“It was before the Lord…”

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….  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!” 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. 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.” Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Sam 6: 16, 20-23)



I stayed recently at a hotel where I was speaking and exhibiting at a dyslexia conference. The hotel was built, I think, around the end of the 19th century: in its heyday it must have been a jewel in the crown of Victorian opulence in that city. It had a splendid ballroom, tall ornate mirrors, spacious bedrooms with recessed seats in the walls, crystal chandeliers, and wide steps where you could imagine the daughters of the local shipping magnates sweeping through in their flowing robes as men in top hats held an outstretched hand and gave a slight bow as they descended. Today it is a different story: the opulence hasn’t just faded, it has disappeared. The carpets are dirty, paint is peeling off the walls, The pictures in my room weren’t even hanging on the wall but they were on the floor, leaning against it; the lift door got stuck and the goods lift didn’t work at all.

I was thinking of all the shortcomings of this place when I opened my Bible at the place I had reached in my current reading: it was the verse I’ve quoted in the title of this piece, from psalm 138 vs 8: “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me…“ When I read this I looked at myself and realised how Man was like this hotel that I was staying in: created in beauty and perfection, but now worn down and broken by sin. Yet, because of the blood of Jesus, our Father can see us in our original beauty, Immanuel still chooses to come and dwell in us, and the Holy Spirit promises to perfect us…

When David was bringing the Ark into Jerusalem and famously dancing and whirling in celebration, Michal looked out of the window and “despised him in her heart.“ She disapproved of his actions which she considered to be unseemly, and she spoke in a critical and negative way. She just saw what she considered to be peeling paint and dirty carpets.  David‘s response, detailed above, was that “it was before the Lord…” The consequence of Michal’s criticism was that she had no children.

Our words can be either fruitful or barren. The unfruitfulness of Michal‘s life is a dramatic illustration of the consequence of barren words. How easy it is to judge a brother or sister with our negative comments because we consider that what they are doing is inappropriate by our standards. Yet because of the blood of Jesus that brother or sister is standing “before the Lord.” God does not peer down disapprovingly from behind a twitching curtain: He opens His arms wide in welcome. If the blood of Jesus is sufficient for the Father to look upon us in love and approval, how can we ever do otherwise when looking upon each other? The only consequence of our negativity will be unfruitfulness in our own lives.

Michal’s contempt of David was more than a passing thought in her head; it came from a deeper place. It came from her heart. If we criticise a brother or sister we are no better than Michal: we have lifted up our own hearts in contempt, and we are forgetting that we too are like that run-down hotel I stayed in. We need to pray, as David did: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139 23-24) Our negativity will never lead anybody else “in the way everlasting;” it will only, ultimately, have a negative impact on ourselves.

However, God says “I will perfect the things which concern you.” David’s prayer suggests that anxious thoughts lead to offensive ways. What anxieties lie deep in our hearts that can cause us to be offensive to others as Michal was? If we invite Him in to that run-down, broken area of our heart that feels the need to despise another person, He will come in, mend the lift, lay a new carpet, repaint the walls and hang the pictures in their place. The lift will take us up into heavenly places, the carpet will be a red carpet of welcome for His presence, the walls will be as white as snow, and the pictures will show the face of Jesus. And instead of criticizing David we will be joining him in the dance.

Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.

I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.

You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
(Ps 73: 21-24)

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