Taming the Unicorn
Chapter Nine – David vs. Michal
In the matter of Abishag, David showed that he came a long way since his dealings with Michal. He had learned to voluntarily give up his rights.
David was angry with Michal. Saul forced a divorce on her and gave her to another man. David thought Michal should have defied her father and waited for his return, or found a way to join him in the wilderness of exile. He probably married Ahinoam to spite Michal, as much as to console himself in his loneliness and anxiety and minister to his sexual needs.
Michal was too compliant towards her father. She did not cleave to her husband, as she should have. Also, it possibly meant a lot to her to be royalty. Status and prestige certainly impressed Saul.
To digress a bit, Saul envied Agag, the Amalekite king, his long, royal lineage and felt insecure about his own "Johnny–come–lately" status. I think he spared Agag to taunt that powerful king with his victory over him. The Amalekite kings were the "Caesars" of that era. They ruled the ancient world until God used Saul to break their hold on it.
Agag was crafty. He noted Saul's insecurity and flattered him in a bid to prolong his life long enough to regain the upper hand. I suppose Saul then felt ashamed of his childishness and tried to raise himself in Agag's esteem, and his own, by behaving more dignified and friendly. Samuel had no patience with Agag's slyness and put an immediate end to him when Agag tiptoed into his presence and tried to kiss up.
Saul's stubborn clinging to his position, after Samuel declared that God had chosen someone else, is further proof of his addiction to power and position. Jonathan, on the other hand, probably having witnessed the whole scene between Samuel and his father, willingly stepped down from his claims to the throne and received David as the Lord's anointed when he met him, and mentored him as the true heir.
Saul was furious when his successor was revealed to him. It frustrated him that all his plots to destroy David not only failed, but also served to raise him higher in the people's esteem and promoted deeper in the court. The new kid on the block even became part of Saul's own family, contrary to his efforts to try to get him killed via the Philistines. David's marriage to Michal gave him more claim to the throne.
When David fled for his life, Saul determined to begin to erase him by demanding Michal divorce David and marry a man whose service was to her father. If she did not comply with the divorce, Saul would have made things unpleasant for her and she would have been snubbed in his court. If she joined David, the people she wanted to impress would revile her and she would be on the run with him. Michal opted for comfort and prestige among the ruling class.
She adapted to Phaltiel. He wasn't as dazzling as David, but he adored her. This is what Michal desired – adoration. Phaltiel gave her what she wanted. He was impressed with being married to a princess. He was loyal to her father's house. David had managed greater responsibilities than Phaltiel and had not been available to give her as much attention. She felt that David did not care for her as much as Phaltiel did.
David had not wasted much time taking another wife. Michal might have understood him taking one for the sake of his sexual needs, but two? And both famous for beauty? (Ex–wives are keenly tuned to hearing news of their former husband's new wives and people are eager to tell them). Oh, yes. David was missing her all right, roughing it out there in the wilderness with two beautiful wives. This made it easier for her to transfer her affections to Phaltiel.
After David was offered Ishbosheth's throne upon his death, he demanded the return of his wife, though he no longer had any affection for her. He still chafed over the high–handedness of Saul in taking her from him, and Michal's betrayal in going along with it.
David wanted to make the point that what Saul did was unfair and illegal. His pride had been injured. He resented that Saul and Michal had put him to the inconvenience of dealing with painful feelings of rejection. Forgiveness could have healed the sting, but David had not progressed to that point in resolving how he felt about the matter.
David was callous and indifferent to the relationship that had formed between Michal and her new husband. In a staggering run, Phaltiel followed the cavalcade that escorted Michal away from their home, screaming his anguish and weeping.
God was not indifferent to Phaltiel's pain or the sorrow Michal concealed beneath bitter resignation. God never relishes having to judge and, in this case, judgment could have been deferred, if David had not taken it upon himself to mete it out.
However much it might have weakened the people's respect for David and his legal claim to the throne, God could have taken up the slack for him, if David had chosen to show mercy. Some people might have loved him better for it. After all, under Moses' laws, a woman was free to remarry if her husband put her away. David could have ratified the divorce by giving his consent to it. Also, it was not his marriage to Michal that delivered the throne of Israel to him. It was God's decision and anointing. When God seals a decision, nothing can reverse it.
Phaltiel's heart–wrenching pleas followed Michal's military escort, causing her own heart to encase itself in ice towards David, burying whatever guilt she had felt about abandoning him. The wretched man's distress became unbearable and Abner ran him off. I see Phaltiel standing forlorn under the hot sun, staring miserably after the procession as it disappears in the dust in the distance, the wife he stole from David now stolen back from him.
Phaltiel's name means "deliverance of God". He strikes me as having been a gentle soul. Perhaps he repented of taking advantage of David's misfortune and found consolation in God. One thing I know for certain, God cried Phaltiel's tears with him when he ate the bitter fruit of his sins. I hope Phaltiel is in Heaven and I will meet him there.
