Religious Zeal Despised
2 Samuel 6:16
And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window…

She despised him in her heart. A graphic picture here. A numerous and joyous procession marching into the city with the ark of God, with sacred music and singing and dancing; the king at the head of all, more joyous and enthusiastic than all the crowd besides; and Michal, behind her window, cool and collected, without sympathy with the object or spirit of the proceeding, yea, looking on with contempt, especially for her husband, who was so demonstrative in his display of zeal and gladness. She has many imitators. There are many who regard fervid zeal in religion with contempt.


1. Alleged reasons; as

(1) that it is fanatical; or

(2) unintellectual, a sign of weak mind; a style of religion fit only for women and weak-minded men; or

(3) hypocritical; or

(4) not respectable.

The better sort of people, it is alleged, keep their religion within due bounds; certainly will eschew forms of religious earnestness which associate closely the upper classes with the common people.

2. Secret causes. May be:

(1) Ignorance. Want of knowledge of Christianity. Acquaintance with its great facts, doctrines, and precepts, and the exemplification of them in the lives of our Lord and his apostles, would make it clear that they demand and justify the utmost warmth of love and zeal; so that for Christians to be zealous in holding, practising, and propagating their religion is simply to be consistent.

(2) Irreligion, with or without knowledge. Unbelief or disbelief. The absence of religious faith and feeling. Possibly a settled hatred of religion and goodness. Men of this class cannot possibly understand or appreciate the operations of religion in the heart. The sincerely religious may disapprove of certain forms in which others display their zeal, but they will not indulge contempt of them.

(3) Formalism or superficiality in religion. To which ardent devotion and self-consecration are unintelligible.

(4) Pride of intellect, taste, or station. "Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees? But this multitude which knoweth not the Law are accursed" (John 7:48, 49, Revised Version).

(5) Sometimes would be found secret uneasiness. Zeal in others awakens conscience, which utters condemnation; and conscience is relieved (or attempted to be) by fixing attention on what is regarded as objectionable in the religious zeal of others, and cherishing contempt for them.

(6) Religious bigotry, which has no tolerance for forms of religion, however sincere and good those who adopt them may be, that differ from those of the bigot himself. The piety of many good men is sadly marred by this spirit, and its earnestness feeds something very like hatred of fellow Christians. In this case also contempt springs largely from ignorance, as well as from a lack of that principle of religion which is supereminent, viz. love.


1. It is in harmony with right reason. In view of the nature and works of God and our obligations to him, especially the redeeming love of God in Christ, the evils from which we are redeemed, the blessings which are brought within our reach, the cost of our redemption. It is not zeal, but indifference and coldness, which are irrational. Nothing but the willing devotement of heart and life to Christ is suitable as a return for his love. Devotion without warmth, service which is ever measured and stinted, are absurd.

2. It is required by Holy Scripture. The great duties of Christianity, love to God and man, necessarily include warmth and earnestness. And the terms in which we are exhorted to seek our own salvation and the good of others all imply zeal; the production of which is represented as one great end of the offering of himself by Christ (Titus 2:14).

3. It is countenanced by the highest and best society. By cherubim and seraphim, angels and archangels, apostles, prophets, martyrs, saints in heaven and on earth, and him who is higher than them all, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whose burning zeal we owe everything. The grandest intellects in the universe may be appealed to by the zealous Christian.

4. It is productive of the greatest good. Christianity has conferred and is conferring the greatest blessings on mankind, and is ever extending the area of its beneficial influence. But it is its zealous, not its cold-hearted, adherents to whom men owe its extension and powerful operation.

5. It secures the approbation of God, and final acceptance and reward. He who zealously uses his talents is to be received into the joy of his Lord, while the slothful servant is rejected 'rod punished. The highly respectable and self-complacent Church at Laodicea is severely reproved and threatened on account of its lukewarmness (Revelation 3:15, 16). Only religion in earnest fits for heaven. There are no lukewarm Christians there. Finally:

1. Let despisers of zealous Christians beware lest they be found despising Christ and God (Luke 10:16).

2. Let zealous Christians take heed of needlessly exposing their religion to contempt. As by associating it with things unworthy of it, such as narrowness of mind, cant, eccentricity, worldly policy, excessive ceremonialism, great ardour about small matters, little ardour about great matters, uncharitableness.

3. Some zeal in religion deserves to be despised. That, in particular, which is dissociated from truth, uprightness, holiness, or love. True religious zeal includes zeal for these; and no ardour of professed religion can be a substitute for them. - G.W.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And 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 dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

WEB: It was so, as the ark of Yahweh came into the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out at the window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before Yahweh; and she despised him in her heart.

Michal's Lack of Sympathy with David
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