2 Samuel 19:24-30
And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard…
Although some are disposed to accept Ziba's account of his master's conduct (2 Samuel 16:3) rather than Mephibosheth's own, as given in these verses, there seems to be no just reason to doubt his truth and sincerity. He did not go with David because, owing to his lameness and the treachery and cunning of Ziba, he was unable to do so. The narrative suggests such thoughts as follow.
I. INABILITY DEBARS MANY CHRISTIANS FROM SOME DEMONSTRATIONS OF LOVE AND LOYALTY TO THEIR KING WHICH THEY WOULD FAIN MAKE. Indeed, every one, however strong in some respects, is weak in others. The inability may be in body or mind, in understanding, or heart, or speech, or in purse; but to its extent it disables from forms of service which others can adopt. We can only serve Christ with the faculties and powers we have. To attempt what we cannot accomplish is to be hindrances rather than helps.
II. INABILITY IN SOME RESPECTS WILL NOT PREVENT THE TRUE HEARTED FROM MAKING SUCH MANIFESTATIONS OF LOVE AND LOYALTY AS ARE WITHIN THEIR POWER. If Mephibesheth could not follow David in his exile. or take part in the contest, he could mourn for him, and exhibit signs of mourning; and this he did. He thus showed a courage as great as, or greater than, that of those who took part in the war. In like manner, every one, however feeble, poor, or obscure, may do something for Christ; and, if his heart be right, he will. He who cannot preach can speak to a neighbour. He who cannot say much for Christ can bring others where they can hear of him, or give them an instructive book or tract. He who cannot give much money towards the evangelization of the world can give a little, and at least can pray. He who cannot found a hospital can visit the sick poor. All have some power, and, according to the measure of their power, are responsible. All who love their King will employ such ability as they have in serving him. And the service is accepted by him which comes from a true heart and is according to the ability possessed. Work or gift for Christ is valued by him, not for its quantity, or even quality of the material, or merely mental kind, but for the love to him which it expresses; and many a man who wins the plaudits of men for his talents, his outward success in religious work, or his large gifts for its sustentation, is less pleasing to Christ than some poor and humble friend of his who can give and do but little, but thinks much of him, mourns in secret the dishonour done to him, and prays without ceasing for his triumph. Ziba's handsome and timely presents were really of far less worth than helpless Mephibosheth's mourning and self-neglect.
III. INABILITY IS LIABLE TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD AND MISREPRESENTED. Not only by the malicious or designing, as here, but by the inconsiderate. Men judge of others by their own peculiar standards. If truly zealous in a good cause, they show their zeal in the way most natural and available to themselves, and are ready to condemn as lukewarm those who do not adopt their methods, though these may with equal zeal seek the same ends by the means natural and available to them. Even David judged harshly and unjustly of Mephibosheth. It was, in truth, unreasonable to expect his lame friend to accompany him. He could only have been a burden. It was absurdly unjust to accept Ziba's insinuation that his master was hoping to be placed on the vacant throne. But judgments equally unjust are constantly being pronounced upon zealous servants of Christ, whose only fault is that they are not of the same Order of mind, or cannot practise the same bustling activity as their accusers, or have not equal incomes, or equal physical strength or energy, or do not care to exhibit their "zeal for the Lord" (2 Kings 10:16) in the same manner or to secure similar results. Happily, the King knows his servants better than they know each other.
IV. INABILITY IS OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH QUALITIES THAT RECONCILE TO THE DISADVANTAGES WHICH BELONG TO IT. Mephibosheth was enabled to bear meekly what he had to endure, because he was humble, thankful, sincerely and disinterestedly devoted to the king, and ready to submit without murmuring to his will. Similar qualities are of great value to those servants of our Lord who are deficient in some endowments or possessions by which others are equipped for Christian service.
1. Thankfulness for, and contentment with, the powers and opportunities granted to them, and the kind and measure of success accorded to them.
2. Humility arising from the consciousness of their defects or unworthiness.
3. Absence of envy of those who are more abundantly favoured in respect to talents or success.
4. Consciousness of sincere devotion to the King, however men may reflect on them.
5. Joy that, by whomsoever and in whatever way, the King's cause is triumphing. Such qualities are frequently found associated with deficient abilities, and go far to compensate those who possess them for the lack of power, or obvious efficiency, or appreciation of them and their work, which may be their lot. Let the less liberally endowed cultivate them.
V. INABILITY WILL AT LENGTH BE EXPLAINED AND JUSTIFIED. When the King comes back, all his servants will receive commendation and reward, not according to their several abilities, but according to their fidelity. Mistakes will be rectified, unjust judgments reversed. Many a plaudit will be hushed; many an inflated reputation will collapse; many a brave looking building will be reduced to a mass of rubbish by the searching fires, and the builder put to shame, if not utterly rejected (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). On the other hand, many an obscure and perhaps disregarded servant of Christ will find himself unexpectedly applauded and exalted. "Lord, when saw we thee," etc.? (Matthew 25:37). Wherefore:
1. "Judge nothing before the time" (1 Corinthians 4:5).
2. Let Christians of limited powers and opportunities be encouraged to do their best. Their Lord appreciates their spirit and services, though men may mistake and misjudge; and he will pass a juster judgment than David did (ver. 29) in the case of Mephibosheth. - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace.
WEB: Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king; and he had neither groomed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace.