Dancing like nobody’s business

Seth Tan // September 23, 2021, 11:50 am

Screenshot 2021-09-23 at 11.43.43 AM

King David lived – not just danced – with great abandon for God, writes author Seth Tan. Are we? Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash.

For a long time, I felt great restraint in church. It seemed like there was an invisible code of conduct.

I was taught to be a good boy, sitting quietly through sermons or singing mildly during worship. Hands were clasped behind my back like a soldier or in front like a footballer protecting their crotch during a free kick.

David might have been kicked out of my church for dancing like that.

That was all part of the Christian act.

Of course, I wasn’t an emotionless robot.

Outside church, I screamed and yelled while watching basketballs passing through hoops. I danced to the gyrating rhythms of rock music in my bedroom.

It was a different place, you understand, and worshipping God was different. Or is it just me?

Marching to a different beat

King David provides an example on how we should live a life of worship towards God. This has implications for us in every aspect of our lives. (2 Samuel 6:14-16)

David had great cause for celebration – the Ark of the Lord (along with God’s blessing) was coming into town!

Even David, dressed in priestly robes, danced.

In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase The Message, he said that David “danced with great abandon before God”. He didn’t care who was watching. He didn’t care if it cost him his reputation. All he knew was that he was filled with so much joy that he had to dance. Not dancing would have betrayed the joy he felt inside.

David danced like nobody’s business for the audience of One – God.

David might have been kicked out of my church for dancing like that.

His wife, Michal, was disgusted and embarrassed by the way he danced. Why? Some commentators think that by dancing wildly in a priestly gown, David exposed himself in public.

Whatever the case, Michal’s heart was filled with scorn instead of joy. Instead of focusing on the ark and the glory of God, she focused on their reputation and image.

We read in 2 Samuel 6:20-23:

“When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, ‘How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!

“David retorted to Michal, ‘I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!’

So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.”

David danced like nobody’s business for the audience of One – God.

A missing ingredient?

Some people are like Michal too – they scorn worshippers who are over-emotional. God judged Michal with barrenness, a terrible curse for a woman in those days.

I wonder if we have lost the excitement for Jesus and what He did for us.

I once attended a Palm Sunday service where we were given palm branches to wave. I waved it excitedly, not bothering what others would say. I would have waved it wider if it wasn’t so cramped in the hall.

Others weren’t so keen though. Youths were standing dazed and bored during worship. Some scrolled through their phones mindlessly, waiting for a notification.

I wonder if we have lost the excitement for Jesus and what He did for us.

Shouldn’t His coming to earth, death and resurrection cause us to celebrate wildly, not mildly? Shouldn’t we dance with great abandon before God like David did? Shouldn’t we ignore the ‘Michals’ who scorn us for celebrating?

An unforgettable encounter

During a Thailand mission trip, my team was staying at a remote village way up in the mountains. After dinner, the orphanage kids were singing songs to worship God. Just one guitar and 30 kids lifting their voices to a God.

During their singing, as I sat in a chair, I started to cry. Then I started weeping and sobbing out loud.

God was breaking me. And it laid bare my own hardness of heart.

My brother said my face was quite scary looking. Some kids were scared or shocked. I think my team also. Some team members laid hands on me as I cried.

I felt a force flowing through me and I knew it must be the Holy Spirit. The Spirit coursed through my hands and legs, and my whole body became stiff and numb. My fingers were fixed in a claw-like position and it was so hard to move.

I never expected this to happen to me, as I come from a non-charismatic background.

I could still hear the music and singing, so I knew God’s power was real. I had prayed for God to reveal Himself to me a few weeks back and now He did. It was embarrassing to be slain in front of others but God has his plan. After a while, the numbness disappeared and I was back to normal.

God was breaking me and showing me how impure my worship was compared to these kids who really worshipped God from their hearts. They didn’t have much financially but nonetheless worshipped God in such a heartfelt manner. And it laid bare my own hardness of heart.

God often has to break us to use us for His glory.

Abandoned to grace

As we look at David’s life, it wasn’t just his dancing. He was a bold man who lived fully for God, earning Him the often-quoted title of “a man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) He lived for God with great abandon. 

May God open your eyes to see his glory and greatness so that you are filled with joy.

Leave your reputation and image at the door. Worship isn’t about you. It’s about God. Celebrate what He has done for you.

Extract taken from Dancing With Great Abandon: How To Go All In For God by Seth Tan. Republished with permission.

For reflection and discussion

  1. When was the last time you did something with great abandon for God?
  2. What do you think hinders us from going all in for God?
  3. What is one thing that you learnt from David’s example that you can apply to your life this week?
About the author

Seth Tan

Seth loves to write, draw and play music in his spare time. He is currently working as a pastoral staff in St James’ Anglican Church with his main portfolio being the Youth Ministry. His passion is to “know Christ and make Him known”.