To Dance as David Danced
Happy January, everyone, and welcome back to my little corner of the world. I hope my thoughts find you rested, contemplative, and ready to pursue God with new enthusiasm in the new year.
I've been working my way through the books of Samuel again, and good gravy, those books have everything. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles (and that's just a quote from The Princess Bride!)—plus romance and betrayal, drama and warfare, assassinations and regicide plots and intrigue and heroics in the Robin Hood-style (for what could be more romantic than a handsome hero surviving in the wilderness with his band of loyal outlaws, I ask you? Answer: NOTHING.)
As a lover of story, I can't help reading Samuel as an epic, the stuff of film trilogies and fourteen-book sagas. As a Christian, I can't help falling in love with our flawed hero in his walk with God.
David can be a frustrating figure as we wrestle with the conflicting piety and weakness that Scripture records. He's a complex man, as we should expect: he's human. And understanding David as a human rather than an archetype has helped me to appreciate God's work through him all the more. Above all, what grips me on this jaunt through the Samuels isn't David's heroic deeds so much as his heart of worship.
When David is finally established as king of Israel—a long-awaited fulfillment of God's promise to him—he makes it his mission to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem once and for all. Rife with setbacks, the Ark's eventual arrival is hailed by a grand celebration, with David dancing as wildly and joyfully as anyone in the crowd. Seeing the celebration and seeing her husband behaving like a certified wild thing, David's wife Michal scorns him for making a fool of himself. And in front of the servant girls, no less!
David's response fascinates me. He says, “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 mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” (II Samuel 6:21)
Many of us fear looking foolish before others, but I would venture to say that all of us, even the bravest and most extroverted, hate looking foolish in our own eyes even more. I've embarrassed myself in front of people countless times, but my most demoralizing moments occur when I embarrass myself to myself. When I feel so thoroughly humiliated that I can't look myself in the eye? That, I live to avoid.
I had an experience not too long ago when, during worship, I simply broke down. Surrounded by friends and the presence of God, I openly wept—an outpouring of emotion unlike anything I've ever experienced, especially in public. The moment was profound, but then it passed. I was left with a vague sense of humiliation at having made myself so vulnerable when I'm normally so careful to avoid that. I was used to being Michal—watching through the glass from a safe distance—when God had called me at that moment to dance before him in all my potent emotion, vulnerability, and gratitude.
So David's confession in II Samuel 6:21 produced a man-in-the-mirror moment for yours truly. Was I willing to set aside the vain standards I held for myself, the vision of how I wanted to be perceived and how I wanted to perceive myself? Was I willing to dance before the LORD with my whole heart, concerned with no one's eyes but His?
David was willing. God's perception of him carried more value than anyone else's, including his own. He would dance before the LORD until his feet fell off if that was the price of worship. He would risk his wife's scorn, his people's mockery, and even his own standard of dignity if God required that of him.
David was in love with God. His default heart position was one of intimate adoration for his LORD, an adoration that permeates the account of David's life. When he failed, he fell on his knees in repentance and accepted whatever punishment came. When he faced tribulation, he lifted his eyes to God for strength and provision. And when he was blessed, he praised God with his whole heart and with songs of worship that reverberated for literal millennia. David danced as if God's eyes were the only eyes on him, understanding, as we must, that God's are the only eyes that matter.
Let's spend our 2023 learning to dance as David danced—for the LORD, in shameless worship, and with all of our hearts.