It seems that David’s life is finally where it was expected to be. David has become king over Israel. Jerusalem is now the stronghold and capital for David. The ark of the covenant has been successfully moved in the city of David. David is victorious in military battles against the Philistines. The greatness of the reign of David is stated in 2 Samuel 8:15, “So David reigned over all Israel, administering justice and righteousness for all his people.” The rest of chapter eight tells us who David’s important officials are. But something seems to be bothering David.
David asked, “Is there anyone remaining from Saul’s family I can show kindness to because of Jonathan?” (9:1)
Where does this request come from? Further, this is a surprising request considering that most kings try to destroy the family of the previous king so that none of them will make a claim to the throne. David does not ask if there is anyone is Saul’s family remaining so he can have them killed. Rather, he wants to show kindness, notice, “because of Jonathan.” What is this referring to? Jonathan makes a covenant with David when he was helping David escape from Saul. Jonathan said, “If I continue to live, treat me with the LORD’S faithful love, but if I die, don’t ever withdraw your faithful love from my household—not even when the LORD cuts off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth” (1 Samuel 20:14-15). It seems that this promise comes back into David’s mind now that the kingdom is established in David’s hand. But many in the house of David have already been killed by others. So the question goes out, “Is there anyone remaining in Saul’s family?” I wonder if David’s officials had a distorted look on their face, trying to figure out why David would want to show kindness, of all things, the house of Saul.
This is another characteristic that makes David a person after God’s own heart. David is going to keep his promise. He is going to keep this covenant that he made with Jonathan. It is probable that no one knew about this covenant that David made. No one was going to follow up with David to make sure that he was keeping his promise. David could have made a number of excuses why he should not keep this promise.
Saul turned out to be cruel and relentless. Why should David have to show any kindness to a house that treated him with such evil?
David and Jonathan were young men when these words were said. But things have dramatically changed since the time that these words were uttered.
David does not have time to worry about these things because he is the king over Israel. He has far more important things to deal with.
But David keeps his word. David keeps his covenants. David’s words were not idle. When he said something, he meant it. David did what he said he would do. This is a rare characteristic in a person today. Find me people who will keep their word no matter what. When you find such a person, you have found a person who has honor and integrity.
“If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to keep it, because He will require it of you, and it will be counted against you as sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, it will not be counted against you as sin. Be careful to do whatever comes from your lips, because you have freely vowed what you promised to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 23:21-23).
When you make a vow to God, don’t delay fulfilling it, because He does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow. Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)
God, in describing those who can dwell with him, said that one of the characteristics is those who “keep their promises even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:4).
God demands for us to keep our word. God demands that we fulfill our promises. But not only this, but that we fulfill our promises quickly. We do not delay in fulfilling what we say we will do. In fact, God says that you ought not to make commitments if you cannot fulfill it rather than make a commitment and break it. Unfortunately, everyone agrees to the statement that our word is our bond and if we do not have our word, we have nothing. But no one lives up to this standard that God has given. Keeping our word is not to be done only when it is convenient for us.
We are often forced in the difficult situations where we are to keep our commitments, our promises, and our vows. Your wife is not what you thought you married. She was someone different, it seems, when dating. Are you going to keep your vow of marriage? Your spouse cheats on you. Do you keep your vow of fidelity even though the other person has not? These difficulties are magnified when having children. Where did the marriage go? Honeymoon moments and relaxation turns to dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and frayed emotions. It is not what you expected. Are you going to fulfill your vows? We said to each other that we would forsake all others, yet how often all others come above our spouse. By having children we have made a commitment to provide a stable home. Is it any wonder that God says that he hates divorce? Christians, of all people, need to be people who keep their word, keep their commitments, and keep their promises. We need to view marriage as a vow before God, a promise to our spouse to stay together until death, a commitment to a stable family, and the integrity of our own word that must be kept.
David is informed that there is someone left in Saul’s family. Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, is living in Lo-debar, which means “without pasture.” So it is not a desirable place to live. The servants of Saul go and bring Mephibosheth before the king. No doubt that Mephibosheth is fearful about this meeting. Why would David want to see him? He has to believe that he is going to die because that is what kings did to secure their power. In fact, David tells Mephibosheth not to be afraid, which indicates that he was fearful about this encounter. David tells Mephibosheth that he is going to show him kindness because of the commitment he made to his father Jonathan. David was going to restore all of Saul’s fields to Mephibosheth’s family and he was going to eat at the table with David in his palace in Jerusalem. This is quite an upgrade in living. Notice Mephibosheth’s surprised response: “What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?” (9:8). David does not answer the question but simply enacts what he has decreed. The land was to return to the family of Saul. No longer would they have to live in Lo-debar, without pasture. Now they would be able to farm and make provisions for their families and their servants. But, even better, is that Mephibosheth is eating at the table with David. Can you see the dinner table with David, Abigail, and the numerous children of David like Absalom, Amnon, and Adonijah. And there, sitting with the rest of the family, is Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth had done nothing. All of this was simply the loving kindness of David who kept his covenant.
This story is a great representation of God who keeps his covenant love. God keeps his word and keeps his covenant. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.” (Deuteronomy 7:9-10; NIV). “Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9; HCSB). The Hebrew word is difficult to translate with just one word. Some translators use “steadfast love.” Some use “lovingkindness.” The idea is the gracious love of God enforced by his unbreakable covenant.
Every rainbow reminds us of the covenant God made with Noah to never destroy the world by water again. God made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would receive land, that his descendants would be made into a great nation, and the all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his descendants. God keeps his promises.
One of the most dramatic images God gives us to reveal his covenant love is in the story of Hosea and Gomer. God commands Hosea to marry a harlot to reflect and teach the people what God is doing with them. Gomer is having children that are not Hosea’s. She has been unfaithful to him. But rather than put her away, which was the right that Hosea had, God instructs Hosea to take Gomer back. The picture was how God continued to take his people back even though they had been unfaithful through their sins.
“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…” (Titus 1:1-2). Notice how Paul opens his letter to Titus describing the hope that we have of eternal because it was promised before time began. There was nothing that we did that caused God to make this covenant. There is nothing that we did that brought about God deciding to promise eternal life. All that we see is God’s faithful, covenant love. Here we are living in Lo-debar. But God is knocking on the door, asking us if we would like to eat at the table with the Father. Can you imagine Mephibosheth saying that he would rather live in Lo-debar than living in the palace of David, eating the royal food with him? It would be crazy to think that anyone would make that exchange. God is knocking on our door, asking us if we would like to leave our Lo-debar and living in heavenly Jerusalem, feasting with the Lord. The only reason God is making this offer is because he loves each of us and made a promise before time that eternal life would be available. We do not deserve this offer. Mephibosheth’s response is an appropriate response for us to God: “What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?”
Why set your hope on this world and this life of Lo-debar? God is offering you eternal life. God is offering you a seat in the kingdom of God. God is offering you every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. God is offering you a seat at the table of the feast with the Father.