God entered into a covenant with David, promising to sustain His love for Jesse’s son and to raise up one of his descendants to reign forever (2 Sam. 7:1–17). Yet in the history of Israel, people other than the Lord also made covenants. Significantly, David made a covenant with Saul’s son Jonathan. Jonathan pledged his loyalty to David, and David swore not to cut off his steadfast love to Jonathan’s house (1 Sam. 18:1–5; 20:12–17).
Today’s passage describes how David kept his covenant commitment to Jonathan after Jonathan’s death. At the height of his power, when it would have been easy for him to ignore his promises to Jonathan, David instead went out of his way to keep the covenant. We read of David’s search for someone from the house of Saul to whom he could show “kindness” for Jonathan’s sake (2 Sam. 9:1, 3). The word translated “kindness” here is the Hebrew word hesed, which is difficult to convey in English with only one word. Hesed, as we saw in our look at the book of Ruth, is a weighty concept. It refers to enduring covenant love, the kind of love that seeks the good of the covenant partner and does not break its promises. The word appears three times in 2 Samuel 9—in verses 1, 3, and 7—and it expresses David’s wholehearted desire to honor his commitment to Jonathan.
Hesed, let us note, consists of more than a sentiment. It bears fruit in tangible action. When David showed hesed to Jonathan’s house through Mephibosheth, he did so by giving him all that belonged to his grandfather Saul and seating him at the king’s table (vv. 9–13). He demonstrated the kind of covenant love that John describes: “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). A declaration of covenant love is insufficient; it must be evidenced in action. When we enter into covenant with the Lord by trusting in Him and joining the church, we fulfill the covenant by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ in tangible ways: making them meals, praying for their children, supporting them during a job loss, and so forth. When we enter into the marriage covenant, we fulfill it by respecting our husbands, doing acts of love for our wives, putting our spouses’ needs before our own, and so forth.
Mephibosheth did not deserve David’s hesed. After all, he was part of the household of his enemy, Saul. But David loved him anyway. David’s greatest Son—the Lord Jesus Christ—did this in an even greater way, loving His enemies enough to die for them.