The King’s Table
Partaking of Holy Communion
Scripture Reading: II Samuel 9
Text: II Samuel 9:11b
Sermon by Rev. Donald Van Dyken
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Sunnyside, Washington, October 24, 2004, p.m.
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 20, No. 6
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:
If you were to visit the dining hall of King David, you would face an astounding scene. Perhaps it wasn’t as gorgeous a hall as Solomon’s, for rather than having a peaceful air of luxury, David’s dining hall had a martial air about it, for the smell of blood and battle was never far away.
There, seated at David’s right and left hands you would see his sons, princes all of them, each one clothed as a prince of Israel, a prince of the greatest king in that Mediterranean world. Standing around the king you would see his thirty-seven mighty men of war, veterans of many battles, scarred, tough, tested, fierce in their loyalty to their captain. There you would still smell the scent of the dust and sweat of the battleground. There you would hear the clank of swords. There stood Adino the Eznite who had killed 800 men at one time. There was Abishai, David’s nephew who lifted up his spear and slew 300. Next to him stood Benaiah the son of Jehoida, the warrior priest, who had killed two lion-like men of Moab, who had gone down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.
There, ranged around the room stood the rest of those mighty men; men who stood by David in all his wanderings and battles, all of them heroes, mentioned by name in the chronicles of the king. At the head of the table, at the head of them all, sat the King, not a huge imposing presence, but a man among men. David, the giant killer. David, the sweet singer of Israel. David, the man who composed song after song, celebrating the glories of his God. David, the skillful musician. David the architect, who drew up the plans for Solomon’s temple. David the battle-bold who never stood behind but always stood at the front of the battle. David, the skilled tactician, the able general, the brilliant strategist, the great administrator, the man after God’s own heart, the anointed of the Lord, the shepherd of Israel.
And yet there, in the middle of that imposing company of men sat one man, so out of place, so strange it was shocking. There sat this odd person, like a frog among peacocks, like an old donkey lined up among the thoroughbreds in the Kentucky Derby, that lame grandson of Saul, Mephibosheth, right there among those men.
We will take a closer look at this paradox, this ill-fitting man at this dinner table, and in seeing him more closely we will see ourselves, but more importantly, we will see in this King at the head of the table, our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, who places such sorry sinners as ourselves in places of honor to dine with him.
“As for Mephibosheth,” said the king, “he shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons.” Who was this man, raised to such a position of privilege?
Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul. Mephibosheth belonged to a condemned house, a house under the judgment of God. His father and grandfather had died together at Mount Gilboa. Why do I say he belonged to a condemned house?
His grandfather Saul rejected the Word of the Lord. Twice Saul clearly put his own word, and then the word of the people above the Word of the Lord. Twice Saul knew better than God. God said to Saul, I have rejected you from being king over Israel.
His grandfather Saul persecuted David, although David had done him nothing but good, was a faithful servant, and through his victories had added glory to the house of Saul. But no, Saul consumed with envy chased David up and down the country, trying to kill him. This was the family of Mephibosheth.
Mephibosheth belonged to a house that sought knowledge from the underworld, the world of the dead, the house of the witch. Mephibosheth belonged to the house of the dead.
When news came of Israel’s defeat and Saul’s death at Mt. Gilboa, Mephibosheth was five years old. His nurse grabbed him, fled, dropped him, and Mephibosheth became lame in both feet. He became a useless man. Not only that, but the saying around the court of David was this, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” Why not? We read in II Samuel 5 that when David sought to capture Jerusalem, the Jebusites who lived there thought it was so impossible that David could capture them that they said, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you.” So the blind and the lame, says verse 8, are hated by David’s soul. And yet here was Mephibosheth the lame, seated in David’s house, a place at his table among the king’s sons.
And here we are today, you and I, seated in the courts of King Jesus, that great King, victor over Satan and death, creator of the worlds, the one with all authority in heaven and in earth, the one in whom all the wisdom, power, and holiness of God resides. Here we are, belonging to a condemned house, the house of Adam. Here we are, belonging to a house, to Adam, who rejected the Word of the Lord. Here we are, belonging to a house living in rebellion against this great King, rejecting him, breaking his commands.
Here we are, seated among all the mighty angels of God, yet lame, crippled. Here we are, belonging to a house, so crippled with sin, so puny, lame and blind, yet like the Jebusites, saying to this King that he shall not enter into our lives, into our hearts. He shall not capture the castle of our lives. How can it be? (Anyone here who says that?)
How can it be that we are here and not executed? How could Mephibosheth yet be alive? You must know that the common practice of every king, when he ascended to the throne, was to eliminate all the male members of the kingly family that was before him. It was common practice that to secure the throne, to protect it from any threat of a former family, all the men of that family were killed. As an example, when Elah the son of Baasha succeeded his father to the kingship of Israel many years later, Zimri rose up against him and took the kingship. To secure it, we read in 1 Kings 16:11, Then it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he was seated on his throne, that he killed all the household of Baasha; he did not leave him one male, neither of his relatives nor of his friends.
