The Power of Unconditional Love - 2 Samuel 21
The influence of a Mother
A mother who was also a doctor, had a four-year-old daughter. On the way to preschool, she had left her stethoscope on the car seat, and her little girl picked it up and began playing with it. The mother thought of how wonderful it would be if her child would follow in her footsteps. She was humbled by the thought that her influence in her daughters life may play such and deciding role. She watched in the mirror as the little girl put the stetescope in her ears and she listened closely as the child spoke into the other end. To her amazement she heard the little girls say, “Welcome to McDonald's. - May I take you order?”
This is Mother’s day and we are going to be talking about a Mother’s influence but it will have nothing to do with a big mac or fries. Turn to 2 Samuel 21.
The stories in 2 Samuel 21-24 aren’t set in the chronological timeline of the rest of the writing of Samuel, the prophet and judge of Israel. It seems they were stories and psalms that were gathered together and included because they were too important to forget but outside the main flow of the lives of Samuel, Saul and David. One of those stories is about a mother’s unconditional, enduring love. It is her example we will look at today.
The Power of One Man’s Sin
2 Samuel 21:1-9 Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.) Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD? And the Gibeonites said unto him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel. And he said, What ye shall say, that will I do for you. And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel, Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD did choose. And the king said, I will give them. But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD'S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite: And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.
We are not told when this famine takes place, only in the times of David as King. The famine raged for 3 years, no rain or at least not enough rain to grow crops to feed the people of Israel. One year could have been a normal dry year, two years even was not out of the ordinary, but now it had been three and that meant it was probable that God had stopped the rain for a reason.
David enquired of the Lord, usually in the days of David that meant going to the High Priest, who would pray and seek God through the office of the high priest. God’s answer came back, “It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.”
Saul had been the first king of Israel, chosen by God and supported by the people. Saul who had begun his reign in humility and righteousness but had ended it in rebellion and madness. Saul was the reason for the famine.
Saul had broken the covenant with the Gibeonites and in consequence and years later, God had sent a famine upon the land in the days of David. The Gibeonites were an interesting people, they had saved themselves and their land by fooling Joshua into believing they were from a far nation and not just a few miles away living in fear of the Israeli invading force. Their cleverness produced a covenant that saved their lives, but they were made into servants of the nations, supplying all that was needed for the Tabernacle services. Saul broke that covenant and according to the Gibeonites tried to completely wipe them out as a people. Saul wanted to bring about the genocide of all the Gibeonites. We are not told when this happened or exactly why. It was certainly not from God, it may have been a misplaced zeal on Saul’s part or it may have been greed as the Gibeonites dwelt only a few miles away from Saul’s home and it may be that he desired their land for himself or for his followers. Whatever the reason the covenant had been broken and now the consequences of that sin were being felt in the nation.
David, once he hears the answer goes to the Gibeonites and asks them, vs 3 “What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD?” They do not want any of Saul’s gold, nor do they want any people of Israel to die, instead they ask that vs. 6 Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul. And the king said, I will give them.
They chose 7 sons of Saul, the number 7 being significant as a symbol of completeness, perfection or of something finished. They could be using these deaths as the finish of the house of Saul or as the finish of the offense and thus the famine, that was affecting them as well.
So seven sons of Saul were chosen, two from Rizpah and five grandsons from his daughter, Marab. Grandsons who had been brought up by David’s own wife Michal, who David had separated from himself and had no children of her own. Seven men who probably had nothing to do with the slaughter of the Gibeonites but now were paying the ultimate price for the sin of their father.
Consequences of Sin
It seems unfair to us that these seven had to die, for something they did not do. And it should seem unfair to you because it is unfair, terribly unfair. Do you know why it happened, why it is so unfair and unjustified? Because it is the product of sin. Saul’s sin as king and as a father and even as a grandfather, planted the seeds of destruction that on this day brought about the death of those, he never intended to hurt.
God had warned His Old Testament people of the consequences of sin.
Exodus_20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
And he warns us His New Testament people of that same danger.
Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Sin does not just affect my life. Sin like weeds planted in a garden don’t all come up in a single season. Parents, grandparents be very careful what you are doing with you life because evil is not content to just destroy your life, it wants your children and your grandchildren. Unless the Lord intervenes, sin will continue in its destructiveness generation after generation after generation.
Illustration: Our Nation Today is proof
The Power of One Mother’s Love
2 Samuel 21:10 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.
The Power of Rizpah’s Watch
Rizpah is an old woman now, at a time in her life when she should be taken care of by her sons, her mother’s heart calls her to act. Her sons are executed by the Gibeonites and their bodies hanged as a reminder of Saul’s sin and its terrible price to them and to a nation. We read the word hanged and picture them hung by ropes from a scaffold, but that form of capital punishment was not used at this time in Israel. Instead because they “fell together,” they were probably thrown from a cliff. Then their bodies were put on display.
Now comes aged Rizpah. The Bible says she “took sackcloth and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped.” What was easily understood in David’s time we might miss. Rizpah made herself a tent on a rock where she was near the bodies of her sons and her nephews and for the next 4 to 6 months she lived in that tent and drove away the scavengers that would have come and defiled their bodies.
Not just a day or even a few days, but months. The harvest referred to is the barley harvest and it is the first in the late spring or summer and the rain they hoped would fall was expected in the early fall of the year around October. Rizpah’s watch would not end until those rains fell once more showing that God had accepted the punishment and healed the land.
Can you imagine what her life was life for those months? Living in a tent, waking at all hours to drive away the vultures, the foxes or other animals that would come and steal the bones of her family. Can you see her running from the tent with a torch in her hand, yelling and swing the fire to drive away some unknown creature before it defiled the bodies of her dead loved ones? What love, what unconditional love. She does not rail against the unfair punishment, it was nothing she could change but her mother’s love could still do something and so she came and stayed and watched for all those long months to prepare for the day when the Lord would forgive and the bodies could be buried. She did not quit until that day came.
The Power of a Mother’s Love
I don’t have to tell you that I have experienced that some power. I would not be a Christian, I would not be a Pastor if it had not been for my mother’s love. A love for me that was driven by her love of God. It was my mother’s dedication to us as children and to the house of God that kept us from the consequences of my Father’s alcoholism. It was her overcoming no matter the unfairness of life that taught us to never give up. It was her willingness to take any job in order to feed and clothe her children that kept us from the extreme poverty that we often saw around us.
My mother didn’t literally stand guard for months over our bodies with a torch, but she did stand guard over us for years and guarded our souls with the love of God. My mother and all mother’s have a touch of the spirit of Rizpah when it comes to their children and that love comes directly from God and is strengthened and amplified in the heart of a Christian mother. Mother’s like that influence their children and that influence never ends.
Paul spoke of this love and influence in the life of
Timothy, his son in the faith.
2 Timothy 1:5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
Illustration: WP Mackay
William P. Mackay, was born in the year 1839.
At the age of 17, he left for college. His mother was a very godly Christian woman, who didn't want him to go, for fear that he was heading down a path of destruction.
But she turned him over to the Lord, and let him go on his way. Before his departure, she gave him a Bible to take with him, and in the fly-leaf of the Bible, she wrote his name, her name and a Bible verse. The young man left for college and then went on to the university medical school but he began to travel with the wrong crowd. And one day, in a drunken spree, he pawned the Bible that his mother had given him for money to buy more liquor.
He wandered far away from what he had been taught at home. Yet, at the same time, the young Scotsman went on to become a very successful doctor, rising to the head of the largest hospital in Edinburgh. Forsaking his upbringing, he became a committed infidel, and was even elected president of a society of atheists in the city.
One day, an accident victim came into his hospital and was under Dr. Mackay's care. The patient, learning that he only had a few hours to live, asked Dr. Mackay, "Will you please send for my landlady, and ask her to send me the Book?" The doctor agreed, and within a few hours the landlady arrived with "the Book." It was the dying patient's Bible.
Within a short time, the patient died. Dr. Mackay was curious as to what kind of book the patient wanted. He asked the nurse, "What about the book that he asked for? Was it is his bank book or date book?" The nurse replied, "No, it was neither of those. It is still under his pillow. Go look."
