Whose Approval do we Seek

In the Hebrew Testament for this coming week, we hear mention of a little-known figure, Michal, daughter of Saul. Father Lee reflects on the story of Michal and David and the lessons that it may hold.

by Father Lee Davis on July 08, 2024

Whose approval do we seek?

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal 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.

They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes. (2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19)

Background on Michal and David

We first hear of Michal in 1 Samuel. Michal, the daughter of King Saul, had a life marked by political intrigue, personal sacrifice, and unfulfilled desires. From a young age, she found herself entwined in the tumultuous saga of Israel's first royal family. Michal was the first wife of David and the daughter of King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. She is first mentioned in 1 Samuel 14:49 as the younger of Saul’s two daughters. David was the youngest son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah. He served as a shepherd in his youth and was known for playing the harp. He played for King Saul before being promoted as his armor bearer. David came to national prominence in Israel when he killed the Philistine giant Goliath, an event that resulted in a major military victory (1 Samuel 16).

As we continue on in the book of 1 Samuel, we see the story of Michal and David progress. King Saul finds out that his daughter has it bad for David, who was a hero of the people at this point in the story. And so, Saul figures, as all good kings would, that if he brings David into the family, that would be a good thing on two fronts. First, it would surely boost Saul’s popularity among the people as well, being seen close to heroes tends to do that, after all. But the second reason was really the more important of the two. Because, in monarchies, there tends to be a thin line between heroes of the people and would be usurpers, and so marrying these kinds of people into the ruling clan was a way to keep that kind of ambition in check. And so in a marriage of love in one hand, and political expedience on the other, Michal marries her love David, just as David marries the king’s daughter. Yet, Saul still hoped this would not come to fruition. Saul requested an odd bride price, a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. He demanded this price in order to see David killed: “Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 18:25). However, David completed the mission, actually bringing back 200 foreskins, and took Michal as his wife, making Saul an even greater enemy to him. Later, Saul sent men to kill David, but Michal helped David escape through a window, and she covered for him with a story that he was sick, by making it look like David was lying in bed. When her deceit was discovered by Saul, she made the claim that David had threatened to kill her if she didn’t help him (1 Samuel 19:11–17). After helping David escape, Michal was given in marriage to another man by her father. David, in turn, fled and built his own legacy, eventually becoming king. Years later, when David reclaimed Michal, she was torn from her second husband, a man who had grown to love her deeply. This reunion, though politically advantageous, left Michal with a heart divided and filled with unresolved emotions.

Whose approval do we seek?

In 2 Samuel 6:16-23, the story of David and Michal unfolds as a powerful illustration of the tension between human pride and divine reverence. This narrative, set against the backdrop of David's triumphant return to Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant, reveals the profound lessons about choosing our own achievements and dignity over wholehearted worship and devotion to God.

As David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, he did so with great enthusiasm and abandon. The Bible describes him as dancing before the Lord with all his might, wearing a linen ephod, a garment typically worn by priests (2 Samuel 6:14). Many scholars believe that this was the only garment he was clothed in, indicating that he was flashing the crowd as he danced. We are simply told however that he danced with all his might. His worship was unrestrained and passionate, reflecting his deep love and reverence for God. This was a significant moment for David, symbolizing the presence of God coming to dwell in the city of David.

However, not everyone shared David’s joy. As the Ark entered the city, Michal, the daughter of Saul and David’s wife, watched from a window. When she saw David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart (2 Samuel 6:16). Later, when David returned to bless his household, Michal confronted him with scorn, criticizing his behavior as undignified and unbecoming of a king (2 Samuel 6:20).

David’s response to Michal’s contempt is both revealing and instructive. He explained that his actions were for the Lord, who chose him over her father Saul and his family to be the ruler over Israel. David expressed that he would continue to celebrate before the Lord and would be even more undignified if it meant honoring God (2 Samuel 6:21-22). His focus was on pleasing God, not on maintaining royal decorum or human approval.

Michal, however, could not understand this perspective. Her heart, once full of love for David, had grown cold and distant, filled with the bitterness of her father’s fall from grace and her own personal disappointments. She turned away from David, her silence more telling than any words she could have spoken.

The rest of David's household soon felt the chill of Michal's discontent. Though David continued to rule with justice and to seek God's guidance, the rift between him and Michal remained. She lived out her days in the palace, childless and alone, a stark reminder of what happens when pride and human achievement are placed above a heart of worship and reverence for God.

David's story, though marked by human flaws and struggles, ultimately shines as an example of placing God's will and presence above personal pride and societal expectations. His willingness to look undignified in worship reflects a heart fully devoted to God, challenging us to examine our own lives. Are we seeking human approval and recognition, or are we, like David, willing to become undignified in our pursuit of honoring God?

Tags: god, pride, approval, achievement

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