Living in Grace
Scripture Reading: II Samuel 16:1-4; II Samuel 19:24-30; I Kings 2:36-46
Confession: II Samuel 9:13
1. The glory of grace
2. The trial in grace
3. The trial results
Sermon by Rev. Donald Van Dyken
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Sunnyside, Washington, August 8, 2004, p.m.
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 20, No. 7
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Today I will tell you the story of two men and the king. One of these men you already know from the previous sermon, and he is Mephibosheth. The other one we will learn about, and his name is Shimei. These two men are related. Besides that, both of these men received wonderful grace from the king. One of them continued in grace, counting anything else but loss for the joy of the king’s house. The other found it necessary to leave the place of grace, for there was, he thought, something to be gained outside. In gaining that something he lost everything.
Mephibosheth sat at the king’s table. Surely King David set a wonderful table. No one who sat at that table ever went away empty. No one who sat at that table could ever go away hungry. Mephibosheth never had to take his bow and arrows and try to stalk a deer for his next meal. Mephibosheth was a cripple, so the poor man couldn’t hunt a deer if he wanted to. Mephibosheth was a cripple, and cripples couldn’t work, all they could do was beg. But Mephibosheth never knew the shame of begging or the pain of hunger.
So, although I am going to talk about them, we remember that all those men have died; Shimei, Mephibosheth, and even King David. But we do have live people, so while we are talking about the men dead and gone, let’s think about two live people. One of them is you, sitting in front of me right now. Whether you are a very old man or woman, or whether you are a little child just learning to walk, if you have been baptized God has adopted you into his family, into his royal household. So we shall think about you. The other person who is alive that we shall think about is one of the sons of David. And that Son is Jesus Christ. He is your King, and you are sitting in his house and have dined at his table.
My theme is “Living in Grace.”
I call this grace, for you understand what I mean by grace, don’t you? Grace is the word the Bible gives us to describe a gift, and that wonderful gift is eternal life, it is salvation, it is the love and care of God. Grace for you and for me is the beautiful sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. All of that grace is packaged in that one gift of Jesus Christ. Grace means a little more, doesn’t it? Grace means that God gives this gift to those who do not deserve Jesus. And that’s you and I too, isn’t it?
1. The glory of grace. We want to see a little how very wonderful it was to live in the king’s house for Mephibosheth and for Shimei. We also want to see how wonderful it is for you and me to live in the house that our King Jesus has prepared for us here.
2. The trial in grace. God brought a trial into the lives of both Mephibosheth and Shimei. It was a test God gave them and in that test God would find out what was the most important thing in their lives. God gives us those tests too.
3. The trial results. In this last point I want to show you how these men went through the trials. We will see than one succeeded in passing the test but the other one failed the test. With that in front of us then, our King Jesus Christ wants to exhort us to stay at home with him.
Every day was a new and exciting day for him, for he could look forward to seeing what the king’s kitchen had prepared for them that day. Every day was a special day because he could look forward to seeing his dear King again. Every day he could look forward to dinner time. Every day Mephibosheth could look forward to his special place at the dinner table. Every day when Mephibosheth entered the dining hall, the royal waiter, instead of bringing him to one of the tables for visitors, bowed to him, and led him to the place where seats were reserved for the King’s sons.
Many years later there was a man honored just like Mephibosheth. He dined at that last supper of the Lord Jesus, and many years later he said, Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God. That man was the apostle John, wasn’t he? There it is, and it is all through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There sat Mephibosheth, dining with the King. Not just prison fare, not just subsistence food, not just bread and water, not just common fare, but king’s food. The best of the field and the orchard, the vineyard and the pasture was for the king’s table. The finest of wheat, the choicest of peaches and olives, the vintage of the wines, the fattest of the beef. All prepared and served by the best chefs, cooks, and waiters of the land.
Here we are, each Lord’s day, invited by our Lord Jesus Christ to the feast he prepares for us in his own house. We are honored even more than humble Mephibosheth, for our King is not just the king of Palestine, but he is the King of the whole world. Our king is the king of heaven. Our king has mighty angels. A single one of those angels killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. Among all those bright angelic creatures, mighty servants of Christ, His Father sits us in his presence. “We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” says the Word of God. Do you begin to realize the awesome privileges you have? Do you begin to realize the great favor your King Jesus Christ gives you, especially each Lord’s Day?
If Mephibosheth were here, my friends, he would say that all the privileges he enjoyed, all the glory, all the favors, all the wonder of King David’s favor, did not begin to compare with what you enjoy just sitting here in church from week to week. And how many of us think it a very little thing to decline the invitation of our Jesus to come into his house each Lord’s Day?
This is the King’s table. This is the table where our King washes our feet as we enter, where our king anoints our head with oil and prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. This is the table where our King waits on us, prepares for us, serves us, serves himself to us.
