Michal: A Bitter Pill

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I Samuel 18:17-19:17; II Samuel 3: 13-16; 6:16-23

Michal had every reason for bitterness.  First the princess was given to David as a trophy- a “reward” for killing enough Philistines; and while she seemed to be in agreement, the disrespect toward womenkind is appalling.  That was only the start of her Daddy problems, though.  Soon after her marriage, she chose to lie to her dad to help her husband escape or her father would have killed him.  Her dad’s hobby, then, became not the deer lease, but hunting her husband for years.  In David’s absence, she was traded like a commodity and given to another man.  David finally traded to get her back, but he had collected two other wives along the way.  Can you imagine that reunion?

“Good to see you! Umm…We have some new additions to the team…”  

When Michal was finally “collected” by a messenger, the other husband was weeping and following her to the next city.  We don’t know how Michal felt about returning to David, but she seems to be torn away from someone who truly adored her!

Fast forward: Michal lost her father and brother Jonathan in battle the same day her husband became King, but the emotional battles wouldn’t have ended there.  All her brothers were murdered (without David’s consent) except one, because of their potential threat to the throne.  Yeah, you might have tension, but this makes attending your family reunion look like a cake walk, right? 

Now that we have a little history providing some context, let’s step into this present moment in Michal’s life.

David finally overcame his fear and brought the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem.  Michal looked down from a window and saw her husband leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she “despised him in her heart”.  Was he that bad of a dancer? (I might feel that way if Brian wouldn’t stop doing the Floss.)  Seriously though, let’s look deeper into this order of events.   Michal was not participating in this celebration to the Lord.  She was watching from a lofty location.  Bitterness does that.  It separates a person from those who celebrate.  Think of the older brother in the parable of the lost son.  Not only does it separate, but a bitter person can have great difficulty stomaching someone else’s joy.  

According to Spurgeon, Michal is irritated that David would appear in public without his royal robes (verse 20), but only in priestly garments (the linen ephod).  Then instead of a dignified, solemn procession, David is dancing and leaping with all his might for the Lord.  It seems that image had become everything to her, possibly because she feels this is the only thing she has left.  Popularity, possessions, name-brands, titles and bitterness are empty comforts that can never truly satisfy. What a shame that she didn’t know the being who had created her in his image. Let us cling to to our King and not the temporary comforts of this earthy kingdom.

After a brief argument with the king, Michal’s sad history ends with a declaration that she never had children.  I have heard some preachers say she was punished for her bitterness, however, according to David Guzik, “Michal’s barrenness was not necessarily the result of Divine judgment. Nevertheless, the principle stands: there is often barrenness in the life and ministry of the overly critical.” So while I feel heartache for this wife of David, I do not want to be like her.  Here are a few points I gather from her example.

  • Thanks be to the Lord that we live in a different age in our country, where women have more opportunities and more rights than ever before in history.   Yet I see women living as if they are a trophy, a thing, to be bought and sold.  It might feel good to be treated as a prize, but that glory fades, and trophies end up at best locked behind a cabinet, and at worst gathering dust, given to Goodwill or tossed in the trash.  Instead, if you are unmarried, STAY that way unless God brings a Christ follower who wants to cherish you as a teammate, not a trophy.  

 

  • I also see women who have also bought into the falsehood that they are only important because of their children (or not as important because of their lack of children).  At times I have allowed my role as mother to become an idol, and then wondered why I felt so empty and lonely as I lost myself.  Children are a blessing, but they cannot increase intrinsic value.  Women are valuable because they are God’s creation. Children do not make us less, and they cannot make us more.

 

  • Is bitterness ruling a part of your life?  If so, give it to Him.  Bitterness is not a pill meant to be swallowed, as the saying goes.  Jesus was given bitter drink upon the cross, so that we wouldn’t have to suffer the ongoing theft that bitterness devises. Don’t pay interest on a debt that Jesus has already paid!  Reflect on any ways that your life may be barren and joyless because of bitterness, then call out to God for healing.   He is faithful! 
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My Friend Hannah

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She had trouble conceiving, yet she gave up a child for adoption.  Not a typical combination.  I was touched by the story of Hannah- so much so, that I think of her as a friend, even thought we have never met.  I read her story anew this month in I Samuel 1 and 2, when I  found out that Hannah was prevented by the Lord from having children.  It wasn’t that Hannah was being punished, although I am sure it felt like that.  It just wasn’t God’s timing… yet.  He was in the process of preparing the circumstances for the unborn prophet that Israel needed to replace the immoral sons of Eli, the high priest.  How could she know that her pain was a part of God’s plan to honor her forever in his Word, while he raised up the next mighty prophet since the time of Moses?  How could she know that this son of hers would anoint and shepherd David, the greatest king in all of Israel’s history and in the lineage of the greatest king of all history?  All she felt was emptiness and loss in the waiting.

