Michal and Unlikely Hope

I struggle with understanding some of the stories in the Old Testament of the Bible. David is one of them. I oscillate between feeling like I completely understand his complicated and redeeming story and being confused by the Bible’s statement of David being a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). How can someone who does some pretty terrible things be in the hall of fame of saints in Hebrews 11? 

Even more complicated are some of the other character’s in David’s story, and I find Michal as David’s first wife particularly interesting. She falls in love with him, he marries her and proves his love, and they appear to have the beginning of a love story (1 Samuel 19-20). 

But we come to find that’s just not true. In 1 Samuel 20, Michal helps David escape from the wrath of her father Saul. Here we see the beginning of a crack in the facade. While David is escaping through the window, she uses an idol in his place in bed as a decoy. If there are idols in the house, we can already understand that the law of the Lord is not being followed by this household. We also know this means that ruin and destruction will follow unless there is repentance. 

When David escapes and hides for years, Michal would have to return to her family (presumably as a traitor) and is eventually given away as a wife to someone else. Years later, David returns and wants to reclaim Michal as his rightful wife, taking her from her other husband who seems torn up over it. Maybe her life there was a good one, but we don’t have any indication of her thoughts or feelings on the matter. She returns to David by command of her brother (2 Samuel 3). There’s a few other assumptions that can be made that lead us to think that Michal is being used as a pawn in a royal battle. Her situation is not great.

We don’t hear about Michal again until after David is king and brings the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and we find her once again. In 2 Samuel 6, David is rejoicing with song and dance as the ark is brought into Jerusalem after a harrowing journey. Michal watches from a window (women weren’t allowed to join in the festivities), but she later confronts David, shaming him for his actions, calling him vulgar and ridiculous. David, of course, justifies his actions as an act of worship, and the last words we hear about Michal are very telling. 2 Samuel 6:23 says, “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” She was left without what was considered the highest achievement in those days, children. It doesn’t say that David divorced her or left her without care, but the relationship was irrevocably broken. 

There’s something in Michal’s heart here that strikes me. Her circumstances have always been less than ideal. She’s been pulled back and forth, and even though she’s a princess and then a queen, she’s not been given much choice in her life. She doesn’t seem to rely on the God of Israel for her worth and sustenance, even though she is the queen of the land. She allowed her bitterness, her past, and her feelings for her husband to make her bitter against God and that continues to color the rest of the circumstances of her life.She’s left with no children, she’s often overlooked as a wife of David (Abigail is so much easier to find hope in!), and she’s relegated to a minor character in the redeeming story of David’s life. 

So where’s the hope in this story? We can find it in the “what not to do.” Let’s take Michal as a cautionary tale. We need to be careful with our words even when we seemingly have reasons and circumstances to be critical. As ministry spouses, we might often find ourselves with a critical bent against what others do as acts of worship. We need to see all of God’s people as important in the eyes of God and be aware of what the Bible has to say on the matter, not outside sources. We need to make sure that the bitterness of life, and even sometimes ministry, does not strip us of our relationship with the Lord and the opportunities that He presents to us. 

Michal’s story is hard. I don’t relate to the particulars easily. But I do think that we, as pastors’ wives and women, can learn from Michal and her story. I certainly hope that we will all be spared the agony of being left by a spouse. God wants whole and healthy marriages. I also hope that we are able to recognize when our husbands are worshipping the Lord even if it may seem undignified to us in some way. Worship of our Lord and our relationship to Him is the most important relationship we have, even more important than that of a spouse. 

Ultimately we can find the most hope in how David responds to Michal. In this instance, David stands firm in his justification of his actions before the Lord in worship. He’s willing to do what He’s led to by God no matter how it may appear to anyone, even his wife. “And 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 celebrate before the Lord’” (2 Samuel 6:21). For all the ways David goes against the Lord, at least he knew his worth and would not put aside his joy because of appearances and what other people thought he should do. Let us hope that we will follow the Lord so closely that we will be able to stand firm against those who try to shame us away from worshiping Him.

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