Rizpah

In Study the Women of the Bible by revealadmin1 Comment

This may be one of the most difficult chapters to write from the women of the Bible.  I have written in regards to over one hundred woman; each her own unique testimony.  Many of these women endured hardships and tragedy, but none will probably compare to Rizpah who stood vigil over the corpses of her dead sons.

To tell Rizpah’s story, we have to turn the pages back in time.  She was the daughter of Aiah, the Horite.  King Saul had taken her as a concubine and she bore him two sons, Armoni and Mephibosheth.  Like millions of women through the centuries whom have suffered through war and national strife, Rizpah has found herself bereft of husband and children.

The background of Rizpah deepens.  Her husband, Saul, broke an oath that had been made with the Gibeonites by Joshua.  Although the idolatrous nation had deceived God’s chosen, an oath not to destroy them by the sword was sealed in the Lord’s name.  But, when Saul came to power, he set about the obliteration of Israel’s enemies.  Treating the Gibeonites as rivals, Saul sought to annihilate them sadly setting off a series of events leading to death and destruction in his own family.

As soon as Saul met his death on Mount Gilboa, the Gibeonites pursued retaliation for the broken sealed decree of God.  A severe famine lasting for three years overtook the land of Israel, and David was divinely informed that the cause was in consequence of Saul’s slaughter of the Gibeonites.

Hatred and vengeance demand an eye for an eye when the rage filled Gibeonites petition the seven sons of Saul be hung before the Lord in expiation for what had been done to them.  It thus came about that innocent children had to bear the heavy burden for the sins of the father.  The five sons of Merab, whom were cared for my Michal, and Saul’s two sons by Rizpah were taken and hanged upon a hilltop for all to see.

Vengeance was taken out of God’s hands and into the hands of rancorous men.  The innocent were cruelty slaughtered, not to appease God or by rightful judgment, but to satisfy a human thirst for retribution.  History affirms over and over, innocent people suffer for the sins of their rulers,  “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.  There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:11, 14)

The next glimpse of Rizpah offers a sharp contrast to the brutal revenge and massacre.  What an effective illustration she gave of a mother’s love being as strong as death when during the barley harvest, those seven blood-covered bodies hung from respective trees, and loving Rizpah protected them from the vultures waiting to gorge themselves.

Through the days and weeks she watched those broken and discarded bodies gradually decay, withering in the weather, but she never once relaxed her vigil.  Rizpah had no power to prevent the gruesome murders of her sons, but nothing could keep her away from caring for the mangled bodies on the gallows.  Leaving those bodies to hang unburied testified to the revenge of man, not God. God’s law demanded that anyone hanged on a tree must be buried before sunset of the same day.  Man’s interpretation will always benefit man, not God.

Rizpah continued watching the bodies of the dead.  “Her beautiful, sacrificial motherhood wrestled through anxious days and more anxious nights with the foul stench of those rotting corpses filled her nostrils. Here is an episode unmated in literature.”  [1]  Rizpah spread sackcloth on the rock, not only to mourn the dead, but also with the public expression of humiliation and penitence in view of those who would watch.

She defended the dead until the rain came – a token that God had withdrawn His judgment reviving the famine-stricken land and that the painful watch in sackcloth on the dead was over.  Rizpah’s vigil was over and she clung at all costs with desperation to guard the lifeless remains of her sons. [1]

King David, hearing of her devotional and motherly vigil, commanded the precious bones which she had guarded be buried with Saul and Jonathon in the family grave at Zelah,  “When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah had done, he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead.  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.  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.” (2 Samuel 21:8-14)

Many women in the Bible experienced the loss of children: the Shunammite woman’s only son died and the prayer of Elisha revived him, Jesus healed the loss of an only son in Luke 7 during a funeral precession, our Lord commanded “Talitha kuma” to the little girl a mother lost, and Mary witnessed the loss of her own son on the cross.

Mother’s today watch as their children pass on to be with the Lord through cancers, diseases, accidents, wars, famine, tragedy, and suffering.  Many will say, “The Lord could have stopped this anytime He wanted too!”  “It isn’t fair! He/she was only a child!”  Yes, He could have, but through prayer, the Lord brought one emotional story to my heart…..

A friend of mine was joyfully pregnant with an expectant baby boy.  Newly married and ready for delivery, excitement stalled as something was a miss during her alone and prayer time with the Lord during her final weeks.  She felt the presence of Christ, a vision of Him walking over and kissing her on the forehead. At that moment, something in her spirit knew she would lose the baby.  She remained in prayer and vigil over her own pregnancy and wonderment of her vision, knowing God would faithfully reveal His plans.

When labor pains ensued and deepened, another presence made its way over my friend, death. Something was wrong.  The baby was malformed and crippled.  The labor dramatically intensified and my friend lost a massive amount of blood, death loomed over the mother and child.  Remembering her vision, my friend held on to life, but our Lord came to take little Isaiah, just as He conformed with His gentle kiss and comfort to my friend in her prayerful vision.

The Christian faith is one of trust.  Trusting God has a plan, trusting God is in complete control, trusting God He knows all, and trusting Christ through hardships and pain.  We give God glory in the good. We lift hands high during praise, singing His mighty splendor when life is blessed.  What happens when life a takes a turn?  What happens when we are the recipient of bad?  We fail to remember Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord taketh; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

Do we only praise God when we are blessed?  Do we only give Him glory when our lives are succeeding?  Why do we believe the Christian faith is without tragedy?  Christ did NOT say our life would be easy, but just the opposite.

Christ said blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, blessed are you when people insult you; blessed are you when all kinds of evil is against you because of Him.  We are to rejoice and be glad, because great is our reward in heaven (Matthew 5:4, 11-12).   We are to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and when it is complete, we will lack nothing (James 1:2-4).  Even though we suffer through grief and trials, they come so that the proving genuineness of our faith may result in glory, praise, and honor when Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7)

I know several who would tell you the loss of a child or pregnancy was devastating, but the situation brought the family closer to Christ.  During the impact of trial, we at times can not see the good because of the storm, but after, we can see Jesus was right there with us all along.  I pray this has opened your heart to see the Lord’s goodness, especially during dark times, usually caused by man.  I pray you know Him better and the love He has for you.

My sweet sister my prayer is, “…to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.  For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)

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