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  • Writer's picturePaul Martin


Updated: Mar 19

I'm sure you've heard at least one sermon about King David dancing before the Lord with all his might and without many clothes.  And depending on the preacher you've had to picture what that would be like... but not to picture it too much!!  The point being to be like David, but with clothes on. I'm not much into dancing, but I LOVE to worship God.  If you're like me and have no rhythm (and didn't really frequent dance venues in my teens) it can be a bit off putting when the main application of this story of David is to loosen up when worshipping God.  We know that God chose David because he was a man after God's own heart.  He wanted to please God with his life and live it out in worship to God.  You can check out the story in 2 Samuel 6, but here's a wee summary... So to please God David felt it was high time for the famous Ark of the Covenant (the carrier of God's presence) be returned to Jerusalem, the place where God's presence would stay.  And being super-excited, King David makes arrangements for it to be brought back.  A brand new cart is sourced, possibly at some expense and a procession commences with everyone celebrating with all their might. Unfortunately they encounter an unexpected problem because the set up is all wrong. The Ark is being pulled by oxen instead of carried by priests using long rods.  When one of these animals stumbles, the Ark begins to fall off the cart and a son of Abinadab (probably not even a priest) who is guiding it way too close, anticipates the tragedy of a fallen box.  He reaches out to touch the Ark of God's presence, causing his instant death. At this point, you can imagine the noise of celebration turning to silence as what has happened filters through the crowd.  Inevitably the question is asked "Why?" and an answer demanded.  The answer? Those responsible for honouring God's presence had forgotten how to carry God's presence and made some wrong assumptions along the way. The biggest mistake they made was to treat the Ark in the same way that other nations had treated it.  In fact they were treating God in the same way the Philistines were treating their idols.  But God is different in so many ways. His visible presence had even gone with the Hebrews as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They had seen that idols such as the golden calf Aaron had made were pretty unresponsive, it just sat there, nothing doing. Having the Ark on a cart pulled by animals was not only difficult to stop, but was rigid making it tricky to change course. This was no way to honour the Living God. Worship is just like that procession of King David towards Jerusalem. There's often a "mode of transport" which we'll all use (a structure or means of planning) through which we look to honour God's ways and enter His presence. Often we'll find ourselves in a role that involves preparation for leading worship.  So a key question is this: does what we have planned enable a person to come free and "undignified" to focus on pleasing God first and foremost?  Or have we restricted this access to God in our plans for order?  Do we facilitate meaningful worship where people feel free and where those who lead (carrying the Ark) stop and adjust where necessary in order to appropriately honour the Lord? If we're not careful it can become a little like a man made cart where we've forgotten what praise is all about.  So how do we "carry" worship and honour God's presence? Worship is like a procession where we can enter deeply into God's presence by honouring Him with every step; and each one being a step further into His presence. Here is how the procession develops: Step 1. Thanksgiving We approach God by entering His gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4).  We start from the outer boundary thanking God for what He has done both historically and in our lives today; and we move on to His courts with praise. Step 2. Praise We thank God because He is so good to us; He is a good God.  So on top of thanksgiving we add praise to Him for who He is, our loving Creator, Saviour, who is King over all.  Praise highlights God's character, wonderful ways and true promises. Step 3. Rejoicing We have joy knowing that we are God's children, that He has adopted us into His family.  Therefore we rejoice because of who we are in Christ. God has made us and adopted us, so we are what we are because of Him; we are accepted, forgiven and loved by Him as children in His house. Songs of rejoicing lead us into depths of higher praise. Step 4. High praise As we rejoice we then begin to reflect on God's utter holiness and stare at His beauty in worship.  High praise allows us into His holy of holies entering deeper into His presence, standing in awe of Him.  Here we gaze at the majesty of Jesus and wonder at His glory. Whenever we see more of who God is, there is this element of reflecting on the now and giving a personal response, a deeper sacrifice as we begin to devote more of our hearts and lives to Him. Step 5. Worship and Adoration Worship must have a response to His presence.  A time in which we fall in adoration at the feet of the Living One. Meeting God changes us and also our priorities.  At this point we might sense His call, or His voice into our hearts about devoting areas in our lives to Him that we have taken back. We can look at David's mistake and see the obvious, but what David did next was to examine what he was doing that offended God.  He then went back and discovered the way God wanted things done and changed everything.  How willing are we to do that? Back to the story, and after some soul searching David made some corrections on how to handle the Ark of the Covenant and they go again… This time there is no cart.  The Ark of the Covenant is carried on poles and sacrifices are being made.  David's clothes are different. He is wearing a garment of praise! A linen ephod to show his priestly function rather than his kingly robes as there is only one King and we must not walk in His limelight. Wearing the ephod showed his desire to worship God no matter what he looked like. Well David’s wife has a lot to say about his dancing and what he was wearing.  She complains about his clothes and the manner in which he was dancing saying that he was disrobing before common servant girls. Some people have said that because she used the word "disrobing" that this means David didn’t have any underpants on.  An Ephod was like a small tunic that the priests wore with gaps down the side from the waist down. However, priests were also supposed to wear under-garments if they were to approach God’s presence (Exodus 28:31-43).  After the last mistake with the cart, David would not have been taking any chances, in case a similar disaster would befall them.  It is likely that Michal was using sarcasm and being snobby, upset that he wasn’t wearing his Kingly robes, making him like any “commoner" thus making her look bad too. By wearing the Ephod, David was showing that he was a worshipper of God first, a lover of Him before he was a King.  He would not be influenced by what people thought, but rather by what would please the King of kings. Undignified praise is spontaneous, extravagant, for the pleasure of God and from the heart. As we honour and facilitate that in our planning we will discover the heart of God.

Paul Martin is a Youth Pastor and author of the Inspire "busy youth worker" resources. Each volume contains around 40 ready-to-use sessions to teach young people interactively through the Bible.

Handy for volunteers without much time to spend in preparation, this resource goes chronologically through the Bible, looking at the lives of God's people and applies what is learned to today's young people.

_______________________________________ Photo by Anthony Delanoix on Unsplash


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