The doctor reached under the pillow and pulled out "the Book." When he opened it, his eyes fell immediately upon the front flyleaf. To his amazement-- it was the very Bible he had received from his mother that he had pawned years before. He saw his name, his mother's name and the Bible verse she inscribed.
The Power of One Monarch’s Memory
1 Samuel 21: 11-14 And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa: And he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged. And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulchre of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was intreated for the land.
David Is Moved By Rizpah’s Love
When David heard about Rizpah it reminded him of Saul and his own close friend Saul’s son, Jonathan. He was moved when he remembered, to do something that truly showed the healing and forgiveness of God. He went to the place where Saul’s bones and the bones of Jonathan were kept and he gathered them up and then he went to where Rizpah was still guarding the bodies, now also bones of her family. He took those dried bones, all that was left of the power and heritage of Saul and took them home to the ancestral burial place of Kish the father of Saul. Then the Bible says, vs. 14 “God was intreated for the land.”
Sin was punished when the sons of Saul were killed but forgiveness did not happen until the King was moved by a mother’s love.
God Is Moved by Jesus Love
I see in Rizpah a picture of the love of all good mothers but I also see another picture greater than the events that played out between the Gibeonites and Saul. I see in Rizpah a picture of the love that brings forgiveness. Sin can be punished and it will be punished but forgiveness only occurs when love is put in action.
Isn’t this what we see in the story of our own soul’s. Our sin had a price to pay. Sin had brought upon our soul the consequences of the God’s wrath and judgment.
The Bible says in Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
In Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death.
Sin must be punished, my sin must be punished, but love, God’s love must also act. And it acted in Jesus Christ God’s own son who took upon himself the punishment of my sin, bearing it on the cross, His precious, sinless body hung before all the world to show the terrible consequence of sin.
2 Corinthian 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
As Rizpah’s love guarded the bodies of her family, the love of Jesus guards our souls from the defilement of hell and sin.
Romans 5: 6-9 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Do you know that love?
Rizpah’s story is but a shallow and faded mirror of love when compared to the love of Jesus. Yes we see it there but not in its full glory, not in its full eternal power. If you felt a mother’s love then you have a glimpse of God’s love, but it is only a glimpse and you will never fully know what love can be unless you accept the gift of love from the one who hung on a cross for our sin.
A mother’s memory never fades but there comes a time when her love will no longer be there, but if you know the love of God, you will know love for all eternity. If you were blessed with a Christian Mother’s love, then know this also, when the time comes and the love is gone because God has called her home, there is only one way to experience it again and that is through the love of God, in Jesus Christ.
My mother is still with us and we are so grateful, but there are so many others who are waiting for us and I will know their love again one day, because they knew the love of God and shared it with me.
End of William P Mackay’s story
Remember the story of William Mackay, let me finish it now. Mackay found the Bible he had so callously pawned, decades before and so he was overwhelmed, that he slipped the dead man’s Bible under his doctors coat and rushed back to his office. He looked again at the front leaf with his mothers name and the verse she had written all those years ago, the Bible and that verse were her hope, her prayer and her promise for her son. In a near state of shock, he read the verse written in his mother’s hand, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” It was then and there, that the lost son, who had become an infidel, an atheist and a famous doctor, fell to his knees and prayed that God would have mercy, forgive his sin and save him.
You might wonder how we in 2020 would know of the story of Mackay’s mother and salvation way back in the 1850’s. You see God didn’t stop with just saving WP Mackay, he called him to preach and this respected well paid doctor the head of his own hospital gave up using medicine to heal bodies to become a pastor using the Gospel to heal souls. He shared the story of his mother’s Bible in his testimony many times. God also uses Mackay to write songs. He wrote many but one we still know and sing today. Its words reflect that love we have been talking about today.
Revive Us Again
We praise Thee, O God!
For the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus Who died,
And is now gone above.
We praise Thee, O God!
For Thy Spirit of light,
Who hath shown us our Savior,
And scattered our night.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
Revive us again.