July 12, 1997
David dances before the Lord
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Today’s message is about David’s celebration as the recovered Ark of the Covenant is brought back to Jerusalem. The Ark was regarded since Moses' time as the dwelling place of God in the midst of His people. After many years in captivity it is brought home to the nation's capital with great rejoicing.
Let me read text:
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Three times, this reading emphasizes the singing and dancing with which the Ark of the Lord was brought to the tent David had erected on Mount Zion.
Michal, David’s wife and the daughter of King Saul, had a negative reaction to David’s dancing in the streets. A superficial reading of the text makes it sound as if David must have exposed himself. What happened, in fact, is that David saw the return of the Ark as a solemn occasion. And he saw it unfit for himself to wear his royal garments, and instead he wore a very simple garment.
In verses 6-12a, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark and keep it from falling of the cart because the oxen had tripped, and he is struck dead. Yet others must have touched the Ark, to load it onto the cart. Why were they not killed too? The text does not explain the “why”, and we can only speculate about the inner attitude of Uzzah.
David’s dancing may have been part of a prolonged and complex liturgical procession. The details are long lost, but its intensity remains in the description of David's whirling and leaping. His gyrations almost convey a mood of desperation. David might well be terrified of the power of this Ark should anything go wrong before he got it home.
Michal seemed to be really angry for David’s perceived impropriety. However, we must look at the context in which this celebration takes place. God had turned his face against King Saul and He had blessed David and promised him a Kingdom and a Covenant that would last forever.
That's part of the story in Samuel. It is not surprising that Michal would despise her husband David, because he was about to take her father’s throne, and she knew it.
A further point can be made that David’s first and deepest allegiance was to God. And he saw it only fit to dance in celebration of the God who had chosen him and his descendants to be a covenant partner forever. Before God, David felt it to be inappropriate to come as the King of Israel - but rather as a common servant and partner with the people of God. Instead, David acknowledged the Kingship and Rule of God in Israel. In this context he perceived his royal garments to be an impediment to worship God in humility and truth.
When God calls us to be His covenant partners we are wise to remove all impediments that may stand between God and us. Rather than elevating ourselves before God, we are called to humility and awe before the God who has saved us. God is King! And He deserves our humblest devotion and praise.
When we talk about David dancing in the streets we may relate that to some stories that our missionary friends share with us about the African Independent Churches. Our African brothers and sisters are much more expressive in their worship than most people in our Western churches are. They often dance and sing on their way to church on Sunday morning, five miles each way, dancing every step.
I wonder how our faith might be affected if we sang and danced our way to church. How would non-church people perceive us? They would think we had fallen and bumped our heads, or something.
It’s not that we have no reason to celebrate our faith. Indeed, we have a lot of reason to celebrate and give praise to God. As I mentioned in the German message, as a Mennonite people we have experienced God’s presence and leading in our lives throughout the centuries. “The Ark of God’s Covenant” has been in our midst, so to speak. And God is still at work in our lives.
This calls for an unreserved celebration of our faith. As we celebrate and rejoice before God, as David and the Israelites did, we pass on the inheritance of our faith to generations yet to come. Our children and grandchildren will assimilate that which is most important to us. Therefore, may God’s praise flow richly from our lives.
We are chosen by Jesus Christ to celebrate God’s love and grace toward us. We are invited to be expressive in our gratitude toward God. The Christian life is a life of joy and celebration.
When our lives are touched by the love of God, His grace flows into this world through the channel of our love, healing it, straightening its twistedness, mending its brokenness, and enlightening its darkness. That is the celebration of the Christian life - to touch the lives of others and so invite them to experience the blessings of God.
Our Lord invites us to be intentional about our celebration of God’s grace. Let us not “relax and see what happens”. Rather, let us express God’s praise in every breath we take. Let us be a people who celebrate the goodness of God.
May God’s Spirit enable us to be free in our celebration of Him who saves us, and who dwells in our midst.