Michal: The Loneliness of Singles
October 26th, 1980 @ 7:30 PM
2 Samuel 6:20-23
MICHAL: THE LONELINESS OF SINGLES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 6:20-23
10-26-80 7:30 p.m.
And tonight we welcome the uncounted thousands of you that are sharing this hour with us on the two radio stations, KRLD and KCBI. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor preaching one in the long series of messages that will reach until Christmas on the problems of human life. And today it is entitled Michal: The Loneliness of Singles. And after this service is over, all of the singles in our congregation are invited to Coleman Hall for a reception, which we hope you will enjoy.
Now, turn to 2 Samuel, 2 Samuel, verse 6, and we are going to read out loud verses 20, 21, 22 and 23—20-23; beginning at verse 20 to the end of the chapter. Second Samuel, in the Old Testament, 2 Samuel, chapter 6, beginning at verse 20 and reading to the end of the chapter. And on the radio where you are, and with us in this great sanctuary, let us read it out loud together, 2 Samuel 6, beginning at verse 20:
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, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, who chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord.
And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honor.
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.
[2 Samuel 6:20-23]
The sad story of Michal, the daughter of Saul, would bring tears to the heart of a man made out of iron. She fell in love with David after the young fellow became the hero of the kingdom [1 Samuel 18:20]. And Saul, who hated the young fellow, was jealous of him and sought to encompass his death and in a thousand ways tried to slay him. Saul saw in the love of his daughter Michal for David an opportunity to kill David [1 Samuel 18:21]. So he asked David for a dowry of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines [1 Samuel 18:25], to slay a hundred Philistines. And David gladly accepted the challenge and slew two hundred of the enemies of the Lord and brought their foreskins to Saul. So Saul had to give Michal to David to wife, a beautiful romance [1 Samuel 18:27].
Now, as the days passed and Saul sought the life of David, shrewdly, she encompassed a way whereby David escaped. And Michal saved his life [1 Samuel 19:11-18]. As the days passed, David was outlawed, and being a refugee from the armies of Saul, Saul gave Michal to Phalti another man [1 Samuel 25:44], in apparently a union that was wonderfully dear to Phalti, at least. Now, the years have passed again, and we are in 2 Samuel—all of this in 1 Samuel—in 2 Samuel, Saul is dead [1 Samuel 31:6], and David is king of Judah [2 Samuel 2:1-7]. And in seeking to gain the whole kingdom, he confers with Abner, who was captain of the hosts of Saul [2 Samuel 3:9-12]. And the one requirement that David makes for the kingdom to be put together under his leadership is that Michal his wife be restored to him [2 Samuel 3:13]. And Abner agrees to that and takes Michal away from Phalti, who follows the chariot with many tears, and gives her back to David [2 Samuel 3:13-16].
Now the next part is sad, dramatically sad. David is no longer the youthful husband. He is no longer that young man in love, and she with him. David now has many wives, and he is a wealthy ruler of the kingdom. And the old rapport is gone. And in the instance that you read here, she sarcastically and bitterly criticizes David because of his leaping before the ark of the Lord as it was brought into Jerusalem; and, as she says, uncovers himself to his shame before his maidens [2 Samuel 6:20]. And then the last verse that you read, in returning bitterness, or however you would describe David’s response, she is put aside and lives the rest of her life alone [2 Samuel 6:21-23]. Her life began so lovely and ends so sadly, lonely. And that was the story that is the background of this message tonight, The Loneliness of Singles: Michal.
In the United States there are many, many single men and women. There are more than fifty-five million, and the number is growing at the rate of more than a million every year. Of this vast segment of the population of America, those singles can be divided into four groups. One is a group that has never married; those twenty-six years of age and younger are one half of that toward sixty million Americans. That is one group, the group that has never married, which is by far the largest group.
Another group of singles are those that are involved in the separation caused by military assignment and activity or by traveling or by business arrangements. There are many, many people who are living apart because of the necessity of assigned work in life.
A third group of singles is the group that has found itself suddenly widowed by death. And this is also no less sad. It is difficult to punch a button and one day you are married; and punch another button and now you are not married; and then punch another button and you are supposed to go back into adolescent courtship. And that can happen to anyone, any moment, any day—just suddenly, the husband or the wife is taken away in death.
