Rizpah: Or, Relative Suffering
2 Samuel 21:10-14
And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her on the rock…

We may generally see the cause of any suffering if we only go far enough. David began to enquire, and found out the cause. The demand of the Gibeonites was in harmony only with that crude, cruel, harsh age. They demanded that the survivors of Saul's race should be handed over to them, that they might do that which they thought would appease outraged law. Some have supposed that David was glad of the opportunity of getting rid — after an Eastern fashion — of possible rivals to the throne; but this could not have been his motive, or he would not otherwise have spared the one who was the only direct and lineal descendant, Mephibosheth, the eldest son of the deceased heir apparent, Jonathan. If all forsake those who hang as accursed, Rizpah will not. She cannot hinder the seizure of her sons and relatives, but she can watch that no further dishonour shall be done to their bodies. She takes sackcloth, spreads it to shield her by day and to rest on at night. Stifled by the heat, and chilled by the cold night air, she remains near to those sun-scorched, haggard, weird, blackened, dishonoured bodies, watching to save them from further ignominy.

I. We may gaze with admiring wonder at A WOMAN'S FAITHFULNESS, LOVE, AND PATIENCE. What faith I She believed that sooner or later God would be entreated for the land, and that when the rains came it would show that guilt had been appeased, and that her dear ones might at least have honourable burial. She believed that they hung there, not for their own sin, but for the sin of others, and, therefore, she does not forsake them. It is so easy to turn .our back on those whom the world forsakes. Rizpah would not believe her sons were wrong. How like a woman! They are always slowest to believe wrong, and always readiest to bear the heaviest burdens for those they love. And what a burden, to watch through all those slowly passing weeks.

II. THE SORROWS THAT ARE SILENTLY ENDURED. In thousands of homes every day, there are wives and sisters and daughters who are watching as assiduously, either by the bedside of loved sufferers, or mourning at their death, as Rizpah on the rock of Gibeah. How many there are out of whose lives all that is bright is gone, because one to whom they gave their heart's best devotion is lying pulseless, in the blank stare of death.

III. THE BITTEREST TRIALS OF LIFE COME THROUGH THE WRONGDOINGS OF OTHERS. Rizpah had nothing to do with Saul's sin, and yet, she had to bear some of the fearful consequences. Here, too, we see how Christ has suffered through the sin of others. There was no sill in Him. Yet was He treated as a sinner, because He became one with us. Love bound Him to us. How He drove back the vultures of sin and the demons of darkness! How He hung on the cross in the full blaze of a broken law that He might take away the sin of the world! How He has waited since, like Rizpah, at the door of the heart, to give life and peace, and to let the rain of His mercy drop on us out of heaven! Our sins nailed Him to the tree, but He does not love us the less. He knows that when we see how He has loved us, love will break or melt our hearts. For that sign of penitence and love He waits through the long years, as Rizpah did through dabs of furnace heat and nights of intensest cold, for the sign of coming rain from heaven. Oil, how unwearied is Jesus in His waiting for souls I His locks are wet with the dews of heaven, and His form withered as by the solar heat!

IV. THE OVERWHELMING INFLUENCE OF A DEVOTED LIFE IS SEEN IN THIS ACT OF RIZPAH. That silent, watching woman little thought how others were taking note of her, — how her heroic action would be recorded in the Book which would be the most widely read of all books. Example has immense power. Men submit to it more readily than to any commands. Of it speaks Hudibras —

"Example, that imperious dictator

Of all that's good or bad to human nature;

By it the world's corrupted or reclaimed,

Hopes to be saved or studies to be damned."

However obscure, we cannot be sure but that our example may have a good or an evil influence. In proportion to the extent of our circle, so our power for good or evil.

V. FAITHFUL LOVE IS FINALLY REWARDED. Rizpah, at last, when the dead are buried, can rest, and Duly think with a shudder of the long and weary days when her strong arm drove off the vultures, or of the nights when the wild beasts were only kept at bay by the fire that flashed from her eye, and the force that she threw into her voice. And as we think of Him who was homeless, rejected, crucified, we ask, "Will not Christ see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied?"

(F. Hastings.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.

WEB: Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water was poured on them from the sky. She allowed neither the birds of the sky to rest on them by day, nor the animals of the field by night.

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