People Who Shaped David: Mephibosheth

 (2 Samuel 9:1-13)


1.   Marion Mill was born in a fairy tale royal palace in Hungary. Her first spoon was solid gold. They sent her to school in Vienna where she became an actress, and there she met and fell in love with a young medical student named Otto. 

·         Otto and Marion married and went to live in Hollywood, CA. There, as they “set up house,” he began to dabble in movies. He became so interested in movies that he gave up his medical practice, and went on to become the internationally famed movie director Otto Preminger. Marion’s beauty, wit, and irresistible charm brought her everything a woman desires. In Europe, New York and Hollywood she became a famous international hostess.

·         But Otto’s princess could not handle the fast life of Hollywood. She went into alcohol, drugs and numerous affairs. Her life and lifestyle became so sordid, even for Hollywood, that Otto Preminger divorced Marion. She tried to take her own life three times, unsuccessfully, and finally moved back to Vienna.

·         There at a party she met another doctor, named Albert Schweitzer, the well-known medical doctor, musician, philosopher, theologian and missionary. Schweitzer was home on leave from his hospital in Lambarene, Africa.

·         She was so fascinated by Schweitzer, that she asked him if she could talk to him alone, and he permitted that. For almost six months, every week, she met with Dr. Albert Schweitzer. At the end of that time he was going to go back to Africa, and she begged him to let her go with him. Schweitzer surprised everyone by agreeing. Marion, the young princess, who was born in a palace went to a little village in Lambarene, Africa, and spent the rest of her life emptying bed pans and tearing up sheets to make bandages for putrid sores on the poverty-stricken nationals.

·         She wrote her autobiography—All I Want is Everything. When she died, Time Magazine quoted from her autobiography these words: “Albert Schweitzer says there are two kinds of people. There are the helpers, and the non-helpers. I thank God He allowed me to become a helper, and in helping, I found everything.” [John Donne, Christianity Today, p. 50]

2.   In this session we are going to look at another person who played a role in shaping the life of David, the greatest king in the history of Israel. In 2 Samuel 9 we are introduced to a rather obscure Old Testament character with a name which sounds strange to us – Mephibosheth. 

3.   David was a powerful man surrounded by powerful people.  In the last paragraph of 2 Samuel 8 there is a list of the key leaders around David, the group which made up his cabinet.  It is quite an impressive list.  And I find it interesting that immediately after listing all these powerful and impressive people who served David, the writer directs our attention to Mephibosheth who was neither powerful nor impressive.  Instead of serving David, Mephibosheth was a person David served.

4.   Mephibosheth had a rough life.  It began promising enough.  He was the grandson of King Saul, the son of Jonathan.  But when he was five years old, his grandfather and father were killed at Mt. Gilboa.  As his nurse fled with him to safety, she stumbled, throwing Mephibosheth to the ground crippling him.  He was never able to walk again.  Listen to how Mephibosheth came to the attention of David. (text – 2 Samuel 9:1-8)


T.S. – While it may be an over-simplification, I think Albert Schweitzer was correct in saying there are basically two kinds of people in the world – those who help or serve others and those who do not help or serve others.  And my observation is that there is a direct correlation between serving others and finding fulfillment in life.  From the way David served Mephibosheth we can learn some things about how to better serve others.  Of course, our model in serving is Jesus, Himself.  He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)  And he calls those who follow after Him to serve others as well.  David shows us in relation to Mephibosheth how to others serve effectively.


I.    To serve others effectively our motive must be pure

1.      Told you many times before that God is as interested in why we do something as in what we do.  Motive is important to God.  It is not enough for us to do the right thing.  God is constantly calling us to do the right thing for the right reason.

2.      Notice why David did what he did for Mephibosheth.  In v.1 and again in v.7 David says that his motive in serving Mephibosheth grew out of his love for and respect for Jonathan, Mephibosheth’s father. 

·         David did not help this man to draw attention to himself. 

·         He didn’t help him so that others would praise him and talk about how generous and kind and compassionate he was.   

David’s motives were much higher than that.

3.      We looked several weeks ago at the deep relationship which existed between David and Jonathan.  They were closer than brothers.  And it was out of love for and respect for his friend that David reached out to and cared for his friend’s son.


  1. There is something fairly obvious in that which I don’t want you to miss.  We live in a world filled with people created by God “ His own image...” [Gen.1:27]  Our highest motive for serving these people is our love and respect for the God who created them.  

2.      That is what Jesus said.  Remember the parable of judgment in Matthew 25?  In that parable Jesus made an amazing statement.  He said v.40,"Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me."  Every really thought about that? Want you to think about what that really means.  That statement provides the highest possible motive for doing serving others. 

