We Are All “Dead Dogs”

The record of David’s welcoming Mephibosheth into his palace is full of profitable lessons. First, 2 Samuel 9 gives us a glimpse of David’s godly character:

  • By seeking Jonathan’s son (probably some 15-20 years after Jonathan’s death) David made good on his promise to Jonathan (cp. 1 Samuel 20:14-15).
  • By sparing Mephibosheth’s life rather than eliminating him as a potential rival, David showed mercy.
  • By returning to him the property and servants once owned by Saul (which presumably had become David’s, either by his marriage to Michal or by his succession of Saul), David showed generosity.
  • By welcoming a cripple at his table (especially at a time when people with disabilities were to be neither seen nor heard, cp. 1 Samuel 21:13-15 and 2 Samuel 9:3, 13), David showed compassion.
  • By showing “the hesed of God” (9:3, a phrase which indicates that the kindness which originated with God and not himself) David was preparing to receive the same sort of generosity himself—the same Machir who housed and hid Mephibosheth (and must have admired David’s gracious treatment of him; 9:4-5) would eventually help David during his flight from Absalom (2 Samuel 17:27-29; cp. Proverbs 11:25).

More striking than all of these lessons, however, is the illustration of our own salvation from sin that the text provides. I say “illustration” intentionally, for I’m not suggesting that we allegorize this historical event or torture it to produce hidden types. It does, however, provide a striking illustration of the condescending grace of God.

Has not God, the sovereign Ruler of all creation, showed grace in seeking us out as the objects of His kindness? We certainly didn’t initiate the relationship, nor could we! And is it not true that we are spiritually destitute (Ephesians 2:1-13)—as spiritually hopeless as a cripple in hiding? And in addition to sparing our lives, has our Savior not also lavished us with good things, far beyond what we deserve? Best of all, has our Savior not welcomed us to His own table, giving us the gift of His own fellowship as the crowning blessing of all His mercies?!

The differences? There are many. Whereas David was obligated by a promise to Mephibosheth’s father, Christ has no such duty toward sinners. He stoops to us as an act of His free grace. Whereas Mephibosheth posed no threat to David, we are worse than spiritual cripples—we are hateful rebels against God. Finally, whereas showing kindness to Mephibosheth cost David relatively little, saving sinners cost Christ more than we will ever comprehend. Astounding.

Mark Mephibosheth’s humble response to David’s kindness: “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” He had no sense of entitlement. He demonstrated no pride that he should be the recipient of undeserved blessings. He had initially bowed in reverent terror (9:6); he now bowed in humble, awe-struck gratitude (9:8).

David’s kindness to Mephibosheth is a striking but infinitely insufficient example of Christ’s mercy on grace extended to rebels who deserve only His wrath. What an amazing Savior we have! We are all “dead dogs” who have been lavished by the generosity of David’s Son! May we worship Him today in humble, awe-struck gratitude.


Note: This earlier post gives another example of Gospel-centered OT studies.


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