Obscure Grace: Who We Are

Grace can be hard to find, and even harder to understand. But when you do find it, it’s peaceful and beautiful, like staring into a compelling campfire. It is simple and pure and lovely, and you can’t quite take your eyes off it.

King David of Israel is a fascinating character. His humanity is what draws me to him. Sunday school graduates know him for his defeat of the giant Goliath and for his infidelity with Bathsheba. However, these are small wrinkles in the fabric of his character. David had ups and downs, doubts, courage, fears, calms, victories and defeats. Yet, despite all his failures (and successes), he remained a man caught up in the pursuit of the heart of God.

When David assumed the throne of Israel, he thought back to a couple of promises that he had made. The first was to his intimate friend Jonathan. He promised to never withdraw his love from Jonathan’s household when he became king (1 Samuel 19:14-17). The second promise was made to then King Saul after David spared his life. This guarantee was similar to the first made to Jonathan—to not cut off Saul’s descendants or wipe out his name from the earth (1 Samuel 24:20-22).

As David mulled over these pledges, he sought after someone from the household of Saul and Jonathan to whom he could show kindness. He found Mephibosheth. Mephi-who? Mephibosheth. Who is Mephibosheth? He is the beneficiary of an obscure grace extended by the hand of the king. And Mephibosheth is also us.

Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan. He was hiding in a place called Lo Debar. He hid because he feared for his life. It was a common practice for the new kings to eradicate the entire family of the old kings to prevent any revolt. Lo Debar was a barren place. Its name literally means “no pasture.” It was a wasteland. And then there was the handicap. When Mephibosheth was 5 years old, he was dropped by his nurse, and as a result, he became lame in both feet. You see, he is us. We are Mephibosheth.

TO BE BROKEN BY A FALL

We are broken by a fall, just like Mephibosheth. Adam and Eve, by way of the Garden, have provided for us an inheritance of death. “For … in Adam all die,” says 1 Corinthians 15:22. This state is something we inherit, something Paul calls the “sinful nature.” This sinful nature reminds us that our disability is the fault of another, yet it’s ours to cope with. Like both of Mephibosheth’s feet, we too bear the scars of a fall. However, our wounds are found on our souls.

TO BE SOUGHT BY A KING

“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus doesn’t expect us to come to His palace on our own behalf. Rather, He has gone in search of us. In His parable about the lost sheep, Jesus explains that the shepherd will leave behind 99 other sheep and “go after the lost one until He finds it.”

David left behind the comforts of his palace to search for the lame Mephibosheth. The king stepped out of his place and into the place of another; one less than he, with the goal of finding him who was lost. To be sought after validates us. For one to leave his home, his comforts and his pride behind to search for us, who are unimportant, gives us immense worth. Like Mephibosheth, our King Jesus journeys away from home to seek those who need to be found.

TO BE FOUND IN THE FAR AWAY LAND

David found Mephibosheth in Lo Debar, the barren country. And we also find ourselves in a badland. In our lame state, we are unable to prosper, thrive or find life. Yet Jesus left His kingdom to wander into our arid region on His quest to locate us. He shed His heaven and donned the fabric of humanity, placed in the world He created but which had disintegrated due to the fall. As He sought, He found us broken and hiding, clinging barely to a life—let alone an abundant one. Abundance is hard to come by in the desert.

TO BE RESTORED TO THE KING’S TABLE

Yet abundance is what Jesus offers. Not a desert life, but a table full of rich food and the choicest wines. The wedding feast of the Lamb is where we have been invited and where we are blessed, as Revelation 19:9 says. David said that Mephibosheth would “always eat meals at [his] table,” just like one of the king’s sons. For those of us who are lame, to sit at the king’s table forever and to be included among his children is an honor far greater than we deserve.

OBSCURE GRACE: REVEALED AND REALIZED

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Yet, this is the Gospel. Mephibosheth, lame in both feet by a fall that was not his fault, is sought after by a king, found in a far away land by that king and restored to that king’s table as one of his children. This is an extraordinary picture of grace as revealed in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, through the lens of Jesus, this obscure grace is realized. And here I make my case: We are Mephibosheth. What transpired in his life by the hand of King David is a dim reflection of the scandalous, beautiful grace that King Jesus extends to us today.

Mephibosheth’s identity changed. He no longer was a lost, lame man. Sure, he still hobbled and limped, and the scars of his fall still remained. But he exchanged his crutches of shame that represented sin for crutches of trophy that symbolized his transformation at the hand of grace. He then took his new place at King David’s table as one of his adopted children.

The truth of this Gospel and the splendor of this obscure grace is that we too can exchange our crutches and scars. We too can become the children of the King at His table.

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