In II Samuel 6:14-16, we find King David making a triumphant march into the City of Jerusalem, bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to its rightful place. But, unfortunately, this chapter opens with David making some careless decisions regarding the manner in which the Ark would be removed from enemies who had captured it and returned to its proper position.
The Bible says that they tried to transport the Ark on a “new cart,” and due to their disobedience to God’s instructions regarding the moving of the Ark, a man named Uzzah lost his life.
What was the problem?
The Ark represented the presence and power of God, and if you wanted the presence and power of God to move in your midst, then you had to have it God’s way! God had told His people that to move the Ark, the priests had to carry it, but they couldn’t touch it . . . in fact, no one could. There were staves that they would run through eyelets on either side of the body of that sacred object, and then they could transport it by bearing the staves on their shoulders.
The chapter opens with King David operating in disobedience to God. He was trying to do the right thing, but he did it in the wrong way. Then the chapter closes with David being despised by one of his wives named Michal.
There’s a strange juxtaposition of feelings toward David in this passage of Scripture, and it’s illustrative of a very important truth. There was a crowd of people on that day who looked at David as a hero . . . they adored him. But sitting up in a tower, there was a lonely and neglected wife who looked at David as a hateful man . . . she despised him.
The ugly truth about great people is that they are not just one thing. You see, to some people, David was wonderful, but to others, he was wicked! Based upon their personal experiences with David, it could be said that they were both correct in their assessments. The same thing is true of people in general, but it’s especially notable in people considered to be great.
My wife and I just watched “The Last Dance,” an ESPN series about the life and career of Michael Jordan, who for me is probably the greatest professional basketball player of all time. Of course, I’d heard it before, but the documentary showed the reality time and time again of just how competitive MJ was in every single aspect of his life.
He was so bent on being the best that it was difficult for people who knew him closely to have a genuine friendship with him. Great people can be very difficult people to be around. To millions of people worldwide, MJ was a hero, but to many who knew him personally, he was a complicated person.
David was the same way. I’ve read the Books of I and II Samuel countless times. I’ve studied those chapters along with I and II Chronicles. I’ve taught and preached through David’s life in seminary classes, discipleship groups, Bible study programs, and in the pulpit in both of my Senior Pastorates.
He’s one of my absolute favorite personalities in all of the Bible, and over and over again, David’s life reminds us of the truth that great people are not just one thing.
Think About It
This is the same David that slew a lion and bear with nothing but a sling and a stone and the help of God Almighty all by himself while he was looking after his father’s sheep.
This was the same David who walked out onto the battlefield with an army of cowards behind him and a Philistine giant in front of him. Yet, with one fatal shot and a single cut with the giant’s sword, he won an unthinkably courageous battle for an entire nation.
This was the same David who raised up and led his band of mighty men, who were all heroic in their own right, to countless military victories over some extremely formidable enemies.
The Bible even tells us that God said that David was a “man after God’s own heart.”
I Samuel 13:14
The prophet Samuel was scolding King Saul, David’s predecessor, for personally making the burnt offering before going into battle. To make the offering was a sacred task reserved for the priesthood. The prophet looked King Saul in the face and spoke these words,
“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.”
Who was this “man after God’s own heart?” If you’ve read the Old Testament books of I and II Samuel, then you know that it was none other than King David. We find this statement about David being a “man after God’s own heart” repeated in . . .
Acts 13:22—”And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.”
The Point? David was, indeed, a very great man. BUT that’s not all he was . . .
It was this same David who neglected his responsibility to his nation and his army one time. While they were at war, he was taking it easy on the rooftop of the palace, looking out over the kingdom one night when he saw something that wasn’t meant for his eyes to see. He saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing naked.
She was the wife of one of David’s mightiest men named Uriah the Hittite. David lusted in his heart after Bathsheba, and he ordered his guards to take her into custody and bring her to him at once. He committed adultery with her, and they conceived a child. David tried to cover things up with a conspiracy that ended with the murder of Uriah and the eventual death of the baby. That doesn’t sound much like a hero, does it?
It Gets Worse
Anytime you bring up the great sins of King David, most Bible students will mention the one we just discussed. But if you really want to know which one was the “worst,” there’s a much better candidate. Later on, in David’s life, he was preparing for war, and he got a little anxious about his military state. What he was supposed to do was simply put his trust in God, but he found himself trusting in his resources instead.
So he numbered, or counted, the nation’s fighting men to see if he had enough men to overcome the opposition. Sounds reasonable enough to me and even prudent, but apparently David’s actions were an expression of the fact that he had more confidence in men than he did in God.
