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"David - Dealing with Difficulty, Pt.4: Setbacks and Being Despised"

July 5, 2015 2Sam.6:16-23


A lady was being admitted to the hospital, and according to standard procedure, she was asked if she was allergic to anything. They needed to know so they could make the appropriate notation on her wristband. The lady told the nurse that she was allergic to certain types of fruit, specifically bananas.

A couple of hours later, the lady's grown son stormed the nurse's station and demanded, "All right! Who's responsible for labelling my mother 'bananas'?" (!)

He jumped to a bit of a conclusion there... Normally, though, insults are far from funny. It can be positively painful to be slandered, put down, called derogatory names. In a recent interview, US President Obama actually used the "N" word - appropriately, I would say, in context - and got away with it because of his own background and good judgment. But for many African-Americans throughout the last couple of centuries, that same "N" word was derogatory, a put-down, masking white folks' despising of them, regarding them (mistakenly) as an inferior class.

As we continue our series looking at how King David dealt with difficulty, we find he too had to deal with personal insults and setbacks. He responded to these in a way that revealed the godly character the Lord was shaping in him, even as he had lessons to learn over time.


In the years leading up to David's coming to power, he had to deal with a variety of setbacks and disappointments. He may have been Israel's anointed king-in-waiting, but things weren't easy for him.

Just before the battle that claimed the lives of King Saul and his dear (to David) son Jonathan, David and his gang of 600 warriors had offered to help their Philistine hosts fight in battle; an offer that was refused because several Philistine leaders feared the Hebrews would turn against them on the battlefield. David and his men marched back home for 3 days. They discovered that, in their absence, Amalekites had raided Ziklag, their town, burned it, and taken captive their wives and families. How devastating! 1Sam 30:3-4,6-8 "3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep...6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. 7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?" "Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.""

How did David respond to this setback? Two things: STRENGTH and INQUIRY. V6 "David found STRENGTH in the Lord his God." Everybody else was against him - talking even of stoning him, they were so bitter! - but David drew near to God, found a safe harbour and encouragement in the Lord when all seemed lost.

Then he INQUIRED. Vv7-8 ""Bring me the ephod."...David inquired of the LORD..." He turned to God to ask, "What's next? What action do You want me to take in response to this tragedy?" And God gave him assurance of what to do.

Another setback occurred after the death of Saul and Jonathan, when Saul's son Ish-Bosheth had been made king over the northern part of the country, while David was king of Judah in the south. Abner the commander of Saul's army fell out with Ish-Bosheth over what may have been a false accusation (3:8); so Abner vowed to transfer the northern kingdom as well over to David. Through diplomacy he spoke to various tribal leaders and won support for David, preparing them to make a compact with David to be their king. But before he could finalize things, Abner was killed by Joab, leader of David's forces, in revenge for the death of Joab's brother Asahel (3:27).

Did David respond saying, "How convenient! I don't have to change the commander of my armies after all!"? Or say, "There's one more power-wielder out of the way!" No - he MOURNED. 2Sam 3:31,33-36 "Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, "Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner."King David himself walked behind the bier...33 The king sang this lament for Abner...And all the people wept over him again.35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, "May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!" 36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them." David mourned and humbled himself, refusing to eat in order to show genuine remorse over what had happened, quite against his will.

Another setback occurs at the beginning of chapter 6 when David assembles a large force, 30,000 men, to bring up the ark of God to Jerusalem. This was a BIG DEAL! David had a lot of resources invested in this project, and went to considerable trouble to get everything organized. Everything seemed to start off well enough: they set the ark on a new cart with oxen pulling it. 2Sam 6:5 "David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals."

And then, all of a sudden - calamity struck! The oxen stumbled and one of those guiding the cart, a man named Uzzah, reached out and took hold of the ark to steady it. V7 "The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God."

