amounted to nothing more than a false and slanderous report concerning that which God had promised to do for His people, which then led to the previously referenced wilderness-wide strewing of the bodies of Israel’s faithless doubters.
Most importantly, it must be said that, “Mephibosheth lived a life of exodus, though “both his feet were crippled” (9:13b), as a “regular guest at David’s table, just as though he were one of the king’s sons” (9:11b). This is the story of the nation of Israel. This is the story of all that would come to bear the name of Israel.