2 Samuel 9:1
Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul? As Mephibosheth was five years old at his father's death (2 Samuel 4:4), but now had a son (2 Samuel 9:12), a sufficient time must have elapsed for him to grow up and marry; so that probably the events of this chapter occurred seventeen or eighteen years after the battle of Gilboa. As David was king at Hebron for seven years and a half, he had been king now of all Israel for about nine years. But during this long period he had been engaged in a weary struggle, which had left him little repose, and during which it might have been dangerous to draw the house of Saul out of obscurity. But he was at last firmly established on the throne, and had peace all around; and the time was come to act upon the promise made to Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:14, 1 Samuel 20:15), and which we may be sure David had never forgotten.
2 Samuel 9:2
A servant whose name was Ziba. It is evident from this that David was not certain that Jonathan had left behind him a son; but not because of the change of name from Meribbaal (1 Chronicles 8:34); for Baal retained its innocent meaning of "lord" until the time of Jezebel. It then became the title of the Phoenician sun god; and Jezebel's shameless worship of this deity, and her cruelty to Jehovah's prophets, made the people henceforth change the name Baal into Bosheth, "the shameful thing" (see note on 2 Samuel 2:8). Mephibosheth had not changed his name, but had lived in obscurity in the wild region beyond Mahanaim. Meanwhile Ziba had probably taken care of Saul's property in the tribe of Benjamin. There is no reason to doubt that he had been steward there for Saul, and after his master's death had continued in possession of the estate. David, we may feel sure, would not interfere with it, and Ziba would hold it for Saul's heirs, who could not themselves take possession. To him David now sends, not because he expected to hear of a son of his dear friend Jonathan, but because he was ready to show kindness to any representative of the fallen monarch.
2 Samuel 9:3
The kindness of God. That is, extraordinary kindness. The devout mind of the Orientals saw in everything that was more than common a manifestation of God, and thus the epithet "of God" came to be applied to anything that was very great. David would show Saul's seed kindness as wonderful as are God's dealings with man.
2 Samuel 9:4
Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar. Of Lo-debar nothing is known, but it must have been east of the Jordan, near Mahanaim. Of Ammiel we read again in 2 Samuel 17:27, where we find that he was a man of wealth, who helped to supply the wants of David and his men during the rebellion of Absalom. Possibly this kindness of David towards one for whom he had feelings of loyalty, as representing a royal house to which he had remained faithful, won his heart. There was a magnanimity about it which would commend it to a man who was himself generous and true.
2 Samuel 9:6
He fell on his face. Mephibosheth probably expected the fate which in the East usually befalls the members of a dethroned dynasty. Subsequently in Israel each new line of usurpers put to death every male relative of its predecessor, and it was with difficulty in Judah that one babe was rescued from the hands of its own grandmother, Athaliah, when she usurped the throne. Looked at, then, in the light of Oriental policy, David's conduct was most generous.
2 Samuel 9:7
All the land of Saul thy father. David probably restored to Mephibosheth not only the lands at Gibeah, which Ziba had managed to hold, but Saul's estates generally. There seems, nevertheless, to have been on Ziba's part a grudge against Mephibosheth for thus getting back from the king what he had hoped to keep as his own. The privilege of being the king's friend, and eating at his table, was an honour that would be more highly prized than even the possession of the estates.
2 Samuel 9:8
A dead dog. At first sight this extreme self-humiliation makes us look on Mephibosheth as a poor creature, whom early misfortune and personal deformity had combined to depress But really this is to impose on an Oriental hyperbole a Western exactness of meaning. When in the East your entertainer assures you that everything he has to his last dirhem is yours, he nevertheless expects you to pay twice the value foreverything you consume; but he makes his exaction pleasant by his extreme courtliness. So Ephron offered his cave at Machpelah to Abraham as a free gift, but he took care to obtain for it an exorbitant price (Genesis 23:11, Genesis 23:15). Mephibosheth described himself in terms similar to those used by David of himself to Saul (1 Samuel 24:14); but he meant no more than to express great gratitude, and also to acknowledge the disparity of rank between him and the king.
2 Samuel 9:9
Thy master's son. Strictly Mephibosheth was Saul's grandson, but words of relationship are used in a very general way in Hebrew.
