The story in the Old Testament of David and Jonathan is a love story of genuine friendship. Jonathan and David were comrades of the closest sort.
Samuel, the historian writes, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan’s father and king, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself… Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with the tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt” (I Samuel 18:1-4).
This covenant, which included the exchange of tunic and outer garments, sword, bow and armor belt, also involved perpetual care for family survivors. It was a solemn (’till death do us part’) vow to care for each other. Who ever died first, the other would claim responsibility to care for all relatives and/or orphaned children.
Saul was the first king over united Israel. In the battle with the Philistines, Saul and his three sons were killed (I Samuel 31:6). This brought David to the throne as King. One would think a normal purge (even a bloodless one) would follow, for David and King Saul had been enemies for a long time. This did not happen, at least with the survivors of Jonathan’s kin. They were all spared and cared for.
When David ascended the throne, the nurse of Mephibosheth, Jonathon’s youngest son, was so concerned about protecting the child that an accident occurred. “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was lame in his feet. He was five years old when the news about the death of Saul and Jonathan came from Jez’reel; and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened, as she made haste to run, that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth” (II Samuel 4:4). He was placed in hiding and was not discovered until some time later.
“Now David said, is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake” (II Samuel 9:1). Ziba, the King’s servant, had located Mephibosheth in the city of Lodebar. The boy had been in hiding since his father’s death, thinking he would be purged or wasted if discovered.
The dreaded day came and soldiers brought the crippled boy before King David. You could sense the chill of the moment, and the fear of a little boy, now growing into a young man, knowing that death would follow his appearance.
“Mephibosheth?” King David asked seeking identification.
“I am your servant,” he whispered in reply. The boy was now on his face and humbled on his knees before the King. No longer hidden away, the youngest son of Jonathan had been found. The day of restitution had finally come. The boy’s identify was confirmed and judgment was at hand.
King David’s words were tear-filled and compassionate. “Do not be afraid for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan, your father’s sake. I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather King Saul, and you shall eat bread at my table continually” (II Samuel 9:7). The love of Jonathan was never lost and the covenant was still in force.
The response was one of shock and amazement. Instead of death, he was restored to life and rewarded with the possessions of his grandfather, the former King. Instead of prison, he was given a permanent place of honor next to King David at the King’s table. Instead of punishment or banishment, he was lift up and accepted as royalty. He was stunned and puzzled and uttered a statement that will go down in history as a benchmark of humility.
Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “WHAT IS YOUR SERVANT THAT YOU SHOULD NOTICE A DEAD DOG LIKE ME?”
David thought without saying, “Before you were born, your Father and I made a covenant. It was a solemn vow, a blood agreement that if anything bad should happen to either of us, the one left would take care of the other one’s kin just like his own. You take your place at my table for you are one of us now. You are one of the King’s sons”. So it was written, “Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the King’s table. And he was lame in both of his feet” (II Samuel 9:13). The crippled boy was home.
So it is with us. At the last supper “Jesus took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them saying . . . this is my blood of the New Testament (Covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Believers are raised to “sit in heavenly places” and are “made joint heirs with the King of glory” (Ephesians 1:3; 3:6).
In the parable of the prodigal son, the climax came when the Father said, “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat, and be merry. For this, my son, was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24).
“A dead dog like me”, sitting at the table of the King. What a beautiful picture and a marvelous expression of the grace of God.