Column: God’s Grace Chases You Down
By Drew Williams
Pain can take your mind and heart to some desperate places. Over the past months of incapacitation, there have been times when I have been tempted to wonder what I did wrong. Am I out of favor with God? Have I exhausted His mercy? Did I trespass somewhere along the lines and cross into a place I can’t come back from?
I have been re-reading the First Book of Samuel in the Old Testament and, by the grace of God, I found an unlikely hero by the name of Mephibosheth. Much to my surprise, his story speaks directly into my groundless fears, and reminds me of the unquenchable grace and mercy of God.
This story into two parts: today, I will detail my hero’s ruin and redemption, and next Friday we will look at his restoration (and there is a little twist at the end of the tale).
By way of background, Mephibosheth is Jonathan’s son and the grandson of King Saul. He is the last living survivor of the royal house of Saul. He was born into a family that had been rejected by God (1 Samuel 15:23). This family had once been in power; now they were out of favor with God and with men. In Hebrew, the name “Mephibosheth” literally means, “from the mouth of shame.” David, the Lord’s chosen successor to Saul, has been purging the earth of the sons of Saul (2 Samuel 3:1). Mephibosheth is expecting to be put to death if David ever finds him. He believes himself to be David’s enemy and is currently hiding from him in fear for his life.
1. Mephibosheth’s ruin. As well as this unfortunate birthright, Mephibosheth’s life had been made harder by circumstances that were also not of his own making. When the news came of his grandfather’s death and of the death of his father on the battlefield of Gilboa, Mephibosheth’s nurse had taken the then five-year-old in her arms and fled. In her panic, Mephibosheth fell from her arms and his feet were broken. From that day on, he had been lame in both of his feet. Because he was lame, he could not work. He had inherited nothing but abject poverty and the prospect of death from his family. He was a man in a desperate situation.
Mephibosheth was hiding out in a place called Lo-debar (a word that means “no pasture” or “no bread”) in the house of Machir (which means “sold”). Mephibosheth was living in a place of poverty and want. He was far away from Jerusalem—the place of blessing, the place of peace, the place of God’s presence—and was disgraced, disabled, and living in fear, poverty and shame. Mephibosheth understandably believed himself to be completely out of favor with God as well as men.
Mephibosheth may well have known that one day we will all stand accountable for our lives. And no, none of us is worthy of God’s mercy. But what Mephibosheth is about to find out is that we can also stand in the assurance that God’s heart toward us is to take our ruin and turn it into redemption.
2. Mephibosheth’s redemption: On the basis of David’s love for Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:1), David “redeems” Jonathan’s son. “Then King David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar” (2 Samuel 9:5). Notice that David took the initiative to seek after Mephibosheth, and when he found him, sent for him immediately. The order here is important: Mephibosheth did not seek David. It was David’s sovereign choice—a personal call, an irresistible fetch. “Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple!” (Psalm 65:4).
The lesson for me was to remember that, just as David redeems Mephibosheth, through no particular merit or worthiness of Mephibosheth’s own, so God redeems you and me on the basis of His sheer love for us—His sheer mercy, His own gracious initiative. Mephibosheth’s story reminds me that it was not because of any greatness on my account that God rescued and saved me but on account of the enormous greatness (called “grace”) within God’s own heart. And this is the grace that comes searching for us, even (and, it would appear especially) when we are hiding in fear and shame.
This is actually a microcosm of the entire Biblical story from start to finish. God’s extraordinary grace chases us down—all the way from that first moment in the Garden of Eden right through the end of the story in the book of Revelation 3:20, when Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
This season has often left me parched and pleading for a renewal of my faith—and at times, it has felt like I simply lacked a stronger faith. In those moments, the Holy Spirit has come alongside me in the darkness and enabled to me to see that, even when all I could see with my own eyes was darkness, the Lord has been pursuing and moving toward me—not away from me.
And so it is for all of us. May we too make this testimony our own: “[God] found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).
Next week we pick up the story as we consider Mephibosheth’s restoration.
The Rev’d Drew Williams, Senior Pastor of Trinity Church, has been living with severe, debilitating chronic pain for more than three years. After five surgeries and innumerable neurological procedures, he knows the desperation that comes with wondering if he would ever be pain free. At the same time, he shares, “By the grace of God, that desperation has also brought an increased intensity and honesty, as well as a deeper intimacy, in my relationship with God.” He now shares something of his struggle in a series of devotional writings for the Greenwich Sentinel. One of the more perplexing features of the past three-year saga around my health has been the ongoing battle between hope and disappointment.