Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Have you been forgotten?

Have you been forgotten?

Have you been labelled a failure, a 'has-been' before? What about the times when you fail to meet to the rigorous and harsh standards that society has placed upon you? How about the numerous times when life dealt an unkind blow to you? And cripple you with labels like:

- Shape up or ship out
- You can't seem get it right
- I don't think you are up to our requirements. I'm sorry I can't offer you that position.
- The company doesn't need you anymore. You have been retrenched.
- You are not as beautiful as you think you are
- You are not smart as your classmates. If you were, you would have been the top 10%, etc

Everyday we are bombarded by the media, by people and even good-intentioned friends who define our successes in life. The TV media, books and magazines invade our thoughts and subconsciousness with:

"Buy this product, it will make you look even more beautiful"
"Join this program and keep your shape."
"Maybe you need more training or skills"

It simply means "You ain't good enough!"

Failure is no stranger to anyone. Ever experience living in a deep hole dug by people from which you could never crawl out?

I have a story to tell. I was often in the top 10, cream of the crop during my primary school days. There were high expectations of me to bring glory to the school and make my parents proud.

I have passed the national IQ exam, I was selected for the Gifted/Music Elective Program, I represented my school in an international Maths and Science test. Every other way I turn, success seems to be just around the corner. I was the envy of many. Who could have asked for more? I was made for success.

I took my PSLE in Primary Six. My results were shocking. Mediocre was an understatement. Unbelief was on everyone's lips. There was even a call by my teachers to recheck my results with the Ministry of Education. Perhaps there was a slip-up.

Finally it sank in whatever the reasons. Failure. Defeat. What a letdown. My world fell apart. I was unable to reach everyone's expectations. Soon everyone turned their attention to those who had made it. I was soon forgotten and left on the shelf.

Such a place exist in the bible.

Lo Debar. A place of no pasture. A place of naught, nothingness. A place for forgotten people. Even the name 'Lo Debar' sounds morbid and melancholic.

And the bible tells of a story of a fugitive prince who had lived in this place called Lo Debar. Let's read his story.

2 Samuel 4:4
  4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became crippled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

This young man used to have everything working for him. He was a prince, his grandfather was King Saul and his father was Prince Jonathan, a respected son in Saul's kingdom and army.

Now when Saul and Jonathan died, there was fear in Saul's household. Why? Because of rumors that the new king would put Saul's descendants to the sword. Not only did Mephibosheth lose his kingdom, he lost both his legs. Now he was a cripple for all his life. And the nurse hid him in this place called Lo Debar.

Think about it, all his life, he had feared this man called David. His nurse must have taught him why she had to run away. After all King Saul had tried to kill David numerous times! Why wouldn't David hunt him now? And who knows she might even have blamed King David for the cause of his crippled legs.

Each and every single day, he was living his life ranging from fear to anger to hopelessness. Lo Debar. A place for forgotten people.

2 Samuel 9
David and Mephibosheth
  1 David asked, "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?"
  2 Now there was a servant of Saul's household named Ziba. They called him to appear before David, and the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?"
    "Your servant," he replied.
  3 The king asked, "Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?"
    Ziba answered the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet."
  4 "Where is he?" the king asked. Ziba answered, "He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar."

Can you imagine being Mephibosheth? The worst of your fears has come when one day, a messager brings a summon that the King requires you to be in his presence.

Woe to me, King David has come for my head. Isn't it bad enough that I'm in some forgotten place? What does he want from a cripple? Why is he still affer my head!

But is King David really asking for Mephibosheth's head? Is that what we think of God? A god who is after your blood when you sin? A god who keeps a watchful eye to admonish you each time you fail? A god who remembers your wrongdoings?

  5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
  6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.
    David said, "Mephibosheth!"
    "Your servant," he replied.
  7 "Don't be afraid," David said to him, "for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table."
  8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?"

See how David comforted the misguided prince fears. "Don't be afraid". Isn't it so like Jesus? Fear not. Don't be afraid. Shalom. Peace.

See how Mephibosheth called himself - a dead dog. Thinking himself dead, and just a lowly lifeform. Just like us. I blew it. I've failed. I'm defeated. Lost and forgotten.

