Thoughts of a Living Christian

Musings of an amateur theologian and hopeful writer

Humble Worship

What makes a successful worship leader?

Is it when you release a CD? When you are published in some magazine, or song-book? Is it when you are employed to lead a church in worship? Is it filling in for a friend when that person is on holiday, where you play to 12 people? Is success in worship any of those?

By thinking successful worship is any those, is placing this idea of worship within worldly boundaries. You are measuring an interaction between man and God by attributing to it mere human standards.

What is worship? Worship is a response to God, placing value and worth on Him in our lives, focusing on and choosing God at all times. Therefore, to measure worship in terms of how successful it is seems odd. It isn’t a tangible, physical or obvious thing that can be measured. Rather, true worship happens where it cannot be seen. Real worship happens within the individuals heart, as the Holy Spirit prompts it. From there, the person outwardly expresses this worship in the way he or she lives, and “worship times” are those times where these worshipers come together corporately to praise God, a reflection of their worship-filled lives and their relationship with God.

I don’t believe worship can be measured in terms of how successful it is or isn’t. If it were to be, I would say the most successful worship is the person who (1) humbly responds to God in his or her deepest areas of the soul, and (2) is not inhibited to express that worship.

One of my favourite bible passages that deals with worship is 2 Samuel 6:14 – 19. I read this passage as an incredible example of pure, humble, complete worship of God.

David has just defeated the Philistines, recovered the Ark of God, is wealthy, loved by all the Israelites and loved by God. David marches into the City of David with the Ark and a great procession of followers and worshipers; it is all about David – all eyes are on him. What he does next is astounding.

He takes off his royal robes, only wearing a linen ephod. An ephod was the general clothing of priests who served in the temple before God. It was simple, but symbolized that person’s complete dedication to serving the Lord. Secondly, David is dancing and leaping before the Ark as it enters the city, all the way to where the Ark is placed in a tent David himself erected. He was jumping around, rejoicing with all his might, to the point where his own wife is embarrassed by him. Lastly, he worships the Lord in a more conventional way, where he proceeds to bless his people, in the name of the Lord.

It was all about David at this point, but he turns that around, placing the emphasis on God. He was completely dedicated to God, uninhibited to worship the Lord as he pleased. He was not bothered by if he looked silly, or kingly, or not; all his energy was put toward worshiping God.

Louie Giglio uses an example of the devout worshipers of Michael Jackson, from several years ago. In this example he shows a video of MJ’s fans. Now these fans were worshiping MJ with everything they had. They were on their knees, they were literally crying, screaming, longing for Michael. He didn’t even need to sing, he just stood, as he took in the adoration of thousands.

One easily thinks of the Beatles, when at times their music couldn’t be heard over the noise of their adoring, screaming fans.

Giglio comments that the apostle Paul would be pleased with that worship. It is complete, unadulterated, reverential worship. No one is caring about the person next to them. No one is judging the charismatic down the aisle. No one is standing there silently singing, with their hands in their pockets, thinking to themselves, “MJ – or Ringo – you know I love you, singing and dancing just ‘aint my thing”.Everyone is worshiping with all their energy, and with all their might.

Has the modern church lost some of this enthusiasm?

When did it become such an issue to dance around at church, worshiping the one God that really matters. Why is it that we can worship money or a singer to the point where it takes over our lives, yet we approach God with such a relaxed attitude. Perhaps it’s a lack of respect? Maybe we have lost the fear of God? Or maybe it’s just a progression in contemporary worship?

Personally, I’m not sure why it’s such an issue. Even though King David, a man after God’s own heart, did not feel inhibited to worship God in whatever way felt natural, giving Him all the glory, we feel as though we have to conform and play it safe.

My challenge for you is to humble yourselves before God, to accept His Spirit in whatever way it comes, and to express your response to the awesome privilege that is the Gospel in whatever way feels natural. Don’t be hindered by societal pressures. Don’t be afraid of embracing complete worship, focusing – like King David – on God.

True worship like that cannot be beaten, and opens the way to a deeper relationship with God and deeper levels of worship.

Perhaps one day soon, our churches will be similar to an MJ concert; a sea of people uninhibited, praising God with all they have, on their knees, arms raised, crying out, laughing, pointing, singing… Just imagine the power that could have, imagine the impact.

So let’s live lives of complete worship of God, where we are not afraid to step out, like David did.

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18 thoughts on “Humble Worship

  1. Get ready for some dancing down the aisles at Mounties 😉

  2. Josh C. on said:

    Not to disagree outright Aaron, but I just want to make comment on the example of David you’ve used here. No question that this is one of the great biblical examples of pure and humble worship – but it’s important to look at it the context of the whole chapter. What I get from 2 Sam 6 is a story about the beauty and power of sincere, uninhibited worship AND the limitations. I think it’s important to understand both.

    Chapter 16 deals with David bring the ark up to Jerusalem. In the first incident (16:1-10) David and the people worship God ‘with all their might’ but God is angry and strikes Uzzah dead for David’s failure to follow the commandments regarding the transportation of the ark of God as given to Moses. After three months, David tries again, but this time he transports the ark correctly. You kind find the way he did this in much greater detail in 1 Chron 15-16.

    I believe what this story demonstrates is David’s realisation that good intentions are not enough. God wants our pure, heartful worship – but only when we are obedient to his commandments. I believe the emphasis of the passage is on doing things God’s way – not ours.

  3. Yes, the Mosaic covenant is assumed, as it is in any Deuteronomistic book. However, this passage is less about the stipulations of that covenant, and more to do with the reverence of Yahweh. There is no direct link between the worship and Yahweh’s anger at Uzzah. Yahweh’s anger is caused by the presumptuous and irreverent act of Uzzah, not the “dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals” (6.5). Hence, this passage (I assume you meant chapter six?) mentions no limitations on worship.
    Next, the three months are not a commandment from Yahweh. Rather, David’s fear of Yahweh causes him to stay in the house of Obed-edom. Uzzah’s death, having been caused by his irreverent act, causes David to fear committing such an irreverent act, and we feel something of this in his remark, “How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?” (6.9). Amidst the political dramas, the ark still retains its theological and covenantal dignity; Brueggemann comments,

    “The death has its salutary effect; David becomes freshly afraid of Yahweh (v.9). When people are no longer awed, respectful, or fearful of God’s holiness, the community is put at risk. David may intend to use the ark for his own purposes, for religious equipment has powerful legitimating effect. Such a political use, however, does not empty the old symbol of its formidable theological power.”

    This passage is not placing limitations on worship. The emphasis is on absolute reverence and awe of God. This, in fact, further supports our need to humble ourselves completely before God, in fear before His throne, totally surrendering our very hearts and souls to His will. This is exactly what David did.
    God wants our pure, heartful worship – but only when we are completely abandoned to Him in awe and reverence.
    It is evident throughout the Old and New Testaments that God cares more for our relationship than He does for our absolute obedience to the Law. These are obviously not mutually exclusive, but the Torah was put in place to further the Israelite’s – and the rest of the world’s – relationship with Yahweh, not to constrain and restrict this relationship. The Torah wasn’t even needed for one to gain righteousness, such as in the example of Abraham, who was justified by faith a long time before Moses ever existed.
    God’s way is absolute surrender to Him, not to the Law.

  4. Josh C. on said:

    I find it difficult to agree with your central claim – that this passage is less about the stipulations of the covenant and more to do with the reverence of Yahweh. The two are one and the same. To follow the stipulations of the Law WAS ‘absolute reverance and awe of God’. David himself was perfectly clear about the cause of Uzzah’s death:

    ‘Because you [the priests] did not carry it the first time, Yahweh, the God of Israel broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.’ [1 Chron 15:13]
    ‘And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of Yahweh.’ [1 Chron 15:15]

    You’re absolutely right that the Law was put in place as a schoolmaster to bring them unto Christ [Gal 3:24] – but I’m not so sure about your assertion that God cared more about the Israelite’s relationship with him then their absolute obedience to the Law. What is true is this:

    All are justified by faith, and as you say – that applies to the patriarchs, to the Israelites and to us today.

    The Law does not make us righteous.

    The Israelites, from the time of Moses to Christ’s death on the cross, WERE commanded to keep the Law.

    The Law and our relationship with God are not mutually exclusive. For the Jews, the Law of Moses provided the framework within which their faith and righteousness could develop.

    To deviate from the Law was worthy of death – as we see when Nadab and Abihu tried to add to law [Lev 10:1-3] and when David tried to subtract from it [2 Sam 6].

    The judgments of the prophets against Israel was clear about what their transgressions were:

    ‘they have rejected the law of Yahweh, and have not kept his statutes’. [Amos 2:4]

    ‘They did not walk in my statutes but rejected my rules’ [Eze 20:13]

    ‘All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice’ [Dan 9:11]

    What Uzzah did was irreverent and disrespectful because he, as a Levite, should have known better than to transport the ark by ox and cart. Had it been carried on the shoulders of the Levite priests there would have never been the problem of the oxen stumbling.

    If I can summarise the message of 2 Sam 6, it is that true worship comes from a fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord comes from obedience to his word. This basically leads us both to a point of agreement, you having said as much yourself in the original post, however you cannot apply the requirements of the new covenant, which we are under, to the Israelites. The principle is the same however – acceptable worship stems from total obedience to his word.

    Having established that God was angry because David did not obey the Law, I also suggest is that there is some argument for the implication within the story that David may have prioritized worship over God’s principles.

    I take this from the difference between the way the text records the bringing up of the ark between v5 and v12-15, and the parallel record in 1 Chron 13-16.

    The first incident records that

    ‘David and all the house of Israel were making merry before Yahweh, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.’ [1 Sam 6:5]

    Whilst the second incident states:

    ‘So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 13And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. 14And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of Yahweh with shouting and with the sound of the horn.’ [1 Sam 6:12-15]

    You’ll notice the absence of detail in the second account in regards to Israel’s worship that was present in the first. That detail, along with others, is actually provided in the Chronicles, which states:

    ‘So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of Yahweh with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.’ [1 Chron 15:28]

    However, by comparing these two accounts, some crucial differences appear between the worship of the first and second incident.
    The first time, the people ‘make merry’, or ‘play’ before Yahweh, whilst the second time they ‘shout’. This is consistent between Samuel and Chronicles. The word translated ‘make merry’, or ‘play’ is ‘sachaq’, meaning to laugh, to mock, to scorn. It’s the word generally used in a light-hearted, or negative way, such as used by the Philistines to have Samson come ‘entertain’ them. In other words, it could be said that the author of the record considered the worship of the people to be almost a mockery of God.

    Contrast with the second incident, when the people ‘shout’ before Yahweh. This word is ‘truah’, meaning an acclamation of joy, and is generally used in a positive sense in connection with God’s holiness.
    But this is not all. Just briefly, the following aspects of worship also change:

    The first time they ‘play’, the second time they ‘shout’. This is consistent with a principle throughout scripture of the voice being the primary way to worship God.

    The first time they made a sound WITH song and instrument, the second time they ‘shout TO the sound of [instruments]’ [1 Chron 15:28]

    The list of instruments from 1 Sam 6:5 is contrasted with just one horn in v15.

