His Condemnation by Michal
2 Samuel 6
In the closing verses of 2 Samuel 6 there is to be seen a mingling of the lights and shadows; the blessed fruits of the Spirit appear, but the evil works of Satan are also evident. As it often is in the natural world, we find it in the moral realm conflicting Forces clash with each other: sunshine and rain, calm and storm, summer and winter, constantly alternate. That which is spread before our senses in nature, is but an external adumbration of what exists in the invisible: two mighty beings, diametrically opposed to each other, the Lord God and the devil, are ever at work. Such too is the life of the individual Christian, for he is a miniature replica of the world: in him "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17), and consequently in his experience there is ever a mingling of the lights and shadows.
Before it ended, the joyful day of Davidís bringing up of the ark to Jerusalem was overcast by a domestic cloud. There was one in his own household who was incapable of entering into the fervor of his heart toward God, who was irritated by his devotion, and who bitterly condemned his zeal: one who was near and dear to him railed upon the king for his earnestness in Jehovahís cause and service. The enmity of the Serpent was stirred by the honor accorded the holy ark, the procession of the Levites, the jubilation of Israelís ruler, and the offerings which had been presented before the Lord. The anointed eye has no difficulty in discerning behind Michal him who is the inveterate enemy of God and His people, and in her biting denunciation of David, the Christian of today may learn what to expect from those who are not one with him in the Lord.
Our last chapter closed at the verse "So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet" (2 Sam. 6: 16). Our present lesson opens with "and as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saulís daughter, looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart" (v. 16), and, as we shall see from the sequel, that secret hatred of David was shortly after vented in open opposition. Let not those who are engaged in the happy service of the Lord be surprised when they encounter antagonism; when, so far from their efforts being appreciated by all, there will be some who decry and denounce them. It was so with the prophets; it was so with Christís fore-runner; it was so with the Lord of glory Himself; it was so with His apostles; and it will continue to be so with all His faithful servants unto the end of time. It cannot be otherwise while Satan is out of the Pit.
"And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal, Saulís daughter, looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart" (2 Sam. 6: 16). Saul himself had grievously neglected the public worship of Jehovah, and his daughter appears to have had no sense of the importance and value of heavenly things. It could hardly be expected that a woman who had idols, "teraphim," in her house (1 Sam. 19: 13), cared anything for the holy ark, and hence she regarded her husband with scorn as she beheld his gratitude and joy.
Yes, not only is the natural man (the unregenerate) unable to apprehend the things of the Spirit, but that of which He is the Author appears as "foolishness" unto him. When the Lord Jesus was so occupied in ministering unto the needy multitude that He and His disciples "could not so much as eat bread," we are told that His kinsmen "went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself" (Mark 3:21). When the apostles began to "speak with other tongues," the wondrous works of God, some mocked and said, "These men are full of new wine" (Acts 2). When Paul reasoned so earnestly with Agrippa, he answered "thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad" (Acts 26:24). And, my reader, there is something seriously lacking in you and me if similar charges are not made against us today!
The world will tolerate religion so long as its carnal repose is not disturbed; yea, while it provides a garb to hide its shame, the world approves. But let the high claims of God be pressed, let it be insisted on that He demands the first place in our affections, thoughts, and lives, and such a message is at once distasteful. The professing Christian who attends the church on Sunday and the theatre during the week, who contributes occasionally to missionary societies but underpays his servants and overcharges his customers, is commended for his broad-mindedness and shrewdness. But the real Christian who lives in the fear of the Lord all the day long, and who conducts himself as a stranger and pilgrim in this scene, is condemned as a bigot and puritan. Let the saint weep over the dishonoring of his Lord by many that bear His name, or leap for joy in his service as David did, and like David he will be dubbed a fanatic and his whole-heartedness will be similarly censured.
"And they brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in his place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord" (v. 17). The word "tabernacle" does not signify a building made of wood or stone, but rather a tent. Joshua had erected such an one centuries before, but doubtless that had decayed and perished long ago. It is to be noted that David did not bring the ark into his own residence, but into a separate curtained canopy, which he had provided for it. in the days of Solomon a more stately temple was built to house the sacred coffer. As the ark was so manifestly a figure of Christ, its abiding first in a lowly tent and then in a magnificent edifice, no doubt foreshadowed the twofold state of the Saviour: first in humiliation, and then in glory.
"And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord." Now that his noble design had been completely effected, David presented suitable sacrifices unto the Lord. His object in so doing was probably twofold: to express his deep gratitude unto God for the success of his undertaking, and to supplicate a continuance of His favors. An important lesson for us is therein inculcated: praises are to mingle with our prayers: God is to be recognized and owned amid our joys, as well as sought unto under our sorrows. "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms" (James 5:13): the first is easily remembered, but the latter is often forgotten. God has appointed "feasts" as well as "fasts," for He is to be given the first place by us at all times.
"And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. of Hosts" (v. 18). This seems to have been an official act, consonant with the position to which God had instated him. The expression occurs first in Genesis 14: 19, where we find that Melchizedek, priest of the Most High, "blessed" Abraham. At a later date, Moses (Ex. 39:43), Joshua (Josh. 22:6), and Solomon (1 Kings 8:14) "blessed the people": in each case it was their leaders who did so. The added words that David "blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts" signifies that he, formally and authoritatively, pronounced His blessing upon those who had been committed to his care.
