Tag Archives: forgiveness

Authentic :: Michal

A few weeks ago I was flying back from Indiana with my sister. Our flight into Charlotte had engine trouble that delayed us more than 2 hours and probably should have been canceled given the rough landing and noises I noted during the flight—oh and the fact that as soon as we landed we were rushed by engineers with flashlights. Regardless, we made it safe, no worse for the wary waiting and stressful flight.

Photo by Randy Rooibaatjie on Unsplash

As we waited on the tarmac for our valet bags, an airport employee came out and started shouting directions. Sure, it was loud, so the first time she shouted I kind of understood that she simply wanted to be heard, then she kept yelling over and over directions that we couldn’t follow as we were still waiting on our bags. She got impatient and rude because we didn’t immediately do as she asked, because we were following previous instructions. In her haste to get us off the tarmac, she simply didn’t take note of the fact that our bags still had not been returned to us so we couldn’t go anywhere. As a result, I found myself annoyed at her tone. 

I don’t respond to yelling. 

Ever. 

Unfortunately, our next plane was to leave from that same gate, so I had to go up to this woman at the desk to inquire about our boarding passes for the next flight. I was tired but polite and asked quite civilly for instruction.
She rudely snapped at me and then…rolled. her. eyes.

Now, I’m usually very reasonable, but rolling her eyes at me crossed a line and I went back to my sister pretty much seething. Her attitude and response were unprofessional at best, disrespectful at worst. After ranting for a good few minutes, my sister started singing “Let it Go,” as she often does when I’m on a tear.

I assure you I didn’t actually punch my darling sister in the face, but I won’t say I wasn’t tempted.

In that moment I felt bitter resentment toward the attendant because I felt entitled to respect, and I felt justified in my anger. 

As I’m sure you are aware, none of these emotions did me any good. Exchanging them tit for tat with the employee only furthered the toxicity of that airport environment, which had been building for several days (unbeknownst to me there had been a digital snafoo while I was deeply immersed in studying God’s word at a conference for three days; said snafoo had plunged Charlotte deep into a chaotic whirlwind they were still recovering from, and more to the point, probably explained the woman’s rude behavior…though I still didn’t deserve her wrath, I had a bit more empathy for her once I learned of the situation).

At any rate, that’s what bitterness, resentment, and entitlement do. They escalate an already bad situation into something worse, and often toxic. And, that’s exactly where Michael, the famed King David’s first wife, ended up when her life didn’t go exactly how she thought it should. Don’t get me wrong, her story is filled with injustice. Unfortunately, life isn’t always fair, but God is just and if we trust him enough to let go and let Him control our lives and hearts—we avoid a lot of heartache and wasted energy. It is, after all, the only way to walk into blessings we never would have dreamed of before. 

A quick history lesson

Jacob, aka Isreal, the second born son of Isaac and Rebekah had 12 sons. These 12 sons are each representative tribes of Isreal, the chosen nation of God. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, and after many years are freed by God through Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. The Israelites go through the desert, and send 12 spies into the land of Canaan. 2 spies Caleb and Joshua say GOD’S GOT THIS. However, 10 spies return to say the land is awesome but undefeatable–their lack of faith ends in their own deaths via a plague from God.  The Israelites whine, complain, and rebel–and are subsequently punished with 40 years of wandering in the desert before they can walk into their inheritance in the promised land. 40 years later, 2 spies are helped by Rahab the prostitute, who is saved by the spies and eventually marries Salmon. She births Boaz, who marries Ruth (both women are in the lineage of Christ BTW). For many years, Israel is ruled by Judges (like Deborah), then the nation decides it wants to be like everyone else and asks for a king instead. Saul is anointed the first king, by Samuel, son of Hannah, but he royally messes up and is punished with the end to his family line (1 Samuel 15:26-29). God proclaims that he will anoint a new king, and sends Samuel to the house of Jesse. 

Like a Disney Princess

After rejecting all of Jesse’s sons, as almost an afterthought, David is brought before Samuel. David is described as “ruddy, had beautiful eyes, and handsome.” In other words, he is one fine example of God’s creation. And all the bells go off in approval and he is anointed and the Spirit of Lord rushes upon him (1 Samuel 16:11-13).

David is brought into Saul’s service as a young man, still a teenager, when Saul is tormented by a harmful spirit after having lost the anointed Spirit of the Lord (1 Samuel 16: 14-18). David plays the harp for Saul, and becomes an accepted member of the household, living and working in the palace.

While the text doesn’t explicitly say that this is the first time Michal meets David, it’s a pretty safe intuitive leap. She is a princess and would spend at least some of her time in her father’s presence. Those living at court would have some interaction, especially if Michal, being the youngest daughter, wasn’t actually sequestered as a young lady yet (as was often the case in ancient societies). I imagine this little girl, old enough to have a real hormonal crush on this young handsome man, but not old enough for those feelings to seem a threat to her father. At least not yet. 

And any of us who have ever watched teenage drama unfold know just how quickly a crush can take over our logic and our lives. Suddenly we are unable to see any flaws in the other person as our emotions rewire our brain. 

And then, to top it off, this young man who she admired in her household (a musician no less), suddenly is the only man brave enough to fight the giant threatening the kingdom? Fight him, and kill him, no less? If that doesn’t sound like every girl’s Disney fairy tale come true, I don’t know what is (1 Samuel 17: 45-50). I mean, seriously, I’m half in love with David as I write this and he’s been dead for several millenniums

In 1 Samuel 18:17-19 we see the politics of David becoming an official part of the royal household begin to play out. At this point, Saul knows now that David has been anointed as his successor. He’s under no illusions that
God will allow his line to thrive, yet he is still trying to make it happen with a little bit of manipulation. Or a lot.

Earlier in the narrative, we are told that Saul is jealous of David, so why would he offer his older daughter up in marriage? Ever heard the old saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Yeah, so has Saul. Maybe he’s where the saying originates. Either way, this deal reeks of manipulation. The Bride Price it set pretty high: fight the Philistines and stay alive. 

Let’s remember that Saul has already tried to kill David in a jealous rage once, and David is no dummy. Sure, he trusts that God has put Saul in this position of power and authority and as the anointed one he respects the position, but David probably knows that Saul’s plan is to get him killed. His humility is the only thing that saves him, from a rotten marriage and from the wrath of Saul. Going into the battle, David feels he must prove himself worthy of this princess, but even when he does, Saul double-crosses him and marries his daughter to someone else. 

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Michal first shows up in 1 Samuel 18:20-25 and honestly she is in a terrible position: she loves the man her father hates. Not only that, she loves the man her father already tried to kill, offered up to her sister, and sent off to fight a deadly battle. And then to top everything off, ‘they’ go and tell her daddy all about her crush. Talk about a nightmare. So why would Saul go through this marriage ruse again? It didn’t work the first time, so what is he hoping to accomplish with the daughter who is in love with David? Realistically there is only one reason: he hopes that the royal marriage will indebt David to him, allowing him to manipulate and perhaps even eliminate him. So he sets the bride price even higher: kill and bring back proof (foreskins) of 100 warriors. Yikes. 

Then 1 Samuel 18:26-30 picks up the story, and suddenly David is “pleased to be the King’s son-in-law”. What it does not say is that he is in love with Michal.  He seems a little more motivated to win her as his bride than he was with Merab, but still there is no mention of any kind of feelings for Michal herself. That’s tough. A one-sided relationship is hard enough, but one fraught with political intrigue in the midst of a power struggle is enough to drive any woman to the nut house. Still, David is successful and Saul relents, maybe on one level he wants his daughter to be happy, but really I think he sees the inevitability and concedes to lose the battle, but feels like he’s still in the war with a spy planted so firmly in David’s own home. 

Not so Happily Ever After

When we next visit Michal in 1 Samuel 19:8-17, there is a lot going on that makes my heart heavy with sadness for Michal and her future. Saul tries a direct attack on David again, and when that fails, he sends some spies to David’s home where Michael is well-aware of her father’s plan. She warns David, and helps him escape, but in doing so reveals a whole lot about their marriage that may go unnoticed if we don’t take a closer look. 

This episode occurs in David’s home (vs. 11), and Michal uses an idol to disguise the fact that David has fled (v.13). This is a super clever ploy…except where did that idol come from? And why was it in the bedroom–an intimate place for a man and his wife. Nothing good can come from breaking the first commandment, and we see pretty clearly as Michal starts tossing out excuses that she may love David, but she doesn’t love the Lord the way her husband does. She’s fast and loose with the truth and almost as manipulative as her father.

