As a number of my readers are aware, Grace to You, the radio ministry where I work, will be hosting a Truth Matters conference in October 2013 entitled “Strange Fire.” The focus of the conference will be to center our attention upon the charismatic movement within the church and what the Bible says about spiritual gifts.
We are of the conviction, as many of the speakers will demonstrate in their messages, that God had a purpose for spectacular, supernatural gifts that has been fulfilled. According to the whole counsel of Scripture, particularly what is revealed in the NT, those spectacular gifts are no longer functioning in the modern church in the same way they did in the first century. They were for the purpose of establishing the NT church and the authority of the apostles, and once that was accomplished, those gift ceased, hence the reason those in our camp refer to themselves as “cessationists.”
Looking forward to our conference, the GTY blog has been posting a series of articles highlighting various subjects that will be addressed by the speakers, as well as some of the main criticisms cessationists have with modern-day charismatics.
Obviously, such posts will gather naysayers who claim we are quenching the work of the Spirit. We have been interacting with a number of them in the comments, so if you are interested in reading a bit of the back and forth, don’t miss them.
One of the repeated arguments I have read from commenters, especially under a recent post critical of Rodney Howlin’ Brown, is that we cessationists who criticize charismatics are like Saul’s daughter, Michal, who criticized David for “dancing before the ark.” Just as God gave her over to dishonor, so too will these critical cessationists be given over to dishonor.
I have encountered that charge in the past, and now that I have run across it again, I thought I would write up a response.
Let me begin by citing the relevant text,
Now as the ark of the LORD came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart…
Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself.
So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD and I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23).
In order to provide a response to our charismatic detractors, it is important to build a context.
If you recall, Saul, who was Michal’s father, was Israel’s first king. However, he wasn’t a God-fearing King. His blatant disobedience exposed him as a spiritual fraud and God removed Saul from his position. David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart in 1 Samuel 16, is anointed as king instead.
But David was not made king immediately. In fact, he was pursued nearly 10 years by Saul and his army as a rebel looking to usurp Saul’s throne. Saul eventually kills himself after a disastrous battle against the Philistines, leaving David the freedom to finally take his rightful place as Israel’s king.
The opening chapters of 2 Samuel record David’s ascension to the throne. One of the first things David wanted to do as king is bring the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle to Jerusalem where He maintained the seat of Israel’s government.
After repenting from the foolish attempt of moving the ark that resulted in Uzzah losing his life (2 Samuel 6:7,8), the ark is finally brought to Jerusalem. During the triumphal procession that accompanied the coming of the ark, David joins with the worshipers praising the LORD. It was at that time Michal, his wife and daughter of Saul, saw him and despised what he was doing.
Now, with that background in mind, we can make some observations of the text that provide us a clearer picture of what is going on.
First, one will notice that it says Michal “despised him in her heart” when she saw David dancing in the streets. Did she “despise” him because he was worshiping God as a faithful, covenant-keeping Jew, which would be the accusation suggested by charismatics against cessationists when they question the validity of their “faithful, spirit-filled worship”? Or did she “despise” him for another reason? I think it is for another reason that David even reveals when Michal confronts him in 2 Samuel 6:20, 21. She was bitter about David being made ruler and her father being judged.
Remember her story: Michal was given to David as a wife by her father after David killed Goliath. She certainly wasn’t forced to marry David as 1 Samuel 18:20 does record for us that Michal did indeed love him and was pleased with her father’s choice of a husband. However, as their life moved along with David as a fugitive and him being a serial “wife” collector while he was on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 25:42,43), her love for him perhaps began to wane a bit. Moreover, Michal’s father then gave her to another man to spite David and as an “official” way of cutting him off from the royal family (1 Samuel 25:44).
After David became the king, he had Michal taken from the other man and brought back to him. Even though David was perhaps in the right to severe that marriage and bring Michal back to himself, that move did not sit well with her. It is quite understandable that she would be bitter about her circumstances.
Second. It is important to note that the “worship” David offered to the LORD was the traditional, Jewish expression of worship. He was doing nothing on the level that is witnessed in many of the Pentecostal/charismatic churches we see in our modern-day. To equate the criticisms cessationists like myself have with people who say their “worship” is rolling on the floor, babbling in tongues, barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, and behaving foolishly in a number of bizarre ways, with MIchal criticizing David’s worship, displays a profound lack of discernment.
What was “scandalous” for Michal was not that David “danced before the LORD” in worship, but the fact that David laid aside his royal garments, took upon himself a linen ephod, and participated in the worship with the common folks. She saw him as acting in an undignified manner that was unbecoming of the royal king of Israel.
There isn’t any genuine comparison between the biblical induced criticisms non-charismatics have of modern charismatics with Michal attacking David for his sincere worship. In a way, David’s act of laying aside his royal garments and identifying with the people as an equal worshiper of God is similar to Christ laying aside his “royal garments” to walk among the people He came to save. A much better case can be made of this incident with Michal being more of an illustration of people attacking Christ’s incarnation than critical remarks against the charismatic movement.
And one footnote. Second Samuel 6:23 records that “Michal had no children until the day of her death.” Whether that was due in part to God preventing her from having children, or the fact David no longer had any intimate relationship with her is unclear. Perhaps it’s a combination of both situations. Whatever the case, we do know that it was a direct fulfillment of God’s judgment against Saul’s house as stated in 1 Samuel 15.
However, 2 Samuel 21:8 records that Michal “bore” five sons for Adriel. The comment seems to contradict the words of 2 Samuel 6:23. Various English translations switch Michal for her sister, Merab, in 2 Samuel 21:8. According to 1 Samuel 18:18, 19, it was Merab who married Adriel and hence she had to have been the one who bore him 5 sons. But the name Michal is recorded there in 2 Samuel 21:8, so what gives? My guess is that Merab either died and Michal “adopted” the five sons so as to raise them, or Michal, being childless, was given the opportunity to help raise them with her sister.