Well, did you enjoy that roller-coaster ride through 2 Samuel 6? One moment we were up—the Philistines were subdued and David was in the process of bringing the ark of the covenant up to his new capital city amid joyous celebrations. The next minute we were down—Uzzah touched the ark and God struck him dead, angering and terrifying David. Then we started up again—David heard that Obed-Edom and his family were being blessed because of the presence of the ark in their home, so he set out once again to bring it to Jerusalem, avoiding the mistakes of his first attempt. Finally, as all roller-coasters eventually do, we came down again, as the chapter closed with David’s wife Michal accusing him of impropriety in his wild celebration during the ark’s arrival.
But did you notice that little dipsy-doodle in verse 16? Just when we were flying high, with the ark coming to its new home and David dancing in a transport of joy, the writer of 2 Samuel threw in this detail: “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.” That’s all there was to it, just a small aside, but it was enough to warn us that another big downhill plunge was coming up soon.
However, that little detail has rather significant implications for the people of God as we ride out the ups and downs of the Christian life—especially the downs that stem from hatred and ridicule on the part of non-believers.
When Michal finally got her chance to confront David, she took him to task for leaping too wildly in a skimpy garment in front of Israel’s demure young ladies. Well, that may have been the source of her ire, but there is enough evidence to suggest it may have been something deeper. As the daughter of a king, she may have simply been too status-conscious, believing that David’s joyous dancing was unbecoming for a monarch. Or she may have been a follower of pagan gods (1 Sam. 19:13), so that she found it painful to watch David’s display of devotion to Yahweh. In either case, however, the problem was the same—she did not understand David’s motivation. Thus, she concluded that he was behaving in an unacceptable way.
Unbelieving men and women are always somewhat perplexed when it comes to God’s people. They cannot understand why Christians love and serve their God and Savior, yielding their “autonomy” to His lordship. In their minds, such devotion and surrender is the height of stupidity and a despicable form of behavior. As the apostle Peter put it, “They think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:4). He added, “These, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand” (2 Peter 2:12a).
Such derision should not surprise us. Indeed, Jesus Himself experienced it, for He was “despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3). And He told us to expect the same if we have a relationship with Him. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19).
So there you have it—hatred from “the world” is a fact of the Christian life. All of us will feel the sting of being despised. Of course, we can live with that. David listened to Michal’s sarcastic diatribe and told her to get an attitude adjustment, and Christians in the free world usually can do the same. It is only when those who hate us have some power by which to give expression to their hatred—and nothing to restrain them from using it—that hatred becomes a problem, for it is then that persecution arises.
However, as this issue of Tabletalk has attempted to show, persecution and even martyrdom are not to be feared. Listen to the testimony of one of the most persecuted men of all time—the apostle Paul. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8–9). A quick read through this passage can leave us thinking that maybe Paul just had a stronger constitution than most believers, a sunnier disposition, or a higher tolerance for pain (or a perverse delight in it). You have to read closely to catch the secret of his endurance, but it’s right there: He was “persecuted, but not forsaken.” He could endure persecution because he knew he was not alone in persecution. His Savior, whom he served even unto martyrdom, was with him through it all. And that Savior promises to be with all who trust in His name.
Strap yourselves in, believers. This ride we call the Christian life will have its dips, thanks to those who despise us for our Master’s sake. But take comfort in knowing that the dips will not matter in the end, for this ride is not coasting downhill but is being drawn ever upward. The Designer planned it that way.