For the severity of consequences of this particular sin, we actually have a metric in the form of a body count. You can read about what happened in II Samuel 24. It’s a dramatic story, and II Samuel 24:15 tells us that due to David’s lapse in faith, 70,000 people lost their lives. That doesn’t sound like a great king, does it?
But Wait, There’s More
Then we have the situation with Michal in our text. Michal was a daughter of King Saul that he’d given to David as a reward for successfully completing a military campaign that should’ve killed David. You can read the story in I Samuel 18. Michal loved David, and she even saved his life from her father in I Samuel 19.
King Saul wanted to kill David, and Michal helped him escape. David eventually fled and spent a really long period of time on the run. During all of that time, we don’t have any record of David trying to contact Michal nor any indication of whether Michal even knew exactly what was going on with David.
As it turns out, part of what David was up to was that he was building a mighty army and marrying some more women. In the meantime, King Saul gave Michal to be the wife of another man named Phaltiel. Michal had a new husband, she and Phaltiel apparently loved one another very much, and everything was wonderful until David finally decided to come back and take the throne.
You can read about it II Samuel 3, and I think there’s one of the most heartbreaking scenes in all of the Bible in that passage. The chapter opens by telling us that there’d been a long war between David and Saul and that David ended up making an agreement with one of Saul’s leaders named Abner. David agreed to come back and take the throne, but he had one condition. He asked for them to go and take Michal and bring her to him. If you want to read a heart-breaking scene, just take a look at it.
“And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. 15 And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.16 And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.” Do you know how we can tell that David was in the wrong here? Because when the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to pen this passage of Scripture HE called Phaltiel “Michal’s husband!” II Samuel 18:14-16
Michal’s Feelings are Understandable
Once again, this doesn’t sound like a great man, a good king, and certainly not a hero! Now you can see why Michal sat perched in her tower, despising David and holding him in absolute disdain. The rest of II Samuel 6 tells us that Michal never had a child with David.
I’ve heard some teachers and preachers make the case that God locked Michal up as an act of judgment upon her for not reverencing her husband and king. In light of what I’ve just shown you, I think nothing could be further from the truth. I believe David was wrong here, and Michal never had a baby with him because she refused to go to bed with him. She hated him, and it seemed like he’d grown to hate her as well. It’s a messy, ugly, and depraved situation. However, we’ve also read about David’s greatness and how God Himself even called David a “man after His own heart.”
How do we reconcile this duality in the life of King David? First, great people are not just one thing. To some people, they are hailed as heroes, and to others, they are absolutely hated. It’s usually dependent on a person’s personal experience with the individual in question.
That’s why I often tell people that it’s not wise to judge someone based solely upon your best or worst personal experience with that person. Why? Because people are more than one thing, and their behavior is more complex than just your limited personal experience with them.
This is an Important Principle
For the Christ-follower: On a personal level, be careful about passing judgment based solely upon your own isolated negative experience with someone or something that’s supposed to be great. Some people will never eat at a reportedly great restaurant again because they had a terrible personal experience there. And you know what? That’s not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
But there are also people who’ve sworn to never come to an otherwise great Church again because they had a terrible experience in a place of worship. The tragedy is that both parties end up losing out, and it’s a reminder that the ugly truth about great people and great places is that they are not just one thing.
For the non-believers: You may think that you’re a pretty great person, and by the standards of your friends and family, you could be right. But the Bible says that you have sinned, and you have fallen short of the glory of God. You see, you might be a great person in certain aspects of your life.
You might be a great parent, coach, employee, and friend, but in terms of your eternal standing before a holy God, you are a sinner. Your only hope is to repent of your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Why? Because the ugly truth about great people is that they are not just one thing.
Josh attended seminary through Rock of Ages Baptist Bible Institute out of Cleveland, TN. He has held about every position one could hold in a local church: Sunday school teacher, Children’s Church Preacher, Bus Ministry Director/Worker, Missions Director, Choir Director, Song Leader, Janitor, etc. In October of 2005, he was ordained as an Assistant Pastor at Rest Haven Baptist Church, and that’s where he served until God called him into the Pastorate at Enon Baptist Church in Alto, GA at the age of 32. He stepped out by faith in obedience to God’s instructions and quickly received a call from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Free Home, GA where he now serves as Pastor. In his free time, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife (who is his high school sweetheart) and three children: Zoey, Ava, and Jack, as well as reading, writing, hunting, cooking, weight lifting, and martial arts.