    In the first incident, it is all Israel who worship with songs and instruments. In the second [1 Chron 15] there is a real structure and form and leadership of the worship:

    [v16] David appoints the priests to be the ones who ‘should play loudly on musical instruments’.
    [v21] The music was to be lead with the lyre.
    [v22] There was to be a ‘director of the music’

    There are no blanket commandments in regards to the way in which we worship, but there are observable principles from which we can learn what is important to God. In this case, I think it’s clear that there are important aspects of our worship that ‘uninhibited worship’ may not be conducive too. David actually demonstrates that true worship CAN and will be achieved through an ‘inhibited’ form of worship.

  5. Interesting ideas, however…
    The word ‘sachaq’ is more commonly translated as laugh, laughs, celebrates or rejoicing, and is used in 1 Ch 15.29 and 2 Sam 6.21, when the Ark is in Jerusalem. Hence, their worship was not inappropriate.
    Reverence of Yahweh and the following of Yahweh’s commandments are not the same. Reverence leads to obedience. Yes, obedience to the covenantal commandments was an act of reverence, but there are examples of pagan nations fearing Yahweh – 1 Sam 5-6 for example. Proverbs is clear that the fear of the Lord comes before anything else, clearly marking a distinction. Psalm 40 describes the Psalmists true desire to obey Yahweh, but says that Yahweh does not need it: “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.” He goes on to tell of Yahweh’s ‘faithfulness’, ‘salvation’, ‘steadfast love’ and ‘mercy’.
    Yahweh did care about his relationship with the Israelites more than the Law, because he established the relationship a long time before the introduction of the Law. The covenant he made with Abraham, for example: “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” This doesn’t mean – and I didn’t say it means – that he doesn’t require obedience to his commandments, but Yahweh’s gracious and forgiving nature exemplifies his relational being. Obedience comes FROM a relationship with God – for the Israelites, and for us today. Relationship is the core of God’s character, is the core of the covenantal theology, and is the core of the Gospel.
    Also, my post and my comment were exegetical comments on the Samuel-Kings exposition. The Chronicler had a different purpose, audience and central theme. The Chronicles are an entirely different unit to Samuel-Kings. Thus, be careful when comparing the two. The Samuel account merely explains Uzzah’s death as: “The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark,” (2 Sam 6.7).
    Yes, I agree – as I must, it is fairly obvious – that the Chronicles account explains Uzzah’s death as an act of disobedience, and in fact that is caused by the entire group and not just the one (and yet, only the one dies). However, this has no bearing on the interpretation of David’s worship in 2 Sam 6.
    I do understand your point, and agree to some aspect. Worship cannot be true worship if we are disobeying the commandments; I highly doubt we can worship while lusting after the worship leader, or while we’re stabbing our friendly neighbor in the jugular. However, complete abandonment to God’s will will inevitably, as I stated above, result in obedience, as desiring God is desiring his will. Psalm 119:44-45: “I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Freedom is found in obedience, which comes from having a relationship with God, with comes after – and during – a reverence and fear of the Lord.
    David’s worship was absolute humble abandonment to Yahweh, because he had experienced many times before, first-hand experience of Yahweh’s awesome power. If we limit ourselves in our worship of God, out of fear of breaking the commandments, we are missing the point. God desires our worship, and our love, and our complete selves, totally surrendered to him.

  6. Josh C. on said:

    Looks like you’ve caught me out on sacheq. Forget that for a moment. If I can step back, what we’re debating (or at least what I think we are) is this idea of ‘abandonment’ and not limiting ourselves in our worship of God.

    This is a noble intent, and I would hate to sound like I’m arguing against sincere, heartfelt worship. I’m just confused as to how to apply this the idea of ‘abandonment’ to my study of the scriptures and my life in Christ. Abandonment to God’s will is obedience. Why call it something else? Are we adding a layer of unnecessary interpretation here?

    Praising, singing, dancing, shouting – that’s all well established as methods of worship pleasing to God. We can work our way through the scriptures and build up a framework of principles that inform our worship. I just struggle to see where this idea of ‘abandonment’ comes from, and where it fits in. To say that David is an example of ‘humble abandonment to Yahweh’ is just a label you’ve chosen to give him, and not a scripturally based phrase.

    To get back to the differences in worship between the first and second time David brought the ark up to Jerusalem. I may incorrect in regards to ‘sachaq’, but my main point is that there is a clear contrast between the two incidents. Whether you compare Samuel to Chronicles, or Samuel to Samuel, the contrast is there, it is real, and you cannot ignore it. It either fits into your model of Biblical understanding, or something has to change.

    If, as you suggest, the worship was acceptable the first time, than that leaves David spending a lot of time over the non-essentials in 1 Chron 15. Perhaps he just decided to go one better this time around?
    And in this chapter, if David is a great example of abandonment in his worship, why does he then spend so much time appointing and directing people as to what they will do, and how they will worship? It’s quite confusing behavior. If the ‘house of Israel’ had done such a great job the first time, why this sudden need for direction and leadership?

    But I guess the real test of humble abandonment in worship is to see if it does indeed, lend itself to humility. It might be a good principle – but what are the actual outcomes? What would humility in worship actually look like? I don’t know how you worship in your church, so I’m not trying to have a go, it’s just that this drive for genuine, sincere, humble, heartfelt praise and worship generally seems to just mean bigger, louder and more populist, with more technology and equipment and higher production values.

    At my church we generally sing hymns to the sound of an old piano, or a wavering electronic keyboard. Sometimes it’s pretty lackluster and sometimes I too wish for little more of David’s brand of worship. But if I can be glad of one thing, it’s that the humility of our worship is rarely in doubt.

    • Joshua Hoffmann on said:

      ‘Humble’ worship is an act of submission of the will to God, and a glorification of God by the heart and mind, irregardless of an effect on a persons social standing or apearance. In humble worship we admit our weakness and Gods strength, our emptyness and his fullness. We admit our need for God and his greatness in meeting that need.

      Our head pastor Knelt with his head to the ground the other day when noone else was, that my friend is a good example of humble worship.

