Michal’s Disdain

Michal’s Disdain

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, July 24, 2005

revcooper.ca

And as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart (2SA 6:16).

  1. In order for us to understand what was behind David’s dancing before the ark, it is important that we have some kind of overview of the kinds of things David had been doing with his life to lead up to this moment which was so important to him. We need to see the battles and the anguish before we can properly understand the peace and the joy.
    1. David was a soldier, a mighty warrior, long before he was a king. As a shepherd boy, he had fought a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. Then, when he came into the camp of the children of Israel to deliver food to his soldier brothers, he offered to fight the Philistine giant, Goliath. We all know that David’s stunning victory over this Philistine marked the beginning of his long and remarkable life as a hero and king of Israel. He served as a musician to King Saul, but the king saw him as a threat to his kingdom and sought to kill him. This drove David out of Israel into Philistia, where he remained until Saul’s death.
    2. Defeated and mortally wounded by Philistine archers, Saul fell on his own sword. He and three of his sons all died that same day, leaving Israel and Judah without a king.
      1. We are told in the Word that the men of Judah came and anointed David as their king, confirming the choice that the Lord had made when Samuel anointed David as king so many years before, but in the north, the men were still loyal to Saul and his descendants. They did not want David to be their king, and so began a long civil war between Israel and Judah, lasting more than seven years. As David and his army grew stronger, the forces of Israel grew weaker, until finally, the men of Israel approached David and made him their king.
    3. With his kingdom finally united, and with visions of future peace and prosperity, David began to look for a new national capital. David chose Jerusalem to be the new capital because it had never been associated with either Israel or Judah. It was a Canaanite city, occupied by the Jebusites.
      1. David fought a brilliant battle to capture the heavily fortified city, and in his joy he made preparations to bring the ark itself into Jerusalem.
      2. We can understand how it would be extremely desirable for David to consolidate the symbols of earthly and heavenly power in one place. He saw this as a sign that the Lord was with him, and that Israel would become a great nation, and that he would be its great king.
        1. So they went to Hebron, and began to move the ark to Jerusalem. But, rather than carrying the ark in the traditional manner, they made a new cart for it, and David and all the house of Israel played music on instruments of wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. Words are not adequate to describe what a joyous procession this must have been.
        2. But then disaster struck. The oxen stumbled, the ark rocked dangerously on its cart, and a man named Uzzah reached out and touched the ark to steady it. He was struck dead for his error.
      3. This was a tremendous blow to David. He no doubt saw it as a sign from God that the ark should not go to Jerusalem; that God was angry with His people Israel — and its king. So David stopped the procession, and had the ark taken to the house of Obed-Edom, the Gittite. Then he and the people returned to nearby Jerusalem to await developments.
  2. The ark rested with Obed-Edom for three months, and not only did no other disasters occur, but Obed-Edom prospered. David took this to be a sign that God’s anger was abated, or satisfied. Once again he formed a procession to bring the ark to Jerusalem.
    1. The procession stopped every six paces so that oxen and sheep could be sacrificed!
    2. We can well imagine that David, a man of passion and a warrior given to quick, decisive action, could no longer stand the pace (even though he had set it himself) and began to dance for joy that the ark was finally coming to his capital city.
    3. We can well imagine that as he danced in a wild expression of his joy, he began to throw off the heavy outer garments of his kingly office, until he was dancing before the ark as it processed to Jerusalem in his linen ephod, or undergarment.
  3. His wife Michal awaited them in the city. She was Saul’s daughter, given to David in an attempt to cement the political bonds between her husband and father. It does not appear from the letter of the Word that there was any love between David and Michal. She was, and always had been, a political wife. At this time he had a number of other wives and concubines (2SA 5:13) with more to come later.
    1. When she saw David’s joy, she could not share in it. She struck out at him with contempt, and sneered at his expressions of exaltation.
    2. Meanwhile, David entered the city, saw the ark placed in the tabernacle that had been prepared for it, gave gifts of food to all the people, and sent them to their homes.
    3. As he returned to his home, however, he was greeted by Michal’s remarks, implying that he was undignified, and perhaps even unqualified to be a king if he was to behave that way in public — and the comparisons to her father would have been unspoken, but difficult to miss.
      1. The Word tells us that Michal was childless from that time forward. The only possible reason for mentioning this fact at this time is to clearly indicate that from that time forward Michal was separated from the marriage bed. Her derision and disdain had made it impossible for them to be conjoined as husband and wife again.
  4. This is a fascinating story of human relationships. It would be worth reading even if it were only a history of important historic military leaders. But it is not. Every element of this story has been given to us by the Lord in order to tell us important things about how we are to live our own lives in heavenly order, how we are to handle the problems that we meet in our own lives. Let us then take the major elements of the story of the entry of the ark into Jerusalem, and see what the Heavenly doctrines reveal as the Lord’s truth within this story. We begin with the ark, having left Obed-Edom’s house, and about to enter Jerusalem.
    1. The ark represents the Word of the Lord, because it contained the Ten Commandments engraved on the two tablets of stone.
    2. A city represents the doctrine that is formed in our minds throughout our lives as we live according to the Word and form the church within ourselves.
    3. We also need to consider the fact that the ark is coming to Jerusalem after a long and difficult journey.
    4. These things tell us that this story begins in our own lives when we learn a new spiritual truth from the Word through some kind of difficult experience or temptation. The ark approaching the city is like a new truth approaching the mind.