I feel like I already know him because God dribbled some of Phaltiel's tears out of His archives into my heart to help me understand Phaltiel's perspective. It was horrible. I sobbed and sobbed, but the experience gave me a deeper comprehension of God's great compassion, and how He sorrows even for the wicked in their pains when they are judged. I don't think that Phaltiel was all that wicked of a guy, though. He was in love with a princess and when she was offered to him, like most men would have done in the same position, he didn't turn down the opportunity.
He may have been closer to Michal's age, too; a better match for her than David. I have surmised from the list of Saul's children that Michal was quite a bit older than David. Maybe Phaltiel had a crush on Michal for years, but her father kept his daughters from marrying, using them as bait for years to entice men to curry his favour and prove their loyalty, so that they could gain the political advantages of marrying one of the king's daughters. Phaltiel, at least, truly cared for Michal, even when all political advantages to being married to her were gone.
The advantage David had in having Michal brought back to him was political. Besides the fact that Michal now bitterly resented him, the Laws of Moses forbade him from having sexual relations with her. Michal was defiled for him by her marriage to another. She was no longer merely Michal. She was now Michal/Phaltiel. Her one–flesh relationship with Phaltiel within a marriage covenant sealed her off from becoming one flesh with David. There no longer existed the potential for sexual relations with him being anything other than merely sensual. Procreation and fun are not the only reasons God instituted sex.
As a couple progresses in their relationship within the Trinity, they gain enlightenment about the kind of spiritual intimacy God desires us to have with Him. Closer bonding to God leads to deeper love between a godly couple. The path to spiritual bonding that had been laid out for Michal and David when they married had been cut off. It could be picked up further down the line only with someone else, if David had released her from their marriage and she had repented of her inconstancy. It seemed not likely to happen. David kept her for political reasons and personal revenge.
Having a low opinion of David's character led Michal to believe there was no hope of him repenting of his decision to keep her prisoner. This is essentially what Michal was, though she was incarcerated among luxury and still had some social standing as David's first wife. She lived in the palace as a widow, and she resented it. Michal chafed at the knowledge that there was a man who loved her, but could not have her unless David permitted it. David could have, but did not. This irritated her more.
Did David feel threatened that Phaltiel's and Michal's children, if they had any, would trouble his heirs with claims to the throne? Not likely. David allowed Saul's grandchildren to live until the Gibeonites demanded their lives for vengeance against Saul's slaughters and he needed to comply in order to break the drought that was upon Israel. David let Jonathan's child live, though he had more right to the throne than Ishbosheth, Jonathan's younger brother. And he did not send assassins against Ishbosheth when Abner set him on the throne of Israel.
God could have worked something out for Michal, if she had trusted Him, but trusting God was not a strength she had developed. The idol she placed in David's bed to delay his arrest was suspiciously handy. Why not roll up some clothes and make them look like it was David's body beneath the covers? She used the idol because she believed there was power for protection in it.
Neither was patience one of Michal's attributes. She had a sexual drive that was being denied and a loving companion whom she missed. The unicorn was prodding her thoughts, pushing them down dark avenues as she stewed within the palace.
There was more to Michal's disgust of David than merely his dancing when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. Some of Michal's disgust was David's fault. However she had no right to judge him and consider him a phoney when she saw him pouring out his strength in worship before God.
David danced before the Lord and he danced with all his might. This does not refer merely to his physical effort. It included all his moral strength. Whatever David was, he gave all of himself to God – good and bad. He acknowledged God's hand in whatever was good in him, and he trusted God to straighten out whatever was bad.
Being a man after God's own heart did not mean that he did everything right in God's eyes. It means he wanted to do everything that was right in God's eyes and he humbly acknowledged his inability to do so on his own. As Bible teacher Paula White has said, David cried after God, "God, I need You! God, help me! God, I want You!" as he pursued God around wherever He led him. This is why God loved David so much in spite of his faults. It was because of his humble, hungering spirit that wanted to be pleasing to God.
I have experienced similar circumstances of having my character judged as falling short of the zeal that I display for God. I like to praise the Lord in dance in church, and some people think that, if I am going to minister in a visible way like that, I should be perfect. A woman complained to me that she thought I was unfriendly towards her husband because I didn't say, "Hello," to him when I saw him on the street a couple times. I explained that I have only 24 hours in a day, and can't be friends with everyone. (Besides, there was nothing about the man that made me feel I wanted to know him better. I overheard him ranting at a lady in the church and knew that he was a bully.)
I explained to his wife that I am not perfect and I am not going to pretend to be more spiritual than I am. I also explained that praising God helps me to be a better person. It helps me get rid of my junk because praising God has a purifying effect. I think that this is why David kept on praising God, even when other people thought it was hypocritical of him to do so.
In another instance, I wrote a letter to someone that really ticked them off. He was a wealthy man in my church with a prophetic ministry that he was a bit overzealous about. Sometimes he said stuff that was right on, but other times, in my case, I think he just wanted to pick on me. He said stuff to me that, over thirty years later, still doesn't make sense.