2 Samuel 9:10
That thy master's son may have food to eat. Instead of "son," Hebrew ben, some commentators prefer the reading of a few Greek versions, namely, "house," Hebrew, beth. But the difficulty which they seek to avoid arises only from extreme literalness of interpretation. Though Mephibosheth ate at the king's table, he would have a household to maintain—for he had a wife and son—and other expenses; and his having "food to eat" includes everything necessary, as does our prayer for "daily bread." He would live at Jerusalem as a nobleman and Ziba would cultivate his estates, paying, as is usual in the East, a fixed proportion of the value of the produce to his master. Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants (slaves). He had evidently thriven; for, beginning as a slave in Saul's household, he had now several wives and many slaves of his own, and had become a person of considerable importance. He would still remain so, though somewhat shorn both of wealth and dignity in becoming only Mephibosheth's farmer.
2 Samuel 9:11
As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he, etc. These words are difficult, because they make David say the same thing thrice. The text is probably corrupt, as it requires the insertion of some such phrase as the "said the king" of the Authorized Version to make it intelligible. Of the many emendations proposed, the most probable is that of the LXX. and Syriac, which make this clause an observation of the historian pointing out the high honour done to Mephibosheth in placing him on an equality with David's own sons. It would then run as follows: So Mephibosheth ate at the king's table as one of the king's sons.
2 Samuel 9:12
Micha. This son of Mephibosheth became the representative of the house of Saul, and had a numerous offspring, who were leading men in the tribe of Benjamin until the Captivity (see 1 Chronicles 8:35-40; 1 Chronicles 9:40-44).
2 Samuel 9:1-13
The facts are:
1. David, remembering his love for Jonathan, inquires whether there were any survivors of the house of Saul; and being informed of the proximity of Ziba, an old servant, he sends for him.
2. He is told that a son of Jonathan, lame of foot, is a sojourner in the house of Machir.
3. Being sent for, Mephibosheth, on appearing before the king, falls on his face and pays reverence, but is spoken to kindly.
4. Being assured by David that there was no need for fear, that kindness for his father's sake was in store, and that all his grandfather's property should be restored, he expresses by deed and word his sense of unworthiness.
5. David informs Ziba of his decision as to the property, and orders him to act as steward for the benefit of Mephibosheth, who was to be henceforth a guest at the royal table.
6. The arrangements are carried out, and so is explained the fact of Mephibosheth's residence in Jerusalem.
The power of hallowed associations.
Scripture, in common with all history, usually gives us the outward facts of life, leaving to be inferred the private mental and moral processes which must have lain in their rear. There is an abruptness in the transition of the historian from an account of David's victories and general administration to this record of an act of personal kindness. But if the laws of the human mind were the same then as now, we may be sure there was no such disconnection in the inner course of David's experience. During the few years of public activity in seeking the consolidation of his power, covered by the preceding chapters, there had often risen up in his mind memories of former days of trial, and of names of friends and foes now no longer among the living; and if thought breeds emotion, he would, on these occasions, experience feelings corresponding to the subject-matter of his thoughts. Among these thoughts, with their corresponding feeling, were doubtless those relating to his beloved Jonathan; and what the historian here places before us in the narrative concerning Mephibosheth is simply the ultimate welling up, from the depths of the memory, of the old associations clustering around the name of Jonathan in such strength as to issue in the deeds here recorded.
I. HALLOWED ASSOCIATIONS ARE A GREAT POWER IN LIFE. Human life is not determined in its condition or conduct at any particular hour by what is purely new in thought, in feeling, or in circumstance. The past furnishes the seed on which the present acts as new environment, and the nature of that past is a more potent element in determining the conduct than is the new environment. The chief clue to David's later character is to be sought in his earlier experiences. The mightiest inner forces that thus influence life are those which centre in strong and sacred associations. The memory of Jonathan's love worked unconsciously as a spell throughout David's career. Every man is subject to this law of life. As a rule, the early mental associations of our life give tone and colour to all that comes after. The power lying in the memory of a mother's love over even the vagaries of later years is proverbial. The mention of a name may suffice to flood the eyes with tears and break down the stoutest heart. David never knew how much of restraint, of tenderness, of noble aspiration, and of fidelity to truth and honour he owed to the associations carried in his memory with the name of his friend Jonathan. So to us the "Name that is above every name" is the centre of associations as powerful as they are blessed; and the more we can enrich our nature with kindred associations, the richer and more Christlike will our lives become.
