For the week of April 10, 1999 / 24 Nisan 5759
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: 2 Sam 6:1-7:17

Destructive Criticism

David…danced before the LORD with all his might (2 Samuel 6:14)

King David was making his second attempt at bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant was a central object in the priestly ritual for Israel. In some way it represented the localized presence of God. Years before it was taken into battle and captured by the Philistines. Even after it was recovered, it was a long time before it was in its rightful place again.

Under King David God established Jerusalem as the place for the temple worship. In preparation for that King David sought to bring the Ark there. His first attempt resulted in disaster, which I will comment on shortly.

As David was bringing it to Jerusalem the second time, he did so with dancing and music.

David's wife, Michal daughter of Israel's first king Saul, observed the celebrations. We read:

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 (2 Samuel 6:16).

When she saw him afterwards, she confronted him. The Scriptures continue:

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, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!" (2 Samuel 6:20).

But David responded as follows:

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. 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 (2 Samuel 6:21,22).

At first glance it would appear that Michal was concerned for godly propriety in the midst of a most sacred circumstance. But her focus was very different from David's. He was celebrating before the Lord and didn't care how he looked in front of other people. Michal was embarrassed that her husband of high office would carry on like a commoner.

She was so upset by her husband's carryings on that we read, "She despised him in her heart" (2 Samuel 6:16). He was worshipping God and she treated it like garbage. Her placing of human dignity above David's child-like act of worship blinded her from seeing what was really going on.

A little closing comment at the end of the story, is the result of her heart's focus:

And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death (2 Samuel 6:23).

This is not to say that all childless married women are so because of some terrible act on their part. But this is the case here. Because her heart was fixed on human concerns, she was unfruitful. She lost the blessing of God.

This story shows us how God views the great variety of ways that people truly worship him. We are the ones that often impose our values on how God is to be approached. Not only do we firmly hold on to our perceptions of what is true worship; we also impose our tastes upon others. The result is we are in danger of preventing others from worshipping God in the way God intended them to.

This is not to say that anything goes in the name of worshipping God. Far from it. When David first attempted to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, he neglected to follow God's directions in the Torah. It was to be carried on poles by the Levites, not on an animal cart. When the cart tipped, someone tried to prevent the Ark from falling, and died after touching it.

God's directions must be followed and followed in the way he intended. But the area inside those parameters is quite large. While we must be concerned for what God's parameters are, it is not up to us to narrow them, nor is it our prerogative to impose new ones. Instead if we seek to appreciate how others worship God within God-defined parameters, we will enter into new blessings ourselves.

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