The fourth group of singles are those who are traumatically singled by divorce, or by desertion, or by separation. This is a group that is being numerically added to, over a million every year. More than a million every year are legally divorced. More than a million every year are deserted, that is called the poor man’s divorce. And, of course, other uncounted thousands are separated. And many times this is involving children, a one-parent family.
Now there are three or four reactions of the single to that dramatic and traumatic sorrow caused by death, or divorce, desertion, and separation. One response is withdrawal, the fear of being emotionally involved again, lest they be hurt again. They are prisoners of bolts and nuts, and bars, and stone walls of their own making. They live within themselves, a life of intense sadness. Another reaction is one of self-pity and bitterness. They stand in their own sunlight. They make their own shadows. And they live lives infinitely, indescribably unhappy. They live lives of self-pity. Another reaction is found in the turning to drugs and to alcohol and to debauchery. And another reaction is one of moral compromise.
I suppose all of these psychiatrical clinics from one side of the nation to the other; they are all engaged in some kind of sexual census. And out of much reading, why, this is what some of those surveys say. They say that ninety percent of the formerly married, the widowed and the divorced, have had sexual relations since marriage was broken. They say that only one in twenty men, and only one in fourteen women, remain celibate. They say that two-thirds of the men and one-half of the women are as sexually active after their marriage is broken as before. Then some of them say in conclusion that promiscuity is the normal life, and the one who is celibate is the deviate.
They say that pagan peer pressure has won the day, and they quote what they say, “If it feels good, do it. If you are hungry eat. If you have an appetite, feed it.” And the woman who says no, I have written down here in those surveys four things that four different women say. One, “They tell me something is wrong with me.” Another one, “Usually I do not get invited out again.” A third one, “They call me old-fashioned. They never call me for another date.” And four, “They express amazement that I hold such puritanical ideas.”
Now, when the girl compromises, when the woman compromises, here are some reactions that I copied out of these statistical surveys. One woman said, “I feel despondent after having been out.” Another, “Inner conflict tears me apart”; another, “I have tremendous guilt”; another, “It prevents my spiritual growth”; another, “I worry that I won’t go to heaven”; another, “I cry and cry and want even more to have back what I have lost”; another, “I feel like a tramp”; another, “I wonder why the need is there, I have such feelings of guilt and hopelessness.” This is the trauma that so many of our singles go through and find it difficult to discover answers in life and to human need.
So we address ourselves to that. First of all, as God looks on the singles: as the Lord looks down, what does He think, and what does He say? There are two ways to be alone. One is separation in distance, to be separated in physical frame; the second to be isolated in spirit. And those two are as far apart as the east is from the west. To be alone is one thing. To be lonely is another thing. To be alone is good. We need to be by ourselves. We need to shut out the maddening crowd. We need to study. We need to meditate. We need to pray. We need to be alone with God. That kind of solitude is an infinite blessing to the human soul and the human spirit. Being alone, all of us need it, or else we will never know God. But loneliness is an altogether different thing. We can be lonely in the midst of the man-swarm of millions and millions of people. Loneliness, the icy, chilly touch of a hand that is indifferent and unsympathetic; or the glazed daze of an eye that is filled with contumely and sarcasm or condemnation; or words that pass the lips that are withdrawn and superior. Loneliness is a common lot of all humanity.
Thomas Wolfe, in his Look Homeward Angel, poignantly portrayed his sense of loneliness and isolation with these words, “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.” In his stage drama “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov, he has one of the characters, Charlotta say, “I am so lonely, always so lonely, no one belongs to me, and. . . who I am, and what I exist for, nobody knows.” Life at best is a lonely road, and Celia, in T. S. Eliot’s “The [Cocktail] Party,” speaks for us all when she says, “No, it isn’t that I want to be alone, but that everyone is alone, or it seems to me. They make noises and think they are talking to each other, they make faces and think they understand each other, but I don’t think they do.”
The loneliness of humanity is universal. I have been in New York, surrounded by seventeen million people, and hundreds of thousands of them on the street, where I could see them, and I have never felt so alone in my life. Not one do I know, nor one that knows me. Aloneness, loneliness, lonesomeness, it is universal.
