by Pastor Lee Hemen
March 31, 2008
He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed and exposed them on a hill before the LORD. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning. Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night. (2 Samuel 21:9-10)
What has occurred here? We discover that Israel, way back under Joshua’s leadership, had just destroyed Jericho and Ai and was about to attack the Amorite federation of the Canaanite hill country. The people of Gibeon, who were in the direct line of Joshua’s conquest, pretended to be faraway aliens and so escaped annihilation. Moreover, they tricked Joshua into making a covenant with them whereby they would forever serve Israel in menial tasks but could never be harmed. Though the covenant was made deceitfully, its binding nature was recognized by both the Israelites and the Gibeonites.
Saul, in an action not recorded in the biblical account, had slain some Gibeonites during his tenure, David now found out from the Lord that Israel was suffering because of Saul’s sinful duplicity.
Blood-guiltiness when resting upon the land could only be expiated by the blood of the criminal; but in delivering up the members of Saul’s house for whom they asked, David spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul, for the sake of the bond of friendship which he had formed with Jonathan.
While David did not always do the right thing, and often did the expedient thing that best benefited David, here we see him early on trying to make good with those Israel had made a covenant with. Sadly, the outcome was not great for one of the mother’s, Rizpah a concubine of Saul, whose sons were killed on account of Saul’s sin. Rizpah does something quite remarkable. She takes all the necessary items needed for proper mourning, lays them out and begins a vigil over them that lasts from the fall harvest to the winter rains. Probably a time of several months! This is how great her pain was. She had lost her sons because of sin!
Think about that for a moment. How many of us would be willing to sit diligently and calmly watch over the bodies of our dead loved ones? Few of us in our day and age would. We live in a society whereby we talk little of death, hurt, or personal suffering. And, if we do, we think we should immediately get over it and move on or at least take some sort of pill that will make it all go away. Not too long ago it was common for families to do exactly what Rizpah did. Wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, brothers or sisters, sons or daughters, and even close friends would sit with the bodies of those they respected and loved in life. It displayed their concern and compassion for the family and it gave a quiet dignity and respect for those who had died.
Now, let me ask you something dear child of the Lord: When was the last time you grieved over your sins in this fashion? Surprised that I would ask such a question? Why? Our sin should be seen as a deadly thing, for the wages of sin is death! Those who do not know Christ will die in their sins, and those who do yet continue to sin, will slowly die in their walk with the Lord. Dead men walking!
Perhaps we need more people with the attitude of Rizpah who are willing to mourn over their sinful condition and watch over their dead bodies of guilt and shame until they find comfort in God again. James reminds us that sinners should “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:9-10)
Rizpah had lost all that mattered to her in life, her sons. When we sin we should see it with just the same kind of loss and mourn until we find relief in the Lord. David hears of Rizpah’s witness and is moved to go and find the bones of Saul and Jonathan and bury them in the family’s tomb with Saul’s father. In this perhaps Rizpah found release, however, we are not told if she did but I suspect it was true.
On this day, if your sin is bringing about your spiritual demise, come before the Lord and cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. Confess your sins and He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And, you will made new. Whole and alive in Him again: “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5)
Remember Rizpah and mourn over your sins as she mourned over her sons and why they had to die because of sin.
NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety. This devotional will follow Morning by Morning by C H Spurgeon. You may use it however you desire.