When Kings Dance

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Integrity:  The Lead Worshiper

When Kings Dance—

A Call for Worshiping Pastors

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might,
As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David,
Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window.
And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD,
she despised him in her heart.
And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
2 Sam 6:14a, 16, 23 NIV

Kings don’t dance, not in the public mind, at least.

In biblical history we see

  • King Saul, mighty in battle, standing head and shoulders taller than anyone else;
  • King Nebuchadnezzar pompously presiding over a feast;
  • the first King Herod ordering a blind rampage against the innocents of Bethlehem and
  • the next King Herod sending for the head of the prophet.

In English history we see

  • King John of England signing the Magna Carta in 1215;
  • King James commissioning an English Bible in 1604 and printing it in 1611 and
  • mad King George losing the American Colonies in 1783.

In the legend of Camelot we see King Arthur wearing shining armor and mounted on a mighty steed, or we see him in colorful finery observing a tournament, or perhaps seated at the Round Table. In the musical Camelot, we see him dance in only one scene. He is alone with Guinevere in their chambers as they seek to recapture the joy of life by doing “what the simple folk do.” Kings just don’t dance, not in public anyway.

In Shakespeare we see

  • bloody King Macbeth wandering the dark halls of his castle, absolutely corrupted by absolute power;
  • King Lear driven mad by that same power, and
  • King Henry the V leading his army “once more into the breach,” but never do we see them dance.

In films we cast Sean Connery not Fred Astaire to play our kings.

But, in the Scriptures, King David, the man after God’s own heart, was a king who danced before the Lord with all his might in plain sight of all the people.

Kings are also known to have wives.

The sound of the procession reached Queen Michal before she saw the parade. The music was no cause for alarm, only pride in a great achievement. The Ark of the Covenant, after an unsuccessful first attempt, was coming back to Jerusalem, now called the City of David, named for her husband, the young and powerful king. Naturally, the young maidens would joyfully dance in the procession. She wished she could join them, but the daughter of a king and the wife of a king must not. Still, the music wafting over the hills surrounding the city caused her right toe to tap in rhythm as a smile danced across her pretty, royal face.

Then she saw the procession. Something was wrong.

A man in white linen was leading the dance! The maidens were following his lead in the spontaneous choreography of celebration, but who was this man? And, where was her husband, the king? She stared at the procession trying to locate kingly robes or perhaps the glint of the morning sun on the royal crown. Nothing—not a king in sight! All the while, the sun danced on the golden surface of the Ark, sending out shards of lightning, it seemed, into the morning air.

But she didn’t notice. She looked at the linen-clad dancing man leading the parade long enough to recognize him. It was David! For some reason, he had laid aside his kingly robes and removed his crown. All that covered him was a linen garment like those worn by the priests. The smile on her face disappeared and her pale skin flushed red with shame and anger. How dare he? And on this of all days!

As the daughter of a king and the wife of a king, her security was in those robes and in that crown. There was nothing ambiguous about what David was saying with his dance—the dance of king is always a statement.

  • He was pointing to the gleaming Ark of the Covenant—the real cause for rejoicing.
  • He was deliberately abdicating his crown to Jehovah—to the covenant God had made with David and with the nation.
  • David was saying, “God is King, not David!”

Well, this was a foolish, idealistic and dangerous proposition.

Everyone knew the order of things was for gods to speak to kings and kings to speak to the people. If God is King, He might speak to just anyone—prophet, priest, commoner, or king. Chaos will ensue. This was David’s day of triumph; all eyes needed to be on him, not that ancient, troublesome box. What did the Ark mean, anyway? Her father, King Saul, had no interest in it but it was David’s obsession. For three months since that awful day when that young man died by the Ark, he had moped about their palace. David had been as angry then as Michal was now—angry at God. How could one please such a fickle deity? She had advised David to follow her father’s lead and leave the Ark where it was. The presence of God was too disruptive to a man’s kingdom. But, when David’s anger subsided, an awe, the holy fear of God, replaced it.

As king, he knew he must pay the price of the presence.

Michal did not know that the price of the presence was precisely what David was demonstrating in his dance before the Lord—spirit-deep humility and whole-hearted expression. David’s dance was a public act of humility that elevated Jehovah in the eyes of people and placed the presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant, back in the center of the nation, just as it had been in the time of Moses.

The Warning

In so much of the literature of Western civilization, from Malory to Shakespeare to Melville to Conrad to Tolkien, the temptations of power lie at the heart of the narratives. We are repeatedly warned of the dangers of power to the soul of the leader. In the New Testament Jesus sounds his warning as well. The Kingdom of God presented by the Lord is the exact opposite of a power-based reign; it is a servant-based leadership.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mattnew 20:24-28 NIV

The example Jesus set is entirely consistent with this humility and we are instructed to let the same mind be in us.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:5-7NIV

But so often, despite the warnings of Jesus and our best writers and artists, we let the trappings of political power propel our leadership. Just as Jesus chose to move with and in the power of the Spirit and not in the power of His omnipotence which He had laid aside, we must choose to lead in the power of the Spirit, not in the “power” of our personalities and political ploys.

This servant-leadership is rooted in humility, the dance of King David, if you will.

Dr. Jack Hayford treats what he calls “the Michal Syndrome” in chapter ten of his great book, Worship His Majesty, “Dancing Kings and Barren Queens.” He tells the story of feeling impressed in prayer, one morning alone in the sanctuary, to dance before the Lord. Even as he resisted with all the familiar arguments against such a fleshly display, the Lord kept insisting that he dance. Finally, he danced, not well, mind you, but he obeyed and a sense of the Lord’s pleasure came over him. True worship is about doing what pleases God not us. Pastor Jack realized that the issue wasn’t really dance, it was pride. We must never forget that both Peter and James insist that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Dr. Hayford’s experience proved essential to what he calls the “worship-unto-fruitfulness” of his ministry. He says, “…The Michal Syndrome can lead anyone to a rationalized sense of superiority …Barrenness is a high price to pay for one’s dignity.”

The issue is not dance.

Dance is a metaphor for whole-hearted, full-throated, worship of the Lord before the people of God.

This is what godly kings must do before their people. We must learn to fear the barrenness of Michal more than we do the exuberance of King David. We must not see His presence as a disruptive force to our plans. When kings dance, it means something! When kings don’t dance, that means something, too. Our kingly robes get in our way. Really, our crowns of human accomplishment are only good for one thing, to cast at Jesus’ feet.

Public worship is a time for all of us to join the procession, including the pastors. It is not for some of us to do while others watch as if from some elevated window. As leaders we must have the same mind in us that was in our Savior as we pour out the contents of our hearts in the presence of the congregation.

Stripped of cumbersome pride, we can “dance” before the Lord with all our might, confident that the people will see once again the brilliance of the morning sun dancing on the golden surface of the Ark.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

When Kings Dance

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