Now does God know that? And does God sense that? And does God see that? One time God said, “I am so lonely.” He had made stars, flung them into space. He had made mountain ranges and oceans. He had made valleys, and trees, and forests, and rivers. But, God said, “These stars cannot talk to Me, and these mountain ranges, and these valleys, and these rivers, and these oceans, they do not know Me.” God said, “I am lonely.” And the Lord said, “I will make man in My image [Genesis 1:26-27], after My likeness, that he may talk to Me and I to him, and he can think My thoughts and be like Me.” And God made the man for fellowship with the Almighty who said, “I am lonely.”
And when the man was placed in the garden of Eden to be God’s friend, and the Lord surrounded him with all kinds of beautiful animals, there was no fallen nature. There was no claw and no fang. But the leopard, and the lion, and the kid, and the lamb were all beautifully together. But when God saw even in the garden of Eden that the man was alone, He said, “I know how that feels. I know how it is not to have somebody to talk to you and to love you and to be with you. I know because I have been lonely,” said the Lord God. And the Lord made for the man one like him who could talk to him, and be with him, and encourage him, and love him, and strengthen him. And God said it was good [Genesis 2:8, 18-25].
One of the poignant scenes I remember reading one time, there is a man named Ben Isaac, and his wife has died and has left for him to rear a little blind girl. And in that book it says that many times Ben Isaac would awaken in the middle of the night, and there standing by his bed, in her little white nightie, with her black hair falling over her white little gown, was standing his little girl, his little blind girl, Naomi. She was not saying anything. She was just standing there wanting to be close to him. The night was as the day to her, and the day was as the night. And there in the night, she would stand by his bed, just to be close to him—which is a picture to me of all humanity. Just to be close. Just to be near. And God looked down and said, “I know how that feels, for I have been lonely.”
Now, the church looks at loneliness, and we are taught many things by the Word of the Lord. One thing we are definitely taught in the Word of the Lord is this: that God’s will is not for everyone to be married. That is so often seen in the Bible and so perfectly and marvelously expressed by our Lord Himself. It is not God’s will that all of us share a married life. Jeremiah was not married; God’s great prophet. Jesus was not married; deity, the Son of heaven. Paul was not married. Barnabas was not married. And there are thousands of missionaries and ministers who have given their lives to God, having never married. And the Lord Jesus said, “For there are some eunuchs, which were born so from their mother’s womb! And there are some eunuchs, which are made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” [Matthew 19:12]. There are many who give themselves to the Lord God, for whom the will of the Lord is never that they marry.
I quote now from a Christian professor who is writing in a sociological magazine. And this is what he says regarding single women. “The church teaches explicitly and implicitly that God’s best for woman is marriage, and that a woman should be prepared to accept God’s second best for her and turn the deepest disappointment into a spiritual victory.” That is what the church usually teaches. “Certainly,” he admits, “God’s general pattern for living is the family. But God’s general pattern is not necessarily the pattern for everyone. A Christian woman can choose to be single. Singleness offers freedom and opportunity to develop deeper friendships. A single woman need not forego the traditional ‘womanly’ pursuits. She has the freedom to use her money as she thinks best. Jesus is the example to follow. The ‘old maid, disappointed, spinster’ state of mind shackles God’s new life with old manacles. Jesus offers joy. “
If it is God’s will that a young man or a young woman marry, the Lord bless them. But if it is God’s will that they not enter that marriage covenant, God will no less wonderfully and marvelously bless them. This is explicitly stated in the Word of God. The attitude of the church toward singles—that is the first one—it is the will of God that some never marry. Jesus did not. Jeremiah did not. Paul was unmarried. Barnabas was not married.
Number two: the attitude of the church toward those who are traumatically single by death, or by divorce, or by desertion ought always to be one of infinite sympathy, and understanding, and love, and encouragement. One who has gone through a divorce has suffered beyond what the rest of us might ever know. There is an inward feeling and sense of failure, and lack, and self-condemnation. And for the church to heap to that a judgmental cynicism is of all things un-Christlike and inappropriate.