  5. Then David dances for joy before the ark, throwing off his outer garments.
    1. In the Word, dancing represents a sphere of heavenly joy at the reception of a new truth. In such states, things that are merely external are put aside for a time, thrown off, as it were, and the more interior thoughts and affections are noticed. When we feel that we have learned something really new and important, we feel good about it, and our thoughts focus on it. We want to share it with others, while other, lesser matters are properly put to the side for the time being.
    2. Saul as a king represented the Lord in His Divine Human. But, when Saul began to allow his own delusions and anger take over his life, and he turned away from obeying the Lord, he began to represent false ideas that are opposed to spiritual truth instead — for Saul opposed David.
    3. Daughters in the Word usually represent affections for good and true things. However, Michal carries with her the mark of her father, and so she represents the affections of those falsities that are opposed to spiritual truth.
    4. In other words, Michal represents that part of our minds that delights in questioning the ideas that we have, particularly ideas that favor others. She represents that part of us that would delight in any thought or action that would place the needs and desires of self before or above the needs of others.
    5. We are told that Michal watched David dance from a window. Windows, because they allow light to enter into a room, usually have the representation in the Word of intellectual things that bring light to the mind.
    6. However, since it is Michal looking through the window, it changes to its opposite representation, and tells us that the intellectual part of our minds can be drawn into the trap and be used not to understand spiritual and natural truths, but be used to create reasonings and self-justification as to why it is good to feel such things as contempt for others.
    7. That Michal looked at David from the window tells us that we sometimes face the temptation of using our minds to think up reasons that support the belief that to delight in spiritual things is somehow silly, that spiritual things are somehow not “real” and therefore not worthy of an adult’s serious attention.
      1. And further, we sometimes face the temptation of looking at the sincere expression of spiritual life in others, and ridicule them for it, for we have reasoned within our own minds that such things are not “dignified” or “proper.”
      2. Michal, we are told, despised David in her heart, which is to say that the love of self delights in making comparison of others to self, and finding fault where none actually exists.
    8. In the meantime, the ark is placed in the tabernacle prepared for it, which tells us that even while these thoughts of ridicule are being formed in our minds, we can yet carry on, the truth can continue to bring delight as it is lived, and obeyed.
      1. We can be of two minds! We can delight in doing what we know to be true from the Word even as another part of our mind forms arguments against it! As the ark is placed in the tabernacle, David gives the sign of obedience by offering burnt offerings.
      2. Even in our times of mental questioning, doubt, and temptation, we can (and must!) continue to obey the Word in our daily lives.
  6. David gave gifts of bread, meat, and raisin cakes to the people and sent them to their own homes.
    1. Foods represent the good of truth, which tells us that as we begin to live according to the new truth, even as the arguments against it begin to mount in our own minds, as the storm clouds begin to gather, we begin to feel the benefits of living according to the truth. We find that it is good, both for ourselves and for others.
  7. Then David returns to his own home, and the confrontation with Michal. A temptation is a battle between loves.
    1. Any time a love is challenged, we feel pain, for our loves are our very life itself. When a good love is challenged by an evil affection, we will feel pain no matter which one wins, because both were a part of our own life, and it is painful to have any love removed.
    2. In this case, we see represented the confrontation between the affection for a newly found truth, a truth acquired over a long trial, and the twisted reasoning of self-intelligence and self-love.
    3. Michal’s expression of disdain for David’s behavior represents a tendency in each of us to ridicule things that are different or unusual. This can in part show us the power that external conventions have, especially in things like worship.
      1. We must remember what happened to the men of the Ancient Church when they filled their world with representative symbols of the Lord, and then forgot what they meant and began to worship the symbols themselves. They fell from the true worship of the Lord into idolatry.
      2. We too can loose our perspective and begin to worship externals which no longer have anything spiritual within them. At the same time, we may find ourselves ridiculing new ideas for the expression of worship just because they are new and unfamiliar to us. There is also a tendency for us to be fearful of externals that are too different from what we have come to expect.
  8. Finally, David tells Michal that the maidservants will hold him in honor for dancing with joy. This tells us that the real test for forms that are appropriate expressions of the affections of spiritual truth and good is in their use to the Lord and to the neighbor, for maidservant represents a thing of use. The battle, the temptation was ended.
    1. Michal was childless from then on, she was no longer conjoined with her husband in the marriage bed. This represents conquering in temptation which comes when we follow truths from the Word, fight the feelings of ridicule by striving ever forward in our daily lives, continuing to live well, and then letting the usefulness of a thing the final judge.
      1. Michal was only looking to herself, and so she was rejected, alone and childless until her death.
      2. On the other hand, David, who danced before the Lord in his linen ephod, was given rest from his enemies.
  9. It is so easy to be critical of others when they do something unfamiliar. No doubt some of the things people do actually are odd or even harmful — but we cannot immediately judge only from outward appearance. We must allow each other a certain freedom to express what we feel in our heart to be from the Lord. The only true criterion of judgment is the use that is performed.
    1. Ideas need to be judged, not on the reputation of the one who presents the idea, but rather on whether or not the idea will help us feel the Lord’s presence in our lives.
    2. We need to shut away the critic Michal so that we too can dance with joy in the presence of the Lord, and be given rest from our enemies. AMEN.

