Snapshots of Kindness – part 1
Here we are now midway through January-the first month of 2021-how’s it going so far? Is everybody doing okay? Obviously we’re all a bit hesitant about what’s to come. Wishing somebody Happy New Year this year was definitely filled with a sense of uncertainty-Happy…New Year? I came across a couple of funny memes-Office. And you can’t argue with Dwight on that one! Or I like this one-not interested. Anybody feel that way? Ready to cancel your trial subscription already? Or probably the most alarming meme was the 2 twins from the Shining. And they’re already creepy-but what’s even creepier is the thought that what we’re getting into this year is exactly the same, a mirror image of last year! Let’s hope not. I said this at the end of last year-but our hope isn’t in the year 2021 and what it may or may not bring-but our hope is in the Lord who’s always in control no matter what the year brings! Take a look at Col 3:15. Is that true of you so far this year? Is the peace of Christ ruling in your heart? Or is the trepidation and uncertainty of the new year ruling in your heart? That’s a huge difference!
On the one hand we can easily sit idle and be paralyzed with fear just waiting for things to blow over and return back to normal. Once Covid is gone, once school or work is back to the way it was, once politics settle down and people aren’t as stressed out-then I can relax. And maybe you’ve found yourself doing that-just trying to ride out the storm until is passes. Or to somehow think that it’s okay to put your spiritual life on hold until all this is over. But it’s quite the opposite! We can’t put our spiritual lives on hold, we need to be a people proactive in trusting Christ even with the uncertainty around us. We need to be saying-this world isn’t normal right now, not sure when it will return to normal, not sure what normal is anymore-but Lord you’re in control and I’m serving you no matter what happens. That’s what it means to let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. That despite whatever is going on in the world, it doesn’t overtake the one ruling in your heart. And that concept has led us to a very practical theme for this year-Kindness: Because we have received it, we will show it. And what I love about this theme is that no matter what you’re going through in 2021, no matter what you’re facing, this is something you can do. This is something all of us can do-and should continue to do even when this world gets worse. In fact, the worse the world gets, the more important kindness becomes! So how’s it going? Have you shown some intentional and unusual kindness to someone this week? That was the key word last Sunday-unusual. It was the idea that something so ordinary and simple can become an important and meaningful blessing in someone’s life. That’s what Paul experienced-Acts 28:1-2. Few of us have been in a shipwreck-but we’ve all been rainy and cold-so a warm fire and warm welcome are incredible. This ordinary thing became an unusual kindness. And that’s what God wants to do through us. To let our ordinary actions of reaching out to someone and helping someone become an unusual kindness. That’s our challenge and mission for 2021-mission. And the key word there is we. This isn’t just something for the really spiritual people among us, or for those who have the gift of kindness. You’re good at that, you’re a really nice person-you go be a part of the kindness team at church, I’m more of a behind the scenes person. There isn’t a kindness team-this is the mission for all of us. That our ordinary actions become an unusual kindness in someone’s life. And here’s why-so that we will display…the love of our Father, the sacrifice of our Savior and the fruit of the Spirit. We’re not just doing kindness for kindness sake or to say that we’re a kind people and a kind church-we’re displaying an unusual kindness because that’s who our God is and what He does for us. We’re pointing people to Him. Our small, lowercase kindness highlights His great uppercase kindness. And that’s what we’ll be examining in our Bibles this morning. I said that we’ll be getting back to the book of Revelation in the new year-and we’re going to do that soon-but during these next couple of weeks we’re going to look at some snapshots of kindness. We’re going to see some biblical examples of what we’re talking about. Ordinary people displaying an unusual kindness-and our first example is from the OT which tells us about an unlikely dinner guest.
