Dancing with God?

Jan Antonsson


The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

March 14, 2015

Neosho, MO 64850

“Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isa. 51:11, KJV).

There are several references to dancing before the Lord in the Old Testament.  The one which came to mind first, was King David leaping and dancing “before the Lord with all his might,” on the occasion when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the City of David (II Sam. 6:14).  The back story begins in the days when Eli, Samuel’s mentor, was the High Priest.  His sinful, worthless sons Hophni and Phinehas had taken the Ark into battle with the Philistines, thinking that God would have to give them the victory.  In fact, even though the Philistines were terrified when they heard that Israel had the Ark of God with them, they steeled themselves for battle and the Israelites were defeated.  “The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.  The Ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (I Sam. 4:10, NIV).

Following this humiliating defeat of Israel, the Philistines took the Ark to their god Dagon’s temple in Ashdod, where they sat it beside the likeness of Dagon.  The next morning, when they rose, they found “Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord!  His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained” (I Sam. 5:3-5, NIV).  As if that weren’t enough, God smote the Philistines in the town of Ashdod with a plague of rats and tumors (which the study note identifies as “genital warts.” The people of that town quickly decided to send the Ark to Ekron, another Philistine town.   That city was likewise smitten with tumors and rats, which the study note said may have carried the disease. After suffering seven months with this debilitating malady (I Sam. 6:1-2), the Philistines decided to send the Ark back to Israel.  They put it on a new cart and according to the instructions of their priests and diviners, also including a guilt offering of five gold tumors and five gold rats.   

They sent the cart to the Israelite town of Beth Shemesh.  The people of the town were happy to see the Ark, so they chopped up the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. Their joy was short lived, however, when God struck seventy of them dead, “because they had looked into the Ark of the Lord” (I Sam. 4:4; 6:13-15, 19, NIV).  God had given Moses explicit instructions that only the Levites were permitted to tend the Ark (Ex. 25:12-15; Num. 4:5-6).  This put a chill in the thrill of having the Ark and the folks in Beth Shemesh asked the people of Kiriath Jearim to come and take possession of it.  It remained with them in the house of Abinadab for the next twenty years (I Sam. 7:1-2).

Fast forward the tape to the time when David ruled Israel.   He and thirty thousand chosen men set out to bring the Ark from Abinadab’s house to Jerusalem, which was now his capital city.   They placed the Ark on a new cart, guided by Abinadab’s sons, Uzzah and Ahio.  “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals” (II Sam. 6:1-5; 7, NIV).  At one point, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark.  The Lord’s anger burned against him “because of his irreverent act” (Vs. 7), and he was struck down and died on the spot beside the ark. 

David felt two intense emotions:  anger and fear.  He decided that he didn’t dare bring the ark with him to the City of David, and so he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite, where it remained for three months.  After he was told that the Lord had blessed the house of Obed-Edom, he decided to bring it to Jerusalem.  It was on that occasion, that he danced before the Lord with all his might, and he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf after each six steps. He had learned the intended lesson, to treat the Ark of the Lord with reverence, and handle it as Moses had instructed the Levites (II Sam. 6:7-15; I Chron. 15:13-15).

Someone is sure to ask or think, “So what has this to do with our lives today?”  I’ve been asking the same question of the Lord, and the first thought which came to me is that David was a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14).  God was not only the wind beneath David’s wings, but also the dynamic power and focus of his defense against the surrounding nations who would have wiped Israel off the map. God empowered this mighty warrior, and king whose descendants included Christ Himself, to stand between Israel and her many enemies.  Not only that, but from the moment Samuel had anointed David King over Israel, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (I Sam. 16:13).

David loved the Lord with all his heart and all his might as so many Psalms attest, so perhaps he became angry when God smote Uzzah simply because he had his feelings hurt.  Why would God, who had been with him in countless battles, now put such a sour note on David’s plan to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem?  On a darker note, David was the “Lord High Everything Else” in Israel.  He was the King.  The buck stopped on his desk, and while that carried a lot of responsibility, it also could have inflated his ego, filling him with pride.  Usually, lessons learned do not start with those at the top of the heap, but begin at the lowly bottom rung.  Plus, he was afraid for his own life, and kings and others in power are loath to deal with personal insecurities.  So are we.

The main lesson here is that when God gave an order or laid out a plan of action under the Law of Moses, He expected that plan to be followed.  Failure to comply often brought God’s swift and terrible retribution.  I was very afraid of Him in my youth, because I had not yet learned to rightly divide the word of truth.

Though we live by grace, not law, there still are personal consequences when God is disrespected.  My Baptism in the Spirit gave me great joy and comfort, but also filled me with the sure knowledge that God is as able to discipline us today as He was then.  I’m not talking about striking people dead, although sometimes the nightly news makes one wonder about that, but the Hebrew writer said, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son…If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons” (Heb. 12:5-6; 8).

Those cactus patches I’ve written so often about could be discipline, or they could merely be course correction, but either way, when God’s judgments come upon the earth, we, “the people of the world learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9).  David knew this; he also knew the depth and generosity of God’s grace which was ever with him.  And I think that after he worked through the fear and the anger, he was overcome with the Joy of the Lord, which was his strength, and ours as well.

Shortly after we came to Neosho, I heard a statement by a preacher whose name I can’t recall, that has stayed with me ever since.  He said, “If you want to dance with God, you have to turn loose of the rails!”  That has worked its way into me on a cellular level, but dancing with God still raises eyebrows and generates rebukes from some Christians.  David certainly encountered ridicule.

As I was pondering this, the following words came to me.  They could have been written by David, or by Jan, or who knows, maybe even by you:

Dancing with God

Why would I want to dance with God if He’s as tough as they say, as hard to please, always ready to pounce, who would want to dance with Him?

When I’m weary with my load of care, burdened by feelings of despair, does He know and does He care?  Is He really there?  Why would He want to dance with me?

When my knees ache and my back hurts, and my mind is sagging from carrying the load, how could I dance with God?  I’m too tired, too wobbly on my feet, but He’s so very sweet; He’ll put my feet on His and then, He’ll dance for both of us.

So in spite of leaden feet and a learning curve that’s steep, I can dance with God!  He paid the price for me to dance with him.  I’m really, truly free.

“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may praise thee and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever” (Psalm 30:11-12. RSV).  Father, we ask you to pry our hands loose from the rails as we praise and honor You, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)

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