2 Samuel 21:1-14
Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered…
I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MORAL EVIL AND PHYSICAL SUFFERING. Do we believe in God as the Moral Ruler of men? Then we cannot but believe that He designs and controls what is occurrent around them to the education and bettering of the moral, nature that is within them. National calamities follow upon national sins. Let no corn-seed be sown; no provision made as far as man can make it for harvest, and famine will come as a Divine retribution. But with all the husbandmen's forecast and arduous anticipative toil, famine may still come as a punishment because of a nation's sins — drought, mildew, destructive insect life, the ministers of God that do His chastening pleasure. Atheistic philosophy resolves the government of the world into the action of natural laws, as if there could be laws without a Law-giver, as if they could act except He continued to be and continued to make them efficient. Some may point to second causes. "These suffice; hence come war, famine, black pestilence." But why hence? Design there cannot be without a Designer. Punishment may smite the nations through the operation of natural law; but that law is the expression of God's will, and in its operation moves His hidden, but correcting hand. As men deal with their children, God deals with them; from moral evil comes physical suffering. The punishment may be delayed, but it is inevitable. Nations, as such, have no future beyond the bounds of time. Punishment, then, for national sins must fall upon nations now. Sometimes with startling, convicting sharpness. Sometimes "after many days" — days that have gathered into many years. It was so in the case of the famine that was the punishment for Israel's accessory guilt in Saul's crime against the Gideonites forty years before. A truth this not without modern confirmatory instances. France slaughtered many of the Huguenots — her best and purest sons — and chased many more into exile. Two hundred years afterwards came the full appalling punishment for that stupendous crime in the horrors of the French Revolution — in the "dire Religion stript of God." America cherished slave-holding into a domestic institution — and, at length, long after the first slave-holders had passed, in tremendous national convulsion, and through the Red Sea of slaughter, the African bondmen made their wondering, exultant way into freedom. "God's judgments often look a long way back."
II. GOD'S DISPLEASURE WITH NATIONAL PRIDE AND VIOLATION OF TREATY OBLIGATIONS. The famine afflicted Israel because of the perfidy shown to the Gibeonites by Saul and his approving subjects. What instruction, what warning, in these records for England to-day! We are in treaty with many dependent nations and tribes. Let us be faithful to our treaties — honest, kind, not aggressive on the reserved and acknowledged rights of any. To wrong African or Indian tribe — any tribe though as weak and helpless as the ancient Gibeonites, with the national approval, is to assure in coming days for the nation storms of the Divine displeasure. Nor is national pride to go unpunished. And are we guiltless herein? Vast, inclusive of many languages and all climates, the empire that acknowledges our King. But let us not forget who has made us to differ; who has exalted us among the nations; who has lifted us up and can cast us down.
III. IN RIZPAH WE SEE THE UNUTTERABLE, UNVANQUISHABLE STRENGTH OR A MOTHER'S LOVE. Her sons were doomed to ignominious, dishonoured end. She will honour them! An aged woman; adult sons; a king's sons — thus to end! To her they are royal still. As her grey hair streams to the wind, as her voice and arms are raised against the prowling creatures, oh strength of resolution! oh, thronging memories in that lonely woman's heart!
The barley harvest was nodding white
When my children died on the rocky height,
And the reapers were singing on hill and plain
When I came to my task of sorrow and pain.
But now the season of rain is nigh,
The sun is dim in the thickening sky.
I hear the howl of the wind that brings
The long, drear storm on its heavy wings;
But the howling wind and the driving rain
Will beat on my houseless head in vain.
I shall stay, from my murdered sons to scare
The beasts of the desert and fowls of air.Unconquerable love! not rewarded — winning comely sepulture for the bodies of her dead.
(G. T. Coster.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
WEB: There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David sought the face of Yahweh. Yahweh said, "It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he put to death the Gibeonites."