Posts Tagged ‘endurance’

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Part 2 of 3)
David Avenges the Gibeonites

In this second blog on this passage, the thing that is the play within the play here is the woman and mother, Rizpah. There is so much richness to this character from the Bible. From her, we can learn much.

Before we proceed into Rizpah’s part in today’s passage, we need to understand the background of her story line. The Old Testament is often rich in continued storylines. Rizpah is one of those. The Bible is not just a collection of disjointed passages and books that have nothing to do with each other. In this case, 2 Samuel 21:1-14 is not the first time we have heard Rizpah’s name. Remember the last time she was mentioned in 2 Samuel?

Sometimes in life we get dealt a raw deal. That is certainly the case with Rizpah. it’s important that you realize that this incident in 2 Samuel 21 was not the first time Rizpah had become an innocent victim in a bigger battle that was out of her hands. I wonder do you ever feel like that? Something is going on in your life, and you’ve no control over it, and as far as you’re concerned it’s not your fault, and you class yourself a victim. Well Rizpah was in 2 Samuel 21, but if you turn with me now to 2 Samuel chapter 3, you will see the first time (as far as we know from the biblical record) that Rizpah suffered victimization from the selfish hands of others. In 2 Samuel 3:7, Ishobesheth accuses Abner, the general of Saul’s armies of having sexual relations with Rizpah, one of Saul’s concubines. There’s her name! It’s the same woman!

If anyone was to have sexual relations with one of the king’s women, whether it was the king’s wife or the king’s harem, such an act was understood in the customs of the ancient Middle Eastern cultures as an attempt to take the throne. So by taking his bride or by taking one of his concubines, you were saying that you were in authority and you wanted, or were taking the kingdom. Now what’s going on here in 2 Samuel 3 is that Saul has died, and Ishbosheth Saul’s son has now accused Abner of relations with Rizpah. He suspects that Abner’s toward the house of Saul is dissolving.

Now, Abner denies vigorously that he even laid a hand on Rizpah. If Abner’s loyalty was waning before, this incident causes pushes Abner over the edge. He immediately transfers his allegiance to David and brings the eleven tribes over with him. Now we don’t know from the Bible whether Abner was guilty of sleeping with Rizpah – but either way, it doesn’t really matter whether he did or whether he didn’t, who is the victim in this whole scenario? Rizpah. Regardless of whether the accusation was true or not, her reputation in the royal court of the house of Saul was now in tatters, and all at the expense of someone else’s squabble.

Before we even get to today’s scene in 2 Samuel 21, the biblical author gives us glimpse of Rizpah as a woman who was beset by tragedy that was out of her control. Her reputation ruined by an accusation that may or may not have been true. To make matters worse, Abner leaves her in the dust to go over to David’s side. She is left behind as a woman that is now considered a tainted woman by the royal court. Many feel like that in life. Now Rizpah suffers a second cruelty, for her two sons to King Saul are now hanging on a tree – Armoni is the name of one, and Mephibosheth the name of the other (and that is not Mephibosheth that was Jonathan’s son) – and they are both dead.

To add insult to injury, the fact of the gruesome death is not enough, they are not granted a proper burial – there they are left to hang in the open air, exposed to the elements. Did Rizpah’s deserve this? Had she done anything to warrant such treatment? She is suffering for the selfish sins of another. We see what those sins are, turn back with me to 2 Samuel 21 and verse 2 and we see that the cause of this bloodshed is because of the bloodthirsty house of Saul. The biblical author paints a portrait for us of Rizpah as one who was beset by tragedies that were not of her own making. The only other biblical character that I can think that had similar multiple tragedies that befell him or her that were out of their own control was Job.

Man, Rizpah is a hard luck woman. She has been given a raw deal in life. We probably know somebody like Rizpah in our own lives in the 21st century. If you pick up on this character in the biblical play that is 1 and 2 Samuel, she is a person that we can identify with, some can sympathize with and even some who can empathize with. We all know people like Rizpah. Maybe, we are a Rizpah. Maybe, you have gotten a raw deal in life. Many of us can blame our mistakes and bad decisions for our lot in life, but there are those who seem to be beset by tragedies (notice the plural of tragedy). Some of us seem to have tragedy befall us one after another.

What can we learn from Rizpah that we can use in our 21st century lives then? Let’s read the passage, 2 Samuel 21:1-14, now, and see how Rizpah handles this situation:

Chapter 21
1 There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord about it. And the Lord said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.”