      Your idea of worship put forward in the last 2 paragraphs seems to detail showy pragmatic worship which can very often cease to be worship of God at all but can become worship of music.

      The humility is in the way David glorifies God and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him doing that. humility is in submission of a persons will and desires. Not in orderly structured worship. God does not want your worship by duty, he wants your worship to come from an affection of love for him and a realization of your need for him.

  7. cunningsam on said:

    Aaron, thankyou for the invitation to share my thoughts. Josh, greetings.

    ‘fides quaerens intellectum’

    This is in response to the conversation up to and including comment number 5. I commend both of you on your prompt repsonses. Unfortunately I take more time to formulate ideas and construct a response; I have some questions and I hopefully have some insights.

    In reading your responses, Josh, I have at numerous times found myself at a loss as to what it is you mean by certain phrases. They lack explanation by either definition or example and so I have two initial questions I would like to ask:

    1. “What I get from 2 Sam 6 is a sotry about the beauty and power of sincere, uninhibited worship AND the limitations.”

    What are the limitations?

    2. “God wants our pure, heartful worship – but only when we are obedient to his commandments.”

    How do you define worship?

    You further state that, “To follow the stipulations of the law WAS absolute reverence and awe of God,” as well as, “..but I’m not so sure about your assertion that God cared more about the Israelites relationship with him than their absolute obedience to the law.” In response to the first I would like to say that I think it is more correct to say that following the stipulations WAS a result of and in response to an absolute reverence and awe of God.* In regards to the second statement I disagree. I do believe that to God his relationship with the Israelite people was more important than their absolute obedience to the law. It was out of this relationship that the law was established and despite Israel’s repeated apostasy God remained in relationship with them. Furthermore, the ten commandments, or even further ‘all the Law and the Prophets’ can be summed up in two commandments as we find in Matthew 22:34-40. Two commandments centred in an outward love that creates and sustains relationship.

    You also state, “True worship comes from a fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord comes from obedience to his word.” A point which I find to be nonsensical simply because without a fear of the Lord what reason is their to be obedient? Surely it is more logical to propose that obedience comes from a fear of the Lord? I am also reluctant to agree that true worship arises out of fear of the Lord. However, perhaps that is because I don’t fully understand what it is to fear the Lord.

    I also find the scriptural principle of the voice being the primary mode of worship to be an ignorant interpretation. For sure the voice is a wonderful gift of God that we can worship God with and is, as far as appearances are concerned, the most prominent and easily recognisable form of worship, however, this does not necessarily mean that it is the primary way to worship God (cf. Romans 12:1-2).

    Finally, Josh, in your final paragraph in comment number 4 you use the phrases, “our worship,” “uninhibited worship,” and “inhibited form of worship.” Again I find myself wondering what it is you exactly mean when you use these terms, what example do you have in your head which characterises your understandings?

    In response to you, Aaron, I would simply like to comment on your statement, “God wants our pure, hearful worship – but only when we are completely abandoned to him in awe and reverence.” I agree that God wants our pure, heartful worship, yet I look at myself and I don’t see someone completely abandoned to him in awe and reverence, but I still see God accepting my broken worship. God desires our pure, authentic, unreserved, uninhibited, reverent, awe-filled worship, yet I believe he still desires our profane (we will assume anything other than pure is profane), somewhat authentic, at times reserved, at times inhibited, at times irreverent, broken, but nevertheless offered worship. He accepts our worship as it is, and as it is our worship as it is he will bring us to mature to purity, authenticity, truth, uninhibited, reverential and awesome worship.

    Sam

  8. Josh C. on said:

    Hi Sam. Perhaps I should have taken more time to formulate my own responses.

    As it is I would prefer to continue from number 6, as it is here I tried to bring the debate back to my original point of contention – even if I did not make that clear initially. My original comments were perhaps not as clear as I would like, but I don’t want to get caught up too much in debating the words and meanings of words that we have been introduced into the conversation. See 1. and 2. in light of what I write in point 6.

    However, You are correct in disagreeing with my comment that God cared less about the Israelites relationship with him than their obedience to the Law. This does seem like a strange thing to say on my part in the context of what we know about God.

    What I’m actually disagreeing with is Aaron’s statement as a starting point for debating the role and function of the Law:

    ‘It is evident throughout the Old and New Testaments that God cares more for our relationship than He does for our absolute obedience to the Law. These are obviously not mutually exclusive, but the Torah was put in place to further the Israelite’s – and the rest of the world’s – relationship with Yahweh, not to constrain and restrict this relationship. The Torah wasn’t even needed for one to gain righteousness, such as in the example of Abraham, who was justified by faith a long time before Moses ever existed.’

    Of course God cares more about our personal relationship with him than any legalistic obedience to the Law. After all – the whole point of the Law was that could never save, only condemn. But this is the wrong way to understand how the Israelites were expected to act and behave when they where under the Law. God expected obedience under the Law. Simple as that. When David failed to fulfill the statute of the Law, Uzzah died. The reason for David’s failure (lack of reverence etc) is not important for this debate.

    I do not believe my point regarding the fear of the Lord to be nonsensical. To be sure obedience comes from a fear of the Lord as well, but my original point is valid. Following the Law, even if it was mechanically, legalistically or in ignorance, lead the Jews to develop a fear of the Lord. This is not an alien thought. Change the behavior [by following the Law] to change your thoughts [Fearing the Lord]. Although I’m not saying vice versa does not work either. I don’t really understand how it could be any other way?

    In regards to my statement concerning the primacy of the voice in worship, I have been mistakenly using the ‘worship’ as a synonym for ‘praise’ throughout this conversation. That is my mistake. The voice is the primary mode of praise.

    Finally, I believe what Sam concludes in his final sentences is not incompatible with what I argue in point 6 regarding the idea of abandonment being not a particularly helpful one.

