Being Decent in Indecent Times
2 Samuel 21: 7-14
7 The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[a] whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9 He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning.
10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.
14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.
The story Rizpah’s sons is a painful Biblical tragedy that is often cited as a great example of a mother’s love. However, I believe that there is much more to be learned from this tragedy. Rizpah and her sons were innocent of the crimes that they paid for. Yes, there was a famine in the land. Yes the Lord told David that the sins of Saul needed to be addressed before the Lord would remove the famine. Nevertheless, what happens afterwards is concerning. David doesn’t inquire of the Lord as to how the Gibeonites should be avenged. Nor does David give the innocent descendants of Saul a proper burial or commend them as heroes making an ultimate sacrifice. Instead David speaks to the Gibeonites only and agrees to a bloody act of vengeance that significantly disgraced and weakened the house of Saul.
In the midst of this cruel and indecent behavior Rizpah steps up and shows decency. Mother or not, she daily watched over the bodies protecting all of them from harm. Her behavior forces David to do things that he should have done in the first place. He should have properly buried the bodies of Jonathan and Saul as well as their descendants.
Rizpah behavior was beyond love. It was also political protest. It was public prayer. It was refusal to let evil win.
Sometimes the most Christian and powerful thing we can do, is be decent human beings. Rizpah behaved alone. Yet a whole nation watched her and an entire family was restored because of her.
In these days of constant slander, lies, bullying, and blaming let us not forget that there is significant power in decency and love.