This is the table that assures us that his goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life. This is the table that is graced by his presence, where we like the Queen of Sheba may listen in amazement to the wisdom of a greater than Solomon. This is the great happiness of grace, to see today as in a mirror, but then face to face, the face of our King, of our beloved.
So among the many privileges Mephibosheth enjoyed with King David and we enjoy with our King, Jesus Christ, are provision-he cares for us and feeds us physically and spiritually with great abundance. He gives us protection-all authority in heaven and on earth is under the hand of our King, Jesus Christ. He commands mighty angels for his people, and guards them carefully. We may sit at his feet and listen to his wisdom-he reveals to us the perfect mind of our heavenly Father, his Father and gives us the Spirit that we may freely understand the wisdom that he gives us.
Now let me give you a little sketch of the other man and he is Shimei. Shimei was also a relative of King Saul. Shimei belonged to the house that persecuted David, the house of the dead, the house under condemnation. But Shimei actively added to that guilt. You remember when Absalom revolted against his father David? David and his mighty men retreated from Jerusalem. You will find this in II Samuel 16. As David went past the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem, going towards the desert, Shimei came out, cursing continually as he went. He stood on the hillside and threw stones at David and at David’s servants. And as Shimei cursed he called out, “Come out. Come out. You bloodthirsty man, you rogue.”
Abishai heard that cursing. He was David’s nephew, one of his mighty soldiers. In battle Abishai had lifted up his spear against three hundred at one time and killed them all by himself. So Abishai said, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head.” But David spared Shimei and forbade Abishai from harming him.
Later, after David had defeated the forces of Absalom and returned to Jerusalem, Shimei met him, and begged forgiveness from David. Again, Abishai urged David to kill him. But again, David showed Shimei mercy. The mercy of God is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? We would say that this man didn’t deserve mercy. But if you and I think carefully, I would have to ask you, will the person that thinks he deserves mercy please tell me about it after the service.
Perhaps when we see the bad people in the world, denying, cursing our Lord Jesus Christ, we want to get rid of them all. Perhaps we can be a little bit like Abishai, or perhaps even a little bit like James and John. Remember the time they asked Jesus if they could call for fire from heaven to burn up the Samaritan town that wouldn’t welcome Jesus? But Jesus said, “I did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Today too, our Lord Jesus says that he still has mercy and grace for sinners. And we should say so too.
This day of mercy and grace will not last forever, of course, and we will see that it did not last forever for Shimei either. But it is Jesus who will decide when it will end, not we.
So there are those two men, Mephibosheth and Shimei. To both of them David showed great mercy, wonderful grace, just as God shows to us today. There is another question we must talk about, and that is, how did these two men receive this grace? What did they do with the favor David gave them? That we will talk about in the next point.
God brought a trial into the lives of both Mephibosheth and Shimei. It was a test God gave them and in that test God would find out what was the most important thing in their lives. God gives us those tests too. Mephibosheth was given a test. Shimei was given a test. Let’s look at Shimei’s first.
When David was dying he instructed his son Solomon to give Shimei a test. It wasn’t a very hard test. Really very simple. That test Solomon gave to Shimei didn’t restrict him. He didn’t give him a fine. He didn’t give him a hard series of tasks to do. He didn’t give him a puzzle to work out. He didn’t restrict his diet. He didn’t take his property away. He didn’t raise Shimei’s taxes. He didn’t make Shimei a slave. Shimei could continue with his job, with his business, with property as before.
Well, what kind of test did Solomon give him? You will find it in 1 Kings 2. Solomon said, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there anywhere. For it shall be, on the day you go out and cross the Brook Kidron, know for certain you shall surely die; your blood shall be on your own head.” And Shimei said to the king, “The saying is good. As my lord the king has said, so your servant will do.”
That was the trial then, and Shimei readily agreed to it.
Now let’s look at Mephibosheth’s trial. It was really a very hard one. We need to go back again to the time David fled from Absalom. As David was leaving Jerusalem, Ziba, Mephibosheth’s servant met him. You will remember that in our passage this morning, II Samuel 9, David had restored all the lands of Saul to Mephibosheth, but since he wanted Mephibosheth to eat at his table, he told Ziba to be the manager of all that property. Now we see Ziba coming to David with a couple of saddled donkeys, and a lot of food, 200 loaves of bread, 100 clusters of raisins, 100 summer fruits and a skin of wine. Ziba gave them all to David for his men.