II. THERE ARE OCCASIONS WHEN HALLOWED ASSOCIATIONS CAN EXERT THEIR PROPER INFLUENCE. During the first few years of his reign David seems to have been utterly absorbed with the work of restoring the civil and religious order of his kingdom, and of securing it against the pressure of surrounding foes. A consideration of the actual state of things consequent on the misgovernment of Saul, and of the enormous labours involved in an absolute monarchy when its obligations are faithfully carried out, will account for the apparent neglect of Jonathan's house till the present date. It is only reasonable to suppose that David had sometimes thought of this matter, and the manner in which it is introduced in 2 Samuel 9:1 suggests that now was the time to give effect to his own previously cherished desires. It might have been politically unwise, and to Saul's descendants personally injurious by placing them in the way of temptation to conspiracies, had he sought to reinstate any of them during the rebellion of Ishbosheth and immediately on his decease. The safe and full establishment of his authority was evidently the occasion for the old and piously cherished associations with the no, me of Jonathan to put forth their strength. We all have within us a reserve power in the hallowed associations we cherish. They are never without an unconscious influence; but there may come seasons when we may do well to open the doors and let them come forth in full force to sway our conduct. Thus at Easter and Christmas do Christians give free scope to blessed memories. Thus our family birthdays, and days sacred to the memory of those now more blessed than ourselves, are times when our nature becomes enriched with holy feelings, and our vows become more influential. Sometimes, apart from our will and special seasons, by the spontaneous force of mental laws, sacred memories pour forth into our barren experience streams of blessing; and if by pressure of secular business the channels of thought and emotion are clogged, it is well now and then to pause, and, by an effort in quiet solitude, to open some sacred spring within our nature, so that it shall send forth its blessed streams to quicken and beautify our spiritual life.
III. A TRUE HEART WILL SEINE OCCASION FOR REVIVING THE POWER OF HALLOWED ASSOCIATIONS. The occasion arose in the course of David's public life, and because his heart was still true to God and man, he seized it. The cares of official life and the attractions of exalted position had not yet done him spiritual damage. The David that swore love and fidelity to his friend (1 Samuel 20:13-17, 1 Samuel 20:42) was still alive. The man was not lost in the king. There are sad instances of the reverse. Old friends, former vows, are forgotten in the satiety of wealth or power, or, if not entirely forgotten, no occasion is sought to let the love of former days assert itself. Much of our power over our future lies in the use we are disposed to make of the fountains of holy thought and feeling which have been formed within by the experiences of former days. The pressure of business may cause them to lie unnoticed for months and years; but now and then opportunities will occur which an uncorrupted heart will gladly use for bringing them into the current of daily life. There may be an abuse of "days and seasons;" but a well regulated life will not, on that account, be hindered from taking pains to sweeten and subdue the present, and prepare for a better future, by a distinct and deliberate revival of the most sacred and tender experiences of the past.
IV. THIS DELIBERATE USE OF HALLOWED ASSOCIATIONS SECURES A CONTINUITY OF GOODNESS. There was a native force in David's generous sentiments toward Jonathan in early days which would tend to their continuous assertion. The main elements of a man's moral life will abide in spite of counteracting evils. Yet as limbs maintain their muscular power by exertion, so the special qualities of David's character, as seen in his early friendship for Jonathan, would form a continuous feature of his life only in so far as he availed himself of passing opportunities for reviving the sentiments associated with the name of his departed friend. To this habit of allowing the feelings peculiar to such associations to act again and again, as occasion permitted, upon his life, in combination, of course, with other forms and methods of spiritual culture, we may ascribe the freshness and force of the kindly, generous sentiments which were a distinctive feature of his character to the very end. The characters of some men are disjointed. The main qualities of one part of their life are not conspicuous later on. The good has been overlaid, crushed down, by an enormous pressure of thought and sentiment of an adverse kind, and no care has been taken to give new force to latent memories. Their later good qualities are not of the same order as their earlier. This is not true growth. The true continuity of goodness is that seen in David's case, and is promoted by the same careful use of the power that lies in the best associations of our earlier life.
1. Let us see to the storing of the mind in early years with facts and experiences that will be as fountains of blessing to freshen life amidst the carking cares of a busy life.
2. We should be careful to east out low thoughts, lest they occupy, in the mental and moral area, ground on which holy and generous feelings may take root and flourish.
3. It is desirable to make seasons when the best memories of the past are allowed to exercise their full power over us. This seems to be one reason, at least, for the institution of the Lord's Supper.
4. It is by cultivating the memories of departed friends, and cherishing the sentiments associated with their name, that the communion of the saints on earth and in heaven is promoted.
5. It is by the deliberate cultivation of sacred memories that we shall be able to conserve the more gentle virtues of life, and so give tone and purity to the otherwise hard and unsympathetic life of the world.
6. It behoves us to consider well what sacred vows of our earlier years are yet waiting to be redeemed.
7. In the remembrance of former friendships we may do well to inquire whether there are any in trouble and need on whom the spirit of the old friendship may exercise itself.
A spiritual parallel.
