II Samuel 6:12-23
12 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.
We will now celebrate the second and successful attempt to bring the ark home to the city of David. This time they did it God’s way. The sequence of event recorded in I Chronicles has the battle with the Philistines, described in chapter 5 of II Samuel, occurring between the two attempts to take the ark to Jerusalem, while II Samuel shows the attempts to move the ark as occurring after the two battles at Baal Perazim. Because of the differing sequence, we do not know if the battles at Baal Perazim occurred before the moving of the ark or between the two attempts. But we can guess from this that the two battles and the two attempts, all four events, took place in the same period—soon after David became king of all Israel and that the second and successful attempt to move the ark followed the two battles at Baal Perazim.
1. The Successful Transport of the Ark to Jerusalem 12-15
This part of the story begins with very good news: “Now King David was told, 'The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.'" We are not surprised at this because we are aware that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Hebrews 1:17). Apparently the blessings of God on the house of Obed-Edom was for the ark’s sake and this was a great stimulus to David to finally bring it to Jerusalem, Verse 12 says, “So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.” David evidently acted promptly. He knew from this that God was not angry still because God’s anger is but for a moment. His mercy is forever. Just as David could see God’s frown upon them all in the Uzzah incident, so he could discern God’s favor to them all in Obed-Edom’s prosperity; and, if God be at peace with them, they can cheerfully go on with their desire to take it to Jerusalem.
The blessings of God on Obed-Edom’s household further was evidence that the ark was not necessarily a burden or curse, but that when treated with humble respect it was a source of good. Just like Jesus who is a stumbling stone or a blessed cornerstone depending on how we treat Him. This principle is explained in I Peter 2:6-8, “For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” When David heard of the joy Obed-Edom had in the ark, then he wanted it in his own city. We can’t blame him. When others experience the benefits of godliness, is it wrong for us to want them too? No, let us rather seek this blessing ourselves too since it is equally available to us. Let us see how David managed the matter now.
This time David corrected the former error. He did not put the ark on a cart, but ordered those whose responsibility it was to carry it on their shoulders. “When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf” (v 13). When God corrects us in judgment and we make use of the judgments of God on ourselves and others, we have a great opportunity. Rather celebrate and utilize the opportunity than to criticize and complain because of the judgment. His judgment are mercies; gracious corrections. Psalm 50:5 says, “Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” That is precisely what David did. He gathered the people again and they celebrated. Former errors do not have the power to dampen our present celebrations when we respond correctly to the lessons God has for us.
Pastor, did you make a mistake last week? Learn from it and move forward in confidence and celebration of your opportunity to improve. Lift the ark of God and celebrate the presence of God with king David. What did David do? He did not wear his dignified, kingly robes, nor his warrior’s armor; he wore a plain garment and focused his energies on worship according to verse 14. “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might.” Can you see David dancing before the Lord with all his might? He was not pretending. This was not play acting. His rejoicing was not artificial, pretend, superficial or shallow. Otherwise, the record could not say “He danced before the Lord with all his might.” We do not know if he danced alone or if other joined him. Joy is contagious. Scripture does not say that the others danced, but they shouted and celebrated and if David danced, I find it hard to imagine that the others did not join in that too. “. . . he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. If the joy of the Lord is our strength, then let us deliberately and intentionally make others strong—strengthen them—with our joy, not with mere foolish and silly emotionalism, but with genuine joy in Jesus.
2. The Ark was Deposited in a Place of Honor in Jerusalem 17-19
The ark was safely brought to Jerusalem and honorably deposited in the place prepared for it, “They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it” (vs 17). The tabernacle that Moses had prepared was at Gibeon according to 2 Chron 1:3, “and Solomon and the whole assembly went to the high place at Gibeon, for God’s tent of meeting was there, which Moses the Lord’s servant had made in the wilderness.” Perhaps Moses’ tabernacle had aged or deteriorated. David set this tent up just for the ark. The ark should not go to his private home where people may not have felt at liberty to go frequently to pray and it was not time to build a permanent structure. That would come later. As soon as it was deposited in the tent, David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, in thankfulness to God. The project that had be interrupted was now completed. It is good for all our happy events to be filled with praises and prayers giving to God the kind of sacrifices he wants and deserves.
Psalm 132: verses 2-8 seem to be referring specifically to this event: “Lord, remember David and all his self-denial. He swore an oath to the Lord, he made a vow to the mighty One of Jacob: ‘I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’ We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: ‘Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool, saying, ‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.’”
The people were then dismissed with great satisfaction. Verse 18 says, “he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty.” David was a prophet and a king, showing not only a particular interest in speaking for God as a prophet, but possessing God-given authority over them as a king. He prayed to God to bless them, and specifically to reward them for the respect they had now given to His ark. With God’s blessings, they would not miss whatever other benefits they may have received had they stayed home and worked their fields. Perhaps this all occurred at a feast time when they would be in Jerusalem anyway. Whatever the case, the blessing of God on their domestic affairs at home would more than compensate for any loss there. By his prayer for them and his generous gift to them they all knew they had a king who loved them. He testified of his desire for their welfare by this prayer for them, and let them know they had a king that loved them. Verse 19 says, “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.”
Later in the history of Israel and during the life-time of Queen Esther, and from then on among the Jews, the feast of Purim was celebrated with gifts. Esther 9:22, says, “as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” Every one is a friend of the person who gives gifts, so some of the crowd would love him for his generosity even if they did not value the greater gift—his prayers for them.
