RIZPAH, A MOTHER WHO STOOD HER GROUND
TEXT: 2 Samuel 21:10
2 Samuel 21:10 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.
I. INTRODUCTION—THE BALTIMORE MOTHER WHO WAS VIGILANT
On April 28, 2015 when the riots in Baltimore, Maryland were still in action over the Freddie Gray situation, one mother set herself apart from a host of others because she decided to stand her ground. Her sixteen year old son was in a crowd of rioters throwing rocks at the Baltimore police. Toya Graham ran up when she recognized her son and jerked him by the arm and physically removed him from the rock throwers. She jerked him by the arm all the while giving him open-handed slaps to his head. Her challenge was that he had on a hoodie and a facemask to hide his identity. She ended up running him across an area of 25-30 yards all the while pulling his hoodie off, snatching the facemask off, cuffing him about the ears and giving him a tongue-lashing that only a mother could give to a wayward son. What Toya Graham did not know was that someone was videoing the whole affair on an iPhone and it got uploaded to YouTube and the video went viral. Several news agencies picked it up and in a little more than a day, it was covered by all of the major networks.
She downplayed her role a bit and said she was just being a parent and was very frustrated and embarrassed that her son would even be involved in rioting against the police in Baltimore. During several of the interviews she expressed the need for her to be a strong disciplinarian in her home because she was a single parent. Later her son was interviewed and he admitted that he should not have been involved and that he was now thankful that his mother had embarrassed him in front of the world because she wanted to protect him from the bad influences he had gotten caught up with.
-She was a mother who was willing to stand her ground. While there is no way to know all the dynamics about that situation we can be safe to say that more mothers ought to be willing to do what she did to discipline their children.
Anonymous—An ounce of mother is worth a pound of preacher.
II. THE BACKGROUND OF THE TEXT
A. Tragedies In the Bible
-This story is one of the tragedies in the Bible. While it is not one that we often think of when we think of tragedies in the Bible, it fits into the category of them. When I think of tragedies from the pages of the Word, my mind generally is drawn to those men or women who made poor choices over spiritual matters.
• Balaam—Wished for God’s approval AND Balak’s money (Numbers 23:10)
• Ananias—Wished for God’s approval AND the church’s approval with his lies (Acts 5:3-5)
• Simon Magus—Wished for God’s power AND his own ability to buy it (Acts 8:19)
• Diotrephes—Wished for God’s power AND to control the church (3 John 9)
• Demas—Wished for Paul’s brotherhood AND longed to love the world (2 Tim. 4:10)
• The Foolish Builder—Wished for earthly security on a shaky foundation AND spiritual success (Matt. 7:26)
-All of these situations turned out bad because they made poor choices. Rizpah’s situation had a bit of a different twist on it.
B. Saul and the Gibeonites
-2 Samuel 21 gives us some details concerning the background of Rizpah’s life. On this hill seven young men have been hanged by the Gibeonites because of what their father had been involved in.
-David is now the king and there has been a famine which is leading to great problems for Israel. David inquires of the Lord as to why they are having these problems. The Lord answers and tells him because of Saul’s murder of the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1).
-A covenant had been made 400 years earlier in the times of Joshua. Without spiritual guidance, Joshua makes an alliance with the Gibeonites who had disguised themselves as foreigners. For Israel to break that covenant it would have been a very serious offense (Numbers 30:1-2). Joshua knew that and would not break it (Josh. 9:18-21).
-So when Saul comes along, he makes a determination that he will massacre them and that is what he did. Once the Lord brings this to David’s attention, he sets about to make right what had been done wrong.
-The Gibeonites do not want money, release from servitude as drawers of water and hewers of timber, but they do want a measure of vengeance. Some scholars believe that these young men had been involved in the murder of their (Gibeonites) kin and therefore wanted them to be brought to justice.
-David gave his word that he would do so. I realize that this is a Mother’s Day message but those boys found themselves in their plight because they had bad daddies and granddaddies. We have incredible responsibilities as parents in our days!
-So Saul’s two sons and five grandsons are hung as the Bible notes. That word for “hanged” (2 Samuel 21:9) can also be rendered as “impaled.” It very well could have been that these men were impaled on some sharp poles and left to die over a period of days.
-Merab was the actual mother of the grandsons but when she died, Michal (Saul’s childless daughter/David’s wife) took over their care. Rizpah comes into the picture because she is one of Saul’s concubines.
-These boys were executed at the beginning of the barley harvest which would have been late April or early May. It would be around October before the harvest came. It would have been in the peak of the summer heat that Rizpah was out there protecting these corpses. There is some speculation that she would have been in her sixties when she was doing this.
-But there was something deep down that motivated her. So sitting in a small tent of sackcloth out among the rocks, the jackals, the hyenas, the snakes, and the vultures, she forms her guard post.
-If you even allow your imagination to even briefly run in the direction of that forsaken outpost, it is enough to elicit some strong feelings.
• Those bodies impaled on those posts beginning to swell and turn green to blue to black.
• The awful stench that the winds could not blow away.
• The sight and sounds of a blizzard of flies buzzing about.
• During the day, the fight with buzzards and vultures.
• During the night, the wild packs of dogs and hyenas roving about looking for food in the famine.
-You can imagine the exhaustion that plagued her aged body and the stigma she felt from the rest of Israel as it dawned on them that her children were the symbol of why God was judging Israel with a three-year famine.