Where did Ziba get all that food? Was it his? Did it come out of the generosity of his heart? Did he really love David that much? No, certainly not. It all came from Mephibosheth’s land. Did Ziba say that it did? No. Ziba lied perversely and slandered Mephibosheth. Ziba was plotting to get the land for himself. David asked him where Mephibosheth was. Do you know what Mephibosheth was trying to do? We know, don’t we? In II Samuel 19 we hear Mephibosheth say that he told Ziba, “I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go to the king, because your servant is lame.”
But what did Ziba do? He took the donkey away and brought it to David. So when David asked where Mephibosheth was, and Ziba said, “Indeed he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.’” This was a very plausible lie, and it worked out just as Ziba planned. David said, “Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” And so this sly hypocrite Ziba says, “I humbly bow before you, that I may find favor in your sight, my lord, O king.” Humbly, yes, indeed.
What now will Mephibosheth do? How can he fight this slander? How can he recover all the land that was tricked away from him? How can he escape execution as a rebel like Absalom? What shall he do? Really, there is nothing very much he can do, except wait in Jerusalem until the king returns. This must have been a very hard thing for him to do patiently. We don’t know what kind of hardships he had while David was away. We don’t know if he had enough food to eat anymore, or if he was perhaps scared that the soldiers of Absalom would kill him. We know that he couldn’t run very far for he was crippled. Really, all he could do was to wait for David to return.
And David did return. But when David did come back, Mephibosheth wasn’t over with his trial. He was tested some more. What was really important to Mephibosheth? What really mattered? What did he love the most in his life? Well, let’s save that a minute as we go the third point, and that is to see the results of these tests, these trials.
As we look at these trial results, as we see how these two men came out of their tests, we must remember that God is teaching us that he gives us tests too. Our tests are really something like these tests that Shimei and Mephibosheth had. God often tests his people. Not for the fun of it, but to see if they really love him more than anything else. He tests you too. We must ask ourselves if we pass those tests or if we seem to be failing those tests. It’s very important to know, isn’t it? We need to ask God how we are doing, don’t we? How can we do that? That’s not very hard either. When you take a test in school, whom do you ask? Do you ask your classmate? No. Do you ask yourself? Sometimes. But we probably give ourselves a better grade than we really have, don’t we. We ask the teacher. She gave us the test.
Do your mother and father give you tests? Yes, they do. They tell you to obey them. Sometimes you don’t really know why they tell you to do the things they do. But those things are tests. Do you really love your parents or not? What is the most important thing to you? You or your father and mother? So when you are grown up whom do you ask? Many people just grade their own tests. But that’s not right, is it? Who then? Well, God has given us elders, and the Bible calls them shepherds too. Do you ever come to them and ask them how you are doing? Does that sound funny? It isn’t, is it? It’s very important.
We have kind of left Mephibosheth’s trial up in the air, for his final test is close to his success in passing that trial. But, as I said, we will come to Mephibosheth after we deal with Shimei, for it is easier to get the loser out of the way first and then to see the winner, to see how Mephibosheth passed the test God gave him.
We left Shimei going out of the beautiful courtroom of King Solomon. Solomon had told him to build a house in Jerusalem and to stay there. When you think of it, that was really a wonderful test. Solomon was a wonderful king, the son of the man who showed Shimei such wonderful mercy. So Shimei could live in the same city with the son of David. Shimei could see him and remember the wonderful mercy that David had given him and be filled with thankfulness for that mercy.
But maybe it didn’t work out that way for Shimei. Maybe it irritated him to be reminded of that mercy. But how could that be? Well, mercy means that Shimei did not get what he deserved. What did he deserve? He deserved to have his head cut off. Why? Because he had sinned so terribly, cursing God’s anointed king. Perhaps it really bothered him to be reminded of it. So perhaps Shimei was very uncomfortable living in Jerusalem. It reminded him of his sins, and he wasn’t humble enough to get over them and think about the wonderful grace and mercy David gave him, and how wonderful it was to live in the same city as such a great and wonderful king as Solomon the son of David.
You know there were some people many years later who felt the same way, and maybe there are people today who feel that way. When they feel they don’t like to be reminded of their sins, they find the presence of Christ oppressive. What do I mean? Let’s take the people that crucified Jesus. They said to Peter and the disciples, “You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching of Jesus and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But the gospel was this, that Jesus, through his apostles, came back to the very people who crucified him, and extended mercy to them. He would forgive them and receive them as his people and through him they would become truly children of God.
When you come each Lord’s day to the house of the Lord, that is the house of Jesus Christ our king. This is the king who was crucified because of our sins, because of my sins and because of your sins. But this is the King who has reached out his hand of mercy to us, for instead of condemning us for his death, he offers us life because of his death. Each time we come into his house, he reminds us that we are here because he has shown us mercy. He has not given us the punishment we deserve, but instead had made us kings and priest to his God and Father (Rev. 1:6).