If anyone has any problem in heart or life, take it to God! He understands, and He teaches us to understand and to be sympathetic, and forbearing, and loving, and encouraging. God says, “I have been divorced. I know all about it.” Why, you say, “Pastor, I never heard such an observation in my life.” So I repeat it. God says, “Come to Me and lay it all before Me. And tell Me all about it for I have been divorced.” All you need do is to read the Book of Hosea which is filled with tears. God says, “I am like Hosea, whose wife went into prostitution and left him” [Hosea 1:2-3] God says, “I am like that. Israel is My wife and Israel has left Me” [Ezekiel 16:1-63]. And the Book of Hosea ends with the most lamentable and sorrowful of all the explanations you will find in the Bible.
Do you remember it? God says, “Oh, Ephraim, Israel, how shall I give thee up?” [Hosea 11:8] God has been divorced. God has been left. And He knows how it feels. He knows all about it. And He sympathizes and understands. And the church is taught in the Spirit of our blessed Lord Jesus the same spirit of sympathy and understanding.
You won’t find in the Bible a finer presentation of our Lord than what the sainted apostle John presents in the fourth chapter of the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John. Jesus is seated on the well near Sychar, in Samaria, and there comes a woman with a pitcher of, with a pitcher to take water out of the well [John 4:5-7]. And He sits there and He talks to that woman [John 4:7-12]. And in that conversation He makes the greatest pronouncement about spiritual religion to be found in the Word of God, and He makes it to that woman, that woman [John 4:13-26]. What kind of a “that woman?” Well, He says, “You have had five husbands: and you are not even married to the man now living with” [John 4:18].
Does He say you slut, you harlot, you whoremonger, you prostitute, you tramp, you scum of the earth? Does He? Read it. It is beautiful. And it is like Jesus, as He talks to that woman of the gutter and of the street, and the conversation leads her to faith in the Lord [John 4:29]. That is Jesus.
It was Jesus who told the story of the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32]. The father does not say, “You whoremonger; wasted your substance with harlots.” That is what he did. The Bible says he did [Luke 15:13]. But the father says, “Let us kill the fatted calf. And let us put a robe on him for those old rags. Let us put a ring on his finger. And let us rejoice. This my boy was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” [Luke 15:23-24]. That’s Jesus. That’s the Lord.
Sometimes when we are eating supper, Mrs. C. will turn on a television right there in the kitchen. And there is some kind of a program that comes on about supper time. It is called “Family Feuding” or fighting or, I don’t know; it is family carrying on. So, in that television program, there is an emcee that has an unusual voice. And after the feuding, and fussing, and fighting, or whatever they call that thing that goes on, and the family is all jumping up and down about answering those questions, why, he will turn up there to a man who is hidden away in a balcony somewhere and ask for the survey. And then if the survey says such and so, why, it rings a bell. And so he will turn up there and he says, “Survey says,” and then the bell rings, and all those points come out, and they jump up and down and get $10,000
Why, I would jump up and down too if I could get ten thousand dollars for that—asking a question; “Survey says.” All right, listen to the survey. I told you I had been reading all of these things that these psychiatrical clinics say, and on and on and on what they report in these statistical answers. All right, let me tell you two of them. Let me tell you two of them. Survey says, number one: there is not anything that brings people to Jesus like the trauma of a broken home. Would you have thought that? Never would I in a thousand years. By the uncounted thousands, the psychiatrical, sociological surveys say, “Because of the trauma and the sadness of a divorce or a broken home, men and women have come to Jesus.” That was one. Number two: the survey says because of the infinite sadness of a broken home, there have been uncounted thousands who say, “I was brought closer to the Lord, to lean upon Jesus.” God has a way of taking our tears and turning them into jewels, into diamonds, of taking the hurts and the heartaches of life and binding us closer to Himself. God works in a marvelous and amazing way.
Now, I must close—the single. I was in Oslo, Norway; went to the Baptist church there. And the leading deacon over there in those European Scandinavian churches, they have some men around whom they apparently build the whole work. Well, this was that leading, godly, consecrated, deacon in the church there, the First Baptist Church of Oslo, Norway. So, he took us to dinner. And he began talking about the stories of Norway when the Nazi occupation was so terrible for the nation and for the people. And he said, “I could not describe for you the hatred and the bitterness that we had in our hearts toward that occupying Nazi army. Well,” he said, “there came to our church a Nazi soldier, a young fellow. When he walked in the door, you could sense the bitter response and the unspoken vile and hatred of the people toward that Nazi soldier as he came to church. But the young fellow sat there and worshiped with them. Not a soul spoke to him. And he went out alone. And the next Sunday he was back. And the next Sunday he was back.”