Great mischief may arise from the endeavour to trace spiritual analogies in the ordinary historical narratives of Scripture, in consequence of the licence of an overactive imagination. It is not a safe canon of interpretation to say that sacred history is throughout an allegory. That an apostle saw an allegory in one or two cases is not proof of a general rule (Galatians 4:24). But, under limitations, we are warranted in tracing parallels between the temporal and spiritual, the earthly and the heavenly: the one may exhibit features which serve to illustrate the other. Much of our Saviour's teaching partook of this character. In this lies the essence of parable. In this light we may regard the story of David's conduct toward Mephibosheth: it serves to illustrate the bearing and action of the true King of Zion toward the weak and lowly, Naaman's cleansing and Mephibesheth's elevation are historic facts shedding light on spiritual realities. Note—
I. A PLEDGE TO BE KEPT. The events here recorded have their root in the free pledge given by David many years before that he would care for the seed of Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:15). He had undertaken to bless when need should arise. In a deeper sense the whole merciful transactions recorded in New Testament history are the outcome of a "covenant ordered in all things." Christ's interposition on behalf of the fallen was not a casual act called forth by a passing incident in human history. Before the mountains were set fast his "delights were with the sons of men." The purpose and, speaking in human phrase, the. plan of redemption were in the original order; and hence Christ's coming was, as it were, to redeem his own pledge, to keep his own vow, to fulfil the covenant. "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me." Virtually he was "slain before the foundation of the world;" for all that happened was consequent on "the eternal purpose" (Ephesians 3:11), though not in violation of human freedom (Acts 2:23).
II. A DEFERRED FULFILMENT. We have seen that some years elapsed, not only after the vow, before any ostensible steps were taken to fulfil it, but also after David came to the kingdom. In this there is no cause for reflection on his sincerity. Providence has many things to bring about in a monarch's wise policy, and he may have to wait till events are ripe for certain lines of action. Here, on a small scale, we have an illustration of the apparently deferred fulfilment of the merciful undertaking of our Saviour. Generations passed ere the set time had come when he could, consistently with the working out of other issues, subordinate or coordinate, come to "perform the mercy promised" in the past (Luke 2:1-52 :72). Now that we have the complete history of David, we can see the propriety of his not taking measures for the elevation of the seed of Jonathan while his work of consolidation was incomplete; and so now that we have the full record of the Old and New Testaments, we can see the wisdom of the manifestation of the covenanted grace being deferred till the "fulness of time" (Galatians 4:4). Many threads were being woven by the hand of Providence to meet in the revelation of Christ.
III. A SEARCH FOR THE FALLEN. David inquired after the seed of Jonathan and Saul. The sons of the distinguished were in obscurity and, in a social and political point of view, lost. As compared with the position once held by their father and grandfather, they were indeed degraded and outcast. Their splendid inheritance had vanished. They had to be sought out. How truly their relative social condition represents our spiritual condition is obvious. We have fallen far below the original state of our great ancestor. The effect of sin on man, in so far as it touches his relative social position in the enduring spiritual world, is to lower him, to render him inferior to the holy beings who constitute the members of the eternal kingdom of God. "Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity" (Hosea 14:1). The mission of Christ, in one aspect of it, is said to be a search for that which is lest—an effort to find and rescue from degradation and shame those who are living below their proper position in the spiritual life (Luke 15:3-10, Luke 15:32; Luke 19:10). This is true of the race; and his work considered as "finished" on Calvary is an effort to find out and save mankind. It is also true of us as individuals that Christ does, like the good shepherd (John 10:16; cf. Luke 15:4), search for us. He follows us in our wanderings, comes near to our loneliness, and calls us by his Word, his providence, and his Spirit.
IV. A YEARNING COMPASSION. "Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him?" (verse. 3). How this reveals the deep longings of the heart! David is not satisfied with the desire to show ordinary attentions to the fallen house; he must show such kindness as God would show. The thought of Jonathan evidently brought up again the old love; and it must, if possible, pour itself forth in some unwonted form. There can be no question that, in the regal and better qualities of his life, David illustrates the more perfect King who comes to reign in righteousness and save the poor and needy. This strong yearning compassion was conspicuous in our Lord in the days of his flesh, when he was seeking a lost race. In this he is unapproachable. It appears in his deeply pathetic tone whenever referring to sin and sorrow, in his patient unwearying toil, in his pleadings with the weary and heavy laden, in his looking with compassion on the people as sheep without a shepherd, in his tears over Jerusalem, and in the sweet and gentle submission with which he drank the cup in Gethsemane, and poured out his life on the cross. Overflowing love! And he is the same now (Hebrews 13:8). His life, suffering, and death were the revelation of a permanent character, and therefore of an ever-yearning compassion for the fallen.
