Dancing with Great Abandon

For a long time, I felt great restraint in church. I was taught to be a good boy, sitting quietly through sermons or singing mildly during worship. Hands were clasped behind my back like a soldier or in front like a footballer protecting their crotch during a free kick. That was all part of the Christian act.

Of course, I wasn’t an emotionless robot. Outside church, I screamed and yelled while watching basketballs passing through hoops. I danced to the gyrating rhythms of rock music in my bedroom. It was a different place, you understand, worshipping God was different.

Or is it just me? King David shows the way to behave in a church.

It was reported to King David that God had prospered Obed-Edom and his entire household because of the Chest of God. So David thought, “I’ll get that blessing for myself,” and went and brought up the Chest of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David, celebrating extravagantly all the way, with frequent sacrifices of choice bulls. David, ceremonially dressed in priest’s linen, danced with great abandon before God. The whole country was with him as he accompanied the Chest of God with shouts and trumpet blasts. But as the Chest of God came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, happened to be looking out a window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before God, her heart filled with scorn.

2 Samuel 6:14-16 (The Message)

David had great cause for celebration – the Ark of the Covenant (along with God’s blessing) was coming into town! Note how Eugene Peterson describes the celebration.

Even David, dressed in priestly robe, danced. I love how he danced: “danced with great abandon before God.” He didn’t care who was watching. He didn’t care if it cost him his reputation. All he knew was he was filled with so much joy that he had to dance. Not dancing would have betrayed the joy he felt inside.

David might have been kicked out of my church for dancing like that. His wife, Michal, was disgusted and embarrassed by the way he danced. Why? Some commentators think that by dancing wildly in a priestly gown, David exposed his private part in public. Whatever the case, her heart was filled with scorn instead of joy. Instead of focusing on the ark and the glory of God, she focussed on their reputation and image. Some people are like Michal too – they scorn worshippers who lift their hands, dance, jump or cry. God judged Michal with barrenness, a terrible curse for a woman in those days. David did not care. Check it out here:

David returned home to bless his family. Michal, Saul’s daughter, came out to greet him: “How wonderfully the king has distinguished himself today–exposing himself to the eyes of the servants’ maids like some burlesque street dancer!” David replied to Michal, “In GOD’s presence I’ll dance all I want! He chose me over your father and the rest of our family and made me prince over GOD’s people, over Israel. Oh yes, I’ll dance to GOD’s glory –more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned…I’ll gladly look like a fool…but among these maids you’re so worried about, I’ll be honored no end.” Michal, Saul’s daughter, was barren the rest of her life.

2 Samuel 6:20-23

I recently attended a Palm Sunday service where we were given palm branches to wave. I waved it excitedly, not bothering what others would say. I would have waved it wider if it wasn’t so cramp in the hall. Others weren’t so keen though. Youths were standing dazed and bored during worship. Some scrolled through their phones mindlessly, waiting for a notification.

I wonder if we have lost the excitement for Jesus and what he did for us. Shouldn’t his coming to earth, death and resurrection cause us to celebrate wildly (not mildly)? Shouldn’t we dance with great abandon before God like David did? Shouldn’t we ignore the Michals who scorn us for celebrating?

May God open your eyes to see his glory and greatness so that you be filled with joy. Leave your reputation and image at the door. Worship isn’t about you. It’s about God. Celebrate what He has done for you. Dance with great abandon before God. And when you’re done dancing, live with great abandon before God.

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