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Christmas Comes To Lo-Debar

November 1, 2016 Save Article

For a beautiful portrait of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you, look no further than Lo-debar. This month of December, let’s listen to a very different kind of Christmas story. As we begin, let’s turn our minds to a time long ago, to what could have been private thoughts and fears inspired by the account in the book of 2 Samuel.

She stood in the doorway, gazing idly across the barren landscape of Lo-debar. The day stretched ahead as empty as yesterday…and the day before that, and the weeks—even years—before that.

Lo-debar was “nowhere.”

“How aptly named,” she thought, for Lo-debar meant place of no pasture. But it provided safety. And it was a good hiding place. That made it perfect.

She had done her duty to her young charge. She had cared faithfully for Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, the only surviving heir of King Saul. She’d come to love him as though he were her own flesh. His safety was all that mattered.

Fear for his safety made her flee in stark terror those years ago when it appeared David’s army might seek him out and kill him. In her haste she snatched him up, and running…tripping…falling…falling upon the child, had crippled him for life.

Yes, David was Jehovah’s anointed for the throne of Israel—she grudgingly admitted that. But was this—this barren, useless life—the life God ordained for Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, David’s dearest friend and covenant brother?

Daily she couldn’t help dreaming. Had his father lived…if only Jonathan had lived to see David take the throne. No doubt he’d have been David’s closest advisor, just as he was his closest friend. And Mephibosheth’s life? Oh, so different! As Jonathan’s son, he’d be coming and going freely from the palace that had once been his grandfather’s, training as a soldier alongside his valiant, fearless father who had defied King Saul himself to keep his covenant with David.

But Saul had declared himself David’s bitterest enemy, and when he died in battle, Jonathan died alongside him, and with them both, Mephibosheth’s future. David’s followers might leave no heir of Saul’s alive.
As he pulled himself to her side in the doorway, Mephibosheth interrupted her thoughts. Together they looked out on another pointless day in a dusty hideaway. Once heir to a throne, he was now destined to serve a life sentence in solitude
.
Something stirred in the distance. A cloud? Perhaps one of those dust-devils that often scudded across the horizon. But growing in size, it was coming their way.

This was no dust cloud. Fear gripped her heart again. Armed men were approaching on horseback. This time they were not passing by, a safe distance away. They were headed straight for Lo-debar. This time there was no place to flee. Life as they had known it was ending.

***

What, you ask, does this bleak picture of the life of Jonathan’s son have to do with Christmas? With the promised coming of the Messiah? With Immanuel—“God with us”? So much! For although Mephibosheth’s loving caregiver could not know it—and neither did he—Christmas had just come to Lo-debar. And it came through the work of…the Blood Covenant.

Christmas and the Blood Covenant are locked together. The Lord Jesus Christ was sent by God (“the Word became flesh”) to fulfill the Father’s promise, and with His blood all of Abraham’s descendents and all the sons and daughters of Adam can be forgiven, redeemed, and accepted by the Father.

In the life of the wounded, limping, abandoned and forgotten Mephibosheth, there is a beautiful portrait of what Christmas truly means to us. For, dear friend, you and I are Mephibosheth.

Christmas in Philippians

Have you ever thought of Philippians 2:6-7 as a Christmas passage? Well, it is! Paul paints for us in these verses the most glorious picture of what it really meant for the Second Person of the Trinity to commit Himself fully to the Blood Covenant and…

6 “…although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained….”

Young Mary, His mother, and the manger at Bethlehem were the first to cradle the King who…

7 …stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant, in that He became like men and was born a human being. (Philippians 2:5-7, Amplified Bible)

Christmas in I and II Samuel

Philippians isn’t the only unexpected place where you’ll find The Christmas Story. Turn in your Bible to the book of First Samuel. First Samuel as a Christmas study? Yes. Let’s begin with chapters 17, 18, and 19.

1. What event, one of the most famous accounts in Old Testament history, has just occurred in 1 Samuel 17? _________________________________________________________________

2. The last verse (v. 58) of this chapter has Saul asking David a question. What was David’s simple answer? _________________________________________________________________

3. what character trait does this reveal about David? _________________________________

4. The very next verse of Scripture (18:1) shows the beginning of the friendship between David and Jonathan. Fill in this verse for a picture of how Jonathan felt about David.

1And it came to pass, when he [David] had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the _________ of Jonathan was knit with the ________ of David, and Jonathan _________ him as his own ________.

Sometimes in life we meet someone with whom we have an instant connection—we feel as though we’ve known them all our lives. This was how it was with David and Jonathan. 2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house. King Saul said, “David, I want you to be my son also. You come to my house.”

5. 1 Samuel 18:3 is one of the key verses of our study:

3Then Jonathan and David _______ a _______________, because he loved him as his own soul.