Turn in your Bibles to 2 Samuel-or we’ll have it up on the screen-2 Sam 9:1. There are a lot of famous stories about David in the Bible-he was the youngest of 8 brothers taking care of the sheep out in the fields. We immediately think of his courage in defeating Goliath the 9 ft giant that everybody else was afraid of. We think of his patience in dealing with King Saul as the verse mentions who wanted to kill David-but nowhere is his character and kindness more powerfully displayed than in this story which is one of my favorites. At this point in his life, David is securely established on the throne as king, living in the capital city of Jerusalem. It’s a season of great peace for Israel which means instead of preparing for war as they often had to do, David takes some time to do a bit of reflecting-and in this case he’s reflecting on his old friend, Jonathan. And if there were ever a couple of best buds it was these two guys. Unfortunately, there was a fateful battle with the Philistines before David became king and both King Saul and Jonathan were killed. And in the opening chapter of 2 Samuel David greatly mourns and laments his friend’s passing, but now several years later he’s thinking about how he can show honor and respect to his fallen friend, Jonathan. In fact, David is wanting to faithfully keep the promise Jonathan made with him so long ago-1 Sam 20:42. And the interesting part of this is that David and Jonathan were forbidden to be friends because Jonathan’s father was King Saul who hated David and wanted to kill him. Listen to Saul’s words to Jonathan-1 Sam 20:30-31. Saul wanted his son to rule, but Jonathan recognized that David’s was God’s chosen man to be king, not him. What an extraordinary act of humility. Jonathan could have seized the throne for himself-who wouldn’t do that-but he didn’t do that and let it go out of his faith in God and his love for David. And so Saul is raging mad about it and wants to kill David. Now hopefully none of us have had friends whose parents wanted us dead-but that is what David experienced. His best friend’s dad wanted him dead because David was a threat to his rule so David had to go on the run and flee-but that didn’t mean the friendship was over. So now years later David is reflecting back, remembering all the good times they had together, but also remembering their promise, saying-I’m going to honor my commitment to Jonathan’s family-even if his dad did hate me and wanted me dead. I’m not going to hold a grudge-but instead show kindness. Back to the verse-2 Sam 9:1. David’s desire is extraordinary-not vengeance, not to say-told you so Saul-my kingdom won and yours lost. But how can I show kindness to the ancestors of Saul for my friend Jonathan’s sake. This is an amazing request of unqualified acceptance. David isn’t asking if there’s someone worthy he can show kindness to, someone who deserves it or will be mutually beneficial for the kingdom-but is there anybody, regardless of their worth, anybody from the house of Saul that I can bless? And so he gets an answer from this guy, Ziba, in v. 2-3a. You can really see the focus of David’s heart-it’s not pride or self-advancement-it’s how can I show the kindness of God to someone? And this is the Hebrew word hesed that’s used here for kindness. David isn’t just interested in being polite-this word describes a deep and sincere loyalty and blessing that one person shows to another. Hesed is that unconditional, unreciprocated kindness and grace that someone lavishes on another simply because they choose to. And that’s what David is doing. A perfect example of our theme-Kindness: Because we have received it, we will show it. He’s received God’s kindness through Jonathan, and now he’s showing it to Jonathan’s family.
But pause a moment in the story because I want you to ask yourself when was the last time you were that focused and persistent in wanting to show God’s kindness to someone? No one’s forcing this on David-no one is reminding him of his promise to Jonathan. His advisors in the royal court aren’t saying this would be a good PR move, it’ll make great headlines, we can put it on the palace webpage. David is simply reaching out in kindness as the Lord has prompted him. Here’s the first application question-Do I show unreciprocated, unusual kindness? Because that’s what this is. As the story unfolds-this isn’t a kindness that’s going to get paid back. It’s an unreciprocated, undeserved, unusual kindness. When was the last time you showed that? When was the last time that you weren’t worried about yourself or getting your needs met but sincerely displayed the kindness of God to others? Maybe it’s been awhile? But that’s David’s focus right now-is there anybody to whom I can show the kindness of God-and yet it seems this guy Ziba tries to talk him out of it-v. 3b. So take a look at the back story-2 Sam 4:4. So this is what Ziba is telling David-Jonathan still has 1 son left named Mephibosheth who’s crippled. It’s a tragic story and I’ve always pictured him as the Tiny Tim of the Bible. But as you go back to where Ziba is telling this to David, you can also read between the lines-v 3b. As if he’s saying-So yeah, there’s a descendant-but this guy isn’t worth it, don’t bother with him. Your royal palace is filled with beautiful, strong, good-looking people, the who’s who of Jerusalem. You don’t want this guy hobbling in on his crutches ruining the party. That’s not the image or the vibe you’re going for-you’ve got far more important people to show kindness to than this guy. Why else would he include that statement if not to talk David out of showing him kindness? And isn’t this still the age-old problem? The moment you desire to reach out and show kindness people always try to talk you out of it? Haven’t you experienced that-Why would you reach out to that person? I wouldn’t give anything to him? Are you sure you want to help her out? Remember what they’ve done, who they are? I would think twice about showing kindness to them-they don’t deserve it. And yet that’s the very point. The hesed unconditional kindness of God doesn’t go to people who deserve it. I love the phrase that says grace isn’t picky. Have you ever thought about that? Grace (meaning kindness) doesn’t look for the deserving or the best, grace reaches out to whomever. Grace isn’t picky. But is yours picky? That’s the convicting question we have to ask!