  9. Josh, I did not mean it to sound as though you were arguing against sincere worship. I appreciate the discussion 🙂
    When referring to abandonment to God, I’m referring to absolute selfless giving of ourselves to God. In abandoning ourselves to God, we are leaving ourselves behind and trusting our lives to God. The phrase has been common in Catholic theology for a while. I did not mean for an etymological discussion of the phrase, nor for the phrase to become a label, but I think the inference is evident.
    It is true that there is a contrast between Samuel-Kings and Chronicles, but we cannot allow ourselves to read one into the other. We may analyze them both when developing a thematic, or systematic theology, but in exegetical discussion, we must restrict ourselves to Samuel alone to understand chapter 6. Thus it is evident that the Deuteronomist is not concerned with the method of worship, rather is concerned more with the fact that they are worshipping, despite everything else that is going on. Perhaps there are other passages throughout the bible that deal with limitations on worship, such as in Chronicles, but this passage isn’t concerned with that. And if it cannot be found in a Deuteronomistic book (such as Samuel, or anywhere where the focus is largely on the covenant and covenantal stipulations/conditions), I doubt there would be much more discussion on worshipping within the parameters of the law elsewhere.
    Humble worship can take any form. Dancing like David, shouting like the Israelites, speaking in tongues, singing a new song, singing a hymn to an old piano, working diligently, or working hard at something to do your best for God, can all be forms of worship. In David’s case, we see him absolutely humble before the Lord. For a king to strip down to priestly clothes (the linen ephod), and to dance and sing, to the point where his own wife despises him, is fairly extravagant.
    I’m not entirely sure if God expected absolute obedience to the Law. Sam is the OT expert of the two of us, maybe he can elaborate. But from my understanding, God built into the law things for the Israelites to do WHEN they disobeyed. All the way through the Pentateuch are dispersed methods of sacrifice, for when they sinned – not if. Hence, God knew they were going to sin. Romans 3 tells us that the purpose of the law is to reveal sin. The purpose of the law wasn’t to save or to condemn, it was to bring the Israelites to the knowledge that without God’s saving power and grace, they had no hope at all.
    I can understand something of what you say, in that obedience can lead to a fear of the Lord. I agree to some aspect, in that obedience and following the Lord leads to a deeper relationship and deeper revelation of who he is, which, in turn, should develop a fear of the Lord. However, the fear of the Lord comes first, as is made clear throughout Proverbs.
    Sam, I think your point is an excellent point. He wants our worship, however that may look and however mediocre it is. It would be impossible to worship God perfectly, as we are in sinful flesh. I don’t think, however, we can worship without some form of selflessness, or other-focus. True worship is selfless worship, or is – to use the phrase again – abandoning ourselves to God.
    And, despite us getting very off topic, it is that selfless, humble, God-centered and God-focused worship that was my point all along. Whether we can worship in such a way or not, if we give ourselves completely to God, selflessly and humbly placing God as our everything, kneeling before his throne, our worship will be acceptable, as that is what God desires from us.

  10. Our worship is acceptable as long as we are selflessly focused on God, not on anything else, is my point.

  11. Josh C. on said:

    Your final comment (10) is something on which I am happy to agree. ‘Selflessly giving of ourselves to God’, humility, God-centered, God-focused – not a problem.

    My objection is to the theological term ‘abandonment’ due to my belief – perhaps unfounded – that it has the potential to be misleading, or at the least, unclear. It’s unnecessaryness lies in the ability of other, more scripturally based words and phrases to describe the same thing. Perhaps this is simply pedantry on my part.

    Please do not discount my exegesis of the Samuel and Chronicles records so readily. You are correct in stating that perhaps we cannot directly contrast the Samuel passages with the Chronicles – but as they both refer to the same incident, one can shed light on the other. As Robert Alter writes in ‘the Art of Biblical Narrative’: ‘The Bible constantly insists on parallels of situation and reiterations of motif that provide moral and psychological commentary on each other’.

    I cannot agree that ‘humble worship can take any form’. I would prefer ‘many forms’ – at least for the moment. I am, as of yet, unconvinced that we can draw the lesson you suggest from this passage. We are still left with the problem of explaining what the differences are between the two incidents in both the Samuel and Chronicles accounts. Or just the Samuel account if you prefer.

    You claim that the Deuteronomist is not concerned with the method of worship. Perhaps you are right. But knowing as we do, that he does choose to describe the worship in two clearly different ways – what is his concern? Are you happy to accept this as a purely stylistic choice? Unrelated to the rest of the themes going on in the chapter?

    Finally – slightly unrelated from the rest of the discussion, I don’t want to make a big deal about the fear of the Lord versus obedience. As you say, the one leads to the other and vice versa. ‘Fear the Lord and keep his commandments’ declares Solomon in Ecc 12:13. In the very story we are discussing it is David’s newfound fear of Yahweh that leads to his obedience to the Law. My original point was really just that this does not exclude the fact that under the Law the people of Israel were forced (sometimes), by kings and prophets, into obedience prior to any fear of the Lord.

