As The United States observes the annual Thanksgiving holiday, many will take this opportunity to remember the pioneering faith and original Thanksgiving meal of the Pilgrims of Plymouth colony.
A story from the pages of the Old Testament exemplifies the nature of God’s grace and the incentives believers have to give thanks to God continually.
About 1000 years B.C. young David won the famous victory for Israel by his courageous, faith-filled victory over the enemy Goliath. His heroism and confidence in God won him the respect and special friendship of King Saul’s son, Jonathan.
Instead of being protective of his own political future, Jonathan made a covenant with David: “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:3). The graciousness of this promise was demonstrated by the the prince’s gesture of presenting David with the his armor: “And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt” (v.4). This friendship was especially generous on Jonathan’s part. This son of King Saul would be naturally inclined to guard his rights to the throne instead of enabling David.
David had previously been anointed to be king by the prophet Samuel (after Saul disqualified his dynasty through his disobedience – 1 Sam. 16:13; 15:10-29). David was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Although his anointing was not public knowledge, Jonathan recognized David’s loyalty to God. They forged a famous, holy, prophetic friendship and sealed it with a covenant of mutual protection.
As King Saul’s heart became hardened, he saw in David a threat to his own dynasty and spent years trying to track down and kill him. Nevertheless, Jonathan remained true to his promises to David and protected him from Saul’s evil agenda (1 Sam. 19,20).
In spite of Saul’s murderous intentions, David spared the king’s life on two occasions. This demonstrated David’s respect for the kingship and good intentions for Saul’s family (1 Sam. 24,26). Eventually, Saul and Jonathan were slain by the Philistines in battle on Mount Gilboa (1 Sam. 31).
David was then anointed as king over the tribe of Judah, while Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, was anointed by the northern tribes to rule them. After seven years, Saul’s son was assassinated. Israel’s leaders then recognized David as their legitimate king, anointing him to rule over a united Israel (2 Sam. 5:1-7).
With this background in mind, we come to a touching display of grace and thanksgiving.
“Now David said, ‘Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?'” (2 Sam. 9:1). The answer came: “There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet” (v.3). So, King David summoned Jonathan’s surviving son, Mephibosheth. The young man would have reason to worry about David’s intentions. (The usual strategy of ancient kings was to kill any surviving family of a replaced dynasty.) However, David was eager to fulfill his loving promise to Jonathan.
Mephibosheth arrived in Jerusalem and confessed his unworthiness (2 Sam. 9:6,8). King David declared to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually” (v.7). Then David gave orders to restore the land holdings Saul had in Gibea; Ziba’s family and twenty additional servants would work the land and support Mephibosheth’s estate. Then he declared a third time, “he [Mephibosheth] shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons” (v.10,11).
Imagine the relief, encouragement, and joy of Jonathan’s son. Instead of fearing a plot to kill descendants of Saul (who tried repeatedly to murder David), Mephibosheth was blessed with the gracious blessings of his father Jonathan’s loving covenant with David. For him, every day was a royal Thanksgiving!
Doesn’t this prefigure the blessings of all who are reconciled to God through faith in Christ?
Through Jesus, “the Son of David,” we have been blessed, “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places …” (Eph. 1:3). Not only are we pardoned from the death sentence warranted by our sin, we have been given personal, intimate access to the presence of the King of kings. We are invited to enjoy personal daily fellowship with the Lord Jesus through His New Covenant. He declares, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20; Cf. Heb. 10:15-23).
Fellow believer, on Thanksgiving and every day, rejoice that you have experienced God’s mercy and enjoy your access to a daily banquet of blessings in Christ.
Mephibosheth also showed his gratitude to King David by remaining loyal to him during the revolt of Absalom (2 Sam. 19:24-30).
Copyright 2006 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations are from the New King James version, copyright by Thoman Nelson.