Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness"

In Colossians chapter 3*, Paul exhorts those who are “being saved,” those for whom “the grace of God toward them was not in vain,” those to whom the light that shone out of darkness has shone into their hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Speaking to that new man, Paul says, “Seek those things which are above…set your mind on things above not on
things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). He continues in verse 12, “Therefore, as the elect of God holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering….” Certainly kindness is one of those things that Paul considers to be “things above.” He asks us to set our minds on it. In probably one of the best known and most frequently quoted chapters in all of the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul discusses the greatest gift, love. He speaks of that love which is uniquely God’s, and says that it is kind. Kindness is love in action. So this week we are privileged to study kindness and to do so we will look at the story of kindness
to a “dead dog.”

David the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, the friend of Jonathan, Saul’s son, was king over all Israel. Saul and his son Jonathan had died in battle and many in Saul’s household were dead. 2 Samuel 9 beginning in verse 1 records, “Now David said, Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show
him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” It is not clear from this verse to whom David is speaking, but someone fetched Ziba, a servant in the house of Saul, who came to David. David repeated his question. “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” Ziba said yes,in fact, Jonathan had a son who is lame in his feet and he lives in Lo Debar. King David sent and brought
this son who was lame in his feet from Lo Debar and said to him in verse 7, “I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” Mephibosheth bowed himself and said, “What is your servant that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”

The background of this story is rooted in a covenant that was made between David and Jonathan. “And you shall not only show me the kindness of the Lord while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the Lord has cut off everyone of the enemies of David from the face of the earth. So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David…” (1 Samuel
20:14-16). We must not miss the great parallels between this story and the story of redemption – the gospel story.

1. David is a type of Christ. John 7:42 says that Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was born. Romans 1:3 tells us He was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.

2. Jonathan and David entered into an everlasting covenant relationship that, should Jonathan’s offspring encounter difficulty, David would show them kindness. We are told by the Messenger of the Lord that so great was the Father’s love for the world that He covenanted to give His only-begotten Son that whosoever believed would not perish but have everlasting life. The Desire of Ages page 834: “Before the
foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ would be the surety for the human race.”

3. Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, was lame in the feet from a fall. He was now living in obscurity in Lo Debar, which means place of “no-pasture.” How could it be that a man born to be royalty should end up in a place of no-pasture? He was the reduced son of a prince, forgotten as a dead man, out of mind. Adam and Eve, made in the image of God, according to Their likeness, walked and talked with their Creator.
But then they fell and went into hiding.

4. Mephibosheth’s condition in his own words was a “dead dog,” and he asks David, “what is your servant that you should look upon such a dead dog?” Paul describes mankind’s condition as being “carnal sold under sin,” “dead in trespasses.” The Psalmist says in Psalm 8:4, “What is man that You are mindful of him and the son of man that You give attention to, or care for him?” This sounds a lot like Mephibosheth’s question.

5. David is the one who took the initiative to seek out “anyone who is left of the house of Saul.” One of the most precious concepts in the message of 1888 is Christ, the Good Shepherd, who is seeking His lost sheep even though we have not sought Him. The lost sheep never went out looking for the shepherd. In Christ’s Object Lessons, Ellen White says, “Christ, the heavenly merchantman seeking goodly pearls, saw
in lost humanity the pearl of great price. In man, defiled and ruined by sin, He saw the possibilities of redemption…God looked upon humanity…in Christ, saw it as it might become through redeeming love. He collected all the riches of the universe and laid them down in order to buy the pearl.”

6. David was kind, but he correctly identifies it as “the kindness of God.” As we mentioned at the outset, kindness is love in action. Ellen White, in the book The Desire of Ages page 19, echoes what Peter marvels at in 1 Peter 1:12 when she says, “the mystery of redeeming love is the theme into which angels desire to look.” Paul describes it like this: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who,
being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). This amazing act of kindness, which compelled Christ to give up the glory of heaven and give back the scepter into His Father’s hands and step down from the throne of the universe, fills our minds with awe. This choice was made with great agony on Christ’s part. We read in The Desire of Ages page 690 that His humanity wanted to shrink from that awesome act of kindness. He prayed three times that He wouldn’t have to pay the ultimate price. But praise God, “the history of the human race comes up before the world’s Redeemer. He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power
of sin…He sees its impending fate and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself.” Amazing love, how can it be? Its more amazing than we think because Scripture tells us in Romans 5 that He did this for us while we were ungodly, sinners, and even enemies.

7. We are told three times in 2 Samuel 9 that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table continually, or always. Paul says of us, in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses” (lame in the feet), “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” and here it is, “raised us up together and made us sit together in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” What does this story tell us? David, who was a type of Christ, let his kindness to Mephibosheth serve to illustrate the kindness and
love of God toward fallen mankind. God did not have to redeem us; after all we were ungodly, sinners and enemies. Man rebelled against God like Saul’s house rebelled against David, and because of that we became lame after the fall. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost when we did not seek after Him, By His supreme, selfless, self-sacrificing love and kindness, God reconciled the world
back to Himself. For those who accept and receive this abundance of grace, the lost inheritance is restored. David sought to use God’s kindness as the model and motivation for his kindness to the house of Saul. When we comprehend our undeserved mercy and kindness from God, His love, which is kind, is “shed abroad in our hearts,” and we respond in kindness to our fellow man. Matthew 5:44 and 48 says,
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” As we contemplate what this text could mean this Sabbath, two texts are helpful. Colossians 3:14 says, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Luke 7:47 says, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” May God grant us the divine eyesalve we need to see the kindness of God.

Lyndi Schwartz