3.      The very foundation of our caring for and serving others is our love for Lord.  As we feed those who are hungry, give drink to the thirsty, befriend lonely, provide clothing for those in need, visit the sick, go to those who are in trouble, we are ministering to Jesus, Himself!  What an awesome thought!


1.      There's a beautiful legend about St. Francis of Assisi.  He was born into a very wealthy family and grew up totally out of touch with the poor and suffering people of the world.  When he became a Christian he began to have a nagging sense that something in his life was lacking.  He constantly felt unhappy and incomplete.  One day while riding a horse came across a leper.  Because of the disease the leper was repulsive looking, but something moved Francis of Assisi to get off the horse, go to the leper, and throw his arms around him.  And the legend says when he did that, the face of the leper changed to the face of Christ.

2.      And our motive for serving others is that we see in them the very face of God.  And it is that pure motive which will keep us serving effectively.


II.  To serve others effectively we must understand what they really need from us

1.      To David’s credit, when he was told about Mephibosheth, he immediately understood what need to be done for him.  He saw that Mephibosheth had:

·         Physical needs – He lived in a place called “Lo-debar” as a guest in someone else’s home.  “Lo-debar” literally means “no pasture.”  It was a barren land not suitable for supporting people.  On top of that, Mephibosheth was a cripple and not able to do productive work.  So David met the physical needs of Mephibosheth.  He restored to him the productive land of his grandfather, Saul.  And he made certain that Saul’s servants worked the land and brought the produce to Mephibosheth.

·         Emotional needs – He had lost his father and grandfather.  Most of his family had been destroyed.  He was alone, isolated.  And it is significant that in v.7 David tells Mephibosheth that he would eat regularly at the table of the king.  He invited this lonely person to have fellowship with him.

2.      What are we to learn from that?  I think there are a couple of points of application that need to be made.

·         On the one hand, we cannot take a “cookie cutter” approach to serving people.  What may be of value to one person may be a detriment to another person.  We need be sensitive to what the real needs are.

·         On the other hand, there is a basic spiritual need that all people have, whether they recognize it or not.  It has been pointed out by some writers that Mephibosheth represents all people who are separated from God.  They are spiritually hungry and alienated from the God who created them.  They are searching for a way to fill what Augustine called that “God shaped void” in the hearts of all people.  And like David did for Mephibosheth, we have means to inviting them to God’s table.

3.      To serve others effectively we must see them as Jesus did. In the Gospels there are two telling statements about how Jesus saw people.

·         Matthew 9:36 - “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.”

·         Luke 19:41 – “And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it.”


III. To serve others effectively we must be unselfish

  1. You may wonder where I see that concept in this story.  Didn’t David just return to Mephibosheth what was rightfully his?  Certainly, the king would not miss the land that he granted this poor, unfortunate man.  Where is the unselfishness in that?
  2. The unselfishness comes in allowing a member of Saul’s family to remain alive.  In ancient days it was customary for the ruler of a new dynasty to completely exterminate all the direct descendants of his predecessor.  That explains why Mephibosheth was so frightened when David summoned him.  Notice in v.7 the first thing David said to him was, “Do not fear...”
  3. In allowing he grandson of Saul to live, David was taking the chance that in a time of difficulty Israel would once again turn to Saul’s house for leadership.  That was a great risk for David but a risk he was willing to take in order to serve Mephibosheth.
  4. Service, genuine service to others, always flows from an unselfish heart.  If we are obsessed with protecting our possession, our time, our ideas, our preferences, there is no way we’re going to have a servant’s heart.  I am convinced to serve effectively the multitudes of people who live in our world, we are going to have to be unselfish, willingly sacrificing some things which we may hold precious for the sake of others.


1.   There is an African prayer which captures well the principles of servanthood that David expressed in relation Mephibosheth.  [NIV Application Commentary, I & II Samuel]

You asked for my hands

that you might use them for Your purpose.

I gave them for a moment,

then withdrew them, for the work was hard.


You asked for my mouth

to speak out against injustice;

I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.


You asked for my eyes

to see the pain of poverty;

I closed them, for I did not want to see.


You asked for my life

that you might work through me.

I gave you a small part, that I might not get ‘too involved’.


Lord, forgive me for my calculated efforts to serve you

only when it is convenient for me to do so,

only in those places where it is safe to do so and

only with those who make it easy to do so.


Father, forgive me,

Renew me,

Send me out

As a useable instrument

That I might take seriously

The meaning of your cross!