A Mothers Love
2 Samuel 21:1-14
Back in 2000 when I started preaching, it was assumed that on Mothers Day you were going to preach about being a mom from Proverbs 31. And then around 2008 some of my friends who are preachers began to avoid the topic. They explained, while this is a day of celebration from some, it is also a day of pain for others. I totally get that, I know that there are some who will be here today or watching online who are living in the midst of pain because today reminds you that your mom is no longer here. There are others who are struggling because all they have ever wanted was to hold their own bundle of joy.
I also appreciate that there are those today who are mom’s, who one day want to be a mom, and who had a mom. I believe that Mothers Day fulfills a Biblical mandate, “Give honor to whom honor is due.” So today I just want to acknowledge the mom’s in our worship this morning, but I don’t want to tell you a bunch of cute little stories that are so sweet you go into a diabetic coma, or go to the opposite extreme, and tell a mom how to do her job.
I figured the best use of our time would be to look at an obscure verse from the Old Testament. I think if you will give me a few minutes that you will understand why I picked this passage. But first let me read a passage from one of my favorite writers, Erma Bombeck:
For the first 4 or 5 years after I had children, I considered motherhood a temporary condition, not a calling. It was a time of my life set aside for exhaustion and long hours. It would pass. Then one afternoon, with 3 kids in tow, I came out of a supermarket pushing a cart (with four wheels that went in opposite directions) when my toddler son got away from me. Just outside the door, he ran toward a machine holding bubble gum in a glass dome. In a voice that shattered glass he shouted, "Gimme! Gimme!" I told him I would give him what for if he didn’t stop shouting and get in the car.
As I physically tried to pry his body from around the bubble gum machine, he pulled the entire thing over. Glass and balls of bubble gum went all over the parking lot. We had now attracted a sizable crowd. I told him he would never see a cartoon as long as he lived, and if he didn’t control his temper, he was going to be making license plates for the state. He tried to stifle his sobs as he looked around at the staring crowd. Then he did something that I was to remember for the rest of my life. In his helpless quest for comfort, he turned to the only one he trusted his emotions with, me. He threw his arms around my knees and held on for dear life.
I had humiliated him, chastised him, and berated him, but I was still all he had. That single incident defined my role. I was a major force in this child’s life. Sometimes we forget how important stability is to a child. I’ve always told mine, "The easiest part of being a mother is giving birth.... the hardest part is showing up for it each day..."
This morning over breakfast or sometime this afternoon children all across our nation will try to say thank you for all the spit used to wash dirty faces, all the old gum that was held in your hands, all the noses that were wiped, and all the bloody knees that were "made well" with a kiss.
Today we try to honor those who washed all those sheets in the middle of the night, got out of bed at 3 in the morning to drive across town to pick us up at a friend’s house because we had a belly ache, and enduring all the football games in the rain.
Today we say thank you for making us finish something we said we couldn’t do, not believing us when we said, I hate you, and sharing their good times and their bad times. In short we are trying to say thank you for showing up.
Our text this morning will be found in 2 Samuel 21, but before we read the text let’s get a little background. The Mother in our text is Rizpah, and she was one of Saul’s concubines. Now basically a concubine fulfills the role of a wife, but she came into the marriage without a dowry which placed her on a lower tier. She had two sons through her husband King Saul and by the time we get to our text Saul has been killed and David now sits on the throne as King.
The kingdom is in crisis because there is a famine in the land that is in its third year. Finally, David approaches the Lord to ask why are they being judged and the Lord reveals that the Famine is “because there is blood on Saul and his house, from the time he massacred the Gibeonites.”
Let me explain a bit; Joshua had made a treaty with the Gibeonites, shortly after Israel had entered the Promised Land and defeated Jericho. The treaty stated Israel would always protect the Gibeonites, but 400 years later King Saul breaks the covenant. You might remember that towards the end of his life Saul was overcome with pride, self will and ungodly desires. In an act of disobedience he broke the treaty and attempted to annihilate the Gibionites.
So David called the Gibeonites to His throne room, and asked them what he could do to make amends for what Saul had done. And what they asked for was for seven of Saul’s decedents to be delivered to them, so they could kill them and disgrace the house of Saul. The seven men slain for Saul’s offence against the Gibeonites included Rizpah’s two sons.
With the background in view now let’s get to our text: Read 2 Samuel 21:9-14
What a great passage, that I am sure you are wondering what this text has to do with Mothers. While you know me well enough to know I love old testament passages, you are probably concerned as to why I would pick this passage as our text on a day set aside to honor women who show up to fix what was broken. Well I guess in my mind I see in Rizpah a woman who stands as a Godly example of what a mother is. Let me show you what I mean:
First in Rizpah I see a woman who loved her children.
It was her love for her sons that drove Rizpah to that hill. Verse 10 shows one of the most touching narratives in the Bible. A woman holding a solitary vigil over the bodies of her two sons.
The death of these boys left her a childless widow, a terribly vulnerable position for women in ancient times. Yet, rather than mourn for herself, she set out to guard the remains of her two sons. There was nothing she could do to save them at this point, but her love for them drove her to try and do what little she could to save them from the ultimate disgrace, eaten by animals with no chance for a proper burial. As we see later in the text her love for her sons at least allowed them to have some dignity in their death.