V. A GRACIOUS BEARING. Mephibosheth trembled in the presence of David, and was overcome by the sense of his own unworthiness (2 Samuel 9:6-8). No doubt he was surprised at such wondrous conduct on the part of the king as to send for him. But the king in a tone which no written words can indicate, said, "Mephibosheth!" We all know what volumes of meaning may be conveyed by addressing an individual by his name in a certain tone. And, lest this should not suffice, there came the words, "Fear not!" As a brother and friend, on the same level, he speaks to the heart of the weak and troubled one. Foreshadow is this of him who was "meek and lowly in heart;" who would not "break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax;" who touched the outcast leper and inspired the fallen one with hope. No reproach, no coldness of heart, no imposition of impossible burdens, but the gentleness and grace that banish fear and cause the poor outcast to feel that in him there is a tender, loving Friend!
VI. AN ELEVATION TO HONOUR. David would be content with nothing less than that Mephibosheth should be a free and constant guest at his table. He was to be raised from social degradation and obscurity to a position of greatest distinction. No mere pension, no formal expression of personal interest, no delegation to others of attention to be paid to him would suit the largeness of the king's heart. His idea of the "kindness of God" (2 Samuel 9:3) far transcended the best human conceptions of generosity, and this unwonted elevation to honour was but the index of it. What a marvellous change in the condition of this poor, feeble outcast! How contrary to all the usages of monarchs, to the offspring of the fallen, was this overflow of "the kindness of God"! Than this there is not in the Bible a more apt illustration of the exceeding grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who condescends to our low estate, seeks us out, bows us down in wondering submission by his matchless gentleness, and then raises us to the honour of being members of his household, of free access to his Person and closest fellowship with himself and those most dear to him. "Neither do I condemn thee" (John 8:11; cf. Romans 8:1). He gives "power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12, John 1:16; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2). The "far off" are made "nigh" (Ephesians 2:13), and are called "friends" (John 15:15), blessed with constant fellowship (1 John 1:3), and even made heirs of "the glory" given to himself (John 17:22-24). It is in the Antitype alone that we find the full and true expression of "the kindness of God" (2 Samuel 9:3). "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
VII. A PERSONAL GUARANTEE. A personal guarantee, involving the king's honour, and backed by all the resources at his command, was given that Mephibesheth should henceforth be regarded "as one of the king's sons" (2 Samuel 9:11), and that ample provision should be made for all his wants (2 Samuel 9:10). Whatever demands came on him for the sustenance of his dependents, they were met by the arrangement, under royal warrant, with Ziba. Thus all his interests, present and future, personal and relative, social and material, were provided for. The king guaranteed all. Now, this is beautifully illustrative of what Christ does for those whom he raises from degradation to be his friends. He cares for all their interests. He so orders providence that they shall "want no good thing." It is said of them, "All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:22); and, to scatter all fear and afford abundant consolation, the King has said, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Mephibosheth rested under the care of a faithful David. All the power and all the high moral qualities of David were pledged to secure to him all his life long the blessings now enjoyed; so all the power and all the ineffable qualities of Christ are pledged to secure to us the possession and enjoyment of glorious heritage as Christians as long as we live, i.e. forever.
1. It becomes us to follow the example of David and of Christ, and seek out those who may be in need of blessing, and who may have a special claim on our sympathy.
2. We should make the Divine character and conduct the model of our bearing towards those in trouble. "The kindness of God" is the ideal to be converted into the realities of our life.
3. The lowly and despised may take encouragement from all that is recorded of Christ's gracious bearing and deeds of kindness.
4. We may trace, in every instance of Christ's mercy to the fallen, the permanently elevating tendency of Christianity. It is the one element which alone lastingly raises mankind in material and social good.
5. The resources of Christ for securing the fulfilment of his promises are so vast as to remove all fear. He is more to the universe at large than David was to his kingdom.
6. We see the dignity of bearing that becomes those who are honoured with the royal friendship of Christ.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 9:1
For Jonathan's Sake.