Her torment came from many places.  First, I am sure, it came from the longing in her heart for motherhood.  Added to this, the sin of polygamy, although accepted by cultural standards in the day, was not without painful turmoil. She was tormented by her rival, the “other woman” with plenty of children, who seemed to enjoy goading her, perhaps out of jealousy for the abounding love husband Elkanah had for his beloved Hannah.  Even Elkanah seemed a bit clueless about the pain Hannah experienced.   To display his love, he gave her double portions.  I imagine I might be thinking, “I don’t want two steaks.  I want a baby.  Nice try, but seconds won’t fix my problem.”  Then, when she is devastated by the other woman’s cruel attacks, her husband comments, “Aren’t I better than a bunch of sons?”  Real sympathetic Elkie.  Your love, while wonderful, is not a substitute for someone whose arms ache for a child.

In response, she runs to the temple and pours out her heart to the Lord, even promising to give the son back to Him, if he will only give her a child.  So many need to learn what she realizes.  She knows her pain cannot be comforted by any human or earthly pursuit.  Despite her amazing example, she is misunderstood yet again, and Eli, the high priest, thinks she is drunk.  When she explains, he has compassion, however, and asks the Lord to grant her wish.  Immediately, because of her trust, she experiences peace and returns to eat and take care of herself physically, now that her spiritual and emotional needs have been met.  What a display of faith!

God gives her the son and she explains to Elkanah her plan to give up the child to serve at the temple once he is weaned.  His answer is a phrase I find interesting.  He agrees to the plan and says, “May the Lord establish his Word.” I Samuel 1:23.  I find it interesting, because later, Samuel grows up to be known as a prophet who speaks the true words of God.  I Samuel 3:19 says it this way, “The Lord let none of his words fall to the ground.”   His father asks that the word of God be established among them, and then Samuel grows to be a man who has the true words of God established in his life.  Much later in history, the Word would be established in the form of Jesus becoming flesh (John 1:14.)  Don’t let the Word fall to the ground.  Establish His word in you and in your home.  He is the only one who has the words of life.

When the child is weaned, she brings him to the temple to fulfill her promise.  That could not have been easy.  How long had she waited for a child?  Surely God would not expect her to give up her only child?  And yet she was brave enough to trust God with his future.  I find it curious that the previous great prophet, Moses, also had a birth mother.  Before adopting, I would have thought of giving up your children as a cowardly act, but after meeting the birth mother of my youngest three, I finally understood what great courage it would take to make a decision that pains you, though you know it to be best for your child.  I believe hardly a day went by that Hannah did not recall the virtual loss of her firstborn.  She made clothing for him and visited him at least yearly at the temple- probably with the pain of goodbye resurfacing anew.

I can’t imagine what Hannah would have been feeling as she said goodbye and left her promised son at the temple.  Could it have been what Moses’ mother felt as she returned Moses to the daughter of Pharaoh?  Is it how Sarah felt when she watched Abraham go up the mountain with her son? How many in our church body know the pain of saying goodbye to a child, some even before the child was brought into this world?  

Her heart must have been breaking, but she chose to rejoice, not in her circumstance, but in the Lord.  Those who have found peace with the loss of their child, can do so because they entrust their child to the Lord.  So she does the unthinkable.  She worships.  Her prayer is recorded in God’s Holy Word.  A phrase “horn of salvation” from her prayer is quoted by Zechariah in the New Testament a mere 1,000 years later!   Her prayer is also quoted several times by Mary, mother of Jesus in Luke 1: 46-55.  What a fitting tribute to a woman well acquainted with both pain and love.  May we, like Hannah, spend our lives bringing both to the Lord.          

 

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I Belong

 

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Some people have asked for the text of the poem Amy read at the Women’s Conference (inspired by the Lauren Daigle song, You Say), so here it is!   She included the scripture references in brackets for those interested.

I Belong

Voices of Isaiah describe me- a vat of dead leaves [Isaiah 64:6].  Crackling.  Shackling.  My sins have carried me away like wind- away from everything I need and toward everything I think I want.

Voices of Daniel attest to my arrest.  I have been weighed on the balance [Daniel 5:27].  Leveled with liters, measured in meters and found I was less…

Voices in Psalms say at my lowest I am but a breath and at my highest but a delusion [Psalm 62:9].

Confusion- for my own voice is absent.  Numb.  I am weary of crying out; my throat is parched; my eyes dim with waiting for Him [Psalm 69:3].  

And Then…

In Romans you say because you love me I am more than a conqueror [Romans 8:37].  More than Alexander the Great who conquered the known world, you died so the whole world could know you. 