According to Deuteronomy 28, it was a curse to be put to death this way. These men were not supposed to be buried, the law stated, Your corpses will be food for all the scavenging birds and wild animals, and no one will be there to chase them away. (verse 26) But love drove Rizpah’s determination that her sons were going to have an honorable burial.
There is a message here brighter than the gloom of this tragedy. The great theme underlying this story is the depth of a mother’s love. She was not allowed to move the bodies of her sons, but she could keep the buzzards and jackals away. She watched her sons under the scorching sun by day and watched her sons among the sounds of the night protecting them until they could have decent burial. Any mother can surely understand the emotions that drove Rizpah to protect her children even in death.
Mothers tend to have a all consuming love for their children. No matter what they do, no matter how far the fall a mother is always willing to love them and see the best in them. Rizpah’s sons were executed as criminals, yet she still loved them. I believe that this aspect of a mother’s love leads us to know and understand a bit of our Fathers love for us.
While a mother may not approve of what their children are doing, her love is always there. In very much that same way that we see that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to die for us when we were still sinners. God hates our sin but He loves us.
Secondly in Rizpah we see a woman that was determined to protect her Children.
The text says that from the beginning of the harvest until the rains poured Rizpah protected her children. If I have my numbers right that was a span of 6 months. This devoted mother each day with the sun shining and the heat rising, fought off the birds that came to feed on the bodies of her sons, and night time was a time for rest from only the heat of the sun, because every night for 6 months this devoted mother fought off the wild animals that came to devour the bodies of her dead sons.
She would not give up. She never left their sides. She was there night and day. She couldn’t give them a decent burial but she could keep the buzzards away. She couldn’t change the situation, but she could let the passersby see her devotion to her sons.
Do you see the determination in verse 10? A mother gave herself to keep the bodies of her precious sons out of the clutches of the wild beasts and birds. She made her home and bed with a piece of sackcloth spread upon a rock. She was dedicated to her task of protecting her sons.
I would imagine that there were those who said to her "Go home Rizpah, get some rest. There is no need to be out on this hill sacrificing your life over men who you can never bring back.” But she was determined to protect those boys. Day in and day out as the buzzards would perch in the trees high above the bodies, she would chase them away. As the wild beasts would come sneaking up to steal the carcasses in the night, she stood protection of those precious bodies.
She knew all too well that she could not bring them back but she could protect them from further disgrace and humiliation. There wasn’t much she could do for her sons now, but she did what she could.
Thirdly we see in Rizpah a mother who was willing to sacrifice for her children.
Surely none of us believe that this was a pleasant experience. No one would cheapen this beautiful scene by dismissing the sacrifice that this mother made. For six 6 months she had to watch her sons bodies decay before her eyes. For six months she had to endure the smell and odors on that hill. For six months here arms ached as she fought off the birds during the day and the wild animals at night. For six months she sacrificed her life for her sons.
We do not read that she took a break to eat. We do not know that she took a break to work, or go home and take a bath, or sleep. Do you think she ever dreamed of the day when this whole ordeal would be over and she could rest, really rest?
She preferred to be out there with her sons over the comforts of her home. She would rather die here before she would let some wild beast have the corpses of her sons. Her love for her sons caused her to identify with the suffering and embarrassment of these boys. She did not shun them in their time of need. She was there by her sons. Her love caused her to stay with them during the months of their shame.
There was an article in National Geographic about life in the Middle East. In that article, they tell the story of three camels that dies from a fall off a cliff. What is very remarkable is that in less than thirty hours after their loads were taken of, there was not left a piece of flesh, but all was devoured by the vultures in the day and the beast of prey mostly jackals in the night. I can only imagine the courage it took Rizpah to fight against those that wanted to devour her sons.
In very much the same way we see Mary the mother of Jesus making the same sacrifice as she watched her son endure the agony and pain of the cross. John records that Mary was right there in the need of the hour standing by her son. She was willing to sacrifice everything forgetting about her personal danger and comfort and stood by Him that day. I am sure she was in great pain, but she stayed by him.
One of the characteristics that endure our mothers to us is the amount they are willing to sacrifice for their children. But they understand that when you love someone, there is no sacrifice that is too great, no distance to far, and not even time can dampen the flame of love.
It was the intent of the Gibeonites to have these sons of Saul ripped apart by the vultures and wild beasts. But Rizpah wanted a burial for her sons. She sacrificed day and night for her sons because of her great love for them.
Finally we see in Rizpah a mother that was rewarded for her love.
In the last part of our text we see that King David heard of her devotion and in response to it gave her sons, King Saul, and Jonathan an honorable burial in the tomb of their fathers. Her love, sacrifice and protection paid off.
All Rizpah wanted was a proper burial for her sons, but she never dreamed they would receive a royal burial. These two sons died, not because of their own doings, but because of the sins of their father, Saul. Yet their mother stands by their side until King David sends and gives them a decent burial. Her Children were finally able to escape disgrace.
Mothers will tell you that they receive great rewards as well. They earn the respect of people who observe their actions and great effort to be the mother God wants them to be.
They receive the love form their children that is expressed in hugs, kisses, homemade cards, letters , phone calls and appreciation.
They swell with pride when their child hits a home run, wins a spelling bee, graduates high school, succeeds a life knowing that she had played a vital role in making victory possible.
And while only a mother can deeply understand these rewards, those who have the opportunity to witness a Godly mother get a glimpse of our God in Heaven. Through Godly women we get a chance to see a model of our Lord who Loves, Protects, and Sacrifices for us so that we can have our reward as well.