David had sworn to his friend Jonathan that he would "not cut off his kindness from his house forever" (1 Samuel 20:15). He had been probably unaware of his leaving a son behind him (for Mephibosheth was born while he was in exile, five years before the battle of Gilboa); or, if acquainted with the fact, supposed that he perished in the destruction of the house of Saul. But surmising, perhaps, from something he heard, that a son of his friend survived, he made the inquiry, "Is there yet any that is left," etc.? It was a practice only too common in the East, on a change of dynasty, for the reigning monarch to put to death the surviving members of the family of his predecessor, in order to make his own position more secure. And the conduct of David, in contrast therewith, evinced his gratitude, fidelity, piety, and noble generosity. "Neither the splendour of victories, nor the pleasures of prosperity, nor the lustre of his crown, could make him unmindful of his covenant and oath to his former friend. A suspicious, faithless tyrant would at least have kept the family that imagined they had a right to his kingdom low enough to have prevented the possibility of their ever disputing it with him; or at least have shut up the heir of it in close imprisonment, or got rid of his fears upon his account by totally destroying him; thinking he might reasonably dispense with his oath to his deceased friend through the necessity of self-preservation, and securing to his own family the peaceable succession to his crown" (Chandler). The words "for Jonathan's sake"—
I. EXPRESS A PRINCIPLE OF HUMAN CONDUCT. It is not unusual for one person to show kindness to another for the sake of someone else, for whom, whether living or dead, he entertains a high regard, on account of his excellent character or eminent services; with whom the object of his kindness is closely connected, and without whom he would not have shown it. How often has a king exercised his prerogative of mercy toward an offender, or bestowed riches and honour on a subject, for the sake of the faithful service of his father! "The fruit of well doing lives longer than himself who is the doer, and thereby he leaves a blessing and good treasure behind him to his posterity" (Guild). "There are thousands of young men and women who are daily receiving kindness for their fathers' and mothers' sakes. And this is, in fact, one of the incidental blessings connected with having parents who, though now dead, were, when living, persons of worthy and estimable life. Their children inherit the advantages which the love of others for their memory can bestow, and many an applicant for some office of trust and emolument would be turned away from the door were it not that his face bears the lineaments of a departed and cherished friend, or his tones call back to memory the voice which will speak no more" (E. Mellor).
II. ILLUSTRATE A METHOD OF DIVINE DEALINGS. God deals with men, not merely in their separate individuality, but also in their relationship to one another; spares and blesses them, not only directly and immediately, but also indirectly and mediately, through and on account of each other; and shows kindness to many for the sake of one. This:
1. Occurs in various ways. By means of the hereditary influence of a good man on his descendants, and the moral influence on others of his example, utterances, labours, and sufferings; and (with more special reference to the case under consideration) by granting his intercessory requests, fulfilling the promises made to him on their behalf, and doing them good out of regard to him, or because of something he has done which was necessary to that end.
2. Appears in numerous instances. With respect to individuals, "The Lord hath blessed me for thy sake" (Genesis 30:27; Genesis 19:29; 1 Kings 11:12); families (Genesis 39:5; Psalms 69:26; Proverbs 13:22); Churches, cities, and nations (Genesis 18:26; Exodus 32:14; 1 Kings 8:19); "beloved for the fathers' sakes" (Romans 11:28); "As the new wine is found in the cluster," etc. (Isaiah 65:8; Isaiah 1:9). So God testifies his love of righteousness, teaches the worth of a good man in relation to the unworthy, and causes his sovereign mercy to abound toward them.
3. Has its highest application in Christ, "the one Mediator between God and man,"
III. SUGGEST A GROUND OF DEVOUT CONFIDENCE. When Mephibosheth appeared before the king, "he doubtless was in fear for his life (2 Samuel 9:6, 2 Samuel 9:7). Such generosity to a fallen rival as David showed in restoring him to his paternal property, seemed to him scarcely credible" ('Speaker's Commentary'). But the assurance that it was "for Jonathan's sake" must have inspired him with confidence. And similarly, "for Jesus' sake" affords a
Provides for those who come to God
An all-prevailing plea."
"Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, he will give it you" (John 16:23; John 14:13).
IV. INDICATE A MOTIVE TO PRACTICAL BENEVOLENCE, after the example of David and from love to our Divine Friend (2 Samuel 1:26); in:
1. Forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32).
2. Kind and comforting speech. "Fear not" (2 Samuel 9:7).
3. Generous gifts.
5. Suffering (Matthew 5:11; Philippians 1:29).
6. Prayers (Romans 15:30).
7. Personnel, diligent, and constant service on behalf of "the Church which is his body," and of all "for whom Christ died" (2 Corinthians 4:5; 3 John 1:7).
"For his Name's sake;" "For my sake." This is the Christian's peculiar, highest, and mightiest motive; implying not only supreme affection toward him who "alone is worthy," but also sincere sympathy with his spirit and purposes; and producing most beneficent effects.—D.
2 Samuel 9:3
Showing the kindness of God.
