And it was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn. (2 Samuel 6:12-15)
Confusion And Conflict
Confusion and conflict over what God considers “acceptable worship” is not a new thing. From as early as Cain and Abel (Gen 4:3-10) to the sons of Aaron offering “unauthorized fire” (Lev 10:1-2), Scripture is full of examples of the ways that people have gotten worship wrong…and how they’ve gotten it right.
A Guidepost For Worship
I don’t think that there would be much debate over the statement that the biblical figure most associated with worship is King David. David wrote the majority of the Psalms from which so many worship songs have been written. He was a man after God’s own heart. He longed to build a temple for the Lord. Despite his shortcomings, David held a high place in the history of God’s people. I think that David’s focus on worshipping the Lord can and should serve as a guidepost as we face our own struggles in worship.
David And The Ark
The example I’d like to review is when David and his soldiers go to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines. David and 30,000 men start to march the ark back to Jerusalem. All the while, “David and all the house of Israel” were worshipping. They “celebrated before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” Basically, it was an extended song service. But then a damper is cast over the party when Uzzah, one of the men manning the ark, tried to catch the ark when it slipped after the oxen carrying it stumbled. God strikes Uzzah down (because he handled the ark incorrectly) and David freaks out. He didn’t want to take the ark into Jerusalem so he left it at Obed-edom’s house.
After three months passed and Obed-edom didn’t die, David and his crew go back up to Obed-edom’s house to bring the ark back into Jerusalem. This time, David takes more of a priestly role and makes sacrifices after those carrying the ark take six steps. Then, it would seem, the party was back on as David is described as dancing (in Hebrew, “twirling”) with “all his might”. Verse 15 says that the whole house of Israel was shouting and praising the Lord. After they were finished with the worship service, David went home to bless his household. However, David’s wife, Michal, was having none of it. She’d watched the way he danced and celebrated and she didn’t like it. She didn’t think it was “kingly”. She thought that the way he was dressed and the way he danced and the way he carried on was beneath someone of such a high position. David tells her that he was behaving this way “before the Lord” and that the Lord would bless him for it. The lower David made himself, the higher he exalted God.
That’s a lengthy retelling of 2 Samuel 6 but I do so for a reason. Look at how David – widely regarded as the quintessential “worshipper” in the Bible – conducted himself. Out of joy and celebration and praise, David made a fool of himself in the eyes of his wife…spinning around and shouting while he was half dressed. But in the eyes of God and of the nation of Israel, David made himself as “nothing” so that the Lord would be praised.
Answering The Question
I think there are three things we can pull out of this story, and they all start with “A”: attire, actions, and attitude.
- Attire: David wears an ephod as he worships God. It’s hard to say exactly what purpose an ephod served, but it was hardly a full outfit. David was half-dressed. So, does this mean that we can start coming to worship God in bikinis and speedos? I pray that you don’t. I think the greater principle is for us to move past external garments and look at the heart of the worshipper. Clothes don’t make the man…the heart makes the man.
- Actions: Within our churches, I think we get the most bent out of shape about this one. What actions should we take as we worship? Well, if you stick to just this passage, David worshipped by singing, dancing, shouting, blowing a trumpet, sacrificing, and rejoicing. Isaiah speaks of a time when “the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isa 55:12) I think that the point here is that if we are seeking to glorify God by what we do, be it clapping or dancing or stoically standing still, we’re worshipping God. I think a good principle here is as long as the Bible doesn’t say that we shouldn’t worship in particular manner and we see some precedent for it in Scripture, how we worship God is between us and God. (Obviously, that doesn’t give us license to exploit or focus on our flesh. We’re here to worship God and it would be detestable to worship Him in a profane or unclean manner.)
- Attitude: David’s attitude was one of celebration and praise to God for what He had done. God had returned the Ark of the Covenant – the proof of God’s promises to Israel – back into the city of David. David was going to worship God, regardless of how foolish it made him look. Because God was worthy of that worship. But we, as the modern Church, have something so much more than a gold-plated box with some ashes in it. We have the proof of God’s promises to His people in what Jesus Christ did on the cross. How much more should we worship than David? We have the fullness of the better covenant in Christ! Oh, that we would say, like David, “I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes”, if it means that we are putting ourselves aside and worshiping Christ who is worthy.
There is obviously so much more to be discussed in regards to this topic but this brief overview should make one thing apparent…when we gather, it is God who is to be glorified, not us. We don’t worship to satisfy or gratify ourselves; we worship to glorify our King. We don’t seek to draw attention to ourselves but if the Holy Spirit that dwells within the heart of the believer moves him or her to stand up and shout or twirl or clap, who are we to tell God how He should be worshipped? For even Jesus said that if His worshippers were silenced even the rocks would cry out His praises. (Luke 19:40)
So, to answer our question…how should we worship? Passionately. Reverently. Exuberantly. Our entire lives should be worship. Everything we do should glorify our King.