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DAVID'S DANCE

By Curtis Pugh

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which people will go to justify their actions. The Lord said it so well! “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children,” (Matthew 11:18-19). The human heart is so deceptive as to be able to say one thing is right in one instance and the direct opposite is right in another. Truly, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?,” (Jeremiah 17:9). The multitudes of Jews in Jesus' day certainly proved that and nothing has changed about the deceitful desperately wicked hearts of men everywhere.

Every sot on skid row knows the Scripture, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities,” (1 Timothy 5:23). Many of them can preach a pretty decent sermon on what the Bible says about wine and often do so in order to justify their behavior. But they omit other Scriptures that bear on the subject of substance abuse, such as: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any,” (1 Corinthians 6:12) and: “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak,” (Romans 14:21).

Once, after I preached on scriptural baptism in the Yukon Territory, an Anglican woman who had heard the message came to me and said, “The word sprinkling is in the Bible.” Yes it is! It is in the Bible four times: all in the Book of Hebrews. Two verses there have to do with the Old Testament Jewish sprinkling of the blood of bulls and goats and two verses refer to the blood of Christ. But this poor woman thought she could justify – and perhaps did justify in her own mind – that sprinkling was acceptable to God in the place of dipping or plunging. Her deceitful heart loved “sprinkling” and so she attempted to justify the heretical practice of infant sprinkling just because the word is in the Bible even though it is used of things totally unrelated to “sprinkling” in place of baptism.

You and I must exercise great care to insure that our own personal prejudices do not enter in and affect our interpretation of what the Bible says! We must study thoroughly and honestly with a determination to let the Bible say what it says. We must adjust our thinking, theology and actions so that they are in accord with God's Holy Book! May God give His people grace to do that very thing! And in connection with dancing, we must not let our deceitful hearts that may love dancing or that may love crowds and think dancing is a way to win folks to Jesus seek to justify dancing by saying, “David danced.”

So we come to the subject of King David's dance. His action is used by professing Christians – even by some called Baptists – to justify ballroom dancing, sensual gyrations both in time and out of time with modern “rock” music, country dancing of all sorts including “square” dancing, motions of wild sexual abandon, (called by one preacher “vertical foreplay” and even to choreographed “interpretive dances” in religious meetings in so called houses of worship. (Pardon my plain speech, but people speak plainly today – too plainly, I think – so I will exercise myself in that direction just a little. Frankly, I am shocked to hear conversations in which subjects are discussed, statements made and words used that in my youth were never discussed in mixed company even among the ungodly. And if you do not know what mixed company is, that just shows how far downward has been the descent of American society during my seventy-two years!)

Now the Bible says: “And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod,” (2 Samuel 6:14). May I hasten to add that this preacher does not believe that it is an accident that in the same verse where we are told of David's unseemly behavior we are also told what he was wearing. He was “uncovered” only in the sense that he had laid aside his kingly garments and was attired as a priest going about his work, (see 2 Samuel 6:20 for his wife's false accusation). We are given additional information as to David's attire on this occasion in 1 Chronicles 15:27: “And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen... David also had upon him an ephod of linen.” Now if anyone knows about linen they know it is not “see through” nor clinging. Besides his robe of linen, he wore the vestment of the priests, called an “ephod.” No doubt David also wore a tunic or under-robe, but over all his clothing he word this “ephod” which was also linen and hung around his neck and covered both his front and back much like a long apron. Thus David showed his awareness that he was about holy work in bringing the Ark of the Covenant home. Remember he had been afraid to bring the Ark of God home prior to this so he was being very careful to show that he was humbly and as a servant of God doing what he was doing.

Now for a brief consideration of the context in which our text concerning David's dance appears. The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant: that wooden, gold-covered chest with the two beaten-work gold angels that hovered over its lid which was the mercy seat: that holy thing that belonged in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle – and which would later be placed in the Temple. David went to war with the Philistines and won back the Ark.

Now David was like a lot of Baptists. They are all in favor of pagan worldly ways if they seem to impress folk and might win them – all to the glory of God, of course! I think that had David lived in the days of the conquest of Canaan, he would have been first in line to hew the stones of the altar where he worshipped. Hewn stones were much more impressive, beautiful and in keeping with the worship of the pagans of that era. But God said: “And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it,” (Exodus 20:25). If you understand the principle involved in the matter of not hewing the stones for God's altar you will no doubt admit that many Baptists today are guilty of disobeying the spirit and intent of this ancient command to Israel – all in order to appear more socially acceptable and to get a crowd. But that is another subject.

So David and his fellows – knowing full well that God had ordained that priests should carry the Ark by means of long poles that fit through rings on the sides of the Ark – nevertheless adopted the world's way. It was more impressive, dignified and appealing to do it the new-fangled way. So here is what they did and what happened as a result: “...they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day. And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me? So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite. And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household. And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness,” (2 Samuel 6:3-12).

