“Would you do me a favor?”
The question was not unusual; we all hear it – and, request it – numerous times, every day. Favors – “acts of kindness beyond what is due or usual” – are the lubrication that keeps the machinery of life running smoothly.
We are acquaintances; not friends. Why would he contact me? Simple: we had a relationship connection: his father was a friend, and a trusted mentor. I’ve used his dad as an endorser for me; his stature and opinion raised my value in the eyes of people who regarded his father highly. His father is already in heaven, but his imprint on the Kingdom remains widespread.
I thought – immediately – of Mephibosheth. Does his name ring any bells, for you?
Turn the clock back 3000 years. Saul was king in Israel, and his approval rating – in heaven – was on its way down. God sends prophet Samuel to recruit Saul’s replacement; he found him in a sheep pasture, outside Bethlehem. David is the runt in his father’s litter, not yet old enough to drink… and God’s choice for king. He’ll be introduced to Israel – and, to Saul – through an encounter with Goliath…
Lots of storyline follows – and, years pass – before David ends up on the throne. Along the way, Saul’s oldest son – and, his presumed successor – becomes David’s best friend and protector. Jonathan is 10-12 years older than David, but the age difference doesn’t disable the example of unlikely loyalty modeled between them.
Long before the term was in use, “mentor” could have applied to the nature of Jonathan’s impact on David’s life. His investment in helping to pave the way for David into his God-ordained future is Jonathan’s legacy in history. Though any human observer would have anticipated King Jonathan, God’s alternative plan was enough to earn Jonathan’s support and engagement in David’s rise to power.
Saul and Jonathan – the Crown Prince, from the street view – both died in battle, on the same day. David’s ascension to the throne followed. Normal palace politics following the change of administrations would have been anticipated. One of the typical protocols, in that era: find all of the progeny from the former royal line… and eliminate them from the scene, to assure no future coups or overthrows, orchestrated by opponents who wanted to go back to the “old days.”
No one was surprised when King David asked the question, but his reason was highly unusual: “‘Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’” (2 Samuel 9:1). He wasn’t looking to clear the decks and eliminate a threat; instead, he had a score to settle, and he needed a living descendent to make things right.
They found the sole survivor: he was Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan. The day his father and grandfather died in battle, chaos was underway back at the king’s compound. The nurse tasked with caring for the next in the royal line dropped the five-year-old, and Mephibosheth (we’ll just call him “Meph”) was crippled, for life. His disability removed him from the threat column; he was in hiding by the time David’s administration was established and his power consolidated. “Find me somebody!”
Meph was living beyond David’s reach, but they found him and brought him to the palace. “David said, ‘Mephibosheth!’ ‘At your service,’ he replied. ‘Don’t be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.’” (2 Samuel 9:6-7).
David owed Jonathan, and J’s death didn’t dismiss the debt. David found Meph, and reimbursed him for the investment his father made in David.
When the son of my friend contacted me, I heard Mephibosheth’s voice. I owed his father more than I could calculate, but I had the privilege of making a small installment with his son… Who is your Mephibosheth?