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The Tablecloth of Grace

by Charles R. Swindoll on September 1, 2014 in Articles

Shortly after David ascended Israel’s throne, he made good on a promise. He had given Jonathan his word that he would demonstrate kindness to Jonathan’s family forever (see 1 Samuel 20). Once David became king, he could easily have forgotten that promise. Certainly, no one would have forced the king to keep it.

But David’s “yes” meant “yes.” After the deaths of Jonathan and his father, King Saul, David remembered his promise, which prompted him to ask, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” As it turned out, the answer was “yes.” Ziba, David’s servant, said, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet” (2 Sam. 9:1–3, NASB).

Without hesitation, David sent for Jonathan’s son, whose name was Mephibosheth. When the young man arrived, he bowed trembling. In ancient days when a new king from a new dynasty took the throne, it wasn’t uncommon for him to destroy every member of the former royal family. That explains the young man’s terror. Being Saul’s grandson meant he was as good as dead! But, of course, he knew nothing of David’s promise to show kindness to his father’s family. How shocked he must have been when King David reassured him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly” (v. 7).

Filled with a mixture of amazement and gratitude, Mephibosheth bowed yet again, asking, “What is your servant that you should regard a dead dog like me?” (v. 8). David did far more than spare his life. He made sure that everything that had belonged to Saul and his family now belonged to the young man who was not only undeserving of such favor, but he was also crippled in both feet. In addition, the king promised him that from then on he would have a place at the king’s table, regularly eating his meals with others in the king’s family (v. 10).

What a story of grace—God’s unmerited favor! With a little imagination, we can picture a familiar scene in the king’s royal residence. Gold and silver fixtures held the flaming torches that lined the palace walls. Lofty, hand-carved wooden ceilings crowned each spacious room, including the banquet hall where David and his family gathered for their evening meals. In one chair sat tanned, handsome Absalom with his long, raven-black locks of hair. Next to him sat his beautiful sister, Tamar. Across from her sat the young and brilliant Solomon. It’s suppertime, and the call has gone out to all in the family to gather around the table. As David the dad scans the room to make sure all the kids are present, he notices that one is missing.

It isn’t long before everyone can hear a sound they have become accustomed to by now. Clump, scra-a-ape. Clump scra-a-ape echoes from the hallway into the dining room. Clump, scra-a-ape. Clump scra-a-ape. Finally, the young man appears and slowly shuffles to his place. It’s Mephibosheth, of course, seated now at the king’s table alongside the other members of the king’s family. Once seated, the tablecloth of grace covers his feet. We are reassured of the king’s grace as we read, “Mephibosheth ate at David’s table as one of the king’s sons” (v. 11).

Although Mephibosheth had nothing to offer David, the king lavished on him great honor. David made no distinction between Absalom and Tamar and Solomon and Mephibosheth. When grace abounds, that’s what happens. Favor is extended to the undeserving, which cannot be earned or repaid. No wonder we call it amazing!

For ninety years God has poured out his grace on Dallas Theological Seminary. For ninety years he has allowed wretches like us to attend the classes, to teach the students, and to lead the school. Think of it! Not one of us has deserved such unmerited favor from our God. For ninety years the tablecloth of grace has covered all our feet.

What a faithful King of grace he has been throughout these ninety years. All hail the power of Jesus’ name!

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