Dancing in God’s Presence

Back in July, David Johnston, Canada’s governor general, raised some issues when he breached protocol with the Queen of England. They were descending the stairs, and he knew the carpet was a bit plush and possibly unstable, so he reached out his hand and placed it on the Queen’s elbow to help steady her, but also to be ready in case of a slip.

There are few more do’s and dont’s just in case you ever meet a member of the royal family…

  • curtsey or bow
  • use the right greeting which is initially “Your Majesty” and then afterward, “Ma’am”
  • Be early
  • Do not touch her unless she reaches out for you
  • Follow here example…sit when she sits, stand when she stands, talk when spoken to
  • Don’t leave before the Queen
  • Never turn your back on her

We don’t have anything near this complicated for meeting our President. The only two things I could find is that it is appropriate to call him Mr. President and if you are seated, you should rise when he enters the room.

I’m sure running up to hug him would be frowned upon as would any other gesture should you not like the president you are meeting.

As Americans…we are pretty lax. We resist formality and aim for comfortable, personal, and casual in almost all our meetings.

And this has carried over into how we enter the presence of God…we no longer, or at least we don’t do it here, expect “Sunday Best” attire. We don’t speak with a formal liturgy. And we tend to be very casual in our approach to worship.

But what is our protocol when entering the presence of God?

We are in this message series looking at the life of King David…a man whom God said, was “a man of my own heart.” He was someone who desired to know God and be in His presence. Last week, we looked at David had to flee for many years, avoiding Saul’s death squads. They hunted him ruthlessly, until King Saul finally met his end.

So David is now shoring up his Kingdom…and, as is David’s M.O…he wants to insure that God is honored and lifted up.

So we come to this passage in 2 Samuel 6 that give us some insight about what it means to come into the presence of God…

2 Samuel 6:1-5 begins this way…

Then David again gathered all the elite troops in Israel, 30,000 in all. 2 He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. 3 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart 4 that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark. 5 David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

If we want to be in the presence of God…

We have to lavishly celebrate God’s presence.

When David decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the new capital city of Jerusalem…he did so with a lot of flare.

2 Samuel 6:1-6 says David got 30,000 young men to go with him to get the Ark…they bought the Mercedes 900 Ox Cart…all 30,000+ of the people who were there were singing, dancing, playing instruments…celebrating with all their might…later, after an incident with Uzzah…he made sacrifices…danced, celebrated…It was a spectacle.

David was leading a celebration as fit for the King of the Universe as a human being could pull off. It was magnificent…it was beautiful…it was costly…it was all for the sake and honor of the God of the Universe.

I didn’t live in the area when the first gigantic Jesus statue was build along 75, but was here when it burned and then rebuilt…and the argument and discussion was the same from both Christians and non-Christians alike…they chided the church because they spent so much money on a statue and could have used that money for “better purposes” like feeding people without food, housing people…any number of things.

And I’m fairly on board with those…in fact, I was guilty of making some pretty rude comments about the church and decision making process of a group of people that I didn’t even know based solely on the statue they put in front of their building.

But one day we were driving past it, Bri was about 6 or younger, and I was thinking some of those thoughts about the statue…when Bri noticed the statue…and she said something along the lines of, “Those people must really love Jesus to make such a big statue of Him!”

And in that moment I realized she was right…here was a group of people that I might disagree with the way they did that, but the sole reason they did it was because they loved Jesus and wanted the world to know it.

I was exactly like the disciples in Matthew 26 when the woman came and anointed the feet of Jesus with a perfume that cost about a year’s wages.

Matthew 26:8-13

8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Sometimes we are not being frugal…or using our money for “better” purposes…we are being cheap toward God. We fail to celebrate him in the lavish way he deserves for the forgiveness he has brought us…for the Sovereignty he holds…for the fact that He is the God of the Universe.

I don’t know where that line is, but I do know that whatever we do in a way to honor God is still not enough. David and the people of Israel are celebrating, offering huge amounts of sacrifices, and doing it all for the praise and glory of God.

Throughout the ages Christians have done such wasteful activities as create paintings, statues, grand architecture…all to bring glory and celebrate the beauty of our Lord. This passage poses a challenge for us that God’s presence is to be celebrated and enjoyed in lavish ways.

But…

We can’t be presumptuous with God’s presence.

Just a minute ago, I talked about all the rules people have to obey when they meet the Queen of England, and as American we may chaff at some of these “formal” ways of dealing with people…but maybe, just maybe we are in danger of being too familiar.

We talk about having a personal relationship with God…a friend who is closer than a brother…we use some very intimate language…but I think we also forget we are speaking to and about the creator of the universe. And maybe we are just a bit too familiar…and lacking in respect…we presume too much.