2 So the king summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. The people of Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out. 3 David asked them, “What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s people again?”

4 “Well, money can’t settle this matter between us and the family of Saul,” the Gibeonites replied. “Neither can we demand the life of anyone in Israel.”

“What can I do then?” David asked. “Just tell me and I will do it for you.”

5 Then they replied, “It was Saul who planned to destroy us, to keep us from having any place at all in the territory of Israel. 6 So let seven of Saul’s sons be handed over to us, and we will execute them before the Lord at Gibeon, on the mountain of the Lord.[a]”

“All right,” the king said, “I will do it.” 7 The king spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth,[b] who was Saul’s grandson, because of the oath David and Jonathan had sworn before the Lord. 8 But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[c] the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. 9 The men of Gibeon executed them on the mountain before the Lord. So all seven of them died together at the beginning of the barley harvest.

10 Then Rizpah daughter of Aiah, the mother of two of the men, spread burlap on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented the scavenger birds from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. 11 When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, the people of Jabesh-gilead stole their bodies from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hung them.) 13 So David obtained the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed.

14 Then the king ordered that they bury the bones in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land.

In this passage, we see Rizpah’s deep love for her sons caused her to take sackcloth (symbol of sorrow), spread it on a rock and she kept a vigil day and night over the bodies of her sons, keeping the birds and animals from devouring their bodies. This watch could have lasted anywhere from three to six months. Could you imagine how she felt? Not only had her life been in tatters since the Abner incident but now she was forced to live with the sacrificial deaths of her sons because of the sinful actions of Saul. Their deaths though sacrificial were still the deaths of her sons. Her actions show us true devotion to God even in the face of a world that has come crashing down on her. Her love for her sons was unaffected by the tragedy. Her belief in their honor led to a proper burial. Her perseverance brought David to reconcile himself to the legacy of Saul. Her endurance shows that we sometimes cannot see what our faith in God will produce – we just trust Him regardless of circumstance. Even in this situation where there is no sense to her as to why this happened to her sons, she continues to have faith as demonstrated by her endurance in this effort.

Sure, you know this woman is heartbroken (if you have ever lost a child to premature death you can identify with her). Her two sons were dead way too soon. Our sons and daughters are supposed to bury us not the other way around. Others may think her way of dealing with her obvious grief was pretty wacko even for the time period involved here (the wackiness of her act by human standards is why the author of 2 Samuel chose to include this information). Sometimes, in grief, we must put one foot in front of the other day by day. Nothing else and nothing more. We deal with a sudden death in different ways. However, Rizpah in doing what she was doing was defending the honor of her sons. So, she was actually productively handling her grief.

She was there as an act of love and devotion. She was not permitted to move the bodies of her dead sons, but she could keep the buzzards and coyotes away! What a testimony to abiding love! It reaches past the boundaries of this life and extends beyond the grave. Death could not diminish her love. Though her boys were grown and dead, though their bodies were left hanging as a sign of contempt and condemnation, she still loved them.

The news of this reached David and he was so moved by Rizpah’s actions that he went personally and retrieved the bones of Saul and Jonathon and buried them, along with these seven men in the tomb of Saul’s father. Because of Rizpah, the saga of King Saul ends with an honorable burial, an act that perhaps symbolized David’s own reconciliation with the man who had persecuted him. Not only this, her actions also won, for her sons, an honorable burial, instead of their bodies hanging in disgrace and being devoured by wild animals. Here is a woman who was grieving deeply, yet she allowed her grief and love to motivate her to action, and her actions brought peace and reconciliation. After this, God is entreated for the land of Israel and the drought was lifted. Her actions were a catalyst for closure. They brought closure to the famine, closure to the feud between the house of Saul and the house of David and closure in her own life and loss. Rizpah was a healer, a reconciler. This is a mark of true love. Love always seeks peace, healing, and reconciliation.

I could go on and on about this woman in this passage. Her act here in this passage teaches us much. She is a woman dealing with something that we often have to deal with in life – a tragedy befalling us that is not of our own making and we are left to figure out how to deal with it. She shows us a productive handling of her grief. She shows us love and devotion. She shows us enduring faith that we sometimes have to have when dealing with loss. We just simply trust God that there is some purpose in our suffering – it may take a long time or a lifetime to figure it out, but we still trust. We keep going. We don’t give up. We keep moving. We keep trusting in the Lord as a conscience decision.

