Customarily a conquering king would wipe out the family of the conquered ruler. This may sound brutal, but making sure there were no surviving family members helped insure no one would retaliate. However, in David’s case, he didn’t take Saul’s life, even though he had multiple opportunities to do so; nor did he take the lives of any of Saul’s other family members.
After the potty break episode in the cave where David snipped off a piece of Saul’s robe, Saul became more certain than ever that his time as Israel’s leader was running out. He told David: “And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. Now swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!” (I Samuel 24:20-21, NLT).
As unusual as it was to grant such a request, “David promised this to Saul with an oath” (I Samuel 24:22a).
So after David was settled in as king over Judah and Israel, “‘He summoned a man named Ziba, who had been one of Saul’s servants. The king then asked him, ‘Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.’ Ziba replied, ‘Yes, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He is crippled in both feet’” (II Samuel 9:2a, 3).
If we look back a few chapters, we learn the story of this cripple: “Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was five years old when the report came from Jezreel that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled” (II Samuel 4:4).
When David asked Ziba where Mephibosheth could be found, Ziba, a long-time servant of Saul’s family, told him. This alone shows how much David’s word could be trusted. Ziba believed that David truly meant no harm to Mephibosheth.
“So David sent for him… ‘Don’t be afraid!’ David said. ‘I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!’” (II Samuel 9:5a, 7).
“And from that time on, Mephibosheth ate regularly at David’s table, like one of the king’s own sons” (II Samuel 9:11b).
Faithful. Trustworthy. Honorable. David honored the Lord by keeping the promises he made to others.
A believer’s word should be one hundred percent reliable. See that yours is.