What Is A “Blood Covenant”?

Blood covenants go all the way back to the book of Genesis.

Magnifying glass A CLOSER LOOK AT “COVENANT”

The word covenant comes from a root word that means “to cut.” In fact, the Old Testament phrase is actually “to cut a covenant.” When a living being—person or animal—is cut, blood flows. To make a covenant literally has the idea of a blood covenant. Many of us have seen in old movie westerns two people making a blood covenant. They get together, decide there should be peace, each makes an incision on his wrist, then they join their hands together, let the blood mingle and lift them to heaven in a promise, a covenant. “There will be no more war. We are now blood brothers.” It was a co-mingling of lives. “The life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11).The scar that remained would be called “the mark of the covenant.” Those who were in covenant were called “friends.”

The whole Bible is about a blood covenant.

You know of course that the Bible is divided into two halves, Old Testament and New Testament. Did you know that the word “testament” and the word “covenant” are the same word? The Bible is divided into the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. All the promises in the Bible are covenant promises.

6. Turn to Psalm 25:14. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His ___________________.”

7. Turn to Luke 22:20. When the Lord Jesus Christ met with His disciples for The Last Supper, He said, “This cup is the new __________________ in My blood, which is shed for you.” When we come to the Lord’s Table, we are celebrating the blood covenant.

8. Turn back to 1 Samuel 18:4. As part of their covenant, Jonathan gave David some symbolic items.

4And Jonathan stripped himself of the _________ that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his _____________, even to his ____________, and to his _______, and to his girdle [belt].

a. Robe
This symbol marked Jonathan out as the king’s son. It spoke of his position. He’s saying, “I’m yielding my position over to you. I want David in my place.” That ought to be true of every follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, with whom we are in blood covenant. “Lord, I yield my position in life over to You.”

b. Garments
The clothing spoke of his possessions. He’s saying, “David, all I have belongs to you, because if it were not for you, I really wouldn’t have anything. You won the victory for me.”

c. Sword and Bow
Two weapons of warfare. These spoke of Jonathan’s power. In essence he’s saying, “You deserve everything. You have won my loyalty; I'm committed to you; all I have is yours. I know how to use this bow, but I have no longer any right to self defense. I yield that over to you. And David, your battles are my battles. My weapons of war now belong to you. My position is yours! My possessions are yours! My power is yours! I give it over to you! We are now blood brothers!”

That’s what “covenant” meant. Covenant and commitment go hand-in-hand.

______________________________________________________________________

SIDEBAR

For those wanting an even deeper study and a side “excursion” into covenant, look at The Abrahamic Covenant, one of the most significant in the Old Testament— the covenant God made with Abraham. For a full account, turn to Genesis chapter 15. God makes a historic promise and commits Himself to Abraham and his descendants. These were not just words passing in the air. Instructions were given. Actions were taken. As a symbol of His covenant with Abraham, in this dark and mysterious passage, note what items were cut. There was shedding of blood. The two pieces of the divided animals were laid out upon the ground in two rows.

17And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.

The burning lamp appearing and passing between those two pieces represented God Himself, making the covenant with Abraham. Today we use the word “friend” very loosely, but the word “friend” in the Bible was significant. What was Abraham called? See James 2:23—“the ____________ of God.”

Today, because of the blood sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, one of our favorite worship songs is “I am a friend of God—He calls me friend.” It’s all because of the blood covenant.

______________________________________________________________________


Covenant Keepers Show “Lovingkindness”

Those in covenant one with another show “lovingkindness” to each other. It’s going to come into play for Mephibosheth. But what precisely is “lovingkindness”?

Magnifying glass

A CLOSER LOOK AT “LOVINGKINDNESS”

“Lovingkindness” [Hebrew: hesed] is a word seen throughout the Old Testament. In the Book of Psalms alone, it is found 24 times! Some have said it is the Old Testament version of the New Testament word for God’s love [Greek: agape]. It is complete and total, the highest form of love, the love God showered upon us because of His character and Who He is, out of His great love, not upon our works or merit. Example: “For God so loved [agaped] the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Lovingkindness means “I will do you good, regardless, because we are in covenant together. You can call upon me as your friend, and I will show you lovingkindness, because we are now blood brothers. We have made a covenant.”


This was the love David and Jonathan had for each other. Their covenant was not only between the two of them but applied to their offspring. The children of those in covenant are a part of the covenant. If they will ratify the covenant, they, too, will receive its benefits. “Lovingkindness” and the Blood Covenant transformed Mephibosheth’s story—and ours.

Let’s go back in time to just before Lo-debar.

When David began receiving praise from the people, Saul, insane with jealousy, sent out a royal edict that David must be killed. Jonathan is in a closer relationship to David than to his own natural father (just as we in Christ are sometimes closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ than to members of our natural family). David is hunted like a wild partridge on the hills of Judea. All the forces of the kingdom are focused: find David, kill David; find David, kill David. David is now fleeing for his life.

