“So David went and had the ark of God brought up from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David with rejoicing. When those carrying the ark of the LORD had advanced six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.
And David, wearing a linen ephod, danced with all his might before the LORD, while he and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sounding of the ram’s horn.” (2 Samuel 6:12-15)
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the topic of worship lately. Perhaps that’s why those aspects of the story of David, sweet psalmist of Israel, have especially stood out to me as I’ve been reading through 1st and 2nd Samuel. David was very human (a fact that the Bible certainly doesn’t gloss over), but in spite of this it is his clear understanding of worship that consistently stands out and seems to mark him as a “man after God’s own heart”.
The definition of “worship” reads: “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”. Worship is not necessarily music, or even words. Broadly, worship is simply anything that is deliberately done to bring glory to God. As Paul encourages: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God!” (1 Corinthians 10:31). It kind of seems like you can’t go wrong if your purpose is right.
But interestingly, there’s an incident from David’s life that illustrates that worship is not to be offered carelessly, even if we mean well. Previously to the grand triumphal entry I quoted above, David had made an attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem that didn’t go quite so well.
“And [David] and all his troops set out…to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name—the name of the LORD of Hosts, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on it. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart, bringing with it the ark of God…David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of wood instruments, harps, stringed instruments, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.” (2 Samuel 6:2-5)
Seems pretty good so far. But then—
“Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen had stumbled. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there beside the ark of God…That day David feared the LORD and asked, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”” (2 Samuel 6:6-7, 9)
David’s intentions were great—but he had hastily overlooked some of the basic rules God had outlined for the transportation of the ark (it was to be carried by hand, not wagon). Uzzah had overlooked them even further, and put out his hand to steady the ark—and was struck dead for his irreverence. As the son of a priest Uzzah should have known better, but it’s also a fact that if the ark had been transported properly, there never would have been occasion for this calamity. Great intentions in worship do not negate God’s laws of order and holiness.
However, within the parameters of God’s law, there is beautiful freedom and flexibility for how we express our worship.
That’s evident in the story above, when on the second (correct and successful!) attempt to bring the ark up to Jerusalem, David, led the procession, dancing with joyful abandon before the Lord. His own wife watched him do this, and despised him for making a fool of himself before his people. It is key to note here that he was not dancing to entertain or impress. He obviously did NOT impress Michal. He wanted the entry of the ark to Jerusalem to be about God, not himself. He could have chosen as king to be dressed in his richest robes, conducting himself with pomp and circumstance, but instead he chose to humble himself to the level of the common people. In response to his wife’s disdain, he replies:
“I was dancing before the LORD, who chose me over your father and all his house when He appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel. I will celebrate before the LORD, and I will humiliate and humble myself even more than this.” (2 Samuel 6:21-22)
At another point in David’s life, he writes: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:15-17) This was a different type of worship—that of contrition, or recognizing his sinfulness in comparison to the awesome perfection and holiness of God—but it was again a position of humility. Interestingly, he went on to say “…THEN You WILL delight in righteous sacrifices, in whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.” (Psalm 51:19) It was not that God didn’t want the sacrifices that He Himself had instituted, but that they were meaningless to Him if they were not offered out of a heart of humility.
coupled with awareness of God’s instructions for order and holiness,
is the key to worship that aligns our hearts with God’s.