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Let’s recall that Michal had choices. She could have told the truth, she could have gone with David, she could have created the diversion and then been honest with her father about the reason why–David had escaped, so if her motivation had been simply to save her husband there is no reason to lie to her father. Not that I really blame her; it’s human nature to save oneself especially from a downright crazy father, but still. She had choices, and perhaps the most important one of all: she had the choice to trust God and instead she turned to idols. It’s no wonder that her heart turned bitter, without faith in God, her life would have seemed unbearable. With her husband on the run, she is left to the mercy of her father, who marries her off to another man and sends her away–not for her own happiness, but for revenge on the man he’s sworn to hate.

And, like most revenge plots, the tactic backfires. While on the run, David doesn’t pine for his lost wife. No, he marries two other women and launches quite a campaign of outlaws, becoming a leader in the charismatic way he was destined to. 

It’s not until Samuel 3: 13-15 that Michal returns to the narrative, and boy has she been through the ringer. David has her hauled back to his home, away from the man she’d been married to for a long time, and she is bitter a and resentful, which comes out when she angrily watches David from her place in the palace. 

Moving the Ark is a BIG DEAL (2 Samuel 6:16-23)! It was the literal presence of the Lord as designated during the 40 years of wandering when God set his people apart. The first time David attempted to move this (in celebration at having finally defeated the Philistines), a man died because he tried to catch the ark when the oxen stumbled. But to a man like David, the Lord’s blessing is everything, so he perseveres. But Michal despises David’s dancing–but I think it’s more than that. She despises him because she sees him as the root of her life’s problems. She blames him for her unhappiness. Torn apart by bitterness and resentment at her circumstances, she hates David and the God he has always loved more than her. 

It’s how you handle it

No doubt Michal had a tough life. Used by her father and husbands in a political war, she seemingly had little control over her life’s course. She loved a man who didn’t return that affection. Then she was married to
another man who loved her, but from whom she was ripped away, and locked away—because David, being a man of God (I would be willing to bet) would never sleep with her again due to the second marriage having defiled her as his wife. It wasn’t fair, but she DID have a choice in how she dealt with it. Michal let bitterness and resentment build in her heart until she had no room for God or anyone else.

Photo by Tom Butler on Unsplash

The last thing we are told about Michal is that she was barren. This was the worst fate for ancient women, as it was a sign of being cursed by God according to the culture. But that simply wasn’t true. Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, all these women experienced barrenness in their marriage, not because they were cursed, but because we live in a fallen world. The difference between these women and Michal is not a curse of God, but rather their hearts. Michal wasn’t punished by God with barrenness, she kept herself in a prison of bitterness which does not allow for redemption or healthy reproduction, in this case, literally. 

Romans 8:26-28: reads:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[b] for those who are called according to his purpose. 

ESV

We don’t always control the circumstances in our life–be it family drama or airport headaches, but we do control how we react and to whom we look for comfort and validation. Michal looked to David, who she learned was just a man. David, for all his wonderful qualities, could not validate her in the way her heart wanted and when he failed her, Michal’s heart turned cold and bitter. God knows our hearts, he searches them and intercedes and then works things to good for those who love Him, and in that, we find our true hope. 

Authentic :: Rahab

I know this may come as a shock to you, but I am not a risk taker. I don’t like roller coasters. I rode one, an upside down one, once—I gave into peer pressure. It was not fun. My bff wants so bad to go skydiving and she can usually talk me into just about anything (you really don’t want to know about the cab ride in Savannah…). I told her to go for it, I’d wait at the bottom with a couple of pom-poms, a glass of wine, and cheer her whole way down. I went into a casino on my 25th birthday—just for funsies to say I’d gambled. I put 5 dollars on slot machine card. Played once. My heart rate increased so badly it was kind of unreal. I gave the card to my bff who finished playing while I recovered. All this is to say if two spies came to my house and asked to hide, I’d have probably slammed the door in their faces and called the police.

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So I guess that’s why God chose a woman like Rahab for this particular mission and a woman like me to face down teens every day in the last place 85% of them want to be—a classroom.

That’s what I love about God and His plans for us. He uses each of us in unique ways as long as we are brave enough to say yes. No, I’m not a risk taker, at least not for the sake of taking risks, but it takes courage to do a lot of what I have said yes to in my life—and a lot of what I’ve said no to as well.