And his wife said to that godly man, she said, “Dear, that Nazi soldier, he is so alone. And he comes here to worship. Speak to him.”
“No, I won’t speak to him ever!” But the young fellow kept coming.
And she said, “Husband, you must speak to him; you are a Christian. And this is our church. And he is there worshiping God with us. Speak to him.” He did, and that was all; just as cold and removed as he could talk, he spoke to him, and that is all. So, his wife said to him, she said, “Husband, he is so alone. Ask him for dinner at our house.”
“I would never ask him in our house that hated Nazi soldier!”
But she pressed him, “He is so alone. Ask him.”
So he said, “I will if he will come to church without his uniform.”
So he asked the young fellow to come to dinner and not to wear his uniform. So the young fellow bought some civilian clothes in Oslo and came to church in civilian clothes, and they took him to dinner. And then they took him to dinner again. And he said, “There on the floor”—and he is telling me that story in the living room, he says—”here on the floor, our children were small then, and the lad played with those children. He was so lonesome and so alone. He played with our children, and I have never seen a young fellow who seemingly loved children as that young fellow loved those children, played with them. And they loved him. And all during the occupation, he was our boy. Our son, that Nazi soldier.”
Then he said, “After the war was over and our freedom had been given back to us and the boy had returned to Germany,” he said, “we received a letter from him, and the letter was an invitation saying I am to be married in the such and such Baptist church in such and such city in Germany. And he said, ‘Please, won’t you all come to my wedding?”‘ And he said, ‘I turned to my wife and said, ‘Wife, we must go.’ We must go. And,” he said, “I bundled up my wife and all my children, and we made our way to Germany. And we were there at the wedding of that Nazi soldier.”
That’s Jesus. And that’s the church. And that’s the Spirit of God. It can heal national bitterness and hatred. It can remake human life. It can bring to us the joy we have in the Lord. That’s God. And when our hearts are filled with love and sympathy and understanding, the face and the life of Jesus shines through [2 Corinthians 4:5-6]. Amen.
May we stand together? Our Lord in heaven, if we have ever been censorious or critical or judgmental, forgive us, we are not in that business. Someday we will all stand at the judgment bar of heaven, and then God can judge us, but we are not to be judges [Matthew 7:1-3]. We don’t understand everything. We don’t know the human heart. We will leave that to Thee, dear God, but as for us make us like our blessed Jesus. In the days of His flesh, always words of sympathy, and understanding [Matthew 11:28-29], and forgiveness [Matthew 9:6], and salvation [John 10:10]. And our Lord, may we preach that and exhibit that in this wonderful church. This is a place where all of us sinners worship God, call upon His name, rejoice in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus [Romans 5:11], under the blood, washed clean and pure [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. O Lord, how much we owe to Thee. Give us a greater capacity to love Thee more and better.
And in this moment that our people pray and look to heaven, a couple you, to give your heart and life and home to Jesus; a family you, coming into the fellowship of this wonderful church; or just one somebody you, following the Lord in baptism [Matthew 3:13-17], putting your life in this dear church, or taking Jesus as Savior [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9], or maybe answering some call from heaven; as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And when we sing our song, down that stairway or down this aisle, “Here I am, preacher. Here I come.” And thank Thee Lord for the sweet harvest, in Thy precious name, amen.
Now while our men are here welcoming you, and as our people pray and wait, make that decision, that first step, and angels attend you in the way. And God bless you as you come, while we pray, while we wait, and while we sing. “Here I am, pastor.”
MICHAL: THE LONELINESS OF SINGLES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 6:20-23
I. Sad story of Michal, daughter of Saul
1. Michal loves David
2. Saves David’s life
3. Saul gives Michal to Paltiel
4. Year later Saul died
5. Michal given back to David but David is now not in love with Michal and David has many wives
II. Differing groups of singles
1. Half under 26 have never been married
2. Singles separated by military service
III. Trauma of Divorce
2. Self-pity, bitterness
3. Drinking, drugs, debauchery
4. Compromised sexual life
IV. The way God looks upon singles
V. The way the church looks at singles