Just read and re-read this passage and soak in what Rizpah does and means here. Tomorrow we will look at the symbolic nature of what she is doing in this passage. For now, we close with…

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus Calms the Storm
Picture if you will a 12 year-old boy on a slalom water ski being pulled behind his father’s boat. Back in my pre-teen and teenage years, this was Saturdays in the Summer. My best friend from those years, Donnie Garrison, and I would ski any chance we got. Just find my Dad or Donnie’s Dad and get the boat on the water. We became really good at it. Not professional but really good. No two skis for us. It was slalom all the way. Man, could we get air when we jump the wakes. Time of your life, huh, kid? We would ski for hours on end every Saturday. And the best part was coming back to our beach cove at Donnie’s property which was our base of operations on Saturdays. When we would come back from a run, Daddy would drop each of us off so that we could show off coming for a landing and see if we could make to shore without stopping and just hop off on land. Then, the next guy. Afterwards, Donnie and I would argue over who had the best run and the best landing. Great times.

Man, those memories come flooding back in HD picture quality when you allow yourself to think about them. The reason I bring up those summers of skiing every weekend on Lake Hartwell is that it brings back one memory as clear as day. Picture, if you will, my Dad pulling us along for another Saturday on the lake. This time we all decided so see how long we could take it. From the Garrison’s cove near Stone Creek Cove on Lake Hartwell down to the Hartwell dam is about a 7 mile ride by boat. It we could make it there and back, we would have slalomed 14 miles. If you have ever water skied, you know how much pressure slaloming puts on your lower back so this was an endurance test. Picture if you will, as we get down to the dam and get as close as we can before the roped off area in front of the main part of the dam, we make the turn to head home. As we look north back toward where we came from, we see a storm cloud approaching of fierce proportions. Picture if you will racing back to our home cove some 7 miles away by water. Picture if you will the heavens opening up and lightning flashing everywhere. Picture my Dad flooring the boat motor to get back to our cove as fast as possible. If he stopped it would take 10 minutes to get me and my friend Donnie and I back into the boat, pick up the skis and the ropes, and then to get back up to full speed. We had no time. Lake Hartwell was white-capping because of the storm. I was a great slalom skier back then, but this was work to stay upright. Lake Hartwell was like an ocean that day…deep pits between waves, white caps, wind blowing hard. Rain was hitting me hard and felt like little bee stings all over the front of my body. Add to that, we were getting tired from the long run. There was pain along the way that made me wonder if I was going to make it back to our home shore, but through it all though I trusted my Dad to get me back to our cove so I could drop the rope and slide into shore for a perfect landing!

That leads us to our Scripture passage for today. Let’s read:

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

There are three striking features in this passage. The first is that Jesus was sleeping during this furious storm. Why was he sleeping? The second thing is that fear had taken hold of the disciples that they did not think that would make it back to shore so much so that they cried out to Jesus. Finally, it is striking too that Jesus with a few words or less spoke and calmed the storm. The Scripture passage demonstrates to us that we must have faith to fully experience the power of God through His son, Jesus Christ.

The first point that I mentioned was that Jesus was sleeping through the storm. How could he sleep through a furious storm? Well, first off, Jesus was tired. Likely tired as any minister is after busy day of preaching, counseling, meetings, etc. Jesus was living his life in a human body so he got tired and needed sleep like the rest of us. Yet, in the midst of a raging storm, he continued to sleep. In his very core, He knew that He was secure. He had faith in the Heavenly Father to guide his human life through the storm. As I mentioned earlier, about water skiing through a torrential downpour, I had faith that my Dad was leading me to safety. Same here. Jesus knew His Heavenly Father was going to take care of him. Jesus also knew that he had the power of God at his hand. Jesus was living what he preached. Serenity in the face of the storm. Do we react to storms in this way? Do we have the serenity to allow us to have peace and comfort through the storms of life? Don’t you think too that Jesus’ sleeping through the storm was to see how his disciples would handle it? Often storms of life are not of our own making. Often storms of life are forced upon us. Storms being forced upon us can be a factory shutdown where we lose our job by no fault of our own. Storms can be an unwanted divorce. Storms can be a husband’s or wife’s affair. Storms can be an unplanned pregnancy. Storms of life can be the unexpected death of a loved one or a close friend. Storms of life can take many shapes and forms in our lives. Can we handle it as Jesus taught us? Can we trust that God will guide us through the storm such that we can find rest, peace in the storm?

