Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mephibosheth and the Sanctity of the Disable: God's Glory In the Face of Deformity

This upcoming Sunday, we will be looking at the fifth Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness. We will be looking at 2 Samuel 9 which gives us the account of how David showed kindness toward Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul (David's enemy). The fact that David would do this is quit astonishing. Typically, in ancient times (and somewhat today. When there's a new President, he rarely keeps anyone from the previous administration), whenever a new dynasty would take the thrown, anyone perceived to be a threat to the new king's throne or anyone who might be considered an heir to the previous king's throne would be immediately killed, exhiled, enslaved, or imprisoned.

But David did the complete opposite. Saul, the king, was dead. His likely heir, Jonathan (David's closest friend) was also dead. Upon taking the throne, rather than killing all potential threats and challengers, David goes out of his way to show kindness to someone who should be his enemy.

But there is another aspect of this story that we can't miss. Mephibosheth (try saying that 10 times fast) is handicap. 2 Samuel 4:4 tells us why. He was essentially dropped by his nurse after his father (Jonathan) and grandfather (King Saul) died in battle. His nurse feared that they would be coming for him and so fled. She then tripped and dropped him leaving him lame. Since the crowning of David, lame Mephibosheth lived in Lo-Debar (which might mean "No Pasture"). Lame, without any family, and lost of his prestige as the grandson of the king, Mephibosheth had to assume that his life would be worthless. He had lost everything he had and was born with.

To be handicap like this was no small issue in ancient times. There was no disability check coming. Oftentimes, family members would require their handicap relative to beg for money (usually at the Temple where people are feeling most generous; see Acts 3) in order to contribute to the family funds.

Furthermore, the disabled were rather outcasts in society. If a Levite was disabled, they were not allowed to go into the Temple or near the altar. Leviticus 21:16-23 reads:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.

In other words, one born to be a priest and yet handicap, would not be able to fulfill their role as a priest. And so the hopelessness of the disabled continued for centuries.

But this story does make one incredibly important point: God has a purpose and has revealed his grace even to the outcast and disabled. The story of Mephibosheth is one of kindness, grace, mercy, and love. Mephibosheth becomes a metaphor of us. We are all like Mephibosheth who, as a result of our sin, are seperated, disabled, and helpless before God. We deserve nothing but death and hell. And yet God showed His great love, mercy, kindness, and grace towards us by not giving us what we deserve, but in giving us what we don't deserve: salvation.

Furthermore, Mephibosheth is an example that even those handicap and disabled are beyond God's reach and purpose. The ancients would oftentimes leave disabled babies for dead in the wilderness because they considered them unworthy (such as the Spartans). Both Plato and Aristotle favored infanticide and believed that the State should have a greater role in deciding who should live and who shouldn't.

But the Judeo-Christian worldview is quit different. All life is sacred and not beyond the grace and purpose of God. Even the most handicap reveal God's goodness and grace. Yes, even though disability reminds us of the affects of the fall, God shows his grace even though deformaty and pain.

Recall the healing of the man born blind in John 9. The text begins by showing us that even this blind beggar has a purpose in God's eyes:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." -John 9:1-5

Did you notice that? The reason this man was born blind was so that God might be glorified. All life is sacred not because we say it is, but because God's glory is revealed in all of life. The fact that even the worst of deformities can still bring God glory is a constant reminder that God is still on His throne and is still good.

In a culture that is exterminating those with Down Syndrome, we need to hear this message. Yes, God even has a plan, purpose, and is glorified greatly even in the disability of Down Syndrome. A secular culture that has replaced God with Darwin misses this. Life becomes an issue of economics and "happiness." If the handicap are a burden on the parents or society, it would be best if they didn't exist at all. After all, resources are limited.

That's what I love about this story. Without Mephibosheth's handicap, we would never had such a wonderful picture of God's grace, mercy, love, and kindness toward us and the call to mimic God's goodness by being good towards others, and we would miss the fact that even in a fallen world that results in producing horrific and unfortunate disabilities and handicaps, God has not removed Himself from us. Beauty can be found in the midst of deformaty and disability to the glory of God.

Let us not forget this important lesson. Isn't it wonderful that even in the face of depravity and the consequences of our sin, God's glory is revealed. The light really can outshine the darkness. And beauty really can outshine the deformity.

For more:
Get Religion: The patriotic duty to die
Colson: The March of Death
Hitler Is Alive And Well: Repeating the Mistakes of the Past
Colson: Deadly Trend
The Lust For Blood: The Culture of Death and Infanticide
"Freedom is Dead, And We are It's Murderers" - Nietzsche Was Almost Right
Colson: What Would Darwin Advise?
A Return to Rome: When Death Becomes Entertainment
Another Terry Schiavo Condemned to Death
Mohler: The Death Culture Strikes Again
Albert Mohler - The Death Culture Strikes Again
Mohler: A Threat to the Disabled . . . and to Us All
Mohler: The Rise of Infanticide?
Colson: Thirty Pints of BloodWhere the Logic of The Culture of Death Will Take Us
Euthanasia: A Good Death?
Albert Mohler: That Was Then . . . This is Now? A Nazi Nightmare

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