    God required total obedience to the Law, that much is clear. But as you say, the whole point was to make the Jews understand what sin was, and how they could never save themselves through sacrifice and burnt offerings. They would always fail. As I noted in my second post, the Law was to bring the Jews to Christ. The purpose was not to condemn, but that was all it could do. It even condemned the one man who never broke the Law – Christ. As Paul writes in Galations 3:13, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’

  12. I never merely said ‘abandonment’, rather ‘abandonment to God’. Nor did I center my argument on this phrase. I am tending to think this debate over semantics is unnecessary, as the point has been lost. However, I will clarify what I meant. Jeanne Guyon argues that to go deeper in our experience of Jesus, we must abandon ourselves, giving all we have to God. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in 1751, says that Christians “have been called by God to unite themselves with Him by a loving abandonment.” My reason for quoting these two examples is to show that I have not coined the phrase. Abandonment means to leave alone; to desert. Is that God deserting us? No. Is that us deserting God? No. It is us deserting ourselves to God. This implies a selfless humility, in that we are denying ourselves – “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.'” (Luke 9. 23-24). Old Testament examples of this idea of self-denial can be found in Leviticus 16.31, where on the Holy Day, the Israelites were commanded to deny themselves, again in verses 27 and 32. I’m unsure of whether or not the exact word ‘abandonment’ is used in the bible, but it’s inferences are, and – as I said – I didn’t center my argument around the word, also using words that are common in the bible. Abandonment to God still is, in my opinion, an appropriate phrase, as the connotations of surrender and the reverence of God, are evident.
    By your reasoning, we can read John into any of the Synoptics. But by doing so we miss the author’s intentions and purpose. Samuel-Kings focus on the socio-political activity of Israel, with particular reference to the blessings and curses of dis/obedience to the covenant; The Books of Chronicles are a post-exilic commentary of the story presented in Samuel-Kings, with particular focus on God’s work through His people, and the people’s faith in Yahweh. I’m not disputing that one book can provide parallels on the other, and shed light on certain areas. However, when that influences the interpretation of a particular passage, we miss the author’s intent. The author of Samuel was not the author of Chronicles; the audience of Samuel was not the audience of Chronicles. Each had different purposes and theological motifs. Furthermore, the author and audience of Chronicles knew more more and had experienced more than the author and audience of Samuel. Therefore, in the interpretation of 2 Samuel 6, we MUST constrain ourselves to that very passage and to it’s context within the book. Only then can we examine it in it’s canonical context, when determining an Old Testament systematic theology.
    For example, your argument for these two different brackets of worship – one ‘better’ than the other – is heavily influenced by combining Samuel and Chronicles, when 2 Samuel 6 sheds barely any light on these two different ways. For the moment, I’m unconcerned with the theology in Chronicles, because my examination is strictly exegetical, rather than systematic.
    There is something of a difference between the manner of carrying the Ark after Uzzah’s death, but it is evident that this has come from a deeper reverence of Yahweh. Yahweh didn’t strike down all the people, despite all of them participating in this disobedience. Nor did Yahweh strike them down immediately. They all broke the law, but it was only until one of them actually touched the Ark which was the problem. The manner of bringing the Ark into Jerusalem changed after that, out of fear of the Lord. Yahweh’s point was not lost on them: He can strike them down at any moment, if he wishes.
    However, there is not much elaboration on this in 2 Samuel 6, thus the author’s focus wasn’t on the exact obedience of the covenantal stipulations – as I mentioned in a previous comment. The intent of the author was to express the attitude of the people toward Yahweh; the reverence of the Lord. Hence, the passage further provides an insight into God’s gracious nature, and desire for relationship, over and above obedience.
    I return to my original point that this passage is to do with the reverence of Yahweh and the correct response to this attitude, expressed in our total abandonment of ourselves and of our own desires, to the Lord.
    Without going deeper into a discussion about the fear of the Lord and the purpose of the Law, I will note that the Law ‘could do’ much more than condemn. It was put in place as a necessary part of the covenantal relationship, but within those stipulations were ways to atone for those sins, ie. sacrifice, etc. Thus, Yahweh knew they were going to break those rules, but out of his gracious nature did not allow these acts of disobedience to destroy the covenantal relationship. This is further exemplified by Abraham being put to sleep, and Yahweh moving between the corpses, symbolizing the fact that if he broke any of the covenantal stipulations, he would die. God being God cannot die. Thus, God can never break any of the stipulations. However, Abraham (having been asleep) was not held to the same consequence. The Israelites endured for thousands of years, even to today, and God’s original promise of ‘You will be my people, and I will be your God’ endures, and will find it’s fulfillment in the parousia. The prophets testified that Yahweh’s anger was on the pride of his people, and Paul argues that pride and idolatry are the root of sin.
    Thus, we return to my original point, that true worship is found in absolute humility and selflessness before God.

  13. Josh C. on said:

    I’m sorry for how sidetracked this argument has become. I have clearly worded my arguments poorly as I hold the majority of the views you have just written and believed I was expressing them as such.

    I’d like to get back to your original post. I believe there is an inherent contradiction between humbling ourselves before the Lord and worshiping in ‘whatever way feels natural’.

    David’s dance is an incredible and inspiring expression of joy – but I’m not sure we can draw the lesson from it that this is appropriate for regular worship. Most dancing is motivated by fleshly desires, not spiritual ones. It can be spiritual, as David demonstrates, but the sheer uniqueness of this episode should be a lesson to us in itself. Most references to dancing in the Bible are either negative, or prophetic – describing the dancing of the future kingdom age, and to some extent this is how I see the David’s dance – as a foretaste of that age. This actually fits with the prophetic nature of many of David’s Psalms.

    As I write this I’m not sure if this is to what you are referring in the paragraph beginning ‘Perhaps one day soon’.

    But look, I’m disappointed with how I have made my argument. We can leave the discussion here if you would like. My understanding on this passage has changed as we have been debating and I intend to study it further to better understand what is going on here.

  14. cunningsam on said:

    I would like to continue the discussion because I think it is more helpful to examine/investigate things with others as well as on your own at times. Josh I would very much appreciate it if you could answer at least some of the questions pertaining to semantics such as the conclusion of your fourth comment, however, I will live on if you decide not to.