They had been treating the whole matter too casually, and it offended God's honour. The ark was supposed to be carried by Levites using poles on their shoulders, as Moses instructed, not loaded on an ox cart like ordinary chattels. And in Numbers 4:15 The Lord had said to Moses, "the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying; but they must not touch the holy things or they will die." David in his arrangements was failing to treat God's ark with the respect that was due. God's honour was not being upheld. The sudden death of Uzzah on the spot was a solemn reminder to the nation not to treat God lightly or off-handedly, but with utmost solemnity, honour, and reverence.

How did David respond to this setback? First, he was angry (v8), probably at himself for not doing his homework and thus unwittingly becoming responsible for the death of an innocent and well-meaning man. Vv9-11 "9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, "How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?" 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David.Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household."

Fear - developing some reverence in view of the wrath of Almighty God; humility - feeling unworthy, "How can the ark ever come to me?" The lesson of God's greatness was registering in David's soul.

But also we see PATIENCE - David left the ark "on hold" in Obed-Edom's house for three months. David took some time off from the project.

He did some LEARNING. He researched how the ark was supposed to be carried. 1Chron 15:13-15 [David speaking] "13 It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way." ...15 And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD." They learned their lesson.

How did David respond to setbacks? SIMPLE - we have an acronym going here: Strength, Inquiry, Mourning, Patience, Learning - and EXALTED. David honoured God through worship, and lifted others up by blessing them as he felt blessed by God. In vv13&17 he offers sacrifices when the ark gets on the way again and upon arrival at Jerusalem; v14 "David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might..." probably shouting as well according to v15.

That's the vertical dimension; David also blesses people on the horizontal dimension. Vv18-19 "18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites..." Then the beginning of v20 reads, "David returned home to bless his household..."

When God helps us through our setbacks, we can praise and bless Him, exalting Him as the Highest and Best; and elevate those around us by sharing the blessings with which He has blessed us.

In the New Testament, we can see similar principles when Jesus and Paul respond to setbacks. When Jesus finds out John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod, He withdraws to a remote place to pray; that gets interrupted by a crowd, but eventually He gets around to what He went there for. Matt 14:13,23 "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place...After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone..."

Similarly, just before His trial and crucifixion, a setback that would prove fatal, Jesus withdraws to the garden of Gethsemane to find strength in God, like David did. Matt 26:36,40f "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray...He returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."" Luke adds in 22:43, "An angel from heaven appeared to him and [WHAT?] strengthened him."

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas seemed to be getting off to a good start at Philippi, with the conversion of Lydia and exorcising a nagging evil spirit from a slave girl who is being exploited by her owners. But the owners don't like this; they start a riot. Acts 16:22-24 "22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks."

How might you or I be feeling about this point? Mobbed, dragged, beaten, thrown in jail, locked in stocks, bleeding and bruised - would we feel entitled to throw a little pity-party? But how do Paul and Silas respond? 16:25 "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." Praying and singing. They don't know an earthquake's about to happen that will cause the prison doors to open and chains to fall off, or that the jailer's about to be converted. They are just bringing the moment to God, connecting with Him, being patient, exalting Him.


Other times, the difficulty we have to deal with isn't a set of circumstances so much as specific people. Some individuals excel in attitude of the wrong sort. They specialize in insults, sarcasm, put-downs; somehow when you walk away from them, you realize they always succeed in bringing you DOWN a notch.

Meet David's wife, Michal. She's a king's daughter and wouldn't let anyone forget it. Give her a bit of credit, she DID help David escape when Saul was intent on killing him right in his home (1Sam 19:11-13). But by the time David became king, her attitude seems to have changed. When the ark is being brought to Jerusalem, we find her NOT down there rejoicing at David's side. She's not sharing his enthusiasm, but standing in jaundiced judgment. 2Sam 6:16 "As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window.And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart."

A word to the young unmarrieds here - if you're a Christian, be sure to date and consider for marriage only someone who's on the same spiritual page as you. Christians ought to marry only someone who "belongs to the Lord" (1Cor 7:39); 2Cor 6:14 do not be "unequally yoked" with unbelievers. You want someone who's going to want to come to church with you, nurture your kids in the instruction of the Lord, and with whom you can share insights from your personal Bible study, pray with, and make a Christian home. Someone who's going to encourage you in your walk with the Lord, not undermine it or view it as competition or a waste of time. Otherwise you're setting yourself up for much grief, and decades of spiritual tension and aloneness. David deserved a spouse who could have rejoiced along with him in this special religious celebration: instead, she devalued it - and him.

