When it comes to worship, I’m the quiet type. That has a lot to do with my personality and how I was raised. But I try to listen to the Holy Spirit and respond accordingly. Most of the time I’m pretty subdued. If the Holy Spirit wants differently, then I had better listen. After all, that’s God talking. Along those lines, prohibitions against putting hands in the air, dancing, and the like, whether official church policy or the enforced behavior by the majority of the congregation, are unbiblical. There’s really no other way to say it. Scripture supports those expressions, so long as they are brought on by God and not an attempt to show off, to fit in, or act more spiritual than another. The fact of the matter is that God wants us to surrender our lives, all of our lives, all of the time. This includes when we’re in church supposedly worshipping Him. So it seems really ironic that at a time when we should be the most yielded to the Spirit, the least concerned about how silly or undignified we might look, that’s exactly what most folks are thinking about. We’ve seen this in Scripture, too.
And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. – 2 Samuel 6:14-16, NASB
One could say David was making a fool of himself. Here was the king of Israel dancing like a madman. Why was he dancing like this? He was dancing like this because the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence was being brought into Jerusalem. This was the first step towards building a permanent temple for worship of God Almighty. And David was overcome with joy and worshipped with abandon. He didn’t care what he looked like. He only cared that he was totally surrendered to worshipping as God led him to do so. And David did just that. But his wife, Michal, was none too pleased. She didn’t feel this was the way a king should behave. What would the people say? What would others think? She confronted David and his response is telling.
But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!”
So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD. I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.”
Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
– 2 Samuel 6:20-23, NASB
David didn’t care about dignity when it comes to obeying God. As a matter of fact, it God wanted him to be held with no honor at all, if God wanted him to be humbled, even in his own view of himself, David was fine with that. For those who cared about God and not about personal pride and appearances, David would be held in high honor. That’s because those folks were concerned with the only One who mattered: God. That’s the only One David cared about. And that’s why he surrendered himself and worshipped the way he did.
So what does this mean for us? Does it mean we have to jump into the aisles and dance like madmen? No. Does it mean we should be throwing our hands in the air and screaming? No. Does it mean we just bow our heads and sway softly to the music? Again, no. This set of passages doesn’t tell us what to do so much as it tells us who to listen to. In our worship, we should be listening to God. For us, that is the Holy Spirit who dwells with us. If He is urging us to step out and dance, then we are to dance. If He doesn’t, we don’t. If He is the one telling us to raise our hands high, then we lift them up. We don’t hesitate. Likewise, if He’s not leading us to do that, we don’t. If He’s instructing us to shout out, “Hallelujah!” or “Maranatha!” then we do it. If He’s not, then we stay silent. If He’s telling us to quietly bow our head and pray as others sing around us, then we pray. We don’t care if folks are looking at us strangely because we’re not doing what they’re doing. We do what God tells us to do. He’s the only One who matters. And if God tells us to go to the altar, lie prostrate upon it and cry out for His glory, then we do that, too. Basically, we are to forget about any sense of personal pride or dignity. They don’t matter. We are nothing before a holy and righteous God. We have no pride or dignity that is of any consequence before Him. So when it comes to worship, those things need to go by the wayside. The only thing that matters is how God is calling on us to respond. If we respond as He calls us, we are truly surrendered and only then are we truly worshipping Him and giving Him all the glory we are able. But if we stop ourselves, if we hesitate because of what someone else might say, then we are not listening to God. There’s a simple word for that: sin. We don’t like to think of it in those terms, but that’s the reality of our inaction.
Likewise, if we try to prevent a brother or sister from worshipping in the way God has called that person to do so, we’ve got the same problem: sin. Those sets of verses aren’t just about David. Don’t miss that last verse about Michal. It’s in there for a reason. It’s a simple statement that basically says David was right and Michal was wrong, as per God. Because she tried to stop him from worshipping as he had been led, God wasn’t displeased with David, but with her. It was Michal who was in sin. And it was Michal who was punished. We need not repeat the same mistake.
We are to yield before Him. Others are to yield before Him. And together we are to worship Him, surrendered, obedient, and focused on His glory. That’s real worship.