    Your most recent comment brings us back on topic and I hope to remain on topic. I think to move into comparison between Samuel and Chronicles in the way you have stretches the limits of exegesis; so I would suggest we limit it to Samuel as much as possible for the time being. Similarly I think to suggest, from the 2 Samuel 6 passage, that ‘David prioritised worship over God’s principles’ or that ‘acceptable worship stems from total obedience to his word’ is moving beyond the bounds of exegesis. While it is true that there is a contrast between the two cases I would argue that there is nothing to adequately suggest that any instance of worship was better. Even though God struck down Uzzah I do not understand it to extend to a rejection of their worship or at least a complete rejection of their worship. If we understand the whole procession to be an act of worship then the only part of that worship we can say God did not approve of was the manner in which the Ark was carried or even only that Uzzah touched the Ark; what might of God’s reaction been had the oxen not stumbled and the Ark made it to Jerusalem?

    David’s reaction of fear is followed up by one of rejoicing; perhaps he was reminded of God’s steadfast lovingkindness and faithfulness in his blesssing on Obed-Edom’s household. There is nothing in Samuel to say that David transported the Ark correctly this time (we gain that insight from Chronicles) only that it was transported differently. From this point the focus of the attention shifts from the Ark, the very presence of Yahweh, to David’s worship. In reading this section of the passage we get a picture of David dancing before the Lord as an act of uninhibited worship (I love the part in the story where David just denys Michal so hard in vv. 20-22 the result of which is found in v. 23).

    So we come to Josh’s most recent post. I would argue your point that there is an inherent contradiction between humbling ourselves and worshipping in ‘whatever way feels natural.’ While we must be mindful of our perception, to suggest there is an ‘inherent contradiction’ is far too strong a word of caution. I think as a new creation, being transformed to the likeness of Christ, indwelt with the Spirit, we hold a natural inclination to turn toward the Father, in whatever form that may take. Furthermore I think to state that ‘most dancing is motivated by fleshly desires, not spiritual’ presents an approach rife with prejudice. For sure, dancing is susceptible to perversion, as is every form of creativity, but actions of creativity must never be viewed through a lense of prejudice. As for drawing a lesson from the passage for regular worship – what is “regular worship?” This is one of the reasons I hoped that you would define your understanding of worship as I believe we have very different understandings of the term. Keeping in mind I have a working definition of worship I would define it quite loosely as something, or anything, offered to God in response to that which he has already given us. Anything, not just the congregational, or corporate, worship characterised by bigger, louder and more populist, with more technology and equipment and higher production values, or a more modest approach. Such a definition allows for diverse worship which can take almost any form; if not any (perhaps with a limitation ensuring that form is not perverted). Therefore for Aaron to say that David, “was completely dedicated to God, uninhibited to worship the Lord as he pleased,” is entirely appropriate to the passage and I believe is where the emphasis of the passage lies. “True worship like that cannot be beaten, and opens the way to a deeper relationship with God and deeper levels of worship.” True worship, whatever that may be, places the emphasis on God. In awe and reverence we respond to God’s forever enduring faithfulness and steadfast love – which is our act of humble worship.

  15. Josh C. on said:

    I am happy to limit the discussion to the events as portrayed in 2 Samuel 6, but I feel we have to understand the themes in context of the Bible as a whole.

    I will not define worship. For the purpose of this discussion, what I have been referring to is primarily the aspect of worship involving praise to the Lord, and the form this takes. By regular worship I mean the kind of predictable worship that occurs within the institution of the church – such as Sunday morning etc. I’m also happy to accept your definition.

    I cannot disagree that when we are spiritually in tune with Christ, we have a natural inclination to turn towards the Father and our behavior is unlikely to pervert what is pleasing to him. This is the position David is in. The problem I have is that I cannot see David’s behavior here as anything other than exceptional. That word may cause me trouble, but I say it because the incident here and the events surrounding it are undeniably unique. I’m not suggesting that therefore only David may partake of this kind of worship, but that it represents just one manifestation of acceptable praise throughout the text of the Bible.

    For all that we are transformed in Christ, the process is an ongoing one that will never reach completeness prior to the resurrection and judgment of the dead. We are subject to sinful desires and whilst we may attain moments of oneness with the mind of God – they are just that, moments. David was a ‘man after God’s own heart’, and yet he was also an adulterer and a murderer.

    There are all kinds of qualifiers and suggestions for worship that emerge throughout the Bible and which should give us thought before suggesting that we are in a position to uninhibitedly worship the Lord. For example, is our worship separate, unassociated from the music of the world around us? (2 Cor 6:17) and Do we understand distinctions between Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs and is our worship incorporating an appropriate mix? (Col 3:26) Does our music teach and admonish?

    To get back to 2 Sam 6, I do not believe God’s anger was a rejection of the first worship, simply that David’s attitude and lack of obedience is manifest in the emphasis which which their worship their takes. This is the purpose of the contrast. The proof that the ark of transported correctly comes from v13: ‘when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps’ which in light of what we know of God’s requirements for Israel to keep the Law (Deut 31v26), and the commandments regarding the transport of the Ark of the Lord. (Ex 37v1-5, Deut 10v8)

