Coping With A Husband’s Betrayal: A Lesson From Michal

It starts as a fairytale romance. Michal, the princess, is in love with David, the dashing commoner. He proves himself worthy of her hand by paying a dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins. In fact, he brings double.

But skip ahead two decades and Michal despises David in her heart. Thus, in the end, this is no fairytale romance. The marriage duet ends in a duel of bitter words. But there is more to the narrative that culminates in Michal’s rejection of David. For her tragic story is not unlike many of our own. Thus she serves as a warning, a warning against fixating on our suffering to the point that we fail to worship our loving heavenly bridegroom (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Michal serves as a warning against fixating on our suffering.

But let’s start near the end of Michal’s story. Standing at her window, looking down at David being undignified, Michal had every reason to be bitter. For a brooding history linked her to this man, celebrating wildly in the streets. While he had only uninhibited praise to give, all she could think of was the many disappointments she had faced at his hands, and the hands of her own father. The greatness of the God of Israel was the furthest thing from her mind.

What Brought Michal to This Point?

The story up to this point was nothing short of tragic. Michal’s love for David was used by her father King Saul, to get rid of David. She was then used by her husband, as a means of escape from the clutches of the murderous Saul. But David then abandoned Michal. After escaping he does not bother coming back for her. Along the way, David remarries. Not once but several times. Saul uses Michal again. Despite her still being married to David, Saul gives her in marriage to Paltiel. David then returns and sends for Michal. Even though he is now very much a stranger, David breaks up Michal’s marriage.

This wasn’t about David’s worship. This was about the way she had been treated.

Used. Abandoned. A victim of infidelities. Rejected. Scorned. Kidnapped. This just about sums up Michal’s life.

2 Samuel 3:13-16 paints a very poignant picture of Michal’s husband following her. He cries and pleads, until the fearsome Abner viciously turns him away. Michal is on her way back to David. Clearly, there was no discussion or amicable resolution possible. She was taken!

Is it any wonder that she looked at David and despised him (2 Samuel 6:16)? Some versions of the Bible say she looked at him with scorn. Is it really a mystery that she was not moved by watching him worship God? This wasn’t about David’s worship. This was about the way she had been treated by David prior to this moment.

Bitterness Prevents Worship

Her bitterness prevented her from seeing the wonder of that day: the return of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:12). The Ark was a symbol of God’s law; a reminder of his provision; a place to know God’s will; a token of God’s holiness; the place of atonement; and a powerful reflection of the very presence of God. The Ark of the Covenant contained the most holy items from Israel’s history: the tablets of the Ten Commandments; Aaron’s rod; and a pot of manna, the unusual food provided by God to sustain them during their forty years in the wilderness (Hebrews 9:4).

She could not see the goodness of God because David was a bad representation of who God really is.

The ark symbolised God’s presence in the midst of Israel. Therefore its return meant the return of God’s presence to his people. No doubt this was cause for celebration of humongous proportions. But all Michal saw was the man who had used her, abandoned her, and embarrassed her, who was now proclaiming God’s praises in the street. Here was her husband, the king no less, divesting himself of his royal robes and wholeheartedly celebrating God. But God was someone she knew nothing about.

Was Michal Wrong?

Michal is often regarded as the shrew who did not approve of David’s exuberant worship. She is quoted as an example of what you should not be as a worshipper. We view David, on the other hand, as an icon of what worship should look like.

But when we do this we ignore who Michal was and what she went through. She could not see the goodness of God because someone she knew, was a bad representation to her, of who God really is. Haven’t we often been in such situations? People hurt us so we turn away from God. They use us so we stop going to church. They abandon us so we find worshiping impossible. People mistreat us so we turn our backs on Christ.

To blame God for man’s shortcomings is almost equivalent to reducing God to an imperfect being.

But no man (or woman) could ever fully represent the greatness and purity and mystery of the God who created the heavens and the earth. We will always fall short. To blame God for man’s shortcomings is almost equivalent to reducing God to an imperfect being. And we know that God is perfect as was the only perfect being to walk the earth: Jesus.

David Experienced Much Mercy

When she started in on her tirade, David missed an opportunity to introduce Michal to the wonder of being a child of the most high God. Remember Michal’s upbringing was under Saul. He was not the kind of father to nurture his child in building a relationship with God. Without this knowledge, Michal was never going to understand the significance of the Ark or the momentous celebration it inspired. Instead, David rebukes her and it pretty much seals their doomed union.

All the years apart and she does not know how many times God saved David.

What Michal did not see was the reason for David’s reckless abandonment. All the years apart and she does not know how many times God saved David. She has not seen his hand of provision. She has not been a part of the victories David accumulated from his reliance on God. David suffered loss. He repented. God gave him control of Judah and many other territories. He was anointed king over Israel. Thus David had many reasons to praise God.

Worship Is A Response to Grace

What Michal and many of us don’t see is that when we give ourselves over to worship with fervour, it’s not because we think ourselves worthy to be in God’s presence. David’s behaviour certainly doesn’t imply he was worthy. It’s because only in his presence can our sinful nature and human failures be overwhelmed by his grace. It is only in worship that we can forget ourselves and focus on our Saviour.

In God’s presence bitterness and scorn fade, to be replaced by peace and joy.

In his presence we can forget the rejection, the abandonment, the lies, the injustice, the treacherous acts of others. Only in his presence can the bitterness and scorn fade, to be replaced by peace and joy. When we focus on God and God’s glory, there is very little room for anything else.

Look Past Your Drama To The Divine

If you take away anything from Michal’s story, perhaps it will be this:

  • Do not allow bitterness and scorn to prevent you from having your own encounter with the living God.
  • Do not let someone’s bad behaviour prevent you from your own worship experience.
  • Do not let man’s misdeeds prevent you from seeing God’s goodness.
  • Do not judge God’s nature by a human’s failure.