Rahab was brave. She made some mistakes, sure. We all do. But God is gracious, and he is good and if you have the kind of faith Rahab did, well you just might move some mountains too.

Some Backstory

Numbers 13: 26-31 and 14: 2-4 sets the scene for what happens later once Rahab enters the scene. Moses, Aaron and Miriam had just led the people out of Egypt and across the blazing hot desert to the foot of the Promised land. So, per God’s instruction, they send out 12 spies, one from each tribe of Israel. Once they return, they all report some pretty awesome thing–great land, good fruit, truly the land flowing with milk and honey. But, there’s one tiny catch…the place is swarming with GIANTS, they are powerful and their cities are fortified and there is absolutely NO WAY we can defeat them. Thanks for nothing, leaders of God. 

The usual grumbling commences until Caleb speaks up. Hey ya’ll, we’ve got this. Caleb knows that it doesn’t matter how big and strong or how fortified the cities are, the Israelites have something the Canaanites don’t: God. 

Still, the grumbling. 

10 spies say “No, don’t go!” 2 say “Come on we got this!” but the people give into their fear and rebel. God is not happy and sends them back to wander in the desert for 40 years as punishment for their disobedience. 

So, when Rahab enters the narrative, the Israelites have just finished their 40-year wandering through the desert The last time they sent spies into Canaan it didn’t’ go so well. And the spies? Well, the 10 negative Nancies were struck down with the plague. 

Enter Rahab

The 2 who trusted God, they got to enter the Promised Land, though no one else did.  We start our story really in Joshua 2:1-3. Joshua was one of the original spies, one of only 2 individuals who survived the wandering in the desert to see the Promised Land because of his faithfulness (see Numbers 13:8, 16 and 14:38). This time, however I note two things about the spies.

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1) Joshua sent them out in secret.

2) The number is significantly reduced.

I don’t know why there are only 2 spies sent out, but I get the feeling Joshua is trying to avoid a repeat of the previous generation. God has encouraged him to be strong and courageous, so Joshua does what he thinks is best for the group moving forward, with guidance from God. The spies go to Jericho and enter the house of Rahab the prostitute. We don’t know what they did before they entered her home, but I think it’s fair to say they did their job, spying on the place, but their low profile only got them so far…after all their entire nation is camped on Jericho’s doorstep, so two strangers coming into town and asking questions is going to raise a few red flags. Why Rahab? Well, clearly the encounter is ordained by God, but it was probably one of the few homes open to them as strangers. There is a certain amount of fear–their reputation precedes them across the desert lands–and a good portion of the people of Jericho would have swept their kids inside their homes and locked their doors as the spies made their way through town. As the fear spreads, so does the panic and word gets back to the palace where the king of Jericho doesn’t sit idly by, but sends soliders after them. 

So I imagine a “psssssst,” coming from Rahab’s home where she whisks the two brave, handsome men inside and straight up to a hiding place before going down to meet her next guests, the palace guards. 

Joshua 2:4-7 gives us an account of this encounter. Somehow or other it is known that the spies have visited Rahab; I don’t know why, maybe it’s marked on the tourist map that all visitors must have this experience—like Madame Tussauds the wax museum (of course Rahab was a whole different kind of Madame, but let’s not get into that at the moment). At any rate, in they go and everybody knows it. The soldiers arrive and demand to know where the spies are–after all everyone has seen her take them inside; I guess she’s not exactly discreet as the town whore. But Rahab flips her hair and maybe uses her feminine wiles and spins a tale that sends the soldiers after the spies who are hiding on her rooftop all the while. 

I think it’s important to know that Rahab is NOT an Isrealite. She is a Canaanite—and a prostitute at that. When the police come knocking on her door, she takes a great risk and LIES to them. This kind of lying/manipulation is not unheard of (see Exodus 1:17-19 and 2 Samuel 17:19), but it is a bit unusual given the circumstances. Not to mention murky morality. Despite the lies, God sees the woman’s heart and her compassion–and even more importantly her faith. 

Joshua 2:8-24 shows us just how smart this woman is. Okay, sure she’s identified with the epithet “the prostitute” but clearly that’s not all she is. I mean come on, she owned her own house, she had fields or at least the means to dry flax (a type of grain) on her roof, she had the ear and eyes (at minimum) of the king. She’s not your average lady of the night. And she’s smart—she thinks on her feet. Best of all, she knows how to choose the winning team.

