The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance. — C. S. Lewis
Dancing, I must admit, was never part of the worship tradition in which I grew up. Not ever. Many churchgoers of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations thought of dancing (even outside the church building) as a vice at best—but probably a sin. The idea of presenting an “interpretive dance” or “praise dance” during a worship service would have been unthinkable.
Yet I know that in our church we must have read Bible passages such as Exodus 15:20, where Moses’ sister and other Israelite women celebrated with music and dancing after the crossing of the Red Sea. We loved reading the Psalms responsively, including Psalm 150, which clearly instructs worshipers to praise the Lord “with tambourine and dance.” And I am almost certain that sometime along the way we had a Sunday School lesson in which we were introduced to the story of David’s dancing before the Lord in a linen ephod. The question I had with the story of David’s dancing, however, was whether his dancing was a good thing or an example of what not to do in worship. In all honesty, I still wrestle with that question to this day.
Worship styles today differ significantly from my boyhood experiences. I’ve participated in numerous worship gatherings that feature praise bands, moving (literally) music and songs, and, yes, an occasional interpretive dance presentation. Throughout all of these worship experiences I have been reminded of the importance of David’s rationale for dancing before the Lord as the Israelites brought the ark of God into Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 6:21-22, David said, “I will dance before the Lord, and I will dishonor myself and humble myself even more.” In other words, genuine worship ought to have an audience of one—the Lord. There is definitely a time for joyous celebration in worship, but the celebration should be all about Him, not us. Worship is a time not for promoting ourselves but for humbling ourselves before the One we delight in.
Questions for Further Thought: What do you think is the most important aspect of worship? How can we make sure all of our forms of worship honor the Lord?
David Briscoe is a content editor at Lifeway for Explore the Bible resources.