One of my favorite exile stories is hidden deep in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles in the Bible. It’s about Jonathan’s son. He’s given two names. In 2 Samuel he’s called, Mephibosheth (meaning, he who scatters my shame). In 1 Chronicles he’s called, Meribaal (the Lord is against me).
You have to piece together a few scripture to make the story. For a full version, download it here. It’s worth the read. But here’s the thumbnail:
Exile is a time of stripping, but when the stripping is done, then restoration follows.
Jonathan was a good friend of David before David became king. The two men made a covenant with each other. David promised to care for any of Jonathan’s offspring should Jonathan be killed. That’s what soon happened.
When Jonathan and Saul died in battle, their family fled Jerusalem, convinced that the new king would kill all of Saul’s descendants. In the rush, Jonathan’s son was trampled and lost the use of his legs. He then lived for 20 years in the desert until David remembered his promise to Jonathan and invited him to return.
My guess is that Jonathan’s son went by the name “Meribaal” for this part of his life. I’m sure it felt like God was against him. He went from being the grandson of the king, with all the preferential treatment that comes with it, to exile in the desert with no legs.
But his fortune turned when David sent for him. David spoke five blessings to Meribaal which most likely was the cause for his name change to Mephibosheth. Listen to these words as blessings that God might offer you as well:
“Do not fear.” God wants to comfort you. He wants you to know that it doesn’t matter what is in your past. He accepts you unconditionally. It’s easy to believe that life in exile will go from bad to worse. But God wants you to know that he has you in the palm of his hand.
“I will surely show you kindness.” After you’ve been in exile a while, it’s hard to believe that kindness is possible. You tend to expect life to be hard from here on out. But kindness is a core part of God’s identity. You can expect to see that in various ways.
“I will restore all the land that belonged to your grandfather, Saul.” David said of God that, “he restores my soul.” Exile is a time of stripping, but when the stripping is done, then restoration follows. That’s something to look forward to.
“You will always eat at my table.” To eat at the king’s table was a great honor. Only family and dignitaries were allowed that privilege. But that was offered to Mephibosheth. In the same way, God honors us by offering us that same kind of intimacy. We are now “friends of God.”
“I grant you all of Saul’s servants.” Not only was Mephibosheth given Saul’s land, but the servants to work the land. Although he still had no use of his legs, his was given the ability to overcome his setback.
Not long after Mephibosheth was welcomed into David’s household, he married and had a son named Micah (meaning, Who is like God?). I’m sure that was the question Mephibosheth kept asking himself: Who is like God? Who but God could bring me back from exile and restore me in such a dramatic way?
I hope this story brings some encouragement to you as you imagine how God might also scatter your shame and restore you to a new life, out of exile. Read the full story and let me know other insights you have.