A Tale of Two Kingdoms
Preached by Jason Abbott
In the fall of 2010, the #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners (Mike Grenier’s team) visited the #11 ranked Missouri Tigers (my team) in a college football showdown. And I was able to be at that game. It was one of the biggest matchups ever hosted at Memorial Stadium—the University of Missouri’s football stadium.
Here’s how it started:1
In that kick’s aftermath, like the majority of fans who were there that night, there was jubilation among all my friends and me. We were jumping up and down and screaming and hugging each other joyfully. In fact, and this is 100% the truth, I may have, in great exaltation and celebration, punched my best friend, Shannon, who has visited here a number of times, repetitively in the ribcage and, perhaps, fractured a few of his ribs. He, nevertheless, was so happy he didn’t even notice until the following day.
But, what does this have to do with today’s passage?
Well, I think if we’re honest about the celebrations of fans at sports events, like the one we just witnessed, we’d all agree that they’re nearly, if not actually!, manifestations of worship. In short, when people gather together in large stadiums to root for their teams, their joyous celebrations are really expressions of worship and of praise. And this begs the question: Why aren’t our celebrations of the gospel characterized by such joyous exuberance? One commentator puts it this way:
There are, doubtless, times to be calm, and times to be enthusiastic; but can it be right to give all our coldness to Christ and all our enthusiasm to the world?2
The answer to this question is surely, No. And, in today’s text in 2 Samuel, we’ll see David display exultations to the Lord which will challenge our notions about worship. We might even feel embarrassed by David’s “undignified” display of praise to God here. But, if we do, we must ask ourselves why we feel this way. Why doesn’t the gospel of God move us to celebrate like David?
Well, let’s read the text then we’ll pray for our time digging into it.
2 Samuel 6:16-23
16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. 17 And they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 18 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts 19 and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.
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 celebrate 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.
We really have a tale of two kingdoms in this text. One dies while one lives. So—(1st) we’ll look at a proud kingdom that is wasting away, and (2nd) we’ll look at a humble kingdom that is growing and flourishing.
Before, however, we get to this tale of two kingdoms, allow me to show you how our narrator intends for us to see this as the main storyline of today’s passage. Allow me to direct your attention to the contrast our narrator attempts to highlight for us in these eight verses.
I think the best way to see this contrast is to notice the repetitions of the text, especially the repetitions when Michal is being described. Look at them once again with me for just a moment.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord . . . (v. 16).
. . . David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David . . . (v. 20).
. . . Michal the daughter of Saul had no child . . . (v. 23).
Then, if that didn’t highlight a clear opposition between the former kingdom of Saul and the current kingdom of David, just look at how David defends himself in the face of Michal’s accusation against him.
And David said to Michal . . . [The Lord] chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel . . . (v. 21).
Do you see? Our narrator works hard to set the two kingdoms in opposition to one another—“Michal the daughter of Saul” but not “Michal the wife of David” and “[God] chose me above your father” but not “God chose me above my father-in-law.” Our author begs us to do a compare and contrast of these two kingdoms. So let’s contrast them.
1. A proud kingdom that withers (vv. 16, 20-21, 23).
I think it’s fair to say Michal is from the old school. After all, she was raised as a princess. She was reared among the best and the brightest people in Israel—the elites of her time. She would have had the very best food Israel had to offer. She would have had the very best clothing and jewelry that Israel could produce. And the reason she would’ve had all this is because distinctions were being made between her and other little girls who weren’t the king’s daughters.
Friends, when you’re treated in these ways, it doesn’t take a very long time before you begin to believe the hype about yourself—that somehow you’re better than the “commoners” all around you. Pride slowly creeps into the ways you think about everything. Notice what Michal hates about David’s dancing.
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 . . . (v. 20).
Her complaint just drips with classist distinctions and arrogance and pride. For Michal, there are “kings” and “servants” and “servants of servants” and, then, bringing up the rear, “the vulgar people” of society. This is how she sees the world. When she sees David dancing, consequently, all she can see is ignorant disrespect for his proud position as king. Essentially she accuses him of acting like a drunk who exposes himself to the pretty girls. It’s disgraceful!, she complains.
Most of us would admit that Michal’s worldview is a bit ugly. We, however, might not realize how similar to hers our worldviews often become. Think about it.
How often is our personal sense of value built at the expense of others? When we talk badly about people behind their backs, we’re just exalting ourselves or justifying ourselves by tearing others down. Or, when we’re constantly dwelling on the negatives, it’s often simply a way of reassuring ourselves that we’re right because others are wrong.