  16. It is important to look at themes in canonical context, but only after having analyzed the passage’s specific purpose and meaning. Determining a systematic theology on worship is helpful and important, but requires, firstly, an understanding of the passage without allowing presuppositions (or at least what can be avoided) or ideas presented in separate books, or even passages within that book, influence the interpretation.
    My definition of worship is the same as Sams, but I will further add that worship is a whole-life activity, and also further emphasis that worship is a response to God. However, my original post was focusing somewhat on musical, congregational praise, and hence am happy for that to remain the topic in this discussion.
    I understand your reasoning for considering this example as exceptional and unique, and I agree. I do, however, think that anything that occurs in the Church, occurs by the power of the Holy Spirit, or any form of evangelism, worship, etc. is exceptional in itself, as it is supernatural. I will also add that most things God does are unique. He only flooded the world once, only picked one family, one nation, there is only one sacrifice required – and nothing else – for our personal salvation, and the salvation of the Church, etc. His creation is unique, evidenced by the many facets of that creation, and the many varieties of people, animals, colours, wonders, landscapes, stars, even the infinite possibilities within that; yet God has a plan and knows each individual aspect of his creation intimately. When I read the beginning of Acts, where the Spirit descends like tongues of flame and everyone starts speaking in tongues, to the point where other people think they are drunk, I see something not that dissimilar to David’s example. I see many examples of exceptional and unique moments throughout the bible and within my own life. Therefore, I fail to see the importance of distinguishing this example. It is one example of humble worship, which can take many many forms, as you said, “it represents just one manifestation of acceptable praise”. I guess I am just a little confused about what your point really is, as neither Sam or I have said David’s expression of worship is not exceptional or unique, rather that was pretty much the thrust of my original post, that it IS just one expression of many forms of humble worship, that it IS exceptional, that it IS special. I chose that out of a possible myriad of examples for no reason other than it is a particular favourite of mine, and that it is one of the most powerful examples of worship.
    I’m not entirely convinced about your remarks regarding our transformation. Yes, I agree we do grow and our spiritual life and relationship with God develops and deepens over time, and I agree that we are subject to sinful desires. My concern is that it seems you’ve skipped the very present reality of our oneness with God, our current recreated nature, and our permanent state of grace and peace before God. Romans 5 tells us we are in a permanent state of peace with God, having been justified by the blood of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1.4, John 17.21, Eph 2.5, each reveal the fact that we are one with God. Hence, our oneness with ‘the mind of God’ is not limited to mere moments, but it is a permanent feature of the new creation that is the Christian.
    Two paradoxes inevitably arise. The first is that of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. Jesus brought in the New Kingdom, but that Kingdom will only find fulfillment in his return. Sin is defeated, but still holds power over this world. The second is that of our nature. It is not a dualistic nature, in that we have two natures within us – that of Jesus Christ, and that of sinful desire. Rather, as Christians we share Christ’s nature, we are justified and we are made righteous and holy before God. However, at the same time we are slaves to this sinful world. Paul eloquently discusses this in Romans 7.14-24, and at the end he says, “I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Thus, a paradox. I find to truly understand Christian theology, the ability to at least accept paradoxes is important.
    Also, it again seems to me that your idea of worship is incredibly bound up within obedience. Not specifically to do with music, 2 Cor 6 does deal with separation from the world, but Jesus Himself commands us to go into the world and proclaim the Good News to all peoples. And in fact 2 Cor 6.3-13 deal with Paul’s evangelism efforts to the Gentiles. Paul became a Greek for the Greeks and a Jew for the Jews. Thus, Paul’s reference to the separation from the world has to do with the influence of the world, i.e. not to let the world influence you, lest you yourself turn bad. Forcing this passage to directly refer to musical worship is pushing the exegesis. Also, Col 3:26….??
    My point, as was my point in my original post, is that God desires MORE THAN ANYTHING else our heartfelt worship and praise, our love and relationship. We CAN use the styles of worship within this world for God’s glory, and I don’t think it matters so much if we understand or not the difference between Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs (which is different to the others in some way..?). I lead the worship band at my youth group so I understand the importance of an even spread of styles, suited to the audience, purpose, message, leading of the Spirit, etc. and it is very good to use songs to teach and admonish, but when these ‘requirements’ become more important than the worship itself, we lose the point. The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10.38-42 is a good example of this.
    I’m sorry, I feel like I got off track a bit there. My point for all of this stays the same – God desires us, completely us; our love and our worship, and our humble desire for Him; we are found in Him and our worship is acceptable to him. Within our sinful nature, we can never absolutely worship God perfectly – even David, a man after God’s own heart, could not – but despite our sinful nature, we are one with God, and through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, our worship of the Father is acceptable and brings glory to God.

  17. Josh C. on said:

    That was an interesting reply Aaron – thanks for that. Far from getting off topic I feel you’ve brought it right back to my initial concerns.

    I cannot enter into too much of a theoretical debate concerning Bible study and interpretation. My position has already been stated, although it’s probably far more nuanced than you might suppose. I hope our discussion can continue regardless.

    You mention the unique events that flow throughout the Bible, and this is absolutely true. What isn’t unique however is the principles that underlie and motivate those events. In addition the types and narrative patterns of these unique often reoccur repeatedly – the classic being the sacrifice of Isaac as a type of the future sacrifice of Christ.

    Now, I believe that the distinction between psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is important simply because Paul bothers making the distinction and because ‘all scripture is given by inspiration of God’ (2 Tim 3:16). You may believe that I’ve missed the point concerning the worship, but surely Paul did not? There must be a way to incorporate any ‘requirements’ concerning worship with the spirit of humility and praise.

    Our congressional worship will always be influenced by the world, but it should transcend that. It must endure through time, place and audience – as the traditional church hymns of the past once did. Whilst I actually listen to a fair bit of contemporary Christian music – I find it hard deny that most of it lacks the power and spiritual depth of the music of the past. To the outside observer, Christian music seems a sad pastiche of popular music, and an undeniable decline over the past century. But these views are a bit of a tangent and not entirely relevant to the discussion.

    You are correct to surmise my idea of worship (and by extension, life in Christ) is ‘incredibly bound up within obedience’. What could be the alternative? John is very clear in 1 John 2:1-6:

    “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

    We must strive for total obedience, without ever presuming that this is possible without Christ as our advocate. We cannot ever think that following God’s commandments or requirements is an obstacle to developing a relationship with him. Christ proved this by living a perfect life of EXACT obedience to the Law of Moses.

    I guess in the end, my point is that the original question was ‘what makes a successful worship leader?’ which requires a fairly comprehensive (‘systemic  theology’ if you like) examination of biblical principles, rather than using the one example of King David, from which, in isolation, the wrong lesson could be drawn.

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