So look at how David isn’t picky. He doesn’t ask how crippled is he, can he get around, does he need a lot of help, is he going to be burden? None of those things we might ask-v. 4-5. No hesitation or second thoughts-let’s go get him and bring him to the palace. And this was a city about 10 miles south, most likely an out-of-the-way pastureland-and it seems that Mephibosheth has been hiding out there. That ever since he was 5 years old and became crippled he’s been hiding in fear and shame hoping to be forgotten, because he’s worried David will try to come and execute him. The custom for kings back then was to kill anyone left over from the previous dynasty. Wipe them out so they won’t become a threat to the throne. Mephibosheth realizes that as a member of the house of Saul he’s on the outs. It’s the house of David that’s taken over so as a supposed enemy of the new king he’s been hiding in fear and shame. In fact, his very name Mephibosheth ironically means one who scatters shame. Fear and shame have surrounded this guy his whole life. So you can guess how freaked out he would have been when there was a knock at the door from one of David’s soldiers-it’s like the police or the FBI showing up-Is there a Mephisbosheth, here? The king wants to see him. No doubt he’s wondering, how did they find me? But primarily he’s thinking he’s done for-this is it. I’m going to be hauled off and executed; my day of reckoning has come. King David’s going to have his vengeance on my grandfather Saul. So imagine his total surprise when he stands before David on his crutches expecting death and instead receives grace. Look at how the scene unfolds-v. 6-7a–Your past has caught up to you-I know you’re from the house of Saul-sorry buddy-game over! No-v. 7b. David showers him with kindness-and Mephibosheth is stunned. Listen to his response-v. 8. He thinks, I’m nothing, I’m this lowly crippled guy who comes from the wrong side of the tracks-literally, I come from the enemy, from the house of Saul. What can I offer the king? And of course the answer is nothing. He’s not going to be some great warrior in David’s army, he’s not advancing the kingdom or helping the cause. There isn’t any advantage in showing kindness and regard to Mephibosheth-but again that’s precisely the heart of grace-Swindoll, 172. That’s exactly what is going on here. Look at how the rest of the story wraps up-v. 9-10. So that means it took 35 people to work the land that David gave Mephibosheth. He didn’t just give him a little token cottage or summer beach house-he gave him a substantial piece of property from which he could grow crops and draw an income. This was a huge blessing-v. 11,13. And the chapter purposely ends that way to remind us of the king’s incredible kindness-even to someone like that.
And it is no different for you and me. Certainly as we read this story we need to learn from David’s example of showing grace to others; to display that unreciprocated , unusual kindness with no strings attached like he did. But this is also a story where we need to see ourselves in Mephibosheth’s shoes too-in his broken crippled shoes-because in our sin and helplessness we’re not any different from him. His story is our story, for just as he was hiding from the king in fear and shame so were we. Think about Adam and Eve-what did they do after they sinned in the garden? They went and hid themselves from God and were filled with shame over what they’d done. And that’s true for all of us-sin brings shame, it creates fear, it causes us to hide ourselves from God-like the little kid who knows he’s in trouble but still covers his eyes and hopes no one can see him-Jer 17:9, Rom 6:23. As a result of our sin we’ve become spiritually disabled; dead in our depravity; broken, fearful, confused, empty and helpless. And that’s our next application question-Do I see the crippling effects of my sin? You’ve got to recognize that without Christ you’re helpless and spiritually disabled; that your heart isn’t the way it should be-that something’s gone terribly wrong and desperately needs to be fixed. The problem is that this is often the one thing we don’t see and try to deny. I’m not that bad-sure I’ve made a few mistakes, but who hasn’t? The Lord knows I’ve tried my best. And He certainly does-but He also knows that trying our best will never cure our hearts. Just like Mehpibosheth, we need to hear that knock on our door-but it’s not the door of our house where King David went to go get him-but the door of our hearts where King Jesus goes to get us. David’s kindness reached out to someone helpless, and that’s exactly what the Lord’s kindness does for you and me. This story of David points us to that deeper spiritual reality of the gospel. His kindness is a glimpse of the ultimate kindness of Christ that we read about last week-Titus 3:4-7. The kindness of Christ appeared to us-it came to us-and now instead of being stuck in our sins-we’ve been saved and made heirs of eternal life-we’ve been given a seat at the King’s table just like Mephibosheth! So the next question to ask yourself is vitally important-Do I see my great King of immeasurable kindness?