When I feel weak like Leah in a world of Rachels you say I am strong [Genesis 29:17].  So I dress myself with the strength of your proverbs and I begin your spiritual circuit training.  My arms become strong- to discipline, guide and embrace the people you place in my life [Proverbs31].

Yet, despite my best efforts, I cannot heal my family, so I fall at your feet like Jairus [Luke 8].  I am a Zacchaeus who falls short, but in short, I know where to fall.  I fall at the feet of the one who can build a wall of protection or fall a wall of fear or pride.  See He died, so He could live in-side!  

Though it doesn’t make sense, there are times,  like the woman who bled, I try to hide my healing [Luke 8].  Yet, I choose to hunger at the feet of my Maker.  Martha calls, but I am Mary- a student who sits close to His hip.  And when  I think I slip, I sense your extravagant love supports this simple frame- a shield repelling shame [Psalm 94].

Sometimes I am reminded of where I don’t belong.  I don’t fit in the Trump haters or the Trump hailers because I’m too busy worshipping the one Sailor who navigates this ship with the stars he created.  

So even when the wait seems long, I remember I was called to be-long to Jesus Christ [Romans 1:6].  I am the blind man cast out, first for my affliction, and then for my healing [John 9].  I was lost, then tossed but always found by Jesus.  Let me never forget to whom I belong.

The Unnamed Daughter

by Amy Tate

Empower means to enable, commission, license, qualify.  Contemporary examples refer to the idea of giving strength to women who have been as a whole, oppressed, ignored, dismissed and even victimized by male dominated societies throughout history.     

But for Christ followers, we have already been given all power and authority by the Holy Spirit, and so irregardless of the injustices of a lost world, we do not need to grasp for power as if it would save or protect us.  Empowering women, then, should have a different connotation for women of the church.  It is not engaging in power struggles against men or fallen systems, but the struggle against any sin (external or internal) that would keep us from walking freely in His power.  

Our motivations for power should also be different from the world’s- not being a form of manipulation or control as a response to fear, for according to second Timothy 1:7, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self control.  And yes, this power is vastly different than the power in the world.  God’s power is coupled with love and self-control.

In my personal study, I am reading in Judges.  I came across an uncomfortable and disturbing part of scripture in Judges 11.  In the margin of my bible I wrote, “I hate this vow.”  Jephthah is  placed in a position to lead and deliver Israel from the Ammonites who are warring against them over land disputes.  In order to secure the Lord’s favor, Jephthah bargains with the Lord in the form of a vow. He says, “If you give me victory, then whatever comes out of my house to meet me will be the Lord’s and I will offer it as a burnt offering.” (paraphrased)  Tragically, his is greeted by his daughter – his only child.  Not exactly Hallmark material.

Much to my horror, worshipping in church, I felt God prompting me to use this text to introduce the empower conference and blog.  I just sat there and cried, wondering why God would ask me to use a passage I found so revolting and offensive.  This is the opposite of empowering women, I thought.  But experience has taught me that like Jacob, He blesses those who push into Him to seek and struggle in order to know Him more.

I believe the interpretation of those commentators that believe her life was not physically sacrificed, since that would have been an abominable pagan practice, but instead her life would have been spent in temple service to the Lord, similar to that of a nun.  I do not want to focus however, on the odd and thoughtless vow of her father, but rather his daughter’s noble response.  He comes to her in mourning and explains what he has done.  She replies in verse 36, “Since the Lord avenged your enemies, complete your vow, but give me two months to weep in the mountains with my friends.”  (paraphrased).  This daughter, whom the Jewish women remembered every year for four days, according to custom, has so much to teach us.

  1. First, she took time to mourn.  She did not pretend that this was happy news, but faced her season of pain.  Too often we run from pain, only to experience it for longer periods of time, or have it manifest in other destructive ways.  She, in her youthful wisdom, knew when it was time to dance and when it was time to mourn.  Some of us don’t do either, and we miss out on life.
  2. She knew she needed the support network of women.  We need to find a group of ladies who have Christ in common.    
  3. She surrounded herself with God’s creation.  I do not think it an accident that she chose the mountains to mourn.  Numerous secular studies have shown the relationship between nature and improved mental health.  Beat Satan at his game- don’t play into his hand by staying isolated and indoors. 

This young lady “wept for her virginity” because she was losing everything she had imagined for her future- a husband, children and a traditional place in society.  Her pain was the loss of a dream, but that makes the loss no less real.  Yet, in her pain, I am astounded that she did not waste time blaming her father’s poor choices, or her heavenly Father’s sovereignty that allowed those poor choices.  

Sisters in Christ, let us lament with each other, so that, leaving all our sorrow at the foot of the cross, we may meet our Father with tambourines and dancing- celebrating often, his victories in our lives.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corrie ten Boom

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