The second point that is interesting is that the disciples were distraught to the point of fearing for their lives. These guys had been hanging around with Jesus for a while at this point, but yet at the first sign of trouble they were just like the rest of us. They forgot what they had been taught and were ready to give up. In my earlier illustration, you know that I could have easily let go of the rope and let myself drop into the rough waters and wait for my Dad to swing around and come get me out of the water. In a sense that would have been like giving up on what my Dad was trying to do – get us back to our cove as quickly as possible. Isn’t that what the disciples are doing here? Their fear of the storm overcame them. Their fear overcame their faith. They had little faith that they were going to make it through the storm. They feared that their expectations were not going to be met. In their humanness, they wanted the boat. They wanted the calm waters. They wanted to reach the other shore dry and none the worse for wear. They had little faith that even if they were tossed into the water that there was purpose in it. They did not have faith that God would see them through the storm whether it was in the boat or not. They got so distraught that they came to Jesus and woke him and asked him to save them lest they drown. Jesus reminds them that they should have had faith in Him. He asks them “why are you so afraid?” In other words, in today’s language, “Yo dudes, why are you so afraid…you got me right here…You know I got your back.” Isn’t that the way it is with us. We shout and scream at the storm for upsetting our personal plan for the way things should be. We work ourselves through our own choices, our own dependence on ourselves, that we ultimately get to the point that we cannot control our world anymore. We cry out to Jesus to save us from the storm. Jesus was there all along. We know of his power. We ignore the power that faith in Him can give us but yet we focus on ourselves and work our lives into a frenzy of seeking our own solutions. What happens when we come to the realization and come to the back of the boat and ask Jesus to save us from our storms? He is immediately available. He has been there all along. Why do we ignore Him? Why can’t we, from the beginning, go sit with Jesus in the back of the boat and know that He is there. Knowing that He is there will calm the storm in us and help us weather the storms of our own making or the storms that are forced upon us by others.

The final point that is interesting here is that with a couple of words the storms go away immediately. Jesus, in some translations of the Word, says, “Peace. Be Still!” And the heavens dried up and the clouds dissipated immediately at his command. The waters became calm immediately. This passage reminds me that Jesus is the Son of God. He had the full power of God. The elements of the earth obey his commands as He is their Maker. The disciples were astonished that the storm went away in an instant. Apparently, there was no gradual dissipation of the storm as we are often used to with storms. He said those few words and BAM! The storm was gone as if it had never existed. If Jesus and the disciples had lived their human lives in today’s world, the disciples would have said, “Whooooaaaa! Dude, did you see what He just did. It was like…. Then, he said, “Chill out!, to the storm”…and then it was like….whoa!” This Scripture passage points out that Jesus was truly the Son of God. He has control of the elements. He can control any storm. This gives me great confidence in my Savior. He can help me through anything. He can calm the storm in my life or he can calm the storm in my soul. He is my source of strength. He is my defender and my shield. As Philippians 4:12 says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation!” I know that no matter what situation or season of life that I find myself in, God is right there. He is in my boat. He leads me into the situations I need to be in. He leads me to greater dependence on Him when I trust Him. Just as I trusted my Dad to lead me back to our cove on Lake Hartwell without question. I knew my Dad was doing the right thing for me. I trusted that. When we trust God with the very fabric of our lives, He will lead us to where we need to be. He will bless us for having depended on Him. He will show us a happiness and joy we’ve never known on a human scale. Just as the disciples were in awe of His control of the physical elements of the world, we will be in awe of the changes that he will wrought in our lives.

Do you have the faith? Can you trust in Him? Can you let go of your control of your life? Can you give it all over to Him…not just the parts that are convenient to give up? Can you give it ALL up to him? Can we trust God with everything, every aspect of our lives? Our marriage? Our children? Our jobs? Our money? Our time, talents, and resources? Sure, God does not want us to ignore the storms of life. He gave us brains to plan and execute. In prayer, we seek His guidance on how to plan and execute, but bottom line is that we must learn to depend on Him for the way through the storm. Bottom line is that He will teach us things that we need to know in the storms. Bottom line is that in the storms we learn dependence on Him. How freeing is it when we trust in the Lord totally and completely. There is joy that comes from that. There is peace that comes from that. He’s always right there in the boat with us, guiding us, directing us, toward the safe shores of home. He’s got this! Let us trust that! Let us know that! Let us live that!

Amen and Amen.