Worship Without Words
Recently, I was asked to be the Mistress of Ceremonies at the 3rd Annual Dance Ensemble at my church headquarters in Charleston. Although this was my second year in a row in this position, this year was very different for me. I began to notice that with each movement if the dancers, there was a more intimate expression from the depths of their soul and spirit as they danced before the their King.
In recent years, the praise dance has become an expression of worship within the church. Twenty years ago it was unheard of and certainly not popular as a part of the order of service. Even those who may have ventured to be forerunners, it was considered a radical movement that many resisted. This modern church failed to realized that dancing was a very important part of Hebrew culture.
When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea walking on dry land and the sea swallowed the Egyptians, Miriam and the women sang a song of victory and danced. (Exodus 15). As you read the chapter, they celebrated the power of their God over the enemy in the dance. Their worship with words came first, then the dance.
This form of worship can be hindered by society. This is not a natural thing to be scrutinized based on gender. It is a spiritual communication with God that opens up a more intimate connection than just speaking with your lips. “And the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips but remove their hearts and minds far from Me, and their fear and reverence for Me are a commandment of men that is learned by repetition [without any thought as to the meaning].” (Isaiah 29:13). For those men who are intimated by the dance of worship, remember David. He was the one who was after God’s heart in spite of everything that happened in his life.
In 2 Samuel, Chapter 6, and 1 Chronicles, Chapters 13 through 16, is the description of how David danced before the Lord. David had a desire to move the ark to the capital city of Jerusalem. He wanted the presence of the Lord with him. While making preparation, he failed to realize the ordinances of God for such a transport. As a result, Uzzah was struck dead for a good intention. This event placed fear into David. “ And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6: 9).
Perhaps in all of his zealousness to bring the ark to the city, David forgot the history of mishandling the ark. Even when the ark was returned from the Philistines to the Israelites in Beth-shemesh, the Lord smote a great number of people. The ark was then taken to the house of a Levite priest, Abinadab. The ark was taken to the house of Obed-edom when Uzzah died. So, when the ordinary people mishandled the presence of God, they ran to the priests.
After a while, David’s passion for the presence of God turned his fear in to a pursuit for the joy. He assembled the Levites with the order of God for the movement of the ark. “And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.” (2 Samuel 6: 13-14). After the animal sacrifices, there was a shift to sacrifice of joy, thanksgiving, and praise by David in his dancing. David, the king, the priest, did something that was unusual and uncommon but broke barriers because of his heart expression of joy moved from only words to leaping and skipping with excited emotion. David went from animal sacrifice to human heart sacrifice. He was not concerned about who saw him even his wife Michal. She was more concerned about his conduct and his position than the expression of his spiritual joy.
David had a passion for the presence of God. Was he thinking that I am going to dance until God’s presence is manifested? Is this what happens when someone dances before the King? Sometimes it might start with rehearsed movements, but there is a point that the fire and passion in the movement expresses and releases the depth of intimacy.
As a member of the praise and worship team, the movement of my hands is a part of my worship experience. When I began to move my hands while singing, I enter into another place, where if it were not for the order of service, I would be lost in and yet content in staying before him for hours.
The dance, an expression of worship before the King was lost and perverted from its original purpose because of the tactics of the enemy. This expression of intimacy for our King has been revived in these latter days. “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.” (Song of Solomon 1:4). I applaud all of those whose desire has led them to this form of worship. Imagine the Lord sitting on the throne, opening a portal, to pour out His love and His presence as His creation draws near in an intimate expression from the heart for Him only.
“Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the heavens of His power!
Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to the abundance of His greatness!
Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp!
Praise Him with tambourine and [single or group] dance; praise Him with stringed and wind instruments or flutes!
Praise Him with resounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)”