with apologies to my baptist brothers… :: david danced, michal watched

March 30, 2011

Last weekend Amy and I attended a fantastic marriage retreat weekend sponsored by FamilyLife Ministries. One of the main presenters for the weekend, a Family and Marriage Counselor and former Baptist Pastor, asked us the following question:  “Do you know why Baptists are opposed to premarital sex?”

Answer:  “It might lead to dancing.”

With apologies to my Baptist brothers and sisters in the Lord –  that right there is funny.  And believe me, as a Lutheran Seminary student, I laugh just as hard at a good Lutheran joke.  We all have our denominational and generational and locational (is that a word?) idiosyncrasies that set us apart. 

This joke obviously has nothing to do with dancing as an act of worship, but it still reminded me of the differences between us as evangelicals.  With all of our differences in emphasis and practice, we do have one thing in common, regardless of denomination, age, or locale…  the tension in our corporate worship experiences of balancing reverence and celebration, dignity and joy, obedience and freedom.

In our churches, we are inviting human beings into the presence of God.  We are witnesses in our worship gatherings of a beautiful and powerful collision of the hearts of men and the holiness of God.  There is confrontation, brokenness, proclamation of what is true, forgiveness of sins, reverence and FREEDOM.

We are witnesses of the supernatural when we experience the relational presence of God. The fact that we can stand in the presence of the Holy Creator God – all powerful and righteous King of Kings – and yet be honest before Him about our sin and our deep need for His grace – THAT is FREEDOM.

And sometimes, it makes me want to dance.

Yesterday in our Historical Books class, my Seminary brothers and I were walking through 2 Samuel, and the story of David, the new King of Israel.  There is a great story in chapter 6, verses 12-23, about David dancing before the Lord and before all the people of Israel.  The Ark of the Covenant is being returned to Israel from the Philistines.  It was a powerful symbol of God’s presence and blessing.  This was a moment in history of profound meaning for God’s people.  And as the Ark was being brought into David’s city, verse 14 says:

“David danced before the Lord with all His might.  And David was wearing a linen ephod.”

Think of a linen ephod as the official loincloth of the priests.  Instead of dressing in His royal attire, representing his position of authority, David was dressed and functioning as a priest – a mediator between God’s people and the Almighty.  He was unashamedly celebrating the return of God’s presence and favor with wild abandon… and he didn’t care who was watching.  The dance was “before the Lord.”  It was for Him.

As he danced wildly below, his wife Michal looked at the window, and saw his undignified behavior, and she despised him for it.  Her husband was making a fool of himself, and it reflected badly on her.  When she confronted him, David said:

“It was before the Lord…  I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”

From that day forward, verse 23 says, Michal was barren.  God’s judgment rested not on David for his lack of religious decorum, but on his wife Michal for her concern with outward appearances.

I have no idea what your Sunday morning experience looks like.  You might be arm raisers, victory shouters, hand clappers, and dancers for all I know.  Or, you may attend a church where clapping never happens, and the order of service is structured and reverent in a quieter, more “dignified” style.  To both camps and the many variations inbetween, I say God bless you!  Engage your heart with Lord’s truth and respond appropriately with obedience and thanksgiving.  It’s not about the form, but about the substance of our worship.  I’m a drummer, and I lead worship with a contemporary rhythm section almost every week in our church.  But my roots are more traditional, and singing hymns with an organ allows me great freedom to express my love to God too.  It’s not about the form.

And in the end, that’s the point of this post.  It is OK to have a prefered style.  I think God is reminding us here that what matters is not what our worship looks like, but whether it springs from an honest heart in response to the truth.  Worship happens “before the Lord.”  Sure, I believe there are posers in every church – trying to make it look right.  But for those who are celebrating, crying out, or humbly remaining silent before Him… it is before the Lord.  It is not meant for you.  Every sacrifice is the Lord’s to judge, and the Lord looks at the heart.

If you belive that your prefered style of worship is the “correct” way to worship, I’m challenging you to rethink that belief. 

“David Danced – Michal Watched” by David Steele

 Michal was loyal
To everything royal
For she was the daughter of Saul.
But her husband was boorish
So awfully boorish
With simply no manners at all.


It was her fate
To marry a mate
Who had grown up with chickens and sheep
How to bring charm
To this boy from the farm
Was causing his queen to lose sleep.


Oh, she had to confess
He was a success,
In the eyes of the world, Dave was famous
But of how kings comport
Themselves when in court
He remained a complete ignoramus.


David’s heart soared
And he danced to the Lord
In a manner more free than refined.
And his poor little wife
Got the shock of her life
So she gave him a piece of her mind.


“I don’t care a smidgen
About your religion
As long as it’s solemn and chaste
But the way you’re behaving
With arms wildly waving
Is shockingly lacking in taste.”


“If you must raise
Your spirit in praise,
Please see that it’s soothing and calm.
The Lord I am sure
Would really prefer
Something more like the 23rd Psalm.”


Then God’s anointed
Became disappointed
He knew he had nary a chance
Of ever persuadin’
This prim, regal maiden
That the Lord is a lover of dance.


Churches these days
Talk a lot about praise
And the Joy that accomp’nies Good News
But don’t tap your feet
Or get out of the seat
For Michal still lurks in the pews.

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“with apologies to my baptist brothers… :: david danced, michal watched” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

4 responses to with apologies to my baptist brothers… :: david danced, michal watched

  1. Oh, Brother Josh – I LOVED THIS!! Again, we disagree on SO much… but there IS agreement!

    BTW – I was raised Baptist. I didn’t go to a dance ’til I was a senior in HS (much to the chagrin of my father) – and still feel horribly uncomfortable dancing in front of anyone… But that joke was HILARIOUSLY FUNNY!! 🙂

    Love you, my Brother. Thank you for the smile.

  2. I’m Baptist. I laughed. No chance of my jumping ship; I enjoy your blog too much. When God chose David he was the least likely of his father’s sons. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. I believe your observations are entirely correct. Sometimes I think it is just sinful pride that separates God’s children from each other. Our battles should revolve around drifting from key doctrinal issues such as the legitimacy of the Scriptures, creation, the virgin birth, depravity of man, salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, a literal death and literal resurrection. If we agree here on these essential issues and believe in “walking worthy of the vocation to which we are called” and reaching out to others with a ministry of reconciliation, then we should be able to find a way to get along. On gray areas I suspect we have a lot more latitude than many churches teach (I have been in some very legalistic churches but find them more handicapped than others equally sincere but with less personal preference restrictions), but we should be respectful of others’ beliefs and not be so lifted up in personal pride to look down on those who are other minded. It is amazing though to me how many denominational preferences fall by the wayside when compared to the Scriptures. My dear brother if you ever genuinely feel like dancing to show your love and thanksgiving to the Lord, I say cut a rug!

    • Paul – I’m so glad you’re sticking around. 🙂 Thanks for the grace. It would be a true tragedy to lose connection with you.

      You make some great points about David being chosen by God for the HEART, not his stature. HE was first recognized, set apart, and anointed as the future leader of Israel when he was a young shepherd boy. Got hauled in from tending the stinky animals to stand before the prophet Samuel. He didn’t look like much.

      Maybe one of my boys – or one of the kids in our youth group – will be called and equipped by God to make huge advances for the Kingdom. Who knows? (Actually, I already know the answer to that question.)

      I loved your list of core issues and the reminder to “keep the main thing the main thing.” You Baptists are a blessing to this future Lutheran Pastor. Keep loving God and loving people!

      Oh, and when I really feel like dancing, I just add a little extra rock-sauce to my drumming. It all works out. Parumpapumpum!