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I Samuel 19 When Love Fails

As mentioned before, I Samuel chpt 18 was the beginning of at least three great stories. The conflict between King Saul and David was the first. The story of Michal and David is the second. The story is great because the heights of its potential are matched only by the depths of its tragic ending. This could have been one of the great love stories in the Bible, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s a sad, sad story. Instead of a life filled with joy and a quiver full of children born to David the king, scripture records the sum of Michal’s life in this epitaph, “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.” (2Sam 6:23) And this wasn’t a case of the Lord closing her womb as with Sarah (Gen 16:2), Rachel (Gen 30:2), and Hannah (1Sam 1:5). It appears she bore no children because of her lack of intimacy with David, her husband. (2Sam 6:22-23) Her life turns evermore bitter with time. Even the five sons she raised for her sister, Merab, were taken and sacrificed by David to the Gibeonites. (See 2Sam 21:1-14 for full story)

Yet, the story begins, with this introduction, “And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.” (1Sam 18:20) David likewise killed 200 Philistines (100 more than was required by the king for her dowry) to claim the place as her husband. In dangerous times and in life or death circumstances they survived until what looked like their final parting in a great escape with David a heartbeat away from death.

Observe:  “Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain. So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped. And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.” (1Sam 19:11-14)

The escape is not over however. It is true that David with the help of the princess, his wife, escaped unharmed, but now she is left alone to face the wrath of the king. A king bent on murder and thirsting for the blood of his enemy. What will she do? What will she say? Will a king blinded by the wrath of man turn his sword from his son-in-law to his daughter, David’s co-conspirator?

“And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him. And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster. And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped?” (1Sam 15-17)

Answer me truly, if you can, what would you say if you were her? She stands alone, facing an enraged enemy that the champion of Israel, the slayer of the giant Goliath, has just fled. If David, the Lord’s anointed, fled from King Saul’s presence, how do you think Michal felt? How old do you see Michal? 15-20? Emancipated women’s libber? Definitely not. Young wife who’s barely escaped the absolute authority of her father? Most definitely. You may not have considered it, but the rest of her life depends on the next few seconds. Sometimes life is that way. You stand at a crossroads and there’s no going back. That’s where she is. “Why hast thou (not David) deceived me so.” And why have you “sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped.” You! King Saul is calling her into account for her part in this betrayal. Life and death hang in the balance. Hmmm…I wonder what I would have said? But certainly love would lead her to stand strong against the hurricane raging against her, right. Or would it?

Love. What can I say to fully give credit to what that single word means. I suppose Jn 3:16 and 1Jn 4:10 are the ultimate expressions of Divine love. If you want to discuss love as a practical thing for here and now, there are a number of passages that come to mind. 1Cor 13, Eph 5:28-29, Rom 13:10 and a host of others are God’s instructions and revelations to help guide us. But I want to draw attention to a verse in Song of Solomon. “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” (v. 8.)

I think if we are not careful we can be confused on what to expect out of love. We are all old enough, and it’s common enough knowledge (What’s the old Dolly Parton song? “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”) to know better. But what we often forget is that love does not offer protection from the stresses that can cause us to act contrary to the way love would direct us. At this moment in time Michal was experiencing the “many waters” and “floods” that were raging against her and the love she had for David. I’ve no reason to doubt Michal loves David because the scripture says so, twice (1Sam 18:20, 28), Her actions say so (1Sam 19:11-14). Yet, what she does next does not reflect that love for David. She answers her father and tells him, “And Michal answered Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?” (1Sam 19:17)

She lied. She betrayed the man she loved and accused him of threatening to murder her if she didn’t cooperate. She bore false witness against her husband and the Lord’s anointed. Why did she do that? You know why she did it. I know why she did it. We all understand why she did it. Aren’t her actions in such a case somehow forgivable? I don’t think that’s the issue here. It’s not a question of forgiveness. It’s something else. Her lies set in motion a course of events that would not only change future events in her life but would change her. I wonder what effect her lies, though under duress, had on those who watched and listened? I wonder if she continued to lie in order to maintain the charade? I don’t know. I do know that by chpt 25 of 1Sam that “Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim.” After all, he had threatened to kill Michal, right? Would you want your daughter living with such a man? Objections? Protests? None recorded.

Believe it or not, the story of Michal and David continues. It does not get better. It’s never the same love story. Even when David brings her again into his house. (See 2Sam 3:14-20) The next emotion you read about concerning these two is found in 2Sam 6:16, Michal “despised [David] in her heart.” Wow. We’ve come a long way from chpt 18, eh? It makes me wary of the way sin works. James tells us in the NT that “…sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (Ja 1:15) It would appear that Michal, when she lied, did nothing to set the record straight. Regardless of how much I want to forgive Michal for what she did, and I do, my desire to smooth things over and minimize the significance of her deception means little. The only thing I can accomplish is justifying my own sin “under the pressures of life.” Not a good thing if I’ve read this story right.

I suppose then if I were to draw a concrete conclusion of the story of David and Michal, it would be this. Do not deny the Lord’s Anointed. Stand strong for the Christ Who loves us enough to face death on the cross. And if we do find ourselves in Michal’s shoes, if we have somehow denied the lover of our souls before men, repent and make it right without delay. The Lord is so worthy.

am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.

As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

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