A WOMAN OF EXTRAORDINARY
STRENGTH AND RESOLVE
In part I we described the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Rizpah’s two sons at the hands of the Gibeonites. We left them hanging on gallows above a rock in the mountains. (II Samuel 21: 1-15) A plan had fomented in the mind of Rizpah that, followed to its conclusion, would not bring these young men back to life, but at least would remove the shame of their deaths.
And so, Rizpah went to the field to join the ghastly sight and protect the bodies no matter what it cost her. As stated in part I, they were just pawns of the Gibeonites, and once they were hanged they weren’t given a second thought. This dehumanizing action was tantamount to breaking God’s laws and was unthinkable to Rizpah.
So, Rizpah had to put her own grieving on hold in order to protect the dignity of her sons. And, as Scriptures tell us, she spread sackcloth, the cloth of mourning in her culture, on the rock and made a public humiliation of herself to defend her loved ones and she was determined to remain there until the drought was over and she could get some assistance in giving them a proper burial. She knew that nothing would be done until the famine was over.
One woman told me recently that she considered the scene of this grief-stricken mother with these seven bodies, the second most ghastly scene in the entire Bible; second only to the crucifixion of Christ.
Think of it, she literally watched the bodies of her precious boys shrivel and decay in death before her very eyes. Most likely she kept a small fire burning at night, protecting herself from the chill off the mountain, and perhaps a lighted torch ready when a wild animal would prowl too close, drawn by the stench of the decaying bodies. Perhaps she huddled under the sackcloth during the daytime hours to protect herself from the scorching sun. Sleep, of necessity, was broken – awakening at the first sound of an animal.
We aren’t told how she obtained food and water. I’d like to think that some family member or close friend provided it for her. One thing for certain, she didn’t pick up a cell phone and call for delivery from a local grocery store! Her neighbors as well as the Gibeonites must have thought her mad. I don’t think it out of the realm of possibility that she was mocked and verbally abused. Yet, she didn’t budge from her vigil. Her soul was occupied with the single goal of saving her children from this final disgrace and complete disregard for God’s law.
One month passed, then two, three, four. The bodies now were almost skeletons, but Rizpah continued to guard them. Finally, after almost six months, according to most sources, the rains came and someone reminded David about these seven corpses and of Rizpah. David, perhaps shocked about this, did the honorable thing and had these bones buried with those of King Saul and his son Jonathan.
Rizpah’s actions had done more than just assure dignity in death for Saul’s sons. Her persistent courage gave meaning to her sons’ deaths and helped the nation of Israel deal with the sin of its leader, King Saul.
“What is her legacy to me?” you might be asking. First off, her firm resolve in the face of considerable odds is a lesson for the widow when life gets messy and she wants to give up on life. Have you had days when you would rather not get out of bed? Death has a way of taking some of the life out of the survivor too, doesn’t it? Psalm 73:26 say, My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Rizpah could do nothing to stop the deaths of her sons any more than you could prevent the death of your spouse, but even in the midst of your pain, you can, in God’s strength, move out and offer assistance to others.
Second, Rizpah is an example of one way to deal with grief. In her I see a woman who really didn’t have anything to give except her grief and suffering. Unbeknown to her, she used that to bring about the healing of her country. Widows through the ages have found that in helping others, they help themselves to heal. Rizpah’s experience is proof positive of Romans 8:28 that in all things, no matter how great the tragedy, no matter how deep the pain, God can work through it.
Rizpah did what she must do. She gave. Giving unlocks one’s heart to God’s comfort and His plans for their lives after tragedy and grief have done their worst. God wants to use even your pain as a catalyst in your life to reach out to others, righting wrongs, and fulfilling God’s plan for your life.
Thank you Shari for a very powerful story of Rizpah
God bless you my friend!
This beautiful song "But God" sung by Gilead Taylor, described the only one she needed to help her sons was God. I believe the "someone" that reminded David about the corpses was sent by God to answer this widow's prayer to give meaning to her sons' deaths and helped the nation of Israel deal with the sin of its leader, King Saul.