Mephibosheth is hardly a household name. Thank goodness. Imagine the t-ball games with Mephibosheth at bat. “You got this, Meph!” Or little Mephibosheth rounding the bases. “Go, Shethie, go!”.
No, thankfully, Mephibosheth is not a household name. It’s a name that appears only briefly in scripture. Yet, his short story speaks volumes to us about the power of fathers to shape our lives for good.
Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan and the grandson of Saul, the first man anointed by God to be king of Israel. Saul fell apart on the job, though, and soon both he and Jonathan were killed in battle.
Before Jonathan died, though, he made his best friend David (later King David) swear an oath: “If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die, never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
The “house” of Jonathan included his 5 year old son Mephibosheth, who was caught in the crush of people during battle and was crippled in both feet. He survived, but with nothing to his name.
Time passed, and David established himself as King. As soon as he was settled, he remembered his oath to Jonathan to care for his house. David went looking for Mephibosheth and found him.
Mephibosheth’s words, as he bowed before the King, were devastating. “”What is your servant,” he said, “that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?” (2 Samuel 9:8)
“Dead dog as I”? Wow.
In compassion, King David lifted him up. He loved him. He kept his promise to Jonathan: “As for Mephibosheth,” said the King, “he shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons.” (2 Samuel 9:11) And it was so.
It is the job of fathers to provide for and protect their children. Jonathan did that. Even as he knew his life could end at any moment, he made provision for his son in the house of his friend.
But then he was gone. Sometimes, our fathers just can’t be there for us. They want to be present with us, but illness or circumstance don’t allow it. Then, God sends others to step in.
David stepped in. He lifted up young Mephibosheth. He restored his self-worth and loved him when his father could not.
This weekend, we give thanks for our fathers. Not everyone is a father, but everyone has a father.
We give thanks to God for the dads who change the diapers, bandage the boo-boo’s, and cheer through those 15 inning baseball games. We give thanks too for those men in our lives who step in when our dads can’t be there.
My own father wasn’t often available to me and my siblings. Though I never doubted his love, some personal demons got in the way often of our relationship. So, over the years, God put other men in my life to do the encouraging and admonishing. They were ordinary men with names like Earley and Art and Don. They weren’t my father, but they cared enough to kick me in the pants when I needed it.
Happy Father’s Day to all the men, dads and dads-to-be and dads-in-waiting. We love you. We thank God for you all. Amen.