Monday, May 2, 2011

Rescue from Lo Debar: The Story of Mephibosheth

By Kelly Langston

Captured in 2 Samuel is a story that speaks of God’s boundless, restorative love for individuals living with a disability. It’s a message that reminds us that we are never forgotten by God:

He was a child of extraordinary promise and unlimited potential. Highly favored, he was a boy born into wealth and unparalleled privilege. The grandchild of a king, his father Jonathan lifted him high in royal hands and gave him a warrior’s name, “Meribbaal,” meaning “He who resists the idol Baal.”

In one day, a life of promise turned into a life of disability and shattered dreams. It happened in the boy’s fifth year. That day, as recounted in 1 Chronicles 10, King Saul and his sons battled the Philistines on Mount Gilboa. One by one Saul’s sons fell—Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua— each struck down by the Philistine army. When enemy archers spotted King Saul in retreat, they sent arrows arcing into the sky, fatally wounding the king. Saul’s rule had ended and David would be the new king.

The news traveled quickly from the valley of Jezreel to the place where the boy stayed under the protection of a caregiver. People shouted from one to another, “King Saul is dead! His sons are dead!”

The boy’s caregiver trembled in fear at the sound of the words, knowing the boy was in danger. With King David on the throne, members of Saul’s family would surely be put to death— the customary way to prevent rebellion. Quickly, she snatched the child into her arms and ran outside. They needed to find refuge— a place of safety and obscurity– and there was little time!

She didn’t see the stone that caught her foot as she ran. All she saw was the boy flying out of her arms and into the dusty air, strangely suspended for what seemed like an eternity before falling to the ground, rolling and tumbling to a stop. There is no time to take care of this now! She yanked herself up and stumbled to him, grasping him in her arms again. The boy’s legs were strangely bent.

They fled to a forgotten town with an ugly name: “Lo Debar,” or “a place of no pasture, no communication, no words.” Meribbaal, disabled by the fall, would never be the same. In Lo Debar, the great promise of his early years faded into memory and he was given a new name: “Mephibosheth,” or“he who scatters shame.”

Lo Debar.

As a mother of an autistic child who has struggled with speech, Lo Debar— the place of no words or pasture— is a familiar place. I remember holding my young son late into the night as his body rocked in my arms and his legs kicked in search of nighttime peace. My boy, like Mephibosheth, was in a place of no pasture or peace on weary nights.

Lo Debar, a place of no communication. How I ached for my son to communicate with me! I longed for him to speak real words.

Had the story ended there, my son and I might have stayed in Lo Debar with Mephibosheth forever. But God did not leave Mephibosheth in Lo Debar, and He will not leave us there today! 2 Samuel Chapter 9 continues the story:

Years later, David remembered a promise made long ago with his friend Jonathan. The words of Jonathan:

“May you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.” (1 Samuel 20:14-15)

Remembering the promise David asks, “Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.” God’s kindness.

A servant of Saul’s household replied, “One of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He is crippled in both feet.” So King David sent for Mephibosheth, bringing him back from Lo Debar. When Mephibosheth came before the king, he bowed low in fear of King David.

“Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”

God did not forget Mephibosheth, and even today, God knows where our children are when they cry in the night. In the story of Mephibosheth God speaks to all people living with a disability:

You are valued, remembered and loved beyond measure!

From that day on Mephibosheth ate regularly at David’s table, "like one of the king’s own sons.” Because of Jonathan, Mephibosheth was remembered and restored to a place of honor. Because of Christ, we are remembered by God and restored to communion with Him.

Restored to a place of honor and favor. Rescued from loneliness. Loved as one of the king’s own sons. That’s the story of Mephibosheth, and that’s the story of our children, healthy or disabled. But it’s also our story, an illustration of Christ’s redemptive love for us. We have been rescued from a place of no communication with the Father and restored to a seat at the King’s table.

Kelly is the author of “Autism’s Hidden Blessings: Discovering God’s Promises for Children with Autism and Their Families.” Visit her online at