There will be times when The Spirit tells us which way to choose. To use a country western musical association: “You got to know when to hold them; know when to fold them; know when to walk away; know when to run.” These three are connected to purpose, destiny, and calling. Sovereignty, submission, and surrender are essential parts of our faith walk and our spiritual practice, as women who seek and love the Lord.
The word “surrender,” invokes the idea of folding – folding into someone else’s will and way. When we think of surrender, as women, we often think of surrendering in love relationships. We surrender to love, to give all we have to our partner. In other ways, surrender seems connected to weakness, i.e., surrendering to an enemy or opponent to lose the day.
The spiritual practice of surrender is a completely different notion. As Richard Foster writes in his classic book, “The Celebration of Discipline”- “Self-denial [for our purposes – surrender] is a way of coming to understand that we do not have to have our own way. Our happiness is not dependent upon getting what we want.”
Instead, surrendering our will to God, is about letting God have God’s way in our lives. In this respect, surrendering to the will of God is permitting God’s entrance into our lives, so God can guide us, as we grow and mature as Christians, as well as workers in the kingdom of God. Ultimately, surrendering to God requires trust, faith, and the desire to let go of our own agenda to pursue God’s will for our lives.
And now, THE Word from our Sponsor: – 2 Samuel, Chapter 6: 11-23 NRSV
“The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and his household. It was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out [“down” in the NAB translation] of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. 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 offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and he distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.
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’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself.” David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall beheld in honor.” And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
Before we examine the construct of surrender, with regard to Michal’s mindset and the ultimate outcome of her refusal to do so; it is important that we look at several references in this story to understand the historical context of the narrative.
The Ark of the Covenant – (Gerardo G. Sachs – Jewish Quarterly Bible) – The ark was constructed in the desert of Sinai when the Lord ordered Israel to build the Ark to house the 10 commandment tablets. The Ark was carried into battles by Israel because they believed the Ark to house the holy presence of God (the kavod). In 1st Samuel (1 Sam 5:1), the Philistines seize the Ark and take it into their camp. The Ark’s presence brings misfortune and disease to the Philistines and they return the Ark to the Israelites. Because the Ark was considered as the Footstool of the Invisible Eternal Invincible God of the Hebrews, the Israelites, and especially David, understood its very precious and special presence. David knew the Ark’s presence demanded Israel’s reverence, fear, and trepidation. The religious fervor and ecstasy demonstrated by David to the assembly of Israel was also the acknowledgement that David was an unique and valid representation of worship to God.
Michal & David – – The only reference in the entire Bible indicating a woman loved a man is in the story of Michal & David (Jewish quarterly, pg. 48 – Hayim Angel). These references are found in 1 Samuel 18:20 & 2 Samuel 3: 13-14). When we enter the story of David & Michal, we find the emotional drama of a young married couple and the interferences of family members who affect their partnership. Saul, the first king of Israel, was Michal’s father. As madness descends on Saul, he becomes obsessed with David and pursues David to kill him. In 2 Samuel, we discover Michal defies her father’s wishes, and saves David’s life twice. By doing so, Michal puts her own life in danger.
Ephod – a linen vestment(robe/apron) specially worn by the High Priest
While there is no literary evidence to support David’s love for Michal, he risks his life to pay the bride price demanded by King Saul. David overachieves Saul’s demand of 100 Philistine foreskins and instead brings 200 foreskins to obtain the hand of Michal. David’s intentions may have been politically motivated, or he was as in love with Michal, as she was with him. For our purposes, it is clear that Michal was her own person, and she asserts her sovereignty in order to become the wife of David.
Obviously, we encounter a determined, fearless, intelligent, sovereign presence in the figure of Michal. She is her own woman, despite the royal positions of princess (in the house of Saul) and queen (in the house of David). Michal does not hesitate to pursue what she desires and she is not intimidated by the personas of David and Saul. This is certainly admirable; however, Michal seems to lack spiritual discernment and reverence for God. She is ego-driven and we see this in her refusal to join in the celebration and worship of Yahweh, lead by her husband David. It is completely clear, in the text, that this is a pivotal moment in the history of the Israelites. The story tells us that ALL of the congregation of Israel is at the celebration of the Ark of the Covenant; yet, we notice that Michal is in the window of her residence, looking out/down. She is not at all interested in joining the celebration, and her further commentary concerning David’s actions, clearing indicate her detachment and refusal to join in the worship of the Lord.
David is described in Scripture as a man after God’s own heart. (1st Samuel 13:14). We understand, as students of Scripture, despite David’s obvious character flaws (selfish, ego-driven, detached), David loved the Lord and David possessed the heart of a worshipper. To worship God in spirit and truth, one MUST surrender one’s self to God. We cannot worship God without surrendering, for authentic worship requires it. Worship requires life service, instead of lip service. Worship is the ultimate surrender position, as one realizes that God is everything (Thou) and we/I am nothing without God.
In the story, we discover that David understands and presents this ideal: “…not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more.” (NAS) David not only understands the idea of worship; but he also understands the spiritual elements of worship, which are humility and surrender. When David dances out of his kingly garb, the linen ephod becomes a metaphor in the text. Surrender equates to the disrobing of our egos, agendas, and desires to present ourselves, in worship, humbly (naked) before the Lord.
Michal, in contrast, “looks down” upon David and the worship celebration and “despises him in her heart.” The word “heart” in this context translates as “understanding.” Michal despised David in her understanding. The question becomes: What was Michal’s understanding? The text permits us to make some assumptions here, especially since we have Michal’s comments to her husband. Michal felt that David was acting undignified and common. He was the king and she the queen. Royalty did not forget who they were especially in front of “commoners.” Michal reminds David of his position and he promptly rejects her observations and chastisements. David tells Michal he will worship the Lord with even more vigor and humility. His position, as king of Israel, is meaningless before the Lord.
The descriptive clue in the narrative that informs us of Michal’s unwillingness to surrender is: “Saul’s daughter Michal” (used 3x). Like her father, Saul, Michal’s refusal to humble herself before the Lord becomes her downfall. Her story ends in obscurity and rejection: “And so, Saul’s daughter Michal was childless to the day of her death.”
Michal’s story is a cautionary one. This fearless and determined queen’s refusal to surrender to God, removes her from the further blessings of the Lord. She teaches us surrender is a necessity for the worship of God. In other words: “Let God have your life. God can do more with it than you can.”
Questions for our consideration:
Which is more difficult for you: sovereignty or surrender? Explain why.
Why was Michal unwilling to surrender herself in worship and join the joyous celebration with her husband?
Why, in your opinion, was David willing to worship in the ways which are outlined in his stories of the bible?
What are some times when you think surrendering to other people (husband, family, friends, employer) are necessary/wise?