A Warning Against Bitterness

Throughout the whole of the Word of God, there are only 8 women the Bible plainly states were barren:
1. Sarah ~ “But Sarai was barren; she had no child.” (Genesis 11:30)
2. Rebekah ~ “And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren:” (Genesis 25:21a)
3. Rachel ~ “…but Rachel was barren.” (Genesis 29:31b)
4. Manoah’s wife ~ “And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.” (Judges 13:2)
5. Hannah ~ “…but Hannah had no children….the Lord had shut up her womb.” (1 Samuel 1:2b, 5b)
6. A Shunammite woman ~ “…Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.” (2 Kings 4:14b)
7. Elisabeth ~ “And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.” (Luke 1:7)

In these days, a woman who was unable to have a child was looked upon quite differently than women today. They were seen as lesser, disgraced, and worthless to society (although we can certainly still feel this way), which explains the passionate desire these women had for God to change their circumstances.
I would encourage you to read the rest of these stories. In each of them, God hears the cry of His precious children and grants their request, not only for a child, but for a child that would be greatly used by God.

Sarah had Isaac, the promised son.
Rebekah had Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Rachel had Joseph, the son who became a slave, who became a prisoner, who became a ruler and saved the people of Egypt.
Manoah’s wife had Samson, a judge.
Hannah had Samuel, the prophet of God.
The Shunammite woman’s son was raised from the dead by the prophet Elisha.
Elisabeth had John the Baptist, the cousin and forerunner of Jesus Christ.

Each of these stories resulted in a miracle. Several were way past child-bearing age when God gave them their long-awaited son. Some were so desperate, they would have done anything for children…yet there was nothing they could do, but cry out to God, and He gave what they couldn’t produce in and of themselves. They are all definite trophies of grace.

While all these women are worth studying, my thoughts have been on that eighth woman in the Bible that was unable to have children. Her story is different from these in that she didn’t get her happy ending.

We can read about Michal in 1 Samuel 14 – 2 Samuel 6. There isn’t a lot told about her, and many people feel she got what she deserved. While we mostly only hear about the end of her story, if you look at the whole picture, it really is quite sad.

Michal was the daughter of King Saul. In the days following the defeat of Goliath, Saul brought David into his home. There, the Bible says that David made his covenant with Jonathan, Saul’s son. David went wherever Saul sent him and did whatever he was told to do, and he “behaved himself wisely.” (1 Samuel 18:14)
When Saul saw how the people loved David and the Spirit of God was with him, Saul became afraid. He decided to marry one of his daughters to David and bring him into the family, then, perhaps he would be able to get rid of him once and for all. The oldest daughter was given to another man, but Saul was pleased when he heard that Michal loved David.
See, she had heard of how he killed Goliath, seen how he loved her brother and Jonathan loved him in return, seen how he behaved and carried himself, and seen how the Lord was with him…and she had fallen in love with David.
Saul’s requirement for her hand was for him to kill 200 of their enemies, in hopes that they would kill David. God was with him, however, and Saul’s plans were spoiled. David fulfilled the requirement and Michal became his wife.
After this, Saul was just more determined to kill David. Only one chapter after they were married, Michal saved his life by helping him escape from her father…and then, just like that, David was gone. While he was on the run, she was given to another man. Many chapters later (2 Samuel 3), Saul had been killed, and David agreed to make a league with one of Saul’s sons on the condition that Michal be returned to him, which she was.
We read nothing else of Michal until 2 Samuel 6. Of all of her story, this is pretty much what she’s known for. As David brought the ark of the covenant back into the city, she saw him dancing before the Lord, and the Bible says she despised him in her heart.
As he came home, she went out to meet him with sarcasm, and basically told him that he should be ashamed of himself for acting that way in front of all the people in the city. David told her that what he did, he did for the Lord. God was the one that made him King over Saul and what he had done that day was in worship to the Lord.
The last thing we hear about Michal is found in 2 Samuel 6:23: “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.”

As I already mentioned, many feel she received just what she deserved for criticizing her king and her husband for worshipping the Lord. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” goes as much for our tongues as for our hands.
She did deserve punishment…but how did she go from loving David to despising him? I believe the answer lies in the story.

Michal did love David. The Bible plainly states this fact.
He did have to leave, or Saul would have killed him.
But what happened next planted a root of bitterness in her heart that was allowed to grow…and grow…and grow… until it reached a devastating result.

