2 Samuel 21:10
And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her on the rock…
This verse is part of a narrative full of difficulty and darkness. It stands out a bright light in the midst of the darkness - a grand exhibition of a mother's love.
I. A MOTHER'S LOVE IS MUCH TRIED. Not often as Rizpah's was; but always in some way or other; as:
1. By the conduct of her children.
2. By the conduct of others towards them.
3. By their troubles.
4. By their deaths;
especially when untimely or by violence; and most of all when their untimely or violent deaths are the penalty of their misconduct, which was, however, not the case with the sons of Rizpah.
II. IT OCCASIONS HER MUCH SORROW. Love, in this world, always brings grief, through making the sorrows of others our own, as well as rendering us sensitive to their treatment of ourselves. The more deep and tender the love, so much the more poignant the grief. And, as a mother loves most, she is most susceptible of sorrow. She is often pained by her children when they do not think it; and every stroke inflicted on them strikes her to the heart.
III. IT IS UTTERLY UNSELFISH. She loves because it is her nature - freely, spontaneously, making no calculation, asking for no return. Not without hope, indeed, that she may one day be rewarded by her children's welfare and affection; but far from regulating her love by this: rather she lavishes it most on those from whom she cannot expect recompense - the weakest, the most sickly, those most likely to die; yea, as Rizpah, those who are dead. "Death might bereave her of them, not them of her love" (Bishop Hall).
IV. IT IS MOST SELF-DENYING. Prompting to and sustaining in arduous labours, long and wearisome watchings, self-inflicted privations, for the good of her children. For the sake of their health, she willingly hazards, and even sacrifices, her own. For the sake of their education and advancement, she cheerfully gives up, not only luxuries, but comforts, and even necessaries. And when they have gone beyond her reach into the unseen world, their mortal remains are dear to her, and she will spare nothing that may honour them or prevent dishonour to them. Of such affection Rizpah is a signal instance.
V. IT IS MOST PERSISTENT. Through six months Rizpah continued watching day and night (with the aid, doubtless, of her servants) by the crosses on which the bodies of her sons and other relatives hung, that neither vulture, nor jackal, nor any other "bird of the air" or "beast of the field" might devour, or mangle, or even "rest on" them, until she had gained her point in their honourable burial. A striking example of the persistence of a mother's love. But this was only the crowning proof of her affection. A mother's love is lifelong. "A mother's truth keeps constant youth." It endures through years of toil, hardship, and suffering; when feebly responded to, or quite unappreciated, or requited by neglect, hardness, or cruel wrong. When son or daughter is utterly debased and degraded, the mother clings and hopes; when cast off by all the world, she does not abandon them.
"Years to a mother bring distress,
But do not make her love the less."
VI. IT IS SOMETIMES BROUGHT INTO NOTICE AND HONOURED. Thus it was with Rizpah. What she had done was reported to the king; it aroused his attention to his neglect to give honourable burial, in the family sepulchre, to the bones of Saul and Jonathan. He now repaired the neglect, and buried, not only them, but (as is implied) the remains of the seven which had so long been hanging exposed, "in the sepulchre of Kish his (Saul's) father." Thus a mother's love, in this case, exercised a powerful beneficial influence. Moreover, it received honourable mention in the holy records, and wherever the Bible comes, "there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her" (Matthew 26:13). And although usually the light of a mother's love shines chiefly in the privacy of home, and she neither asks nor expects applause or record, it is impossible that she can act a noble part without exercising an influence for good which may widen and ramify far more than she could have imagined, and may secure her an honour she never desired. And if no others, "her children arise up, and call her blessed" (Proverbs 31:28), and tell of her character and works to their children. In conclusion:
1. If human love be so deep and strong, what must be the love of God, from whom it springs, and of which it is one great sign and proof? All the love of all parents, of all human beings, flows from this original Fountain. The Fountain is greater than the streams.
2. Mothers should seek to have their love perfected, by being sanctified and elevated by the love of God, and directed supremely to the ends which he seeks - the moral, spiritual, and eternal welfare of their children. With this view, they should watch carefully their living children (as Rizpah her dead ones), and especially whilst they are young, that they may not be defiled or injured by foul bird or beast.
3. How strong and constant should be the love of children for their mothers! Prompting them to all that would gratify and honour them and promote their happiness; to self-denial and self-sacrifice for their good, should they live to need the help of their children; and to patience and forbearance towards them, should they, under the infirmities of old age, make demands on these virtues. "Despise not thy mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22).
4. How base the conduct of many children (especially of many sons) to their mothers! Selfishly wasting their resources, imposing on their credulity, abusing their indulgence, disgracing their name, breaking their hearts. "A foolish [wicked] son is the heaviness of his mother" (Proverbs 10:1). - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.