3. From Public Spiritual Mountain Peak to Domestic Disappointment at Home 16, 20-23
I greatly sorrow and grieve for spiritual leaders, pastors, evangelists, missionaries and church leaders who appear to have great public success, yet do not have that same joy, unity, cooperation and happiness in their home and family. David experienced this too, apparently until after Bathsheba’s first baby died and the repentant and restored David and she were happy together as suggested by the four children they had together. David had only one child by each of his other wives according to the record.
David dismissed the congregation with a blessing and after a full, joyous, exciting and happy day, returned to bless his household. Verse 20 says, “David returned home to bless his household.” We can guess that he wanted to pray with and for them, and offer up his personal and family thanksgiving for this national success of the day. Men and women of God today should not think that public performances excuse them from spiritual leadership in the family. Worship, instruction and prayers in public are parts of our professional duties, but we must also remember our responsibility to our families. There were prophets, priests and Levites to help David with public ministry, but no-one else could take David’s place in his home and family. He had better primarily be a success there and secondarily a public success, than to have apparent public success yet have trouble at home. The lessons that can be drawn from the remainder of David’s life story bears this out in a sad and forceful way.
Can you imagine the pleasure and satisfaction David felt as he did now that he had the ark in his neighborhood and was on his way home? However, when did David ever return to his house with so much to find so little? The pride and ill temper of his wife can demonstrate for us that the palaces of princes are not exempt from domestic troubles. David had pleased all the multitude of Israel. They had shouted and probably danced together in the streets of Jerusalem, but Michal was not pleased with his dancing before the ark. At a distance, she scorned him, and when he arrived home she scolded him. She was not displeased at his generosity with the people, nor did she grudge the entertainment he gave them; but she thought he degraded himself too much in dancing before the ark. It was not her covetousness, but her pride, that distressed her which meant that now David would be distressed by her.
Who did Michal think she was? What kind of worldview did she have that caused her to despise the man of God celebrating his God as he danced before the ark of God. On multiple occasions I have observed the Jews of Tiberius, Israel, where we lived, as they danced and danced and danced. Their energy and joy was contagious. Even though I only observed (I wanted to but did not dance then) I celebrated with them. “But Michal, when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart” (v 16). She saw David in the street dancing and despised him in her heart. This is so sad. The warm and satisfying embraces that David might have enjoyed at home were snatched from their marriage by some kind of poison. Oh, man and woman of God, leader of God’s people today, do not let anything come between you and your spouse. Be happy together and from the strength you both derive from that fountain of joy, go out of your house into the public and bless everyone. If you don’t have that in your home, I do not say you can do nothing of value in public, but it will not be done with the boundless happiness that public ministry can have when things are good at home. She thought this mighty zeal of his for the ark of God, and the transport of joy he was in was foolish, and unbecoming to so great a soldier, statesman and monarch, as he was. It would have been perhaps enough for him to encourage the devotion of others, but this foolish dancing! What a fool, she thinks, my husband makes of himself! The ark should have stayed in Kiriath Jearim! The joy, the dance and celebrations of some of us who intensely love the Lord may not be understandable to those who do not know Him. Pity them. When he came home, probably tired, but very happy, she began to criticize him, and was so full of arrogance and contempt that she went out to meet him so she could begin her unkind remarks sooner.
Oh, how she taunted him! “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” (vs 20)! Her disgust with his devotion began in her heart, but out of the abundance of that the mouth spoke. Evidently, she did not love God or His ark, and as she taunted him, she makes it look like she is concerned for his honor and attacks him as though he has been lewd, vulgar and without virtue. The fact of the matter is that David probably had behaved properly, but she looked at it with glasses that gave a different color to what she saw. Instead of being proud of her husband who loved God so much, she showed the character of her father Saul. She was more Saul’s daughter than either Jonathan’s sister or David wife. What kind of gratitude was this for a husband who had showed so much affection for her that he did not want the crown if he could not, with it, have his wife? Or was David’s desire for her to come to him at Hebron merely a political ploy? Or did she only think it was?
David explained that he did what he did as unto God. However she chose to interpret the event, he did it for God and his own conscience knew he had done it for His glory. “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” (v 21). ‘Remember, Michal, the Lord choose me over your father and if this kind of behavior would have been inappropriate during his reign, so be it. Now there is a new administration that seeks to honor God. And if you think this is vile, then I will be even more vile.’ “I will become even more undignified than this” (v 22). If we know that God accepts what we do as unto Him, then does it matter if others recognize that or not—even if it be our spouse? The more we are vilified, the more resolute we become.
David expressed his desire to humble himself. “I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” It is as though David said, ‘I will think nothing too low to stoop to for the honor of God.’ Whether on the battle field, in the court, or in the temple, in my acts of devotion I will honor God regardless of how lowly it may appear. Furthermore, the ones you say will look down on me for this, will, in fact, look up all the more. The slave girls will honor me for this though receiving their honor is not my motive, for I seek only to honor God. The common people would be far from thinking the worse of him for it for, in reality, they would appreciate and admire him so much the more for it. Reverence and devoutness are respectable characteristics, and, if we want to be an example to others, we will cultivate them in our lives, not for praise for ourselves, but to introduce in demonstrable and practical ways, the benefits of zeal, duty and grace to others around us. We will not be indifferent, afraid nor ashamed of our efforts towards godliness, holiness and obedience. David was not; we will not. Man of God. Woman of God. This is leading by example at its best.
David was satisfied to justify himself this way. He did not punish or scold Michal, though he might have. Maybe God did. She was childless from this time on. She unjustly scolded David for his devotion and perhaps it was God who made her childless. We do not know why she was childless though we do know that children are a blessing, heritage and a reward, from God.
Michal, what did you see in David years and years ago that you loved him then? What changed?
David, how well did you know Michal when you agreed and wanted to marry her? What was it about her that motivated you to pay the high bride price Saul required?