Friends, if this is your struggle, spend time meditating upon God’s command to us in Philippians. There Paul writes:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (4:8).
How often do we construct class systems in our minds? This is easy to do when you have children. After all, who is good enough for your sons or daughters? We don’t want them hanging out with those vulgar fellows. And to some extent, we don’t. But we should always be wary of the reasoning behind our distinctions. And, if no Christians spend time with those vulgar fellows, how will they ever hear about the grace and love which God has for them?
How often do we refuse to serve the Lord in certain ways because it’s below us? I’ve often had people come to me during my time in ministry looking for a specific place to serve—in music or in teaching or in evangelism. And there’s nothing wrong with having and using such gifts. In fact, it’s good for us to do so! Yet, it’s rare (but incredibly refreshing!) when someone wants to serve the church and doesn’t care where. Where do you have a need?, they humbly ask.
Friends, that’s a truly Christlike response! But is it yours?
We can see the pride and the arrogance which characterized Saul’s kingdom in Michal’s complaint here. And the final line soberly reports all we need to know about the fate of such a kingdom. By selecting and sharing a specific historical fact concerning Michal, our narrator simultaneously makes a symbolic pronouncement regarding kingdoms built upon pride and arrogance.
And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death (v. 23).
In short, Saul’s household and kingdom wither away. They have no future. There is ultimately no heir for a kingdom of pride.
And this brings us to our second kingdom.
2. A humble kingdom that blossoms (vv. 17-19, 22).
In this text, David exudes joy and generosity and thankfulness. Each grows out of his sense of God’s graciousness to him. In fact, these are essential elements of praise and worship, and true praise and worship is always a product of grace—getting something wonderful and getting something undeserved.
With Michal, we see someone who feels entitled to certain royal privileges; don’t we? But, with David here, we see nothing of the sort. Look at how he reacts when the ark of God enters the city of Jerusalem. As David leaps and dances before the Lord, our author tells us:
And they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. And David returned to bless his household (vv. 17-20a).
I imagine David, in all his leaping and dancing, looked a bit like that guy during the kickoff of the Mizzou game. What did that guy say at the video’s end? “Yeah baby, miracles happen!” For David, there must be a similar feeling of joy when the Lord’s presence finally resides in Jerusalem. “It’s too good to be true! God is dwelling with us! We don’t deserve this!”
And, because of this sense of God’s graciousness, David worships the Lord with sacrifices and offerings and, then, blesses the people in prayer and with gifts. David’s joy in God’s grace overflows into the service of God and of God’s people. And friends, this is how God’s grace is designed to work.
When we’ve received God’s unmerited favor, we should overflow in praise and in worship. Christians are people who’ve received grace—this unmerited favor of God—in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He lived the perfect life we couldn’t live; he died, in our place, the sinner’s death which we deserved to die; and, he rose victoriously over sin and death—offering to share that victory with us when we place our trust in him. That’s grace! That’s the unmerited favor of God! And Christians must live differently because of it.
Why then do we so often fail to live differently?
The answer is simple. Rather than allowing the kingdom of Christ’s humility to blossom in us, we water the weeds of pride and arrogance. Pride knows nothing about grace. Pride fashions the unmerited favor of God as deserved and earned. And friends, when we see our salvation in that way, we will live just like Michal. We’ll live as though we’re entitled—as if we’re better than others.
But living like this has no future. We must be humble. We need God’s grace. We need Jesus Christ! It’s foolishness to live as if we don’t!
As we close, let me say something so as to accentuate the profound beauty of God’s unmerited favor in Christ. Let me share a little about how I’ve seen grace blossom and transform people’s lives.
I know a man who would readily admit that he failed in his first marriage and with his kids from that marriage. He would humbly confess and own his sins of pride and arrogance and harshness. He would acknowledge he knew nothing about the grace of Jesus back then. But he knows now. And the change is beautiful! A gentle husband and father! A compassionate friend! Grace blossoms.
I know a woman who’d made it in the academic world. She was aggressive and confrontational and ruthless in her pursuits. Then, she experienced God’s grace at a secular university and was forced to choose between her career and her Christ. But it wasn’t a choice. And humbly and lovingly she left. Grace blossoms.
Friends, where are you currently cultivating weeds of pride and arrogance within your life? How are you forgetting about the grace of God for you in Christ? Is it in your relationships with friends? Is it in how you think about your career? Are you a harsh parent? An exacting spouse? An unforgiving person?
If so, humble yourself before God and claim the grace that’s yours in Christ. Let God’s unmerited favor blossom and transform your life. Amen.