2nd Samuel 16:1-4, 19:24-30
Ziba the Servant of Saul
The story of Ziba the servant of Saul is a complicated one on many levels. His first appearance in scripture is right after David assumes the throne. David is looking for a child of Saul’s son Jonathan who he may show favor to. Ziba tells David about Mephibosheth who was crippled since he was five. David invites Mephibosheth to eat from his table and gives all the land belonging to Saul to him. David then orders Ziba and his children to work the land and farm it on behalf of Mephibosheth. Nothing else is said of Ziba for several chapters encompassing many years of David’s life. However when Absalom usurps the throne and David has to flee for his life from Jerusalem, Ziba shows up with animals for David and his servants to ride as well as food and wine to give them refreshment. When David asks him where Mephibosheth was, Ziba tells David that Mephibosheth chose to stay in Jerusalem in hopes that Israel might make him King. David is angered by this thought and gives all that Mephibosheth has into Ziba’s hand. Ziba receives this graciously and stays with David until he regains the kingdom. When David returns to Jerusalem, Mephibosheth meets him in a very unkept state. He has not bathed or trimmed his beard from the day King David departed. When David asked why he had not gone with them, Mephibosheth gave an entirely different answer from what Ziba had said saying that Ziba had tricked him and had not saddled his animal and had slandered him to David. David does not answer either way, but tells him and Ziba to divide the land
Herein lies the question? Who was telling the truth? Was it Ziba who was there for David in his time of need or was it Mephibosheth who could only give a cursory explanation with no proof. David apparently believed Ziba because he gave him all the land, but perhaps he forgave Mephibosheth and allowed he and Ziba to share the lands. Either way, Mephibosheth apparently lost his place at the table because he did not go with David. This brings us back to Ziba. Though he was servant first to Saul and then to Mephibosheth, he gave a great service to David at a time when he needed all the friends he could get. There is no definitive stance of whether David truly believed that Mephibosheth had turned on him, but he did see that Ziba was there for him in his time of weakness and loss and he was there in his time of victory and resumption of power. There is always something to be said for being there when everyone else has turned away from a person. Many times, God’s servants face their greatest trials from within their own families, either church or blood. Though David’s problems were brought on by his own sins and failures, in his time of greatest need, there were people who God sent to refresh and encourage him.
Too many times, we see one of God’s servants in crisis and the first thing we do is say I’m going to pray for that person. Praying for those in crisis is important and not a bad thing. But sometimes we need to do more than pray. Sometimes we need to make a way for that person to go. What if a Pastor or other godly leader messes up and is sent to jail? Yes we can pray for them, and yes we can not do whatever caused that person to be punished, but maybe they need someone to provide for them something they can’t do for themselves. I heard a story of a man who went to prison for bank fraud. As he was gathering his things to move his family to another house while he was serving his sentence, one of the deacons of the church came and brought a trailer. The man was sheepish and said he didn’t think anyone would be willing to help him after all he had done. The deacon replied that everyone has sin’s in their life. That doesn’t mean we are to throw that person away when they get into a bind. Ziba didn’t know if David would ever be King again. There were many who turned on David and one who threw rocks and cursed him. What Ziba did know is that this man was God’s chosen vessel and he would help him in any way he could. In being a servant to God’s servant, Ziba received half the lands he had been caring for. But I believe he had a pure heart because if he hadn’t, David would have seen through it just as he did with the man who came and lied about killing Saul. Can we be any different? Should we ever withhold our help to someone when they are down even if they can’t help us anymore? Being a servant means looking at the service we are called to do, not the person we are doing it for. If we are not doing it for the Lord, then our service is without merit and will not be blessed. If we are not serving God, it is not service, it is prideful piety.