This last long passage tells us of God's judgment upon Uzzah for doing what any one of us would have done. Now it should be noted that the Philistines had returned the Ark to Israel an earlier time by putting it on a new cart (cf 1 Samuel 6:7 ff). Perhaps this is where David got the idea of putting the Ark of God on a cart. If so he was imitating the pagans in what he did. And he probably was doing that very thing for the idea came from somewhere. But back to our text: when the oxen that were pulling the cart on which the Ark rode stumbled and shook the Ark, Uzzah did not want to see that holy thing fall to the ground. So he did the natural thing: he did the right thing: he put out his hand to steady the Ark. As a result of his well-intentioned act, God killed Uzzah that day. But, someone objects, he was only doing what he thought was a good and necessary thing! Hear this: when it comes to both the worship and service of God, doing the right thing is accursed of God when you are going about the worship and service of God in the wrong way in the first place. Now that last may be a bit of a convoluted sentence so perhaps you should read it again! If what you are doing is unauthorized by God in the first place, nothing “right” that you may do is acceptable to God! Your “right” actions are wrong if what you are doing is wrong in the first place. I do not know how to make that principle any plainer. The death of Uzzah proves that! God killed him!

The actions described in the last long text were unauthorized by God. No doubt David and his cohorts thought putting the Ark of God on a new cart was perfectly acceptable, more modern than the old way, and more dignified than having it carried by a bunch of sweating struggling priests. But the whole method was wrong and so what Uzzah did was wrong even though it was right to keep the Ark from falling to the ground. Because of this right act in doing a wrong thing God killed Uzzah that day.

As a result we are told that “David was afraid of the LORD that day” and “would not remove the ark of the LORD” to Jerusalem. After leaving the Ark three months in the house of Obededom, David was told how that God blessed that man and his household. So David humbled himself and went back and did things God's way this time. We read: “And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings,” (2 Samuel 6:13). Note: “they bare the ark!” The priests carried the ark as God had ordained in the first place! David did God's work God's way this time and God blessed him and Israel for his obedience. And so it was that after the priests took six steps they stopped and offered sacrifices to God. At this time we are told: “And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod,” (2 Samuel 6:14).

Now let us examine David's “dance.” The Hebrew word translated “danced” is found here and only one other place and that is verse 16 where we read: “And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.” So this Hebrew word is only used of what David did this one time. It is not used of the dances of anyone else in the Bible. Do you reckon God knew what He was doing in having this word chosen and used rather than another word which means another kind of dancing? James Strong, a Methodist, gives the first meaning of the Hebrew word translated “danced” as to “whirl.” John Gill, the old Baptist commentator, says, ...not a set dance, or along with others; but he leaped and skipped as "car" [sic], a lamb, does...” [brackets added]. His was not a choreographed dance. It was not a sexual or sensual dance and cannot rightfully be used to justify either “interpretive” dancing or “social” dancing.

The Hebrews, like other peoples, had their set dances, most often it seems, performed by the women, but the Hebrew word transliterated karar (kaw-rar’) is never used in the Bible of such dancing as they did. David's whirling around and leaping for joy were merely the expressions of his great joyful excitement at God's acceptance of his bringing the Ark home. He was not in any kind of house of worship, but rather in the open air and showed that he cared more that God was pleased than he cared for his dignity as king. Who among us has not seen a young child overcome with joy who cannot remain still, but “dances” about not able to contain himself? That was the dancing of David!

Michal, Saul's daughter and wife of David criticized him for having laid aside his kingly garments and for behaving in an undignified manner before the ordinary people. That David's action was one of self-abasement and humiliation of himself as king was the issue is made clear by his words to his wife: “And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.” (2 Samuel 6:22). So what David did was not a beautiful stylized dance at all. Nor was he dancing “with” someone else. Nor was he immodest or naked. He humbled himself as an expression of his joy because of God's acceptance of his act of bringing home the Ark of God.

As bad as things were in the church in Corinth, Paul never dealt with them dancing in church services though there was much else wrong there. And there is not the slightest hint in the New Testament that anyone anywhere performed “interpretive” dances in that era. And interestingly enough, in the most joyful of places, Heaven itself, there is no mention in the Bible of anyone ever dancing there now or in the future. It seems to me that if “dancing” is right for churches today, it would be found in the worship of God in Heaven, but it is not! There is no basis in David's dance for any kind of modern dancing in church services or on social occasions, but of course those who want to justify themselves and their carnal actions will no doubt not be swayed at all by the facts. “Wisdom is justified of her children,” Jesus said and of course 'tis true.

That Michal displeased God for criticizing her husband is clear for we read: “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death,” (2 Samuel 6:23). But that is not an argument in favor of dancing, rather a lesson on pride.


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