And yet there was Mephibosheth, seated among the king’s sons at the dining table of King David. Mephibosheth belonged to a house which continued its opposition to David after Saul’s death. Ishbosheth, son of Saul, was rival to David for two years. Later, when David fled Jerusalem because of Absalom, Shimei of the family of Saul, cursed David.
So it is no wonder that in II Samuel 19:28, Mephibosheth said to David, “For all my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king.”
You and I, my friend? We were born in a house like Mephibosheth, children, as our form for infant baptism says, “children of wrath”. Have we bettered our condition since birth? We were born in a condemned house, we belong to the Israel that rebelled against and persecuted King Jesus. We belong to the house to whom Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” And yet, here we are, like Mephibosheth, seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, dining at his table, honored in his presence. How can this be?
Most certainly there was nothing in Mephibosheth that made him worthy to sit at that table. Most certainly there were no mighty deeds that Mephibosheth performed that earned him a position among the heroes at the table. Most certainly there was no record of unswerving loyalty to David that gained Mephibosheth such a place of honor. It was all of grace.
And that is equally true of you and I, my friends. It is nothing of ourselves, it is all of grace. It is all the marvelous mercy of God, who, as David, does not count our blood lines, the blood line of old Adam, who does not count the rebellion and rejection of our house, who does not count our lives, puny and crippled by sin, and yet gives us this place of joy and privilege.
David said to Mephibosheth, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake.” Why does David show grace to Mephibosheth? Because of the covenant he made with Jonathan. Why does God show grace to us? Because of the covenant he made with our father Abraham. He has remembered his covenant, his mercy, and has visited us in grace.
What did God say when he brought Israel out of Egypt to himself at Mount Sinai? Israel was a miserable slave people, weak, helpless, worshipping idols. Yet in Exodus 2:24, we read, “So God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.”
What did Zechariah say at the birth of John? Luke 2:72, “To perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham…” What did Peter say to those who had rebelled against and crucified Christ? Acts 3:25, “You are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, …”
So David remembered the covenant he had made with Jonathan, and brought Mephibosheth into his presence. Mephibosheth came in with great fear. He had good reason to fear. He was a condemned man. And yet for him, and for all of us, all those who come to the Lord in fear, knowing our condemnation, knowing as Mephibosheth that we are all but dead men, the King says, “Do not fear. Do not be afraid. I will honor you at my table. You shall not only eat at my table, but I will restore to you all the possessions that your father Saul forfeited.” This is grace.
And this is the grace that comes to us, for we not only eat at the King’s table, but he has restored us to great blessings on this earth that we forfeited because of our sins.
So there sat Mephibosheth at the King’s table. Every day he saw the face of the one whom his father sought to kill. Every day he saw the face of the king who spared his life and showed him grace. Every day he was honored by the king, who didn’t just say, “OK, I won’t kill you, but don’t let me see you again.” No, this king kept Mephibosheth before him every day where the king could see him, honor him, talk with him.
Every day Mephibosheth sat among the mighty, gazing with wonder that he should be seated among such men, and should be seated among the king’s sons. Every day the wonder of grace would be new to him. And it should be to us as well, but alas, so often we forget. This day the Lord reminds us vividly, as our Lord Jesus Christ, the great king, the king of glory, the king who has triumphed over all his foes, the king who has defeated our house, the house of Adam, and graciously seats us, lame, crippled, among the saints.
We sit with the great men of old, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. With Moses and Elijah, with David and Solomon, with Peter and Paul, with Athanasius and Augustine, with Calvin and Luther. But all of us together testify of grace, grace to poor miserable sinners. For really, there are no great men here, just men like Peter, crippled by denying his Lord Jesus. Men like Paul, persecuting his King. All men living in the honor of grace, seated at the table of the great King of the universe, the King of grace and love.
This is the day of grace. This is yet the day when this King calls to the Mephibosheth’s of this world, the men, women, and children, born in a house under judgment, the house of Adam; men, women, and children, whose lives are crippled and malformed by sin, living in rebellion against this King. Yet this King calls to them too. “Come to me, all you who weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the grace to which our King calls us to give testimony in this world. This is the table to which this King invites them. This is the King who says, “My house shall be filled.” This is the day of grace.
Mephibosheth and you and I, by nature under judgment, brought under the marvelous grace of the King, seated at his table, and so living in grace.
This is the King’s Table, set by the Son of David, the great King, our Lord Jesus Christ. This King has called you into his presence, you, born of a condemned house, coming from the house of the dead. This King Jesus not only grants you pardon, but seats you among his children, his sons, honors you at his table. This King reminds you again, that it is nothing of man, nothing of yourself, nothing you’ve done, but all of grace. This King feeds you, gives you a feast, not of the best of earth, but the best of heaven. This King places before you himself, to eat and to drink his own body and blood, that you may be one with him, who is both God and man. This King nourishes you with grace and mercy. This is his house, his dining hall, his table, this is he himself he gives to you. This is the King’s table.
Let us say with David of old, “What shall I give to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord, now in the presence of all his saints.” Amen.