Verse 20 offers more detail: "When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"" Dripping with sarcasm - "You really distinguished yourself - NOT!" Exaggeration - "disrobing" - 1Chronicles 15:27 says beside the ephod, David was also wearing "a robe of fine linen", just as did the accompanying Levites, singers, and choir director in the parade. And there's slander - "as any vulgar fellow would!" CEV - "You were really great today!" she said. "You acted like a dirty old man, dancing around half-naked in front of your servants' slave-girls."

CJB - "like some vulgar exhibitionist!" Today we might say almost a "flasher". Not at all what David was doing!

Perhaps Michal suffers from an "elitist" point of view. She's royalty after all, grew up in a king's household, is used to having servants wait on her. Perhaps she likes her high-class position and is ashamed at her husband's readiness to doff all that and be just another Hebrew alongside all the other commoners. Isn't this how the upper class often acts, even in today's world? (One can think of examples in the TV series Gilmore Girls.) As Jesus alluded in Mark 10:42, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them..." After Michal came Ahab who married Jezebel, likewise a daughter of royalty - the king of the Sidonians (1Kings 16:31). In 1Kings 21 King Ahab comes home sulking that Naboth won't sell him his vineyard; v7 "Jezebel his wife said, "Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up.I'll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."" And she does - committing lies and murder in the process. "We are used to getting what we want." (sniff)

But David cuts through Michal's airs. Honouring God above all helps keep him reminded he's just a man, like any other. His unpretentious attitude is so refreshing and egalitarian compared to the classism and prejudice of the Michals and Jezebels of this world. His deference to God makes him truly revolutionary when it comes to the political / social stratification to which fallen people in this world are prone, in an attempt to prop up their fragile egos. David knows he is loved by God, matters to Him, God's got a purpose for him in life, so he doesn't NEED all that classism to matter. Note how he answers in v22: "I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."

It doesn't bother David to be "undignified", even "humiliated"; his dancing was "before the Lord" [2X], unto the Lord, for God not human spectators. And God could see the genuine God-honouring that was going on in David's heart. He simply wasn't trying to impress other people, as was so important to Michal.

"He appointed me ruler over the Lord's people Israel" - David is keenly aware both of God's authorizing of him (choosing him to be king) and the heavy responsibility that has been entrusted to him - ruling God's people. "THAT'S what matters - not how I look!" Robes or a 3-piece suit don't "make the man". "I will become even more undignified...I will be humiliated in my own eyes..." David is ready to take the downward path if it's what's called for at the time, to honour God and care for His people. Serving is the name of the game. David is totally OTHER-focused, not SELF-focused - in contrast to ultra-appearance-aware Michal.

In this regard, David is just like Jesus. Isaiah prophesied of God's ultimate ideal Servant in 53:2f, "2 He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."

Jesus warned His disciples not to get sucked into the pattern of the rulers of the Gentiles and their high officials who "exercise authority over them". Mk 16:43f "43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all."

To "get the job done" of our salvation from our sins, Jesus willingly took the downward path, as Paul describes in Php 2:7-8, "7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!"

To whom do you relate more - Michal, or David? Preoccupied by keeping up appearances - or forgetting yourself to address the needs of the moment?

On the world stage at this moment, one ponders the leaders of Greece - whether their tactics are more aimed at securing the genuine good of the Greek people, OR posturing and manipulating for political benefit, so they "look good" and make somebody else the 'fall guy'?

What about ourselves? We love to look good (admit it)...Yet David by his example, and Jesus by both command and example, call us to live foremost "before the Lord", to celebrate and rejoice in God's grace and goodness and serve others in a way that blesses and gives. May the Holy Spirit show us how to become "even more undignified", to even dare to be "despised" - if it honours our Lord and blesses His people. Let's pray.