In the days before dogs had special diets, went on family vacations, and even retired, no one wanted to be called a dog, let alone a dead dog. Yet that was how Mephibosheth referred to himself. Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan and grandson of King Saul. His story is a study in damaged self-esteem and a picture of how God heals our low self-esteem if we allow Him to.
We meet Mephibosheth when messengers brought news of King Saul’s death. He was five years old. As his nurse ran with him, he fell and his injuries left him lame.1 For years, a charitable family in Lo-debar cared for Mephibosheth.
Thankfully, we live in an age when physical disabilities have less power to limit and define who we are. Mephibosheth experienced all the challenges and the stigma that accompany lameness. Beside his physical handicap, he was the grandson of a failed king and the monarchy had gone to David. Mephibosheth had decided that he was nothing but a dead dog with no life beyond the handouts he received in an insignificant household in Lo-debar. He felt worthless.
Once David had consolidated his reign in Jerusalem, he remembered his covenant with Jonathan in which he had promised to watch over Jonathan’s family. David sent a servant to fetch Mephibosheth and restored Saul’s estate to him. He provided servants and gave him the right to eat at the royal table—as if he were David’s own son, a prince. Mephibosheth prostrated himself before David and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?”2
Sin injures us. It can leave us socially, emotionally, and spiritually lame until we meet Jesus. Like David’s servant, Jesus came to fetch us from our subsistent life. He brought us back to the King. Whatever we think of ourselves, God adopts us as His children and puts His royal resources at our disposal. We move from a forgotten wasteland to an abundant kingdom.
Does it sound too good to be true? That’s how self-esteem often views it. Our low self-image can be so deeply engrained in us that it resists new realities and the encouragement of others. Mephibosheth showed symptoms of that resistance. When Absalom staged a rebellion and briefly ousted King David, Mephibosheth remained in Jerusalem. He hoped that Absalom would give the throne to him. Mephibosheth had moved from Lo-debar to the palace, but his heart was still focused on handouts. When the political climate changed, Mephibosheth decided that his best chance lay with Absalom.3 Self-seeking is a sign that we are not yet sure how much God is able and willing to care for us.
When David eventually returned to Jerusalem as king, Mephibosheth met him and groveled. He was a sorry sight:
Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king; and he had neither cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace. (2 Sam. 19:24)
Mephibosheth blamed his servant and made excuses as to why he had not been loyal to David. David saw through the excuses. They reveal the character of Mephibosheth.4 Away from the king’s blessings, the outward appearance of Mephibosheth began to reflect his low self-esteem again. Because he no longer cared for himself, he began to look like a mangy dog. He refused to admit his disloyalty to David. Perhaps his feeble excuses were rooted in fear or were a vain attempt to talk his way back into David’s household.
Adopted royal children don’t need to live like that. When we are certain who we are in Christ, we can enjoy the blessings of God. We need not doubt His love or the constant provision of all we need. Even when life seems to rise up and suggest that God no longer reigns, we can stay close to Him knowing that all things will soon be restored to order under His rule. If we sin, we can be sure that God will meet our humble confession with forgiveness. Nothing can ever change the love of our heavenly Father.
Please share this devotion with others who might be blessed.