The Unexpected Place Setting

By Randy Gariss

It must have seemed an odd table. David was king of Israel, and when he sat down to eat he had his family and his sons. As king, he naturally would have included some friends and perhaps a favorite servant or two. And also a crippled man by the name of Mephibosheth.

The backstory has all the human interest we can handle. Years before, Saul had been the king and he had made the young David’s life miserable—repeatedly attempting to cut it short! Saul’s despotic life and desperate panic were all an ill-fated attempt to keep David, God’s anointed, off the throne.

The story gained additional intrigue and depth when King Saul’s son, Jonathan, whom the world would have expected to inherit his father’s throne, chose to love David like a brother. Jonathan had seen God’s hand on David and swore to the former shepherd that, when the time came, he would support David’s kingship and not his father’s claims.

Jonathan never got the chance.

King Saul and Jonathan were killed in a battle with the Philistines, and David became king.

A little time passed, and David inquired, “Is there anyone of Saul’s or Jonathan’s family left?” That question typically would have struck terror across the land, for it normally would have come from the darkest corner of a ruler’s heart. When the king of a different family takes power, you see, members of the former king’s family historically are killed, thus eliminating all potential threats to the current reign.

There was one member of King Saul’s family left—a grandson, a son to Jonathan. He was severely crippled, having been dropped as a baby. David summoned this grandson of his former enemy. With what must have been unimaginable fear, Mephibosheth limped into the throne room. The conversation went like this: “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table” (2 Samuel 9:7).

And so there he is. Mephibosheth at the king’s table. Can you imagine the nightly meals?

“Can we eat yet?”

“No son, we are not all here yet.” And then the sound of crutches can be heard as a crippled man slowly crosses the room and sits down among the sons.

The king’s table is not complete until Mephibosheth is at the table.

And that is why I am at this table. It is precursor to my story. From the family of an enemy to the table of the king, it takes one’s breath away.

Randy Gariss serves as the director of the Life and Ministry Center at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. 

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