But if it bothers you, like it bothers so many people, to be reminded, that in spite of your great sins, through the death of Jesus Christ God has given you great mercy, then the presence of this King whom your sins nailed to the tree will be an irritation. You will find yourself so very uncomfortable near him, and you will find that when Christ speaks to you from this pulpit about your sins you will want to be somewhere else. Then you will find easy excuses to get away for a while.
Shimei did. After three years of living in Jerusalem two of Shimei’s slaves ran away. Somebody told him that they had run to Gath, a city of the Philistines. So Shimei saddled his donkey, traveled to Gath, got his slaves, and came back to Jerusalem. But what about Solomon’s command? What about Shimei’s promise that he would obey? Well, maybe he thought about that for a minute. But was it so very important that he stay in Jerusalem all the time? What about his property, his slaves? They were important to him. His business, his property, his material possessions counted for a great deal to Shimei.
But are material possessions more important than obedience, than life? For that cost Shimei his life. King Solomon sent for him and said, “Did I not make you swear by the Lord, and warn you, saying, ‘Know for certain that on the day you go out and travel anywhere, you shall surely die?’” So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he went out and struck him down, and he died. Just like that. What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Just like Achan-a little gold, a little silver, nice clothes, and boom, the stones flew, he was crushed and dead. Just like Ananias and Sapphira, keeping back some money, and zip, they fell down dead. Just like Lot’s wife. Oh, the pain of loosing all those nice things. One look back. Crackle and snap, a pillar of salt.
We need to take warning, and instead of falling into the trap of Shimei, say with Paul, “I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord.” Shimei who failed the test. The tests God gives are pretty important aren’t they? Now let’s look at Mephibosheth again.
When David met him, we read that Mephibosheth had not cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes. What does this mean? This means that Mephibosheth would not think about himself, his comfort, his honor, because he was thinking about his king. He loved David, and he could think of nothing else but that his king was gone. Mephibosheth’s thoughts were about the honor and welfare of his king, not of himself. Are thoughts of our king on our mind? Do we think first of his honor, his glory, his presence before thinking of ourselves?
When David asked him why he had not come with him when fleeing from Jerusalem, Mephibosheth told David that Zibah had tricked both of them. So David said, “Well, you and Zibah divide the land between the two of you.” The trial of Mephibosheth went on. What was he to do now? How was he to get all his land back?
Then we read in II Samuel 19:30, Then Mephibosheth said to the king, “Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house.”
Mephibosheth counted all things as loss, as rubbish, for the excellency of the presence of the king. Mephibosheth knew that in the favor, in the grace given him by David, in the honor bestowed upon him, that he had greater riches than all the lands of his grandfather Saul. Mephibosheth knew that in David, in the great blessing of the King’s presence, he had a more enduring substance than all the treasures of lands and possessions.
What about us? Do we count the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord greater riches than all the world can offer? Do we, Mephibosheth here, and like the Hebrew Christians many years later love the presence and honor, the grace and mercy of Christ so much, that we, as they did, joyfully accept the plundering of their goods, knowing that in heaven we have a more enduring substance, we have our Lord Jesus himself?
When you think of heaven what comes to your mind? No more pain and suffering? Good times forever? Streets of gold. Sometimes we have many questions about how life will be after the resurrection. If we think of that life in terms of what we shall have, we are able to lose sight of what is important then and what is important now. What is important for us now? What do we look for then? We are looking for the marriage supper of the Lamb, aren’t we? So what is the greatest thing for the bride? It’s her husband, isn’t it? We shall be with our King, with our Savior and Lord. We shall see him face to face. We shall live in his presence forever and ever. The heavenly Jerusalem shall come down here, and we shall live in the courts, in the house of our King forever and ever.
I said at the beginning that your king would have an exhortation for you. That is a very beautiful word. Exhort. It means that Christ comes alongside of you as a friend, for so he calls you. And as a friend he puts his hand on your shoulder and says to you, “Stay in Jerusalem. Keep living in the King’s house.” You know where that is, don’t you? You are here right now. This church is the courtroom, the temple, the royal house of your king. Your king has called you from a background like Mephibosheth’s. He has given you wonderful mercy and grace. He provides you with his own sacrifice to make you sons and daughters of the Most High God, his Father. Here he protects and guards you. Here he opens up his wonderful wisdom to you. Here he talks with you. Here he makes his beautiful presence known to you.
Surely as Mephibosheth sat there at the royal table day after day, feasting among the king’s sons, gazing with wonder and adoration at the face of his gracious king, Mephibosheth and his companions must have sung songs at the table. And surely one of their favorites must have been the one composed by the King himself many years before. There, seated in splendor, dining with the King, they raised this chorus, this chant:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for he is with me.
His rod and his staff they comfort me.
He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
He anoints my head with oil. My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.