Dining at the Table of the King
by Sam Leopold
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
"And David said to him, 'Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.'”
2 Samuel 9:7
In our Christmas journey through the ancient prayers of longing for Jesus, we have been entering into the request for the key of David to come. As a newcomer to Dallas and to Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCPC), I have had a lot of time to consider what does it mean to belong. We moved across country this summer to follow God here to Dallas, and it has been a season of everything being new. I have been reminded how new people are sort of hyper-socially aware of what it means to be in or out—to be known or unknown.
As we long for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, reminding our minds and hearts of its significance, and, as we wait for Him to come again, I am grateful to worship a God who knows our hearts better than we ourselves do. Our Creator knew that we would be in this messy place of wanting deeply to belong to something that is outside of ourselves. To be a part of a Kingdom that doesn’t come from self-proclamation, but one that comes from the establishment of a King that is both over creation and yet also chose to enter into creation.
Even as we use the word Kingdom to describe who and what it is we as Christians belong to, I am aware of our need to allow God’s Word to help us define what that Kingdom is like. God reminded me of the scene from 2 Samuel 9 when David encounters his former rival, Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:1-12). In this scene, God is using David to show us a glimpse of what our true eternal King in Christ is like. The setting is that David has arisen to the throne with the announcing of the Lord. What would have been expected of a king of his time would have been to wipe out the family of the rival king to ensure there would be no challenges to his reign. David begins the scene by asking if there was anyone in the house of Saul whom he could bless, so we know from the beginning this is a counter-cultural move. One of Saul’s old servants, Ziba, arrives to tell David that there is a crippled son of Jonathan, named Mephibosheth. His disability came at the age of 5 as a result of a frenetic escape. His nurse was trying to flee from David for fear that he would wipe out the household of Saul to secure his reign. Now years later, still lame, after a period of hardship, probably even dealing with the social ramifications of being a lame male at a time when this would have brought great dishonor to himself and his household, Mephibosheth has been summoned to see the king whom his family once feared would bring death and destruction to their line.
Even though David pronounced his intent to bless Mephibosheth, imagine the fear he would have had to appear before the king. He was wise to fall on his face before the king (9:6) and essentially beg for his existence, to beg to belong to this new world order where David was the head. And yet David begins with “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” Because of what someone else has done, David is pronouncing blessing on Mephibosheth, restoration of all that has been taken from him, and the fellowship and provision of dining at the table of the king forever.
Perhaps most telling in this narrative is Mephibosheth’s response. He could have immediately celebrated, said “Woohoo, and let’s go!” But instead, he acknowledges his unworthiness of such a blessed proclamation, saying “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (9:8). God allows us to see this, because He wants us to see what an appropriate response to being invited to eat at the King’s table forever looks like. It’s to say that not just that I have done nothing to earn this, but that in who I am, I am not worthy to be here. If we were to talk about where we all belong, we don’t belong at the table of the King. We are not entitled to any of this, and yet, when we are offered it, the key to belonging there is not in who we are, but in who the King proclaims us to be. We needed a dead dog so that we could be invited to the table. That dead dog was not us; it was the King Himself, Jesus who took on our dead state, that we might have the life that the Son of God merited on our behalf.
But the story doesn’t end there…we don’t get the details of what changed for Mephibosheth, but the narrative repeats David’s blessing. It goes into the details of the magnitude of what this means for Mephibosheth and how David is giving from his own possessions and servants to ensure the blessing. And we know the result: “Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons” (9:11). Mephibosheth didn’t stay like a dead dog, but he accepted the offer to eat at the king’s table “like one of the king’s sons.”
Even though we are tempted to believe it, belonging does not come from ourselves. It comes from the work of the King, who has paid it all that we might be seated at His table, like sons and daughters, forever. The table has been set, and, by result, it is set for all who would accept the invitation of the King to sit there. All of us who know Jesus, like dead dogs have been invited, and I pray that we would remember it is because of the sacrifice of the King that we have a place at the table. As we sit at many tables this Christmas season, I pray that we would see what Dale Ralph Davis saw from this text, “it asserts that life under the covenant gives you a firm place to stand and ought to evoke a sense of security, privilege, and wonder from you.” May it be a place to pray and ask God how He might use you to tell about the table of the King that you sit at.