Summary: Sin is committed with consequences and must be addressed to be forgiven.
"Rizpah and the Rain"
We only have the essentials of the story. We are not given the details of Saul’s atrocities against the Gibeonites. Our only information comes from this passage. We gather that Saul imitated a zeal for God by an arrogant act of self-righteousness. The Gibeonites were surviving members of the old Amorite (or, Hivite) tribe. Joshua had sworn an oath not to annihilate them, but to allow them to remain in the land. (Josh. 9:23-27) They had lived peacefully with Israel, but Saul decided to rid the land of these non-Israeli’s.
Now, the rain refuses to fall. The crops fail. A famine is in the land. The nation is suffering from the severity of a three-year drought. Somewhere along the line David began to wonder if this famine was not the hand of God against Israel for some crime it had committed. So he prayed. As it turns out, his hunch was right. Even though Saul was dead by this time, his sins were still affecting the nation. One commentator wrote, "It was a case of national guilt and received at God’s hands a national punishment." (Gray’s, Bible CD, op)
There are some harsh lessons we glean from this touching story of Rizpah’s vigil over the bodies of her sons. But it also bears the message of hope and the power of an abiding love. This story shows the results of one person who made an impression in heaven and left her mark on the pages of God’s Word. (The story of Rizpah is A Story of Sins Remembered)
God Keeps Record of the Sins We Overlook
The story of Rizpah is evidence that God keeps record of the sins we overlook. Sins have to be punished or forgiven. Sins cannot be overlooked and forgotten. Someone has to pay for sins committed. That’s why Jesus came. A considerable portion of the Bible is dedicated to showing us that sin bears a price-tag.
Seasons have come and gone. Perhaps years have passed. But the passing of time nor the passing of Saul assuaged the anger of God against the sins he committed against a forgotten people.
I am not talking about sins for which we have been forgiven. I am talking about sins we’ve swept under the rug. We cannot sin and then go on as if we had not done anything. We can’t just hope they will go away and that no one will remember. If we’ve never apologized, never made an attempt at restitution, we can’t pretend it never happened. Maybe we’ve forgotten, but God hasn’t. Matthew Henry wrote nearly four-hundred years ago, "Time does not wear out the guilt of sin; nor can we build hopes of escape upon the delay of judgments. ... In vain do we expect mercy from God, unless we do justice upon our sins." (Bible CD, op)
We have to settle our accounts with regards to our sins. God is gracious and compassionate and forgiving. But to assume He will overlook unconfessed or unrepented sin is a grave error. Our sins will revisit us. They will find us out. There are preachers whose lives have been destroyed by a phone call, or knock at the door - some old sin catching up with them. I’m not talking about sins they had committed before they were saved, but sins of morality or integrity earlier in their ministry. It may be in the past, but it was never addressed. God brings those things off the back-burner to the front. It is clear from Scripture that we need to confess our sins and repent of them. We must settle them before the Lord if we ever hope to stop the cycle of sin.
When the story of Rizpah reached king David he went and buried their bones with those of Saul and Jonathan. The Bible says, After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land. (2 Sam. 21:14) It was only after Saul’s sins had been punished, and after the remains of these victims had been honored, that God again heard prayers for Israel.
Sins Affect More Than Those Commit Them
Rizpah’s tale reveals the sad truth that sins affect more than those who commit them. Wouldn’t it be nice if sin only affected only the one who committed it and no one else? Rizpah had done nothing wrong. Yet here she kept her vigil on a rock outside of Gibeah. Her sons had done no crime yet their bodies hung cursed, and decaying without the dignity of burial. Such an end may have been appropriate had they been guilty of the sins for which they died. But they, and the other five who died with them, were crucified for someone else’s sin. (Their father and grandfather.) Israel had not sinned directly in committing the murders of Saul against the Gibeonites. Yet a drought was imposed upon the whole nation. David had not committed these sins, but his kingdom was arrested by the consequences of his predecessor’s offenses before God. Even though the nation was ‘under new management’ it could not go forward until Saul’s sins had been dealt with.