The account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel chapter 9 ends with, “And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he was always at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.” The first time I read this verse I cringed a little bit. I would have rather it read, “And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he was always at the king’s table.” Period. End of the story. But that is not the way that it ends. Mephibosheth is once again characterized by the fact that he is disabled.
Was the author of 1 & 2 Samuel just not disability friendly? Or was there a purpose behind Mephibosheth’s constant characterization as a disabled man? We will dig into that in just a moment, but before we do let’s consider what it means to “always be at the king’s table.”
To “always be at the king’s table” means that Mephibosheth found a place of belonging. What Mephibosheth was experiencing was more than just inclusion.
Sometimes when I read Scripture, I like to read between the lines. I like to imagine what was happening that wasn’t recorded. In this story, I envision the first time that Mephibosheth entered the dining room and approached the King’s table. I can almost hear the clicking of Mephibosheth’s crutches reverberating through the dining hall as they hit the marble floor. After the clicking of the crutches, I can imagine the sound of his feet dragging behind him. The dining hall falls silent as all eyes focus on Mephibosheth nervously approaching the king’s table. Click, drag, click, drag. Maybe there was even some whispering going on around the table as he approached. People were probably nervous about what it was going to be like. People like Mephibosheth weren’t typically allowed at the king’s table. Maybe there were people in the room who had a problem with Mephibosheth’s presence. Then, in this awkward moment, I like to think that King David stands up and runs to embrace him—in a similar fashion to the Prodigal Son. After a long embrace, I imagine that King David gives Mephibosheth the place of honor at the table. What a beautiful picture! Remember that King David’s actions often spoke louder than his words when it came to his interaction with Mephibosheth.
Finding a place of belonging around the king’s table meant that Mephibosheth’s life had changed dramatically. He had gone from a life of hiding and shame to a life of being chosen and sought after. He had been taught to believe that he was a worthless burden, but now the king had declared that he was valuable and worthy. Having a permanent seat at the king’s table meant that others would regard him as a son of the king. He would be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the princes of the kingdom. It was a place of power and prestige.
So, if Mephibosheth was accepted by the king and viewed as worthy, why the additional mention of his disability in verse 13? I believe it is because Mephibosheth’s story does not end in a miraculous healing. Throughout scripture we see God intervene by performing miracles. There are many accounts of people affected by disability receive healing. We know that God was able to do this for Mephibosheth, but He choose not to.
There are times when we pray for miraculous healing and God says, “No.” It may be healing from disability, illness, disease, divorce, job loss, or any other form of suffering. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want from God, and other times it feels like we don’t get an answer at all.
Here is what I believe God wants us to understand from this story: being in the presence of The King is enough. The King is concerned with our hearts, not with our disabilities. God says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His grace is sufficient for us. But is it really? It was for Mephibosheth. Always being at the king’s table was enough. Finding a place of belonging was enough. The grace Mephibosheth received from the king was far more important than any physical healing he could have received.
Read the other posts in this series by clicking here.
Ryan Wolfe has served in disability ministry for many years. Proverbs 31:8a, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” has become Ryan’s calling. He strives to be an advocate and champion for people with disabilities and their families. Connect with Ryan by following him on Twitter (@ryanewolfe).