I have learned a great deal about disabilities from the story of Mephibosheth in II Samuel in the Old Testament. Mehphibosheth is the son of King David’s friend Jonathan and grandson of King David’s enemy Saul. He has a disability; he is mobility-impaired, lame in both feet. After Jonathan and Saul died in a battle against the Philistines, King David wanted to show kindness to some relative of his friend Jonathan. Mephibosheth was never known for any great accomplishments, and this story does not include any miraculous healing. What Mephibosheth is known for is his amazing gratitude. Mephibosheth models exactly the attitudes that are praised in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. (Mt. 5: 3 – 10)
God focuses the story on Mephibosheth’s special relationship to King David. Mephibosheth placed all the emphasis on David, rather than on himself. When they met, Mephibosheth told David, “Who is your servant, that you should show such kindness to a dead dog like me?” David restored all the royal lands to Mephibosheth and treated him like one of the royal family; and Mephibosheth responded in humility, thankfulness, and gratitude.
Mephibosheth stayed with David at the palace; and because of Mephibosheth’s disability, David assigned King Saul’s former servants to manage the extensive property he had given to Mephibosheth. And just the way that it would happen today, the head servant took advantage of Mephibosheth and began to treat the property as his own.
The climax of the story comes when David is driven out of Jerusalem by a rebellion. Mephibosheth wants to go with David; but the servant leaves him behind and tells David that Mephibosheth has betrayed them. When David returns, Mephibosheth demonstrates the truth, showing that he has bitterly mourned David’s absence and his inability to follow David during his exile. Mephibosheth may be disabled physically, but his heart is capable of tremendous loyalty.
David is busy celebrating his return and doesn’t want to get bogged down in arbitrating disputes, so he tells Mephibosheth and the servant, “Just split the property.” However, this is the moment that proves what I’m saying about Mephibosheth. He is so eager to celebrate David’s return that he answers, “Let the servant have all the property. It is enough that the king has returned in peace.” His love for David is great enough that he’s happy to give away the fortune that David had given him.
So what’s the point in spending this time thinking about the life of an obscure character in one of the least read books of the Bible? Mephibosheth reminds me of some really important things in guiding and praying for my son’s development.
First, the important thing is not what my son can or can’t do. What’s important is who his heart belongs to. If my son gives himself in gratitude to Jesus, that matters much more than anything my son will ever do. It certainly matters at a much deeper level than the things he might own.