In the original casting of the popular movie Footloose, John Laughlin plays the role of the Reverend Shaw Moore whom you probably remember for leading the town’s prohibition or ban against dancing. If you’re familiar with the movie then you have probably cheered on the rebellious Kevin Bacon as he seeks to undermine the conservative reverend with his snazzy moves and ultimately legalize dancing in their town. We envision ourselves in those electric sliding shoes of Kevin Bacon and view Reverend Shaw as a villain, as the antagonist, and quite frankly as a killjoy. We do so because we view dancing as an expression of joy. We dance with our significant others even if we have two left feet. You either show it in public or keep it a secret, but everyone has a happy dance they use when they celebrate. There is just something about being joyful that moves us, no pun intended.
However despite our cheering on of Kevin Bacon when it comes to worship we strangely tend to morph into John Laughlin. That is to say we are okay with doing a happy dance at a moments notice, just not during Sunday worship. We want the ban against dancing lifted, with the exception being to keep the ban presiding over our worship services. Ironically, worship is the one place where you should sense the urge to do your happy dance the most. Just ask King David…
So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. (2 Samuel 6:13-14)
That is probably one of those passages that you have just never paid much attention to. But let me tell you, what you casually skim over was no ordinary day in Jerusalem. This day was the highlight of David’s life. This day was bigger than taking Goliath out with a stone. But in order to grasp the significance of this day, it is imperative that we reckon with two key questions.
1. Why is David celebrating?
I think the text is clear on this. Verse 13 explicitly tells us why David is rejoicing, sacrificing animals every six steps, and dancing with all his might. Because David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David which is Jerusalem. The ark of the covenant had quite the journey from its first mention in the Samuel narratives in Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:3). Following a skirmish with the Philistines and some misguided optimism the ark is stolen by the Philistines. However this doesn’t last for long as The LORD unleashes wrath throughout the Philistine cities, prompting them to send it back on its own way (1 Samuel 5 and 6). It eventually comes to rest for twenty years in a place called Kiriath-jearim according to 1 Samuel 7:2 until Saul calls for its presence in the war camp. We don’t really see the ark again until 2 Samuel 6, which begins gloomier than you might imagine. It’s a narrative that reminds us of the danger of getting in a careless hurry with matters of the Lord. David has called for the ark to be moved to Jerusalem, but the mission is stalled when the Lord strikes down Uzzah who touched the ark when it began to slip off of the cart. After a three month delay David resumes the task and is successful, placing the ark in the tent he had pitched for it in Jerusalem.
Okay, so what’s the big deal about the ark coming to Jerusalem? Well I’m glad you asked. Here’s the second key question…
2. What is the ark of the covenant exactly?
I really want to stress something here. Look at our text in 2 Samuel 6:14. It doesn’t say that David danced before the ark of the covenant (although we understand by reason and context of verse 13 that it was the object that he was dancing in front of). What does it say exactly? David danced before The Lord with all his might. The Hebrew word for before could actually be translated literally as before the face of. Wow! David wasn’t rejoicing at a religious relic that merely symbolized God’s presence. David was rejoicing and dancing as he walked before the face of The LORD on the way to Jerusalem. The Lord literally was making Himself known in a very real, physical, and special way as He sat enthroned above the ark. Now David’s dancing makes sense. He is doing his happy dance because The LORD is coming home with him! The Lord who has loved Him and chosen him and delivered Him and provided for him and satisfied every longing of his thirsty soul is finally coming home with him in a very real way. And David is just so overwhelmed by this that he just can’t contain his joy internally any longer and he breaks out in his happy dance rejoicing greatly before the face of The Lord.
Friends, can I tell you something? We have a much more superior revelation of God than what was experienced in the ark of the Covenant. We have the New Covenant purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh go on and do a two-step before The Lord dear Christian! For we, as believers, have been in-dwelt with the Holy Spirit of The Living God (Romans 8:11). For we have access to the throne of grace to find help in times of need (Hebrews 4:16). For we know that God is working out all things for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). For we have been adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:14-16). For we are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have eternal life with our God forever (John 3:16)!
If David danced before the ark of the covenant, then shouldn’t we who have a superior revelation (Hebrews 1:1-3) dance even more jubilantly before The LORD? But let’s get back to the narrative…
So David is dancing with all his might before The Lord. Meanwhile Reverend Shaw Moore’s fore-runner, Michal is watching these events unfold from her palace window. And let’s just say she is not doing a happy dance with David.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. (1 Samuel 6:17)
I have read many scholarly opinions for why Michal looks at dancing David with contempt in her heart. They are well thought out, well spoken, and could totally be right. Yet while they attempt to explain why Michal is looking at David in that way they overlook the fact that Michal is not looking at The LORD. I am under the impression that if she had been more focused on The LORD instead of David then maybe she would have had a happy dance to do instead of a scornful look of disdain. Ironically, it is often that the same ones who cheer on Kevin Bacon in the footloose narrative are the same ones who wear this disdainful face of Michal from the biblical narrative.
So what am I telling you? That you should literally two-step your way to the altar on Sunday morning? I’m afraid I can’t answer that because I am not the Holy Spirit. What I can tell you is that I know a lot of people who do a happy dance of celebration on Saturday night when Tua Tagovailoa throws his tenth touchdown pass, but yet they look like they are attending a funeral on Sunday morning. If that’s you then maybe you ought’ to have a conversation with the Holy Spirit and discern through The Word how He commands you to celebrate on Sunday morning in worship. I know this will ruffle some feathers and I’m okay with that. I’m thankful for the person who first ruffled my ultra-conservative feathers because it led me to a deeper place of worship. I by no means have it all figured out, but I’m further along now than I was before. I pray that the same will be true for you as time passes on. Who knows? Maybe your feet will become loose and you too will dance with all your might before The LORD.