I have no doubt that when some of you picked up the bulletin this morning, you wondered, “What is pastor going to preach about today. I don’t think I’m going to like it.” This message may be controversial. It all depends on how you look at it.
Not that the church today is without controversy. In fact, the point that David dance caused great controversy when it happened and we want to look at that. My point is not to create controversy where there was none. If you know me at all, you know that I typically like to avoid it.
One of the areas in the church that is an area of great controversy is in the area of worship. It’s even a topic of discussion on TV here in Martinsville. There is a great diversity in worship among believers. That in itself creates controversy. Why do I say that? Think about the diversity just here in Henry County. You have the non-instrumental worship of the Church of Christ and Primitive Baptist churches. There are churches that are strictly liturgical, following the same plan week after week, strictly following the church calendar. There are churches that only worship with a piano; churches that only worship with an organ; churches that worship with only piano and organ; churches that worship with guitars; churches that worship with full bands and choirs and everything in between. Some churches are quiet and reverent before worship begins. In others the din of the worshipers fellowshipping with other worshipers fills the sanctuary. In some churches, the worship is reserved. In others it is exuberant to the point that most of us including myself would be uncomfortable. There is great diversity in the way we worship. What creates the controversy is when we take our preference and make it what we think God desires. What I desire to accomplish here is not create controversy, but begin a conversation.
Our story begins back in 1 Samuel 4. The Israelites were having trouble with the Philistines – they always seemed to be having trouble with the Philistines. The Philistines always took their idols (or gods) into battle with them. Eli’s (the second to last Israelite judge) wicked sons decided that if they took the Ark of the Covenant (which is where God’s presence resided) into battle with them they would win. When the Israelite warriors found out they sent up a shout. The Philistines wondered what the commotion was and found out the Israelite God was coming to battle. The Philistines resolved to fight harder than they ever did before and they did and won the battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. This would turn out to be a bad thing for the Philistines. The presence of God in the Ark destroyed a Philistine idol and caused plagues and tumors across the land. They passed the Ark around from city to city like a hot potato. Finally they sent it back to Israel. The Ark resided in Kiriath Jearim for many years in the house of Abinadab. It remained there during King Saul’s reign and the beginning of David’s reign. At that time, David started to build a new capital in Jerusalem. This was to be a national treasure. David also wanted the Ark of the Covenant to be there as well. He assembled 30,000 troops to bring back the Ark of God. They even built a new cart for the occasion and started bringing the Ark back to Jerusalem.
This was a grand procession. 2 Samuel 6:5 records it this way, “Dave and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments – lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.” (This does not sound like quiet worship to me. The Israelite songs were boisterous.) This was a party, because the Ark of God was coming “home.”
On the way the ark began to rock and was in danger of falling off the cart.
As a side note, if the David and the Israelites (sounds like a 60’s rock band) would have moved the Ark properly (with the priests carrying it, they wouldn’t have had that problem, but back to the story.
One of Abinadabs’ sons reached over to steady the Ark and immediately he was struck down by God. David was angry…he wanted the Ark back in Jerusalem. God wanted to show that He was serious. The Israelites had spent many years not following God. This served as a reminder to David and Israel that those who claim to serve him must acknowledge his rule with absolute seriousness.
At this point, David wondered angrily if the Ark would ever be brought back to Jerusalem. The moved the Ark into a nearby house and guess what. The Lord blessed the household. Three months later, David finds out and puts a plan in place to finally bring back the Ark. The brought it into the City of David (Jerusalem) and after the men who were carrying the ark took six steps, David stops them and makes a sacrifice.
This is when we are told that David dance with all of his might, wearing his priestly garment. In 2 Samuel 6:15 we are told, “So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.” This was quite a celebration. David was in his highest glory. The Ark was home and God was pleased with the results.
Not everyone was pleased however. Let’s continue in verse 16, “But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michael, the daughter of Saul (and one of David’s wives) looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him.
They brought the Ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the special tend David had prepared for it. And David sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Then he gave to every Israelite man and woman in the crowd a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people returned to their homes.
When David returned home to bless his own family, Michael, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, ‘How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!’
David retorted to Michal, ‘I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mention will indeed think I am distinguished!’ So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.”
See what I mean when I say, “Hollywood can’t write stories like this!” So what can we learn from all of this?
· When you’re having a party, someone’s going to rain on it.
It’s happened to all of us. We are going along having a grand old time. We may even be celebrating the good things of God as David was. And there they come, as H. B. London likes to call them – a joysucker. They can suck the joy right out of you. Sometimes they don’t even know better. Sometimes joysuckers can be your best friend. Sometimes they’re more like your lifelong nemesis. Do you know someone like that? Someone who just sucks the joy right out of a party? We need to remember that they’re out there. In David’s case, he had a snappy reply. David knew what was really in his heart. He knew that his heart was right with God. He wasn’t quite so sure about Michal.
· These joysuckers will probably question your motive(s).
Look what happened – David had just gotten done worshiping the Lord with all of his might and his wife (maybe she was just jealous that David was getting all the attention) ridicules him for his shameless (her words) display. She questions the motives of the King and puts him down because she knows thinks she knows what David was really doing. I’m sure you know this already, but there are really some judgmental people out there! They always think that they really know God’s heart. They know what true worship really is.
Before we go on, let me say a one thing. The scriptures instruct us to be sure that everything is done properly and in order. If you know me at all, you will know that this is a strong guiding principle when it comes to worship as I plan each week. This planning, however, does not limit the Holy Spirit. In fact, it enhances it. If the Holy Spirit guides in a different direction, that’s fine with me, but I will always plan.
· When you are worshiping follow God’s leading in your heart
This the previous point of doing things in order. However, it God leads you to close your eyes and raise your hands, do it. To not do it is disobeying God. If God leads you to clap your hands during a song, do it. There are times that clapping our hands is just as inappropriate as clapping our hands. We live in an entertainment culture. Applause at the wrong time even bothers me in a secular environment. There are appropriate times for applause and inappropriate during the service. (Ordination illustration). If God leads you to sway in rhythm to the music or even dance, it’s ok! If God leads you to go to the altar, even if there isn’t an open call at the moment, you need to go! Which leads us to the last point.
· Be concerned with the state of your own heart and let God judge the others.
Michal was so concerned with the way she thought David was acting that she could not worship herself. It doesn’t matter whether you are a traditionalist or a contemporary worshiper, it is easy to judge someone who doesn’t worship like you do. There is lots of grace in God’s Kingdom for a diversity of worship styles. Like I said at the beginning. It is easy to take our preferences in worship and make them God’s preferences and then write them in stone and say they are the law of the land. I believe God has room for many styles. I believe that we are going to be surprised in heaven at all the various styles of worship.
So the question becomes, “Are you going to be like David, who worshiped the Lord with of his might?” Or are you going to be like Michal, who judged the worshiper?