And we think God is pleased with such statements. See how David responded to Mephibosheth.

  9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "I have given your master's grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family.
  10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master's grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table." (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
  11 Then Ziba said to the king, "Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's [a] table like one of the king's sons.
  12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all the members of Ziba's household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king's table, and he was crippled in both feet.

Did you see that? Read it aloud!

So Mephibosheth ate at David's table LIKE ONE OF THE KING'S SONS! Do you see how God wants to put you back in the position He has destined you to be? Not as a lowly servant, a dead dog but as a prince, an heir in His Kingdom!

Can you see the many, many parallels in this wonderful beautiful passage in the bible?

Like Mephibosheth, we were once princes and princesses. Our lineage was traced to Adam, the image of God. The glory of God surrounds Adam in the garden.

Like Mephibosheth, we fell and became crippled through Adam's sin. The glory was lost, we thought we were forgotten. Lost in sin.

Like David, God gave grace when He said "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?" Jesus is our Jonathan. He represented man and made a covenant 'pact' with God.

In fact Mephibosheth is to pay the price of death for his grandfather’s sins. But he didn't. Not only did King David returned back all that belonged to Mephibosheth, he wanted the prince to sit at his table and feast all the days of his life! Don't you see beloved? God wants you to be with Him all the days of your life, including on this earth!

Like Mephibosheth, whom David treated him like his own son, we are now children of God, sealed on the day of redemption through Christ.

Did Mephibosheth deserve it? Afterall his grandfather had tried to kill David. And he had all these years lived a life in fear of King David. He might have even hated King David for making him a cripple! Misguided, misconception, bad opinions of David. Isn't it like many of us who think God is eyeing us and waiting for us to fall? And then point an accusing finger at us about our unrighteousness and weakness? Surely not!

Did we deserve how God is lavishing His love and goodness upon us? Definitely not! Why? Because God is love. For God so loved that He gave His Son...

Just like David, God not only reinstated us, He called us to sit in heavenly places with Him, lavished us with the riches of His glory, surrounded us with His favour and protection and invite us to feast at His table! All by His grace.

Like Jonathan who made a covenant pact with King David, Jesus made a new covenant with God so that through Jesus' death and blood, we are now called Sons and Daughters of God when we receive Him.

What have we been thinking all these years? That God demands holiness from you (as if we reach His holiness according to the Law)? That God wants you to tithe, give till it hurts, go for missions, and sacrifice yourself more for Him?

I'm not sure about you. But I come into the presence of the King to receive and enjoy His goodness, His grace and mercy. The God I know demands nothing from me. Anyway, I used to be from Lo Debar, a place of no pasture. I have nothing to give.

Only God gave freely, Jesus died willingly for me. And I receive. When I experience the overflowing love and grace of God, I will be moved to give of myself to Him. Not because I need to prove Him anything but He had loved me for who I am. These 'works' of tithing, living a life pleasing to Him comes naturally because He first loved me.

They are the fruits of His love working within me, not my own works.

So my encouragement is: come to His presence with joyful, warm hearts, knowing that He readily invites you to His table.

As you come to the feast, you will notice familiar faces of people who had failed.

You notice a woman who clings to a hem of the garmet (yes, you recognize her as the woman with the issue of blood). You see a handsome young man with long flowing locks of hair and tresses. Oh, Samson!

You see a king who had committed murder, adultery and had caused the death of his son. Yet God called him a man after his heart - King David.

A tanned fisherman smiles at you with once tear-filled eyes of denying Christ. Simon Peter. You behold the Pharisee of Pharisees who once called for the blood of many a Christian. Apostle Paul!

You see men who lied out of fear and cheated with treachery - Abraham, Jacob. You recognize people who told God "I can't do it" - Moses, Jeremiah.

They all look at you with understanding eyes. They were once like you - crippled, fallen and labeled 'Failure' by world standards. Lo Debar.

But they have experienced grace and mercy in the presence of the King through Jesus Christ his Son.

Ephesians 2
  6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
  7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
  8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
  9not by works, so that no one can boast.

You see Jesus opening his arms wide (just like He did on the cross) to bid you ‘Come’.

Lo Debar no more. Heavenly places.

Never forgotten. Always loved.