I got after him because I didn't like how he treated one of his employees like a lackey. Without even asking, he handed his stuff to this employee to hold onto for him while he ducked into the men's room. There were places in there to set his stuff down, and he wasn't paying his employee on the weekends to wait on him. When I wrote that letter to him, I took him to task for this, and also got a few other things off my chest that he figured were none of my business. Pretty much like some of the stuff he said to me, I'd say. Only in my case, I was more accurate.
He was so mad. He wrote a letter to our pastor and the pastor chewed me out for not minding my own business. And he was right; I shouldn't have stuck my nose in where it didn't belong. It's different when the Lord tells you to rebuke someone, but I really didn't have His leading on this. I wanted to vent because his behaviour reminded me of a former boyfriend who had treated me in a similar, high-handed way, and I didn't realize that I had unforgiveness in my heart towards that boyfriend until I talked with my pastor later.
When I was dancing at the front of the church, I looked over and saw that man standing there. He was a big, huge guy with a face that looked like granite at the best of times, but now he looked really grim. The vibes he was sending my way could make a person want to crawl under a pew and hide, but I said in my heart to the Lord, "Father, I thank You that, regardless of what anyone else thinks of me, and regardless of my faults, I am worthy by the blood of Jesus to come into Your Presence. It is not my works that make me worthy, but what Jesus did for me on the cross." And I carried on praising Him in dance.
Michal did not understand that God meets each of us right where we are at. She had a religious, works–oriented mentality. She thought that if David was not perfect, then he had no right to rejoice before the Lord. How could he possibly think God approved of his efforts to rave and make a show for Him, spinning about and being clamorously foolish for the sake of God's glory? (This is what the word "hallel" means. It is Hebrew for that type of praise.) Yes, how could he possibly think God was happy with him when he was acting like such a jerk to her? The issue with Michal was not really his dancing. She detested him as a person.
The priests were commanded to wear linen so they would be prepared to work up a sweat in God's service; to surrender to Him the utmost of their strength. This is why we should dress in layers when we come to church, in case the Spirit leads us to praise God in the dance. It gets pretty hot to exert oneself while wearing woollen garments that can't be dispensed with. David prepared himself to worship by dressing in a priestly tunic that would help him to not get too overheated.
Dancing was well known in Israel as a form of praise and spiritual warfare. Israel sent its armies into battle with Levites leading the way, praising God in the dance. Michal was aware of all these things. She used David's enthusiasm as an excuse to take some shots at him.
Basically, she was judging his moral character and telling David that she thought he was a phoney. She tried to undermine his confidence before God by implying God did not approve of him; and his confidence as a king before his people, by telling him he looked like a silly fool. Through shame, she tried to manipulate him into agreeing with her that he did not deserve the dignity of being a king. Perhaps she was trying to tell him that the only reason he was the king was because he was married to her, a daughter of the former king, and that this is why the people tolerated him.
The Bible says "Judge not lest you be judged." This does not forbid us from being discerning. It means God does not approve of people despising and condemning others. He alone is God and knows what is in the hearts of souls. He alone knows whether each of us are applying ourselves to the utmost of our strength to live according to the liberty He has given us.
Michal became unfruitful in her relationship with God because she did not seek His perspective. She held to religion. She held to judging. Michal did not acknowledge the good fruit that was apparent in David's life. Her concern centered entirely on herself and how David treated her. She considered David incapable of growing character and thought all his good acts were self–serving. She also ruined her chances of getting what she wanted – to return to Phaltiel.
David felt glad and generous that day. He had a feast handed out to all his citizens. Then he returned to bless his house. How much more do you suppose he intended to bless the members of his own house to make that day especially memorable for them? He wasn't going to just say a few words of blessing over them. He handed out freebies to people he did not know. I think that he had presents prepared to hand out to all his wives and kids. Whatever they wanted the most that he could give them. Yes, to fix it in their hearts that God is a generous God. Michal's desires were considered, too. She was part of his household.
Worshipping God with all one's might has a very good effect. It probably shook loose the last bit of bitterness in David's heart towards Michal. Praising God has had that kind of effect on me. Worshipping God in the dance probably made David feel all the more eager to bless Michal.
But how could he send her back to Phaltiel when she had such a bitter attitude? She wasn't ready to handle liberty. David was better off keeping her a prisoner where he could have her watched and prevented from provoking any of her family to contest his rule.
There was no other reason to keep her, once he forgave her of her infidelity. She certainly was not going to get pregnant by him. The Law did not allow him to have sex with her. Michal's lack of children might have been impossible because of a medical condition coming upon her due to the spirit of jealousy in David's heart when Michal took Phaltiel for her husband. David's consent to her marriage would have removed the curse on her womb and enabled her to conceive. After that obstacle was taken out of the way, her unfruitfulness was probably due to never repenting of her rotten attitude and, therefore, never being returned to Phaltiel.
By the time David's life came to a close, he had learned that there are some things more important than always asserting his rights. Things may look all right on the surface, but God searches the heart and He can hear the unicorn's neigh behind all the denials. Self–denial was the key for David to keep the unicorn in its proper place. Continuing to worship God led to him developing self–control.
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Taming the Unicorn, Chapter 10