Thursday, June 23, 2016

Michal - a pawn

This week we've been studying a princess -- the daughter of King Saul, who fell in love with David and married the man of her dreams.
After that things went south a little.
Her dad still wanted to kill her new husband, and tried throwing things at him (no dishes, just spears) and then sent for him to be brought from their house when Michal said David was sick. Then they discovered that he'd fled; the "person" on the bed was actually not a person at all, just household items made to look like the form of a sleeping person.

With David on the run, Saul decided to give Michal to another man in marriage. How awful for her, after she'd been out on a limb being loyal to David, and loving him enough to go against the wishes of her father the king. Spiteful Saul.
Saul is not the sweetest peach in the basket, eh?

I wanted to see if we could figure out how long she was married to Paltiel, the son of Laish. I consulted some commentaries, to see what the scholars said. David battled Goliath around 1017 BC, when he was around twenty-three years old. Probably his marriage to Michal was shortly after that great victory. Then David becomes king after Saul dies, about 1010 BC, which would make David about thirty years old. The scholars say that the next time they can "assign" a date is about 990 BC when King David went to war with the Arameans. (We can cross reference this with II Samuel 8:6.) So at that time, he'd be about fifty.  The next time Michal is mentioned is before the war with the Arameans, so it's probable that twenty-some years have passed without any word of her life with Paltiel.

Then, suddenly, she is thrown into more emotional turmoil. Do you recall when we studied Saul's concubine, Rizpah, we mentioned that Ish-bosheth (Saul's son) charged Abner regarding a relationship with her (Rizpah)? Well, Abner gets mad and decides to support David in the struggle to calm the kingdom. Perhaps this incident jogs David's memory, for he demands that Abner bring Michal back!
So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back. (II Samuel 3:15-16)
Oh, my. After all those years . . . Her love for David had been so strong before. She probably didn't give up her dream of re-uniting with him for a while. It may have been years before she accepted this new husband and perhaps grew to have some affection for him. Or, perhaps, she has never grown accustomed to Paltiel, and merely tolerates him. Now, many years later, here is David, turning her world upside down, just as her father did before. She is a pawn in these "games."

David has triumphed over his enemies, and has established Jerusalem as the political capital of the nation -- now he has succeeded in bringing the ark of the covenant home, so that Jerusalem will be the country's religious hub as well.

Michal is watching at the window, as the crowd (including her husband the king) comes into town:
Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (II Samuel 6:12-23)
Here we see David, who was so overjoyed that the ark was being brought to Jerusalem, that he shed his kingly, ornate robes and danced in the plain linen garment that he wore beneath them, so he looked just like all of the other celebrants. Michal is mentioned in this passage as "Saul's daughter;" I find myself wondering if she had not allowed herself to be truly David's wife again. If her heart was so embittered by these two men who had disrupted her life again and again, that the bitterness was all she had. No peace, no joy, just bitterness and resentment at how her life had turned out.

She looks down from her window and watches him in contempt. Then, when David comes home to the palace, after making sacrifices and feeding the people, she jumps on him with both feet. She condemns his actions, showing that she has no heart knowledge of worship of the true God. I think we can be sure of this because many years earlier, she had a household idol handy to use when she needed to disguise David's empty bed. She didn't seem to have the same "heart" that David did, when it came to matters of worship and devotion to Yahweh.

The real tragedy in Michal's life is the fact that her bitterness became so intense that it ultimately separated her from God.  Like Leah, in our earlier study, she was a victim. But Leah broke the cycle of pain and bitterness by looking past her surroundings to her Creator. Remember the names of her sons? They told a story . . . a story of hoping beyond all hope that her husband would care for her more with each son's birth . . . until the last was born, and she named him "Judah" meaning "praise" to God. If Michal had looked for God before, by this time in her life she had stopped looking. She could not see His grace. She had been tossed about in her life, and then she'd seen the death of her father and her brother. The bitterness welling up in her caused the rest of her life to be very lonely, and very unhappy.  The final verse of our passage notes that she was childless the rest of her days.

Bitterness can separate us from God, too. It can make us unhappy and lonely. No wonder Paul said this:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:14-15)
Her bitterness also caused Michal to look with contempt on someone who was focused on worship. She looked on with scorn, and then she doubled down on things with a verbal assault and insults.

How about us? What are our feelings about worship? Do we look at people who are exuberant and full of feeling as less than us? Or, does it go the other way -- do we look at those who remain quiet and reverent as somehow not as worshipful as we are? Are we embarrassed to be seen at worship? Are we embarrassed to be seen at prayer, such as when we are in public and offer thanks for our food?

When our devotion is deep, and when it's real, we will not worry about what others may think. Our focus will be on our God, and our thoughts will be centered on Him.
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.   (Psalm 95:1-7)


Cathy said...

What a powerful message you’ve given us today. Lots to think and pray about as we seek to obey the command to rid ourselves of bitterness and to treat everyone with kindness and compassion, even those who may have caused the bitterness.

Belinda said...

It's much easier to let bitterness take hold than to be thankful and praise. But it's something we must strive to do. That is what pleases our Lord.

I'm sure living as Saul's daughter all those years, she was led to life of bitterness even beyond being a pawn. Makes you wonder how things might have been, had he been a better father, king, follower of the Almighty God.

And I have to wonder about David forgetting about her all those years. What a blow to her heart.

Katie Isabella said...

IT IS a powerful message and explains a bit more of these familiar passages and causes me to look at the subjects with different eyes.