She not only confirms that Jericho’s people are melting with fear, she puts her faith in the men and in their God to save her from the destruction that is sure to follow. She could have turned them over, but God has spoken to her heart and given her a reason to side with Him. And she does. 

In the end, both sides kept their bargains. In Joshua 6 we see how it all plays out. Rahab took a great risk, but then so did the spies. And God rewarded them both for their faith.

I can’t help but wonder how she convinced her family to come over for the ultimate sleepover in her home. Was she such a good businesswoman that they didn’t disown her because of her profession? Did she have to get into the profession for reasons that were really quite noble? Whatever the reasons, her family hovers around her day after day as the Isreali army marches around the city building tension, suspense and ultimately fear in their enemy until the walls come tumbling down. All the walls, tumbling around Rahab and their family…except their own. Faith over fear–a rescue worth remembering

Tumbling Walls

This encounter reminds me of an Elevation Worship song that I love called Do It Again. Take a look at the lyrics and video. In the case of Rahab, her walls literally came tumbling down. What separated her from God wasn’t just her sin, it was a whole culture. She saw an opportunity to escape and all she did was say please, God and he provided. That kind of faith is unbelievable and hard for me to truly understand having grown up in a Western, sheltered culture. Regardless, I have my own walls. Some I’ve built myself and some others erected. God is bigger than all the walls in my life and my faith is what keeps me safe and guarded when those walls tumble (not if, because all walls fall when and where God says). 

Because I’m a nerd I love the symbolism and numerology: scarlet cord, three days, seven times, direction vs. misdirection. Our lives are lived in patterns. So Rahab made her own mistakes. She chose a life for herself that was outside the moral standards of almost all cultures, which is why even in the New Testament, long after her transformation she is still labeled as “Rahab the prostitute”(see Hebrews 11:31). The epithet is misleading; Rahab’s sins were forgiven completely and she started over as a brand new woman right smack dab in the middle of the people of God. Sound familiar? We all have sins, regrets, and walls…. essentially, we all have pasts we carry, but the truth is we don’t have to carry them around with us if we just have faith enough to lay them down at the feet of Jesus–who will crush all of them!

It would have been easy for Rahab to feel like her life wasn’t what she planned and to just give up because God had failed her. But she didn’t. She asked God to rescue her and because he is faithful and true (even when we are not), He plucked her out of where her bad choices had landed her and straight into a new redeeming life. She married into the Israelite nation, and did you know her offspring would be a part of the lineage of Christ himself. 

Faith is risky. It requires that you step out of the known and rely on the unknown. That you relinquish control in your life to the One who made your life. James 2:26 says faith without works is dead. Notice that it does not say you can earn your way into heaven, but that your faith should manifest in action. Rahab’s faith was not dead. She didn’t just say she was going to do something, she did it, transforming her life from ‘the prostitute’ to ‘the faithful one of God’. And we can transform too.

The Pavement Ends

I was driving a couple of weeks ago, rushing from one place to another and not paying attention like I should. As a result, I missed the sign.

Pavement ends.

At 45 miles an hour this is an especially important sign to not miss, but just as I realized what was about to happen, it was too late–off I flew into a dirt and gravel road.

I won’t repeat all the words or thoughts that raced in my head or out of my mouth as the dust flew up around my car, but as I finally came to a grinding, horrifying halt–surrounded by a cloud of dust and miraculously unscathed–I ended with:

“Thank you God for protecting me even in my stupidity.”

What an appropriate expression of gratitude.

We live in a world of narcissism and self-promotion. A world that screams “Me! Me! ME!” and then “More! More! More!” and sometimes we get so wrapped up in that we forget to pay attention. Until the pavement ends.

Until something gets our attention.

Often there were warning signs, but we either ignore them or don’t see them in our ignorance. Those are moments of truth where we can either learn something or continue on a path of destruction. It’s time for us to stop allowing distractions keep us from the truth that is right in front of us…before the pavement ends.

After praying my thanksgiving, I turned my car around and got back on the pavement, but this time I slowed down, put away the distractions, and continually praised God as I drove out of my studpidity and into his arms.