As we read this passage about bringing the Ark into the new capital city of Jerusalem, we come to this passage…

2 Samuel 6:6-7

6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

It seems a bit tough. Uzzah was trying to steady the Ark and keep if from falling…but this act was fraught with all kinds of issues…

Despite all the pomp and circumstance and having spared no expense in this celebration…they had failed to obey God’s instructions on how to properly transport the Ark…in the Book of Numbers, God had given strict instructions on how to transport the Ark…and it didn’t include an oxen pulled cart.

Add to that…the Ark was earthly representation of God’s presence…the Presence of the Lord  was “enthroned between the cherubim on the ark.” and Uzzah reached out his hand to touch it…

While we may think this a bit rough…maybe we need to rethink the manner in which we tend to approach the creator of the universe…when I read the Bible…every time someone comes into the presence of God they are overcome with two very distinct things…

  1. Fear…they recognize they are in the presence of someone far great and more powerful than anyone they have ever met or will ever meet in their lives.
  2. Guilt…they also recognize the deepness of their sin. They thought they were ok, but standing in the presence of God’s holiness they realize they are not as cleans as they thought.

We see this with Moses, with Isaiah, with Paul…

Now, Scripture tells us that through Jesus we come to God’s throne with confidence to receive grace…some translations say boldly…it doesn’t mean with arrogance or presumption…our very act of coming to the Throne of the King hoping for grace is the bold act itself…to even be able to have hope of forgiveness and grace and adoption into the family of God is a boldness that is unheard of in any other religion.

Sometimes, we forget who we are talking to and dealing with…in a bad way, I mean.

We serve a God of love and forgiveness and mercy…so we stop being careful about our life and witness because God will forgive us…and we presume upon the grace of God.

We spend so much time in buddy/friend mode with God that we forget to have times where we are in awe and reverence.

There are times when we treat the things of God lightly and with disrespect. I have been guilty of being too critical of God’s church and the people who represent him…not that they/we don’t get things wrong…very wrong sometimes, but I set myself up as their judge instead of allow the God of the harvest to separate the wheat and the chaff and putting my shoulder back to the plow and doing the job called me to do…pulling the log out of my own eye…and dealing with the sin in my realm of influence. I forget I’m talking about the Church the God loves and people for whom Christ died…

Finally…

We will be misunderstood as we live in God’s presence. 

2 Samuel 6:13-16

13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 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.

As Michal watched David dance before the Lord…she had all kinds of opinions about how he should and should not act…he was the King and should act like a King.

2 Samuel 6:20-23 says

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

Her father had been a king…she knew how kings should act…she knew dancing this way was not appropriate for a King…IF the King cared about decorum and proper actions of a King. The literary arrangement of their discussion is amazing because we have this sarcasm and disdain from Michal toward David, but also a disdain and rejection of Michal’s opinion by David…not because she was a woman or he was above her, but because he recognized, in a way she didn’t, that he was chosen by God precisely because he celebrated God’s presence in this way…and Saul was rejected because he failed to celebrate God’s presence in this way.

Every time God acts in a  new way or people celebrate him in an “out of the ordinary” manner or do something that challenges the status quo of tradition…people get upset.

We seem to live in an “offended” culture…People get offended if you don’t do certain things…others get offended if you do…and people get offended that people get offended…and then miss the irony of the fact that they are offended at other people being offended. But this is nothing new. People have always been offended at a variety of things…we just have easier methods of sharing our oftendedness with the rest of the world.

Just because you offend someone or they don’t like you doesn’t mean you are doing the work of God…that’s a logical fallacy. Many people assume that because they are being persecuted, others are being offended, “christians” don’t by what they are talking about….that they are on the right track because “Jesus was rejected.” Good logic doesn’t work that way. Being persecuted or rejected doesn’t mean you are doing what is right.

BUT when you are following God, enjoying his presence, and doing what he requires…You will be offending someone and causing them to reject what you are doing.

Conclusion

I know that I don’t have everything right or figured out. In fact, I believe the Bible teaches that one day I will stand before God’s judgment seat and he will set my metaphorical house on fire and what is worthwhile and true will hold, but what is wood, hay, and stubble will be consumed. I think that will happen to all of us…but I say that as a preface to this…I sense that somewhere along the way the Church has stopped actually trying to experience the presence of God…

We critique each other with the same ferocity as everyone else…we fail to see our own baggage and simply work on that…which leads to a failure to live and love and celebrate God in lavish ways (mostly because we know others will critique it)…we make presumptions about God’s character and His will that benefit us but leave others out…and we love offending people, but only as an extension of what we want to do and say and not out of our experience and celebration of the presence of God.

David was able to experience the fullness of God’s presence and celebrate it with great joy and abandon. In the moment, he didn’t care if people saw him as respectable or kingly…he was in the presence of God.

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