Every so often I examine a marriage from the Bible, and try to glean some wisdom from it. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:6, "Now these things [that happened to Old Testament Israel] took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did." My friend, Russ Kennedy, once said in a sermon: "The Old Testament narratives have within them heart oriented imperatives. The sins of the Old Testament saints have a 'not like this' purpose." In other words, Christians are to distill ethics from the accounts of the history of Israel. Today I thought I'd mine for gold from the marriage of King David and Michal.
We don't read much in Scripture concerning Michal. She grew to love David while her father, Saul, was king of Israel. Eventually King Saul promised Michal to David to be his wife. As Saul sought to kill David, Michal seemed faithful to David, even helping him escape. After Saul's death in battle, David consolidated his power over Israel, and brought the ark of the covenant to the city of David. We then read a somewhat strange account of the beginning of the end of their match made in Heaven. It is recorded for us in 2 Samuel 6.
"So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. . . . And David returned to bless is household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, 'How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!'" (2 Sam. 6:16, 20)
How did Michal's love turn to hatred? She clearly loved David with a loyalty that surpassed the love and loyalty she had for her father. When forced to choose between Saul and David, Michal chose David. Now in this text we see that Michal despised David in her heart. Why the change? Somehow David had become an object of scorn in her heart. While some would think it unwise to speculate, I agree with my brother Russ that there are heart oriented imperatives in this text. We must find the "not like this" purpose for God recording the condition of Michal's heart.
Michal did not like the fact that "David danced before the Lord with all his might" (2 Sam. 6:14). She may have been appalled at David's apparent lack of dignity and decorum. He was, after all, king of Israel. He should act like king. Kings don't go gallivanting in the streets in a rhythmic frenzy in front of all the commoners - particularly when those commoners are young ladies. Michal was the daughter of a king. She was a princess. She probably thought she knew how royalty was to maintain themselves. David wasn't living up to his high position. He was not honoring himself. Michal may have also been jealous of the the king's attention. She brings up the fact that female servants saw him as a vulgar fellow. The picture I get is that Michal thought David made an absolute fool of himself, and therefore of her as well. He should have known better. David doesn't take this confrontation lying down. He has a response.
"David said to Michal, 'It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord - and I will make merry before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.' And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death" (2 Sam. 6:21-22).
David seems to take Michal's insult as an affront to his worship. He points out how her dignified father and his dignified royal family were given the boot by God himself. What right does the royal daughter of an overthrown king have to tell the chosen king how to behave before his Lord? David was happy to be favored by the Lord. He was happy that God had chosen to favor the nation of Israel. He was not afraid of this happiness. He let it overflow in merry dancing in the streets, without fear of anyone watching. David tells Michal not to expect anything different from him in the future, and David expects even more resentment and contempt from Michal in the future. David flaunts the honor shown him by strange women in comparison to the dishonor shown him by his own wife. This is the largest revelation of the relationship between David and Michal. I'll lay out a couple lessons I think we have to learn.
First, David, the man after God's own heart, wasn't ashamed of his God. While David was far from perfect, he was publicly proud of his God his entire life. His faith in God's power was apparent from the days of Goliath until his death. Do you have the heart of David? Would you shamelessly dance in the streets in worship to your God? Or are you afraid to even lift a hand in worship service at church? Does your joy in God have to overflow in public adoration? Or are you too constrained and stoic to indulge in such folly? Are you happy in the God on your side? Or are you wrapped up in the drudgery of life?
Second, Michal was afraid of how the people of Israel may view David. Rather than be concerned with God's praise being lifted up, she was concerned with David's praise being diminished. In addition, she seemed jealous of David's attention. Michal didn't bring up the men who may see David dancing in the streets. She brought up the women. Are you afraid of what others think of you? Do you make decisions based on what would please God? Or do you make decisions based on what others expect of you? Do you let God's Word set your agenda? Or do you let the traditions and opinions of others guide your life? Are you secure in the love of your spouse? Or are you perpetually suspicious and insecure?
Finally, I think we should see the danger inherent in any earthly relationship. Michal was David's wife. It can be assumed that she had some kind of influence over him, and vice versa. We must never let earthly relationships influence us away from godliness. David refused to allow his wife to talk him out of worship. In fact, he rebuked her for her judgment of him. Now there were other times in David's life where he humbly took the rebuke of others, even his subordinates while he was king. While being a ferocious man of war, capable of great destruction on the battlefield, humility was one of the hallmarks of David's life. Yet, when confronted by his wife about his shameless worship, he didn't cave in. He admitted no wrong, and accepted no blame. He rightfully considered his wife to be the one with the problem.
David's son, Solomon, eventually allowed his wives to lead him away from faithfulness to God. He allowed their influence over him to lead him down sinful paths. David didn't fall for it. Do you allow your spouse to influence you away from godliness, away from shameless worship, away from radical living? Does your spouse pull your spiritual strings? Can your spouse convince you to be less missional? Can your spouse convince you to live a comfortable little normal life that's expected of normal people? Or do you guard your heart, even from your own spouse, if such cowardly discipleship is suggested? We have many lessons we can learn from Old Testament saints and sinners. We will continue to examine marriage biographies from the Bible in the days ahead.