    Lessons: 2SA 6:12-23, JOH 5:24-30, AC 6203, 6204

    First Lesson: 2SA 6:12-23

    Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. {13} And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. {14} Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. {15} So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. {16} Now as the ark of the LORD came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. {17} So they brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. {18} And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. {19} Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house. {20} Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” {21} So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. {22} “And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” {23} Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. Amen.

    Second Lesson: JOH 5:24-30

    “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. {25} “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. {26} “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, {27} “and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. {28} “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice {29} “and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. {30} “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. Amen.

    Third Lesson: AC 6203, 6204

    In regard to the origin of the influx of evil from hell, the case is this. When a man first from consent, then from purpose, and at last from the delight of affection, casts himself into evil, then a hell is opened which is in such evil (for the hells are distinct from one another according to evils and all their varieties), and there afterward takes place an influx from that hell. When a man comes into evil in this way, it clings to him, for the hell in the sphere of which he then is, is in its very delight when in its evil; and therefore it does not desist, but obstinately presses in, and causes the man to think about that evil, at first occasionally, and afterward as often as anything presents itself which is related to it, and at last it becomes with him that which reigns universally. And when this takes place, he then seeks for such things as confirm that it is not an evil, and this until he wholly persuades himself; and then, in so far as he can, he studies to remove external bonds, and makes evils allowable and clever, and at last even becoming and honorable – such as adulteries, thefts effected by art and deceit, various kinds of arrogance and boasting, contempt for others, vituperations, persecutions under an appearance of justice, and the like. The case with these evils is like that with downright thefts, which when committed of set purpose two or three times, cannot be desisted from; for they continually cling to the man’s thought.

    6204. Be it known further that the evil which enters into the thought does no harm to the man, because evil is continually infused by spirits from hell, and is continually repelled by angels. But when evil enters into the will, then it does harm, for then it also goes forth into act whenever external bonds do not restrain. Evil enters into the will by being kept in the thought, by consent, especially by act and the consequent delight. Amen.

  10.  Bible Meanings Home

    SwedenborgStudy.com

    http://www.smallcanonsearch.com/

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/index.htm

    http://www.swedenborgdigitallibrary.org/

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