Day 129: Living in Lo-Debar (2 Samuel 9)

Through the Bible: 2 Samuel 8-9, 1 Chronicles 18

3 And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” 4 The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” 5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. (2 Samuel 9:3-5)

The story of Mephibosheth is just awesome. It shows David’s faithfulness–honoring his devotion to his best friend Jonathan by seeking someone left alive from his house to whom he can show kindness.

It points to the gospel–how God invites all of us who are crippled and helpless without Him to dine at His table for all our days.

Others have written about these points, and I don’t want to repeat what they have said. However, there’s one detail of the story that jumped out to me this morning. Ironically, it was while I was working on the post for the Day 130 reading, which is all about what to do when we feel like God is silent. Hopefully I’ll be able to explain the connection.

When David first inquires about Mephibosheth (and just so autocorrect will leave me alone, I’m going to refer to him as “Bo” from here on out), Bo is living in a town called Lo-Debar. Debar is a Hebrew word that means either word or thing. And in Hebrew, Lo is a negating prefix, placed in front of a noun to indicate the absence of something. So Lo-Debar means either “No Word” or “No Thing.”

And this is Bo’s address. Without a word, at the dead end of Skid Row, in the town of Nothing. As far as he is concerned, Bo will die there.

We don’t hear much about Lo-Debar after this in Scripture. It’s mentioned briefly in 2 Samuel 17:27, but then doesn’t show up again until the book of Amos. Through the prophet Amos, God delivers a sharp rebuke to those who are “at ease in Zion, and feel secure in the mountains of Samaria” (Amos 6:1):

13 you who rejoice in Lo-debar,
    who say, “Have we not by our own strength
    captured Karnaim for ourselves?”

Amos 6:13

The always-reliable folks at GotQuestions.org have a fascinating insight about this verse. They write,

Amos may also have been making a rhetorical point through a play on words. The men of Israel were boasting that they conquered “Nothing” or “Nothing Town.” Amos may have highlighted this town specifically because of the town’s name, in order to stress the emptiness of their boasting before God. “You are so proud of your conquest,” says the prophet in so many words, “but really you have conquered Nothing!”

Two chapters later, in Amos 8:11-12, God says this through the prophet:

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
    “when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
    but of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
    and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,
    but they shall not find it.

Sounds like there were a whole lot of people in Amos’ day who were living in Lo-Debar. There was a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. They wandered to and fro, seeking God’s word, but didn’t find it.

So back to Bo. When we find ourselves in Nothingville, crippled in both feet, and with No Word from the Lord, we can’t get out of it ourselves. Like Bo, who needed King David to bring him out of Lo-Debar, we need Jesus, the Son of David, to BE the Word when we have no word. To BE our everything when we have nothing.

Mephibosheth went from nothing to everything when the king came and got him. Praise God, we can do the same.

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