But when Saul and Jonathan are both slain in battle and David, God’s anointed, is now king, there is blind panic in the kingdom.

Can you imagine? Until this point, everyone has been saying, “Find David, kill David.” Now David is king! They’re wondering, “When will the retaliation begin? When will David take vengeance on his enemies?”

And so little Mephibosheth came to be crippled, hidden, exiled. All his nurse knows is that there is another king who is going to come and take vengeance.

How many times the child must have asked, “Why am I here?”

“You’re here because someone’s trying to kill you.”

“Why am I crippled?”

“Because we were running from him.”

“What’s going to happen?”

“You better hope he never finds you.”

Mephibosheth grows up with this lesson embedded: fear David, hate David; fear David, hate David. There he is, dragging his crippled limbs, eating dust, breathing dust, drinking from a tin cup, a prince in exile.

Remember we said earlier, “You and I are Mephibosheth.” Dear friend, before the manger in Bethlehem cradled a king, you and I were Mephibosheth—exiled from our King, crippled, drinking from a tin cup. In the Garden, before the Fall, we had been destined to inherit everything, to rule and reign. Then we lost the destiny God originally had for us.

CHRISTMAS COMES TO LO-DEBAR

Turn now to 2 Samuel 9:1. Prepare to be blessed!

Peace has once again been restored. The infighting is over. David, with a little down-time on his hands, remembers his covenant with Jonathan.

And David said, Is there any yet that is left of the house of Saul that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? And there was of the house of Saul a servant, whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul?”

About this time they were thinking, “Hah! Here it comes; we wondered when the purge would begin.”

But David, now the king, wants to fulfill the covenant he made with Jonathan and show kindness to Mephibosheth. He’d never met him before, but he is in covenant with Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan.

David says, “Go fetch him. Bring him to me.”

Out from the palace thundered the royal entourage, the king’s horses, the king’s men. Out to Lo-debar.

Can you see Mephibosheth as the dust cloud brings the horses right to his door?

“Oh no! He’s found me!”

They push open the door. “Are you Mephibosheth?”

“Yes.”

“Come with us.”

“Why?”

“The king wants you.”

Mephibosheth lowers his eyes to the ground. He looks one last time at the dirt floor under his crippled feet. As the horse beneath him jostles him away, he looks back to the only home he can remember. Desolate though it was, at least he had been “safe.”

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As they bring him before King David, we might wonder, did he have any memory of the palace as it had been? Was he thinking of the life he lost? Casting his crutches aside, he falls on his face before the king and begins to tremble like a bird in a trap.

9. 2 Samuel 9:7—
“And David said unto him, Fear not; for I will surely show thee _____________ for ________________ thy father’s sake, and I will ____________ unto thee all the land of Saul, thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.”

To this one who is expecting death, King David says, “I want to restore your inheritance. I want you to dine at my table. I want you to be like my son.”

Mephibosheth can hardly take it in.

“And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I?” (v. 8)

“I’m as good as dead. Why would you want to give me back my inheritance? Why would you want me to eat at your table? Why would you want me to be as your son?”

Beloved in Christ, is he not exactly as we once were, before we knew Christ, and before the Cross?

Oh, there were animal sacrifices to cover and atone for the people’s sins. But before the Cross, there had never been that full restoration where we could call God our “Father.”

10. Turn to Matthew 6:9. When Jesus arrived and taught His disciples to pray, what were the first two words of what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer”?

In this manner, therefore, pray: _______ ____________ in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

Before Jesus, no one ventured to address God as “Father.” When Jesus came, He changed all that. He continually said, “Father.”

Imagine David saying, “Now Mephibosheth, I want you to understand, it’s not a matter of your worthiness. I’m doing this for Jonathan’s sake. I’m bound by a blood covenant.”

To this point Mephibosheth had seen David the king as an enemy and a threat. And he’s been hiding from him. At this moment he has a decision to make. If he wants to, he can ratify the covenant. No longer is David an enemy; now David is a friend. No longer is he out of fellowship with David; he’s in fellowship with David. No longer is he running from David, he is running to David. He must:

  • change his mind about David (repentance)
  • accept the covenant by faith.

Does that sound familiar to you? Those are the terms of salvation in the New Testament: repentance and faith!

Of course, Mephibosheth ratified the covenant! Once he does, transformation takes place. Christmas came to Lo-debar. The lowly resident of Lo-debar is transferred to the palace of the king!

Christmas Restores The Promised Inheritance

Turn now to 2 Samuel 9:9

Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master’s son [Mephibosheth] all that pertaineth to Saul and to all his house,” [I’m giving him all of the wealth that his grandfather had]. “Thou, therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him,” [just take care of all of this land that belongs to him now] “and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat; but Mephibosheth, thy master’s son, shall eat bread always at my table.”

Can you imagine the transformation? Yesterday he’s living in Lo-debar, on the backside of nowhere, crippled, eating and breathing dust, and this morning he awakens on silken sheets in the palace. Servants arrive to meet his every need, saying, “The king and his sons are waiting for you. You’re coming to breakfast in the palace.”

11. How many times in chapter 9 does David say Mephibosheth will “eat at my table” ? ______

He comes down to breakfast and there’s the king at a table groaning with food. There’s a white linen tablecloth. His misshapen limbs are under the tablecloth and can’t even be seen.

Is this not a picture of what Jesus does for us? He covers us with His righteousness. He clothes us in pure white linen.

12. Turn to Revelation 7:9
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with __________ ___________…”

Mephibosheth is thinking, “I can’t understand this. I don’t deserve this. Yet it’s because of a blood covenant. It is a covenant my father made with David. I can’t completely understand it, but I can’t deny it. Here I am! Pass the biscuits!”

And as David passes the bread, there’s a scar on David’s wrist. The mark of the covenant. And it dawns on Mephibosheth: the power of a blood covenant.

Each time we come to the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is passing the bread to us. One day, we will be brought to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Jesus will break bread and pass it to us.

13. Turn to Luke 22:19-21. The next time you partake of the Lord’s Supper, you will have even greater appreciation for what Jesus said:

19And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.” 20Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new ___________________ in My ___________, which is shed for you…”

How wonderful to understand this Christmas season the saving power of the blood covenant. God was made flesh that there might be a blood covenant with you. 2000 years ago, Jesus entered into a blood covenant with God the Father for the sons and daughters of Adam.

THIS CHRISTMAS, REMEMBER MEPHIBOSHETH

  • He was deformed, crippled by a fall. We’re all crippled by the fall. When Adam fell, we fell with him.
  • Mephibosheth was so crippled that he could not come. He had to be found. So it is with us. Thank God that He sought us, just as David sought Mephibosheth.
  • He was dethroned. He was heir to a kingdom, but he’d lost his kingdom. God created man to rule and reign upon earth. But we lost our inheritance.
  • He was as good as dead. The sentence of death was upon him, for he said, “Why should you look upon such a dead dog as I am?” Without Jesus we are as dead dogs. “The wages of sin is death.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die.
  • He was deceived. He feared and hated David because he was in ignorance. He thought David was his enemy when David was really his friend. Why? He didn’t understand the blood covenant.

Many people, like Mephibosheth, find themselves running from and fearing God. God is love. God loves you. And God has made with His Son, the Lord Jesus, a blood covenant on your behalf.

13. Turn to Ephesians 4:32. Note the comparison!

2 Samuel 9:1— “And David said, Is there any yet that is left of the house of Saul that I may show him kindness _____ ________________’s __________?”

Ephesians 4:23—“Be ye kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God _______
______________’s _________ hath forgiven you.

Mephibosheth hated/feared David Lost man fears/hates God
Mephibosheth was not worthy We are not worthy
Mephibosheth was deformed by a fall We are deformed by the Fall
Mephibosheth was “a dead dog” We were under the sentence of death

But God is in a covenant with His Son, the Lord Jesus. And God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us.

God gave Adam the earth to rule and reign. Through sin Adam lost it. Jesus has restored it! We’re heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because of the Blood Covenant:

Mephibosheth now has: We now have:
the king’s forgiveness the king’s forgiveness
a fortune restored a fortune restored
fellowship with the king fellowship with the king

Sometimes the devil will whisper: “You are not worthy.”

Don’t argue with him. You’ll lose the argument. You’re not worthy.

Point him to the Blood Covenant and back out of the argument.

Let him take up his argument with Almighty God and the blood covenant.

***

There was a time, centuries before Bethlehem, when Christmas came to Lo-debar. When a cripple received the benefit of the covenant made by his father and was ushered into the King’s presence.

When you celebrate Christmas this year, when you see the child in the manger, when you see the lights, hear the carols, the music, the laughter, remember that all of this is possible because of…the Blood Covenant. Had God not kept His covenant, you would still be eating dust in Lo-debar.

Remember small, misshapen Mephibosheth, alone, disinherited and abandoned, brought to live in the King’s palace because David was a faithful covenant keeper.

Our God is a faithful, covenant-keeping God. We have moved from exile, loneliness and desolation into relationship with him. Mephibosheth must have been dazzled by all he now had access to. Through his story, this Christmas you will understand where you stand with God because…

Long ago your Heavenly Father made a blood covenant.
Your elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, sealed it with His blood.
And you are brought into the palace of the King, to live in relationship with Him.
Starting now, and for eternity.

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