As David sought out and restored Mephibosheth from his fear and shame so Jesus has sought us out, and restored our hearts from sin and shame. He’s seated us with a place of honor at His table of fellowship. He’s not just given us an earthly piece of property to live on like David did, but an eternal inheritance in His kingdom as He’s adopted us into His family and treated us as sons and daughters. Jesus says to us-Because of my kindness and grace you are now mine and you belong at my table with me always. Look back at v. 11-that’s a vivid picture of your spiritual relationship with Christ. If you’ve responded to His call in your life, if you’ve put your trust in His loving kindness through His death on the cross than this is true of you-you have become an adopted son or daughter of the king and belong at His table. Do you picture your relationship with Jesus that way? That just as you sit down and share meals with your family and friends, do you sit with Christ and share that spiritual meal by spending time in His Word and in His presence in prayer? The Lord doesn’t view you as some outsider who ought to stay in the basement or in the kitchen cooking while He’s eating His royal meal. As the King of immeasurable kindness He invites you to dine with Him, to be at His table, because in His grace you are now not just like one of the king’s sons as Mephibosheth was, you are one of the king’s sons or daughters-Rom 8:15-17a. That’s who you’ve become when you trust in the kindness of the king, that’s your new identity-no longer a slave, no longer someone who needs to fall back in fear or doubt, wondering-does God really love me, or how could God forgive me after this-but in His saving kindness you’ve been adopted as His son or daughter.
And yet I wonder how often we forget that? How often we let this glorious truth of our new identity in Christ slip our minds so that we do fall back into fear and doubt? We leave the table of fellowship and crawl back to our old places of insecurity and frustration and fear and sin, where the joy of God’s grace becomes a distant thought. I know I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have too. And that’s the last question to ask yourself-Do I forget where I belong? Mephibosheth now belongs at the King’s table with his family-that’s what David declared-v. 13. But what would happen one day if he didn’t show up at dinner and his chair sat empty? What would happen if for a week or a month he didn’t come to dinner with the king and so David went looking for him only to discover that he had returned back to his hiding place, back to his former house of shame and emptiness and said to David-This is where I belong, I’m not meant for the palace, I’m not good enough for your royal court, I don’t deserve to dine with you at your table, so I’ll just stay here. What would David say to that-do you think he’d accept that answer? No way! David would say-You belong with me at my table-this place of shame and fear isn’t your home anymore-my palace is your home and maybe you don’t feel like you deserve it-but it’s never been about deserving it-because it’s been about my kindness and grace. David would say-Because of my grace you will always eat at my table and be a son to me. And it’s the same thing the Lord says to us. Because of His grace we can come boldly to His throne, boldly to His table and experience the joy that comes from always being in the King’s presence. Do I forget where I belong?
Remember the musical Annie-and the song-It’s a Hard-knock life? It’s a hard-knock life for us, no one cares for you a smidge when you’re in an orphanage. That’s the song Annie sang at the orphanage when life was miserable and tough for her. And yet she doesn’t sing it’s a hard-knock life after she’s been adopted and brought home to the mansion because life is now wonderful. For Annie there’s no going back to the hard-knock life. But I wonder how many of us-even after being adopted into the family of God still try to go back and spend our days singing it’s a hard-knock life. We let all those old fears and doubts and sinful habits overwhelm and frustrate us, living like we used to. But the reality is we can’t because that hard-knock life has been forever removed in Christ. Like Mephibosheth-you’re not defined by your background or your past anymore, the effects of sin that once crippled you are gone-because through an undeserved and unusual kindness, you’ve been forever seated at the King’s table where you belong! Kindness