David remembered the request of Jonathan to show him "the kindness of Jehovah" (1 Samuel 20:14, 1 Samuel 20:15); felt the obligation of his former promises and covenants (1 Samuel 24:21, 1 Samuel 24:22; 1 Samuel 23:18); and now purposed, in accordance therewith, to "show the kindness of God," i.e. "love from religious motives, or as God shows it" (Thenius); "in God and for his sake" (Keil); "in the Lord's sight, and according to the Lord's example, pure, perpetual love, and not such love as arises from mere human respects and is shown in the eye of man" (Wordsworth); and not simply "great and eminent kindness" (Poole, Patrick). There are benevolent affections in our nature; but they must be imbued with religious motives and principles in order that their exercise may be of the highest kind. "The kindness of God" is such as is shown:
1. Out of reverence for his Name. Holy, just, and true; merciful and gracious; delighting in loving kindness. "God is love;" and the eternal Fountain of love in his creatures.
2. In obedience to his will, as expressed in numerous injunctions to the faithful performance of what has been promised; in the royal law (James 2:8); and in manifold exhortations to compassionate love.
3. From gratitude for his benefits. These had been bestowed on David in abundant measure (2 Samuel 7:18; 2 Samuel 8:6). The acts of kindness which God performs toward men both enable and incite them to perform acts of kindness toward their fellow men. "What goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee" (Numbers 10:32). Freely ye have received, freely give."
4. In imitation of his example; of faithfulness, goodness, unsought, abounding, unfailing, and everlasting love. David was specially called, as king, to exhibit in his character and conduct an image of the moral excellences of the Divine King of Israel; and to this Christians are likewise celled. "Be ye therefore perfect," etc. (Matthew 5:43-48), "merciful" (Luke 6:36), "imitators of God as beloved children," etc. (Ephesians 5:1).
5. Under the inspiration of his grace, his love, his Spirit; and, indeed, "it is the merciful love of God himself that dwells in the heart of the truly pious, and works therefrom; for he that lives in fellowship with God receives into his heart, through the Holy Ghost, the love that is in God, and lives and moves in that love" (Erdmann). "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). He not only reflects the Divine love on others, but is also the medium of its communication to them.
6. With the desire of his approval, of pleasing him rather than men, and of partaking more fully of his loving kindness, which "is better than life."
7. For the promotion of his glory; "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."—D.
2 Samuel 9:4
The kindness of Machir Ben-Ammiel.
One of the obscure characters of Scripture. He dwelt at Lo-debar, among the mountains of Gilead, "a favourite asylum for refugees;" was, probably, a descendant of Machir the son of Manasseh; and "the principal man of Gilead" (Josephus). Of his generosity two notable instances are recorded (ch. 4:4; 17:27). From these it may be inferred that he was rich in earthly possessions, and (what is of much greater importance) in:
1. Grateful memories. Like the men of Jabesh-Gilead, he remembered the heroic enterprise of Saul on behalf of his people (1 Samuel 11:9; 1 Samuel 31:11; 1 Samuel 2:4-7).
"But, O Saul, do not fail us.
Saul. Fail ye?
Let the morn fail to break; I will not break
My word. Haste, or I'm there before you.
Let the morn fail in the east; I'll not fail you;
But swift and silent as the streaming wind,
Unseen approach, then gathering up my force
At dawning, sweep on Amnon, as night's blast
Sweeps down from Carmel on the dusky sea."
(C. Heavysege, 'Saul: a Drama.')
Hence he afforded ready shelter and hospitality to his grandson, and may have assisted the revival of his house at Mahanaim (2 Samuel 2:8); and when, subsequently, David was in exile at the same place, remembering his kindness to Mephibosheth, rendered him generous aid.
2. Tender compassion toward the orphan, unfortunate add friendless. The sight of human distress drew forth his sympathy; and (like the good Samaritan) he suffered no other considerations to hinder its practical expression.
3. Constant friendship. During many years (verse 12), with all their changes, he provided, apparently "without fee or reward," a peaceful home for the crippled prince, and continued his steadfast protector.
4. Active benevolence. He was "rich in good works" (2 Timothy 6:18). Sensibility, as the word is generally used, is a mere animal instinct, useless when it does not immediately lead to active benevolence; and in such cases not only useless, but pernicious, because it has a tendency to produce a resting satisfied with the emotion and a neglect of the action" (W. Cooke Taylor).
5. Beneficent influence. His conduct could not but produce a good effect on the rude, warlike tribe of which he was chief; and possibly incited others (Shobi and Barzillai) to the like.
"Great deeds cannot die:
They with the sun and moon renew their light
Forever, blessing those that look on them."
6. Noble recompense. "The blessing of him that was ready to perish" (Job 29:13), the approval of his own conscience, the enduring memorial of a good name. Although (like that of Abou Ben-Adhem) his name has not been written in the sacred record among "the names of those who love the Lord," but only "as one that loves his fellow men," it could not fail of being divinely honoured.
