Is there anyone in your sphere of relationships to whom you could show some kindness?
It was King David’s greatest hour when he asked this question. At this point in his pilgrimage, there was no blemish on his character or integrity. In fulfillment of the longstanding prophecy, David was finally sitting on top of his world—he was on the throne of Israel. King Saul, his predecessor and nemesis, had been slain by the Philistines on the battlefield of Mount Gilboa. Tragically, Jonathan—Saul’s son and David’s best friend—was also killed alongside his father. David grieved and lamented over their deaths, but sometime later, overwhelmed by God’s goodness to him, the new king asked, “Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1).
That’s when David heard of Jonathan’s son named Mephibosheth. Poverty-stricken, unshaven, crippled since a childhood accident, and living in hiding at a place called Lodebar, this man was totally unaware that he was in a covenant relationship with the new king.
There is no clearer picture of integrity in action than in this personal drama. David, of whom the psalmist Asaph would later say, led his people with “the integrity of his heart, and . . . the skillfulness of his hand” (Psalm 78:72). David now acted on his longstanding promise to his beloved Jonathan. This story reveals that a person of integrity is not only one who remembers his promises but one who keeps them as well.
A Person of Integrity Remembers His Promises
This friendship between David and Jonathan begins in 1 Samuel 20. David, the young shepherd boy, had burst from obscurity and slain the giant, Goliath. Immediately, this handsome young man became the rage of Jerusalem—and burning with jealousy, King Saul set out to bring him down. Jonathan, however, knew that the Lord was with David, and these friends entered into a covenant relationship, each promising to care for the other’s descendants. Later, Jonathan died in battle and David was crowned king. In the aftermath, he learned about a forgotten son of Jonathan who was still living.
In his boyhood, Mephibosheth had lived in King Saul’s palace and enjoyed all the king’s provision. Upon hearing of the death of both Saul and Jonathan, all of the palace servants fled for their lives. As they fled, a nurse picked up young Mephibosheth and, in her haste to exit, dropped him and crushed his legs, and he became “lame in both his feet” (2 Samuel 9:13). Mephibosheth hid in a filthy refugee camp plagued by poverty. The years passed, and he assumed he was at least safe there. Poverty-stricken and forgotten, but safe.
Meanwhile, David remembered the promise he had made to Jonathan and began to take care of this unfinished business. After all, Jonathan had saved David from death, and now he was determined to find out if he could help anyone left in the house of Saul who might still be alive. A man of integrity, David remembered his promise to Jonathan.
Tragically, in our modern culture, broken promises seem more the norm than the exception. Promises made at wed-ding altars are often forgotten. Campaign promises on both sides of the political aisle—like “no new taxes” or “if you like your doctor, you can keep him”—are too often conveniently ignored. But David’s example from centuries ago illustrates that a person of integrity remembers his promises.
A Person of Integrity Keeps His Promises
It is, however, one thing to remember a promise and quite another to keep it. David did both.
King David sent for Mephibosheth—and can you imagine how this man felt when the royal chariots circled in a cloud of dust and stopped at his little shack in Lodebar? Undoubtedly his heart pounded as he grabbed his crutches and headed out his door to what he must have assumed was a certain death under the new regime. He probably thought he had been found and “wanted dead or alive.”
Now picture Mephibosheth after he arrives at the palace and shuffles into the throne room of the king. He falls prostrate in fear before David. And then he can’t believe the tender words he hears David speak: “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually . . . like one of the king’s sons” (2 Samuel 9:7, 11). David did not simply remember his promise to Jonathan; he kept it.
Now try to imagine dinner at King David’s table with all his sons in attendance. The room is ornate and elegant, graced with oriental rugs and high-back royal dining chairs. A linen tablecloth covers the table and drapes into the laps of the king and his sons seated around. There is handsome Absalom with his flowing black hair resting on his shoulders . . . and there sits Amnon, the clever and crafty one. Later they are joined by Solomon. And then comes the sound. It is the sound of shuffling feet accompanied by the clump, clump, clump of crutches. Mephibosheth is taking his place among all the king’s sons at the king’s table.
Continue to use your imagination for a moment. Suppose no one is looking, so you quickly climb under the table. What do you see? Legs! You follow them around . . . one pair of muscular legs after another. And then you see two crooked legs dangling, not quite reaching the floor. That is the exact view Mephibosheth had of himself during those years in exile: he was nothing more than a pair of useless legs.
Now climb out from under the table and take a seat near David’s at the head of the table. What do you see? Note how the tablecloth falls into each son’s lap, covering their legs. From the king’s view, Mephibosheth looks just like all the others at the table. And this, friend, is the view the Lord Jesus has of each of His own children, of you and of me. Let me explain.
The reality is, I was once like Mephibosheth. I too was crippled by a fall. I too lived in exile, in spiritual poverty. Then the King’s chariots came to my Lodebar, and I was arrested, but not to be imprisoned. I was arrested by God’s forgiving and freeing love. The Holy Spirit who came to me took me to King Jesus. At first I was uncomfortable and wanted to go back to Lodebar where I felt at home. But then I heard the good news, the gospel. I heard the King say, “I want to make you My own child!” if you think Mephibosheth had a good deal, it pales next to the new covenant Jesus offers you and me! And the really good news is, there is a place for each of us at the King’s table.
People of integrity remember their promises and keep them, whatever the cost. Perhaps you made a promise recently, or even long ago, that you need to remember . . . and keep.
Q & A: “Is there anyone to whom I can show kindness?” People we encounter at the office and in the grocery story, people we live with at home and worship with on Sundays, are in desperate need of kind words and deeds. Divine opportunities are all around you every day. Make a conscious effort today to show kindness to someone . . . not for “Jonathan’s sake,” but for Jesus’ sake. Remember promises you have made . . . and do what you need to do to keep them.