The story of Mephibosheth recently came up in a morning talk. King David was given supernatural grace to love his rival, the speaker pointed out, and this is something we should pray for too.
Now when I heard this I flew into a self-righteous rage (more on this later) over the seemingly man-centric conclusion, because I reckoned there’s a better way to look at it: we are Mephibosheth, standing before the King. By all rights we are dead men, not (it seems to us) by any virtue of what we’ve done, but simply because of who we are, the blood that runs in our veins. But someone before us has earned the King’s favour on or behalf, and because the King honours promises, he not only calls us friend, but brings us into his family, gives us a home, a future, and his own riches (2 Sam 9:6-7).
That’s basically the story of the Gospel. And that view probably won’t come as a surprise to many of you. But looking closer at the ending of Mephibosheth’s story, things do get surprising.
During Absalom’s rebellion, Mephibosheth was slandered before the fugitive King David by his treacherous servant Ziba. The man claimed that his master was at that very moment making an attempt on the throne – but Ziba was just hoping that by condemning his master before the King, he’d receive his riches as a reward. And David, in a somewhat rash move, granted this (2 Sam 16:4).
When the rebellion finally ended and David reclaimed his throne, accounts were settled: Mephibosheth had in fact been the victim of Ziba’s treachery, had not made any attempt on the throne, and was an innocent man. So at this point David (in a weird move) decides to take half of Ziba’s riches and give them back to Mephibosheth.
The man’s reaction? “Let Ziba keep it all – I’m just happy that the King is safe.” (2 Sam 19:30)
The takeaway from this shouldn’t be that God can administer weird justice (the Gospel analogy mentioned above is running a bit thin by this point), but rather that grace is infectious. [I am aware this might be a poor choice of words given what’s going on in West Africa right now, but I just can’t think of a better way to put it]
Grace is infectious – a man who has tasted real grace, loved it and let it seep into his bones, will act with grace toward others. And he will delight in the one who had first shown him grace. Why do you think Jesus tells us the parable of the ungrateful servant (Mat 18:23-35), or points out to the soul-dead Pharisees that the sinful woman with the perfume knows more about grace than they ever will (Luke 7:44-47)? Grace is infectious. And Mephibosheth, having tasted real grace, knows how to dish it out. Nothing more is heard of him or Ziba after this, but it seems fitting that Mephibosheth – a man who has tasted real grace – passes into history (or eternity) with an act of grace.
And you know what? This conclusion is in fact not terribly different from the conclusion of that morning talk I was ranting about. And that caught me off guard as I was ranting and raving.
Grace is infectious, it comes from God – and it can catch us unawares in our throes of self-righteous stoogery. And yet grace is waiting for us as we open our eyes, it comes anew every day – beautiful, ever-new, infectious grace.