Different details of the return of the ark to Jerusalem are recorded in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. 2 Samuel gives more details about Michal’s reaction. 2 Chronicles gives more details about the ceremony itself. I’ll skip back and forth a bit.
David brings the ark to Jerusalem
David planned an elaborate ceremony to celebrate the transport of the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem, including singers, harps, lyres, cymbals, a music director, and trumpets —
(1Ch 15:14-25 ESV) 14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD. 16 David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brothers Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari, their brothers, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their brothers of the second order, Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, and Mikneiah, and the gatekeepers Obed-edom and Jeiel. 19 The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah were to play harps according to Alamoth; 21 but Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah were to lead with lyres according to the Sheminith. 22 Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it. 23 Berechiah and Elkanah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. 25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing.
David led the procession, wearing an ephod —
(1Ch 15:27-28 ESV) 27 David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers. And David wore a linen ephod. 28 So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.
(For those readers who believe that God only approves quiet music, notice that the music was loud!)
David and Michal
(1Ch 15:27 ESV) David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers. And David wore a linen ephod.
(1Ch 15:29 ESV) 29 And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and rejoicing, and she despised him in her heart.
(2Sa 6:20-23 ESV) 20 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD — and I will make merry before the LORD. 22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
It’s unlikely that David “exposed himself” in the sense of becoming naked. Rather, the context plainly indicates that Michal was being severely sarcastic. Her point was that David’s behavior was inappropriate for a king. David wore a robe but also an ephod, which was short, leaving his legs exposed, rather than more regal, royal robes. As peculiar as it was for David to wear a priestly vestment, by not wearing the clothing traditional for kings, he was declaring that God is the true king. After all, God was understood as being enthroned above the ark. David was leading a procession that brought the true king of Israel to Jerusalem!
The author describes Michal, not as David’s wife but as “the daughter of Saul.” Therefore, we should interpret her criticism as unjustified and as an explanation for the end of Saul’s line. His four sons were dead, Mephibosheth was lame and unmarried, and his daughter had no children because David had rejected her. (Seems clearly implied to me.)
We are clearly meant to understand that Michal had a bad attitude, an attitude justifying David’s rejection of her. God had replaced Saul’s line with David’s, there would be no mingling of the two lines.
Now, there are, of course, some interesting questions here:
* Why did Michal react this way?
* What was wrong with her reaction?
* How might we become guilty of the same sin?
Why did Michal react this way?
The reason implied by the author is that Michal was Saul’s daughter. Presumably, she’s picked up some of his regal attitudes, thinking of the king (and thus herself) as superior to others. The king should act like a king, and David had neither dressed nor behaved as a king should.
But David’s heart was far from demonstrating his royalty before God! Rather, he humbled himself before God and celebrated with all his might.
(Psa 30:11-12 ESV) 11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
(Psa 149:1-5 ESV) Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! 2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! 3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.
(Psa 150:1-6 ESV) Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! 3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Psalm 149 is particularly apt — David celebrates God as the true king! And if God is king, the Lord’s servant, his anointed, should appear before God humbly and not with pride and kingly airs. Indeed, he might even wear an ephod to symbolize that he, like the priests, serves God — and not the other way around.
The king does not appear before the King to bring honor to himself but to God.
There are other possible reasons for Michal’s attitude. Among them —
* When David fled Saul in the wilderness, Saul gave Michal to another man. While we are told that Michal loved David (then), we aren’t told that David loved her. It may well have been a marriage of convenience for David — as was very common in those days. Michal’s second husband loved her deeply, and she may well have resented David forcing her return.
* Michal, like Saul, was from the tribe of Benjamin. David was a Judean and Jerusalem was in Judea. The establishment of a permanent home for the ark in Judea, along with David making his capitol there, would permanently bring glory to Judea, whereas the end of Saul’s reign ended Benjamin’s claim to royalty. And so she may have resented David’s choice of Jerusalem for the temple.
* She certainly seems to have looked down on the “female servants” in the palace. Evidently, she was taking on aristocratic airs — the daughter of a king and wife of a king expected a certain level of decorum — and any act of humility by David knocked her off her pedestal.
What was wrong with her reaction?
Any claim to be better than other people is contrary to the nature of God. Moreover, her insistence that David should have acted more kingly and less common around God shows a misunderstanding. It is, of course, very common for kings and others in leadership to insist on a certain kind of aristocratic decorum, because this is what is expected of people’s betters. But David was not that kind of king.
How might we become guilty of the same sin?
Personally, I detest the idea that we are supposed to be quiet waiting on church services to begin. I think we should be loud — because we should be talking to one another, sharing the victories God has given us, comforting those who mourn, and encouraging each other to love and good works. The church is family and community. The assembly is a family gathering. We come before God as family. And when my family gets together, we are loud.
But when it’s time for the service to begin, well, we should be even louder. As we direct our attention toward God and Christ, we should feel moved to exultation. We are taught by Paul to sing Psalms, the same Psalms that teach —
(Psa 20:5 ESV) 5 May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
(Psa 32:3 ESV) 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
(Psa 126:1-3 ESV) When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” 3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
(Psa 95:1-3 ESV) Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
To be “reverent” is to recognize your proper place before God — and that’s not wearing a suit and acting like someone special. It’s celebrating God.
But didn’t God say to “keep silence before him”? No. He most certainly did not!
(Hab 2:18-1 ESV) 18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Habakkuk speaking with irony bordering on sarcasm points out that the true God speaks where as idols are silent. God speaks, but the idols do not. Rather, they remain mute, thereby showing themselves to be false gods.
Amazing, isn’t it, that we start by assuming that God hates noise and celebration and then we use a verse designed to condemn idols for their silence and use it to instruct one another to act like false gods!!
The song “The Lord is in his holy temple” is not a false song so long as we understand that the command to keep silence is directed to God’s enemies.
Much better is —
Now, this is not to say that there is no time or place for silence before God! No, it’s just that it’s a colossal mistake to presume that God demands silence when the scriptures teach us to sing, shout, and celebrate. Our teaching and our practice are badly out of balance.
Indeed, when the reaction of the worshipers is “what would people think?” they are in the shoes of Michal. When their reaction is “I’ll celebrate before God no matter what people might think,” they are in David’s shoes. The assembly should be “decent and in order” but not free from spontaneity and emotion. Indeed, how can you love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and not display emotion when you worship him?