As a prophet of God, and as king over the people, it was both Davidís privilege and duty to do so, "without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better" (Heb. 7:7). In this act we may see David prefiguring his greater Son and Lord. Of Him it is recorded, "And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:50, 51). There we behold Christ as the Prophet unto and the King over the Church, officially blessing its ministers: that was His final act ere He left this earth and took His place on high, to administer all the blessings which He had purchased for His people; and unto the end of the age the efficacy of His benediction abides. If by grace the writer and reader be among those whom He has blest, then are we blessed indeed.
"And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house" (v. 19). Those who accompanied David on his joyous undertaking were now bounteously feasted: having presented his thank offerings unto the Lord, presents were now made to the people. "When the heart is engaged in cheerfulness, that should open the hand in liberality: as they to whom God is merciful, ought to exercise bounty in giving" (Matthew Henry). Compare Esther 9:22: the feast of Purim, celebrating the Jewsí deliverance from the plot of Haman, was observed with "sending portions one to another, and gifts to the people." By this act David confirmed his interest in the people, and would endear himself to them, so that they would be encouraged to attend him again should he have occasion to call them. The typical significance is obvious.
"Then David returned to bless his household" (v. 20). In attending to his official duties, David did not overlook his domestic responsibilities. "Ministers must not think that their public performances will excuse them from their family worship: but when they have, with their instructions and prayers, blessed the solemn assemblies, they must return in the same manner to bless their households, for with them they are in a particular manner charged" (Matthew Henry). Nor must they be deterred from the discharge of this obligation and privilege should there be those under their roof whose hearts do not accompany them in such holy exercises: God must be honored by the head of the house and the family altar maintained, no matter how much Satan may oppose the same.
"And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!" (v. 20). Being a total stranger to the zeal for God which filled David, incapable of appreciating his elevation of heart over the bringing home of the ark, she regarded his joyous dancing as unbecoming a king, and imagined he was demeaning himself in the eyes of his subjects. Having no heart herself for God, she despised the exuberance of one who had. Being obsessed with thoughts of temporal dignity and glory, she looked upon Davidís transports of religious fervor in the midst of his people, as degrading to his high office. "David the brave captain, leading forth the people to battle and returning with them in triumph, she admired; but David the saint, leading the people in the ordinances of God, and setting before them the example of fervency of spirit in His service, she despised" (Thomas Scott).
Base ingratitude was this for Michal to thus revile the very one who had been so devoted to her that he had declined to accept a crown unless she was restored to him (2 Sam. 3:13). Fearful sin was this to insult and denounce her lord, whom God required her to reverence. Having secretly scorned him in her heart, she now openly chides with her lips, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." She was highly displeased with his deep veneration for the holy ark, and basely misrepresented his conduct by charging him with indecent dancing before it. There can be no doubt that her charge was a false one, for it is a common thing for those who have no piety themselves to paint others in false colors and hold them up as the most odious characters.
But the wicked conduct of Michal is not difficult to account for: at heart she was a partisan of the fallen house of Saul, and a despiser of Jehovah and His worship. As she grew older, her character had hardened in its lines and became more and more like her fatherís in its insatiable pride, and in its half dread and half hatred of David. Now she poured forth her venom in these mocking jibes. Because David had laid aside his royal robes, and had girded himself in a plain "linen ephod" (v. 14), she vilely charged him with immodesty. O how empty professors hate the true pilgrim spirit! Nothing riles them more than to see the children of God refusing to conform to the extravagant and flesh-pleasing fashions of the world, and instead, dress and act as becometh the followers of Him, who, when here, "had not where to lay His head."
"And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore will I play before the Lord" (v. 21). David now vindicated himself. He had no reason to be ashamed of his conduct, for what he had done was only for the glory of God. No matter through what distorted lens the evil eyes of Michal might view it, his conscience was clear. If our own hearts condemn us not, we need not be troubled over the censures of the ungodly. Moreover, had not God recently elevated him to the throne? Then it was but fitting that he should show his jubilant gratitude.
"And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight; and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour" (v. 22). David replies to Michalís evil charge in the language of irony, which was suitably "answering a fool according to her folly" (Prov. 26:5). The force of his words is, If because of my setting aside the showy robes of imperial majesty and clothing myself in plain linen, and dancing before the Ark of Godís glory, I am regarded by you as mean, then I, who am but "dust and ashes" in the sight of the Almighty, will humble myself yet more before Him; and so far from the common people despising me for the same, they will esteem one who takes a lowly place before the Lord. The more we be condemned for well-doing, the more resolute should we be in it.
"Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death" (v. 23). Thus did God punish Davidís wife for her sin. "She unjustly reproached David for his devotion, and therefore God justly put her under the perpetual reproach of barrenness. They that honor God, He will honor; but those that despise Him, and His servants and service, shall be lightly esteemed" (Matthew Henry). There is a searching application of this verse which holds good today. We often hear quoted the first half of 1 Samuel 2:30, but the second half is not so frequently cited. It is just as true that they who "despise" the Lord shall be "lightly esteemed" by Him as those who "honour" Him shall be "honoured" by Him. A solemn example of this is found here: in mocking David, Michal insulted his Master! Beware how you slight or speak evil against Godís servants, lest spiritual "barrenness" be your portion!