Monday, February 8, 2016

Rizpah, fighting vultures


Are you surprised that we are still talking about Rizpah this week? Oh, there's more to be found in our passage from II Samuel. Let's refresh our memory, and then I will tell you about it!

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”
The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” David asked.
They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul—the Lord’s chosen one.”
So the king said, “I will give them to you.”
The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah,whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[a] whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to deathduring the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning.
10 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 touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.
14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.
Last week we studied the lessons that Rizpah had for us on grieving, on love, on prayer, and more. This week I want to look at this just a little differently.

You may recall that we said Rizpah was one of Saul's concubines . . . did you know what her name means? I thought this was pretty ironic -- her name means "hot or glowing stone." In today's words, I guess they would say she was beautiful, or "hot"! This beautiful woman has been of great service to King Saul, for sons were awfully important in that day, and she had two.

We read about the history of the Gibeonites and the Israelites, and how Joshua was deceived into agreement on a treaty. Perhaps King Saul decided that the Gibeonites were deserving of extermination because of their deceit. Perhaps he was caught up in the heat of battle and just kept on going, killing Gibeonites that were supposed to be protected by the treaty. Whatever the reason, God was not pleased -- He takes our promises seriously, and we should, too!

When King David approaches them, the Gibeonites don't want money. They want Saul's family wiped out -- just like their people were massacred. They want seven men to be impaled -- and that is where we met Rizpah last week. Her two boys (now grown) were in the group to be killed. Her response is to guard their bodies.

We talked about how she would have needed to guard them from scavenging birds and vultures, and from beasts on the ground, as well. She will demonstrate her great love in the coming months. A king will be moved by her devotion, and will be shamed into removing the bodies (and recovering the bodies of Saul and Jonathan) and giving them proper burials.

Rizpah also calls all of us as Christian women, to keep the vultures and beasts away from our children, our families, and our fellow Christians. This is what we will study this week; I hope you will join me again next time.


1 comment:

Austin Towers said...

Such an amazing story and so much we can learn (and are learning) from it!