Michal was a new bride still in the honeymoon days of their marriage when her husband had to run for his life. No doubt, she mourned for him and her heart was grieved over their separation. I’m sure she lived in fear, wondering if today would be the day she received the news that he wouldn’t be coming home; her father had found him. To an extent, I believe there was probably some fear of the other outcome as well: David or his men would have found and killed her father.
These were extremely difficult days for Michal…and suddenly she found herself going from bad to worse. Her father ripped her away from their home and gave her to another man. She didn’t love this man – she loved David! – yet, she was forced to live with him as his wife. For years, she was in this strange place with another man, while her heart was in the wilderness with a man on the run.

I’m sure for a while she thought, “I wonder where David is right now. I hope he’s somewhere safe.”
“I wonder if he’s had anything to eat today. I hope he’s being taken care of.”
“I heard news of another battle, but David is still the captain of his men and God gave the victory. I wonder if he was injured… I know God is taking care of him.”

Then she gets the word that her father and brothers have been killed. Certainly, there was a time of mourning and weeping for them…then come the questions:
“Where is David?
Why doesn’t he come for me?
I thought for sure I would have seen or heard something by now.
Does he still love me?
I know it’s been a long time, but surely he still loves me…doesn’t he?
Maybe he doesn’t.
Maybe he’s forgotten about me.”

Can you imagine her excitement when she gets the word that David has sent for her?! I’m sure she looked at her reflection and notices how the years of worry and grief have aged her and wonders if he will even recognize her as the one he once loved. She puts on her best dress and tries to make herself look as attractive as possible.
She knows the years of battle and fighting must have aged David as well, but that matters little to her. He still held her heart, after all.
She goes to meet him…and can you imagine the reunion they must have had? The relief she must have felt to see her beloved again? ….And then the absolute heartbreak and soul-crushing she must have experienced when she met all the other wives and children David had collected during their years of separation?

As a woman, it is not a stretch for me to see how she went from their reunion in chapter 3 to her despising him in chapter 6. During the months between those chapters she had his other families always right in front of her face. She couldn’t get away from them.
During this time, she may have even wished and longed for the days when she waited for him, because that pain was much more bearable than this pain. After all, she must have found some level of happiness over the years if her new husband followed the caravan weeping as David was taking Michal away. As she watched and considered her present circumstances, her bitterness grew and grew…until she could take no more.

Perhaps her sentence of barrenness occurred because God closed her womb. That could very well be the case, and He would have every right to do so…but part of me wonders if it wasn’t God, but David.
Could it have been that her display and attitude was so revolting to him that he never had anything to do with her anymore? He had many other wives and concubines. He certainly didn’t need Michal.
Either way, this story has a tragic ending.
I am in no way excusing Michal’s bitterness and hatred and sin, but I do feel sorry for her. All she ever wanted was ripped away, given to other women, then paraded in front of her, and ultimately, denied to her.
It’s a sad, sad story, but there are things to be learned here.

This is a clear warning in God’s Word against allowing bitterness to take root in our hearts.
As a woman struggling with infertility, I am constantly on my knees begging God to keep bitterness out of my heart. It is a never-ending battle and attack on my mind.
“Why does she get children and I don’t?! She doesn’t take care of the ones she has, and she’s having more! She’s not even married!”
That’s all it takes for bitterness to set up if we’re not careful.

Even if infertility isn’t an issue for you, are there not other areas where we have to fight a constant bombardment of bitter thoughts and feelings?
Friends, please let this tragedy be a lesson for us.
I remember hearing my pastor back in Georgia say once that bitterness is exactly like drinking poison everyday, hoping someone else will die.
The sin of bitterness won’t affect the person or people it is directed at, but it will completely destroy us.

God will not bless bitterness, but He is still well able to work miracles. Look at the lives of these other barren women in Scripture. Call out to Him! Run to Him! Lean on Him!

Some of us may end up with spiritual children instead of biological children, but God is faithful and keeps his promises!

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.” ~Psalms 113:9

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2 thoughts on “A Warning Against Bitterness

  1. I had never heard the story of Michal (well, not that I was familiar with and recognized anyway). Thank-you for taking the time to write it all out, because I’ve often been frustrated that there is no woman in scripture who never conceived.

    It is a battle against bitterness, it’s so easy to go down that road of comparison and anger. Thank-you for this reminder to fight it, and, more importantly, to ask for His Grace.

    I’m so grateful to you for sharing this story, and you are in my daily prayers.

    1. I used to get so frustrated because it seemed the only woman in the Bible who didn’t have children was punished because of sin. My mind interpreted that as, “If I never have children, it must be God punishing me because of something I’ve done.”
      After experiencing the depression that accompanies that thought, the Lord sweetly reminded me of the story of the blind man who was healed by Jesus in John 9: “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
      Is that not the same with us? We don’t always endure hardships and trials because of sin. Sometimes, it’s just so God can get more glory to Himself through us!
      I so appreciate the prayers! 💜💜

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