-She was probably shunned like an outcast. Imagine the disgrace, the depression, and the darkness of her life during that six months. But there was an end she had in mind and that was that these men would be taken down and given a proper burial.
III. PREACHING POINTS FROM THE STORY
-There are some lessons to be drawn out of this terrible story that prove to us that even in the most difficult of situations, if a mother will stand her ground, God has something in store for her.
A. Her Status in Life Did Not Preserve Her from Trouble
-One of the things about Rizpah that has to be understood is that her status in life did not preserve her from trouble.
• She had been one of Saul’s favorites.
• She had the looks that had caught the king.
• She had enjoyed the fortunes the palace had brought.
• She had pride in knowing that her sons were princes.
-But life can turn on a dime and suddenly, all of the blessing, the looks, the attention, and the love can disappear. Then a mother can find herself fighting on a ledge all alone with very little resources around her.
-The only inspiration that she may find sometimes is that deep down inside she knows that she is doing what is right. Just because she was attached to royalty did not make her free of trouble. There are some other examples of that kind of thing in the Bible.
• Vashti has to leave her royal trappings and be vanquished to the life of the common.
• Hagar has to leave her soft comforts of a rich home to be pushed into the wilderness of Beersheba.
• Rizpah has to leave her small home of peace and quiet and be thrust into a boiling wilderness of survival.
-All mothers have probably felt like that some time or another in their efforts of trying to raise their children. You have known the bliss, the wonder, and the innocence of the Christmas plays and now to be shocked by the pain that comes when children grow up.
-None are safe from trouble. . . But you do need to know that it is in these kinds of places and conditions that God will show up.
• Jacob has his head on a hard stone and experiences a shining ladder to heaven.
• John on barren Patmos heard the trumpets, the clapping of wings, and angelic voices thundering to him out of the presence of God.
• Now Rizpah among the wild birds and night things. . . but you cannot stop the purpose of God no matter where you are!
-The greatest triumphs of grace that women have ever know has come to them when they are hard-pressed, betrayed, and almost crushed.
-Every mother among us ought to take heart and stand your ground!
B. The Courage of a Woman Who Is In Dire Straits
-But if her status in life did not preserve her. . . we can see a courage of a woman who is in dire straits.
-God has so arranged it in His grace that when a mother is challenged especially when it comes to her children, there is a courage that is other-worldly.
• Deborah was like that when she puts terror into the heart of Sisera and his army.
• Abigail was like that when she threw herself between a raiding party of infuriated men and her fool of a husband’s vineyards.
• Rizpah stands her ground and fights with the elements.
-But this kind of courage is not merely limited to the Bible but the hall of history is filled with great women who had the right kind of courage at just the right time.
• Clara Barton establishing the Red Cross.
• Florence Nightingale building the nursing profession.
• Susan B. Anthony fought against slavery.
• Helen Keller became a symbol for those who fought against disabilities and handicaps.
• Harriet Tubman helped to establish the Underground Railroad that led to the freedom of slaves trapped in the south.
-But here is where it needs to come home much closer to us. . . We pass women like that in this church on a regular basis. There are women here with courage that surpasses what I have preached about her in the last little few minutes. Common courage often gets lost in the routines of life and it is only after we have the time to sit back and evaluate matters that we are aware that we have walked with the courageous.
I can remember a woman that Brother Harrell talked about that was a saint in Life Tabernacle many years ago when Brother James Kilgore was still the pastor. By some horrible condition of health, this woman’s husband had died at the height of his life. This was in the days before too many women were working outside of the home. This woman had to get a job in Houston and because she did not have a car, she had to walk to the Metro bus stop and get on a bus at 4 o’clock in the morning. She had to train her children to be able to get themselves up and get ready for school alone. She literally became a hero in that church because of the conditions that life had thrust on to her. One day Brother Kilgore asked her how she managed to do it all and get on that bus in the dark at 4 o’clock in the morning. Her reply what that God had granted her 4 o’clock in the morning courage!
-If you are a mother, I feel certain that you can look around at the conditions of this world and wonder how in the name of God you are going to preserve your children amidst the vultures, the jackals, and the hyenas of our culture. . . I can tell you. . . Through a touch of 4 o’clock in the morning courage that will be supplied by the Holy Ghost!
C. The Strength of a Mother’s Love
-So if Rizpah’s status in life could not preserve her from trouble and she leaned on courage when she was in dire straits. . . there is one last matter that buoyed her to the top of the storm. . . the strength of a mother’s love.
-We can never underestimate the power of a mother’s love. I doubt that there would be very many men who would that would have had the courage and the endurance to do what Rizpah did. She did it because there was something far greater motivating her than what met the eye.
-The strength of a mother’s love is what carried her through it all. The love of a mother will put her in places that the world wonders at. She will defend her children at the end no matter what they have done to disappoint and alarm every soul they have ever been around.
IV. CONCLUSION—HER WILDERNESS CHANGES TO A THRONE
-In the end, David found out about Rizpah’s devotion and gave the men a proper burial. All of this took place because a mother stood her ground. Because she stood her ground, her wilderness became a throne of honor for her.
-It honors a host of things that every mother needs in our generation:
-Every mother in this place needs to make a determination and commitment that they will stand their ground no matter what takes place!
May 8, 2015