"The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again, with a great wakening light,
And show'd the names whom love of God had bless'd,
And lo! Ben-Adhem's name led all the rest."
2 Samuel 9:5-13
(THE KING'S PALACE.)
Mephibosheth before the king.
We have here a picture of—
I. EXTRAORDINARY VICISSITUDES IS LIFE. A prince by birth, deprived of his father, crippled by a heedless footstep, carried into exile and poverty, recently a helpless dependent in a remote district, is conducted into the presence of one who was once a shepherd boy, afterwards a wandering outlaw, and now the greatest monarch on earth! Such changes:
1. May be largely, though not entirely, traced to moral causes, personal character, hereditary relationships.
2. Are wrought by Divine providence (1 Samuel 2:7, 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 113:7, Psalms 113:8).
3. Are designed for human welfare; being not only corrective, but also tentative and disciplinary (Psalms 55:19; Job 23:10; Hebrews 12:6).
4. And should be regarded in an appropriate spirit (James 1:9, James 1:10).
II. THE DEPRESSING INFLUENCE OF MISFORTUNE. "He fell on his face, and did reverence" (2 Samuel 9:6); "And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?" (2 Samuel 9:8). His physical infirmity, combined with long continued dependence, made him not merely humble, but timid, anxious, abject, and self-depreciatory. Hence his language (due in part to Oriental exaggeration) is excusable, though scarcely to be commended (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illus.'). The natural tendency of heavy affliction to enfeeble and crush the spirit is effectually overcome only by the aid of Divine grace.
III. AN ADMIRABLE EXHIBITION OF KINDNESS; spontaneous, faithful, considerate, magnanimous, practical, enduring, Divine.
1. In gracious and encouraging words. "Mephibosheth!" (2 Samuel 9:6). "Fear not!" etc. (2 Samuel 9:7). To David himself, in a time of dejection, Jonathan had said," Fear not!" (1 Samuel 23:17); and how often has the Lord spoken the same comforting word to his servants (Genesis 15:1; Luke 12:32; Revelation 1:17)!
2. In becoming and beneficent acts; fulfilling what had been promised (2 Samuel 9:9-11), restoring an alienated inheritance, and making a sure, permanent, and abundant provision (2 Samuel 9:12).
3. In honoured, intimate, and abiding friendship. '"Mephibosheth, thy master's son, shall eat bread alway at my table" (2 Samuel 9:10, 2 Samuel 9:11,2 Samuel 9:13). Such kindness, like sunshine after rain, and as a visit of "the angel of God" (2 Samuel 19:27, 2 Samuel 19:28), dispersed his fear, alleviated his misfortune, and filled him with grateful devotion; whilst his presence at the royal table would daily remind the king of his deceased friend, and incite him to renewed generosity.
IV. THE IRREMEDIABLE DEFECTS OF THE MOST FAVOURED EARTHLY CONDITION. "And he was lame on both his feet" (2 Samuel 9:13). His deformity was incurable; his infirmity became an occasion of complaint and slander (2 Samuel 16:2-4); and his dejection and distress returned "as the clouds after the rain" (2 Samuel 19:24-30). The king himself often longed to flee away and be at rest (Psalms 55:6). And it is vain to expect perfection in character or condition except in the heavenly mansions.
"There is a spot in every flower,
A sigh in every gale,
A shadow in the brightest hour,
Thorns in the smoothest vale.
"To smile and weep, and weep and smile,
To man alternate given;
To cling to earth permitted while
We learn to long for heaven."
2 Samuel 9:13
Lost and found: a sermon to young people.
The story of Mephibosheth may be used as a little parable of the spiritual history of everyone who is restored to God. He was:
1. A prince. To you belongs a more than princely dignity; for you are all "the offspring of God," and bear on you traces of "the image and glory" of "the Father of spirits."
2. Lost. You belong to a sinful and fallen race; and your condition is one of deprivation, helplessness, obscurity, and misery. "A true religion ought to instruct man both in his greatness and his misery" (Pascal).
3. Sought. Infinite piety has sought and is still seeking every one of you, and employs many means to find and save you (Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:1-32.).
4. Found; unexpectedly to himself and to the joy of the seeker. So is it when the gracious message of the gospel comes to you, "not in word only, but in power."
5. Self-abased; in the presence of the king. When you see the height of Divine greatness and goodness, you also see the depth of your own unworthiness and shame.
6. Comforted. "Fear not; only believe."
7. Exated; endowed with more than had been lost; and adopted as "one of the king's sons" (2 Samuel 9:11). The gifts of God are worthy of himself. When one, to whom Alexander gave a city, declined to accept it, on the, ground that it was unsuitable to his condition, he said, "I do not ask what is becoming in you to receive