By Gordon Franz
This “testimony” of Mephibosheth was written for the Winter 1985 issue of The Overcomer a periodical of the Christian Overcomers of NJ, an organization serving physically disabled youth and adults.
Thank you for allowing me to share my testimony with you this evening. As some of you noticed, I came to this banquet in a special chariot (archaeological note: this was the ancient forerunner to the wheelchair!). For thirty-six years I have had to get around in this or on the back of a donkey, depending on the roads.
My life had a storybook beginning. When I was born, I was a healthy and happy baby. My dad was crown prince and my grandfather, king of the nation. They named me Merib-baal (“contender against Baal”) because they wanted me to grow up to love the LORD God of Israel and fight against Baal, a false god of our Canaanite and Philistine neighbors. What more could I ask for? I had everything going for me, the future looked bright! Yet one day double tragedy struck.
The first tragedy was that my father, Prince Jonathan, and two of my uncles were killed in a battle with the Philistines on Mount Gilboa (I Sam. 31:2). During the same battle my grandfather, King Saul, committed suicide and soon after the Philistines mutilated his body (I Sam. 31:4, 9, 10).
The second tragedy occurred when news of the defeat reached the palace. My nurse picked me up and started to flee but accidentally dropped me, leading to a paralysis of the lower legs. The doctors did all they could, but to no avail. The diagnosis was permanent paralysis. I would never walk again! (II Sam. 4:4). Emotionally, this was a very trying time for me, even at the tender age of five years old. My life was changed. I was different than other children my age.
The next few years were the most difficult for me. My uncle, Ishbosheth, did not want me around while he struggled with my father’s best friend David for the throne. I think he felt threatened that someone might want to make me king instead of him. I was sent off to live with a family in Lo-Debar. Some of you know about that place. No respectable person in his right mind would want to live there! The city is situated in the Jordan Valley which is unbelievably hot in the summer; there is no pasture land anywhere, hence its name. It is only eight miles from the Philistine stronghold of Beth-shan! Talk about living conditions, it was unbearable! During the summers, I would often dream and long for the cool breeze that floated through the palace of Gibeah in the Hill Country of Benjamin. All the talk of royalty was over after the “high society” people sent me off to the middle of nowhere.
Well, it was not all that bad. I did meet a very caring young lady and we got married. (Historical note: they married in their early teens back then). The LORD blessed us with a son, Micha, whose name means “Who is like the LORD” (II Sam. 9:12).
Toward the end of my teenage years the isolation I experienced and my struggles took a dramatic turn for the better. By this time, King David secured the throne, consolidated the kingdom and built a lovely palace in his new capital Jerusalem. He inquired as to whether any relatives of my grandfather were still alive. He wanted to show them kindness for the sake of my father. A former servant named Ziba told him of my whereabouts and condition.
I was very thankful for David’s attitude and the way he treated me. First, he reached out to me and accepted me for who I was, not what I was. He saw me as a person, not a problem and welcomed me to his family with open arms. Second, David did not pamper me or spoil me even though I ate at his table. He gave me the responsibility of administering the land and servants that formally belonged to my grandfather. To this day, I am an active contributing member of this society (II Sam. 9).
Some of you are probably wondering how I got my nickname “Mephibosheth” which means “exterminating the idols.” After I settled in Jerusalem, I got involved in spiritual things. I could not move fast, but I could move, so I would go around smashing idols of Baal and other pagan gods which were in the shrines on the hill tops in the kingdom. Then I would try and turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord God of Israel (Deut. 11:8-32). Mind you, I had the full backing and blessing of the king when I did this. My paralysis slowed me down, but did not stop me. I am still involved in the work of the Lord, even with my handicap.
I would like to close with the words of a song with which you are all familiar. It was written by King David when he fled from his rebellious son Absalom. Humanly speaking, David has lost everything. I think we can all relate to that experience sometime in our life. Through the trying time, David could still say:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cups runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever.