Worship and Our Hearts
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In II Samuel 6 we find David dancing as he worships the LORD, while his wife watches with scorn. What can this text teach about our own worship?
Thank you, worship team. If you have your Bible, I invite you to turn to 2 Samuel in your Old Testament, 2 Samuel 6. This is the fourth and last Sunday and this month's emphasis on the Christian practice of worship. And this morning, we go back into the Old Testament to a story. It's not one of your more well-known stories in the Old Testament. If you've done an Old Testament read through, you may have come across it, but you may not have been sure of what was going on in the story. And we're going to unpack that story this morning as part of looking at what does it mean for us to be more and more engaged in worship? I'm going to pick up the story at verse 12 of Second Samuel, Chapter six. There is some content before it, of course, that is relevant, but we'll try and fill that in as we go. So let's hear God's word. So David went down to Gath and he brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed Edom to the city of David, that's Jerusalem, with a great celebration. After the men who were carrying the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps, David sacrificed a ball and a fattened calf, and David danced before the Lord with all of his might wearing a linen ephod.
So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and with the blowing of Ram's horns. But as the Ark of the Lord entered the city of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him. They brought the Ark of the Lord and set it in the place inside the special tent that David had prepared for it. And David sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Hosts. Then he gave to every Israelite man and woman in the crowd a loaf of bread and a cake of dates and a cake of raisins. Then all the people returned to their homes. When David returned to 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 uncovering himself in the sight of the servant girls like any vulgar person might do". David retorted to Michael, "I was dancing before the Lord. 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'm willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes. I will be honored by those servant girls you spoke about." So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life. What is the context of this story, the people of Israel, at least the people who lived in the city of Jerusalem, the city of David, were celebrating the bringing of the ark of the Covenant, the ark of God into the city of Jerusalem, really for its first time. And the ark of the Covenant is described in Exodus 25. You can go there a little later if you want, and you can look and you can see how God describes how it's to be made and its purpose and what it's for. And then if you flip ahead a few chapters to Exodus 37, you can see the how it was actually accomplished and how it was built. Now, this ark, as you may know, if you've studied the Old Testament, at all it contained the tablets that had the Ten Commandments on it. It contained Aaron's rod. It contained a jar of manna. And 70 years earlier, 70 years before we pick up this story here in second Samuel six, the ark was captured by the Philistines. And for a short time, the Philistines kept it with them in their nation, their territory with disastrous results.
God brought plague and sickness on the Philistines to the point where they finally repented and they sent the ark away. And then for about the next 50 years, the ark resided in the home of a man named Abinadab. And during this time David becomes King. Saul is no longer king, David becomes king, and David desires, rightly so, to bring the ark into the city of David, Jerusalem, the capital city, to restore it to its place among its among the Covenant people. So he attempts this. We didn't read these verses, but you can read about his first attempt in the first 11 verses of second Samuel Chapter six, but again, with disastrous results. He did not follow God's instructions for how the ark was to be moved. And so God's judgment comes down and someone dies as a result of that. And it strikes fear into the heart of David and all the people with him at that time. They don't bring the ark into Jerusalem. They store it for, at least for a short time, nearby Jerusalem in the home of a man named Obed Edom. And that's where we pick up the story when David hears about the blessing on the household of Obed Edom because of the arks presence, and then he goes to rightly bring it back to Jerusalem. Now, what is significant about this? Well, the ark is the symbol of the Lord's presence among his people.
God is everywhere. God is omnipresent. So you can't confine him to one place or one area. But God in his graciousness, God, in order to be understood by his people, he manifests his presence. And for the people of Israel at that time, he manifests his presence around this symbol, this ark of the covenant. The ark itself wasn't God, but God chose to make his presence known. And so it was entirely appropriate that David bring in the ark of the Covenant, that symbol of God's presence into the capital city, to be there among the covenant people. So you can understand why bringing the ark into Jerusalem finally, after all this time, it erupted in worship. It created this event, this celebratory event of worship and it's worship that we see that all the people of Israel join in. I mean, we see David reacting and leaping and dancing. But the text makes it clear it's all the people of Israel, really all the people in Jerusalem at that time. We see it especially in David, though, don't we? In verse fourteen, we see that David was worshipping unrestrained. It says that he was dancing with all his might before the Lord. And then there's this interesting reference that he was wearing a linen ephod while doing that. Now, what's a linen ephod? Again, if you know your Old Testament, there's a special ephod that the priests wore. That's not what's being talked about here.
There's a more common ephod. It's almost an undergarment, but not in the way that we think of when we think of underwear. It's a very common garment that would be worn by the Levites, the men who assisted the priests in worship. It was the garment of the common people. That's not all that he was wearing at the beginning of this event, we don't see this here in second Samuel, but if we look at the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 15, we see 1 Chronicles 15:27 that as this began, David was wearing a robe, a linen robe over his ephod. What's this robe? This is his kingly robe. This is his his uniform. You might say that that indicated that he is king of Israel. But First Chronicles 15 tells us that at the beginning of this event, he takes off his kingly robe. He lays it aside. So as this worship is happening, he's wearing what everybody else is wearing. He's wearing a common linen ephod. That's even implied in Michael's comment in verse 20, when she accuses him of shamelessly uncovering himself, she's talking about the fact that he took off his kingly robe. What's going on here? Well, David is humbling himself. David is not coming before God to worship him as the king of Israel. He's humbling himself before God by laying aside his kingly robes. Store that in your mind, we will come back to that.
Verse 16 describes David leaping and dancing before the Lord. There is nothing unrestrained about how he's worshipping, is there? He is he is not reserved. He is worshipping God with his full heart manifested even in his bodily actions. Why? He's filled with joy. He's filled with joy that the presence of the Lord is being brought into Jerusalem. He's filled with joy as he reflects upon all God has done for him and all God has done from Israel. And it's that joy that bubbles up in him that that he doesn't restrain. He lets it come out with leaping and with dancing. David abandons himself, we could say, in the worship of the Lord. There is nothing restrained about his enthusiasm. He lets his zeal loose. Now, notice the contrast between David and his dress and his behavior and Michal or Michael. And let me let me make a note on that pronunciation. I'm going to I'm going to say, Michael, throughout the rest of this time, the Hebrew name, we're not exactly sure how to pronounce it. And it's got this guttural in it. It's like Michal or Michal and I don't know how to say it. I'm not going to say it well. So I'm just going to go with Michael for the rest of the sermon. But that's that is who I'm speaking about. But look at how we see of Michal or Michael now.
I'm catching myself to it. Look at what we see Michal and how she reacts to what's going on here. Again, verse sixteen, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. Now, that's an interesting observation, all of Jerusalem are in the streets. They've known the ark is being brought into Jerusalem and so all the people of Jerusalem gather in the streets to worship and celebrate the ark being brought in. But even though she has the choice Michal for whatever reason. We'll see. Maybe in a moment she stays in her or her palace. She stays and she just looks down on what's happening from her window. The way I would put it is this. Michael observes the worship, but she doesn't join in to the worship. Michal is is is withholding herself, she is she is detached, she is calm and collected or cool and collected. She is she is unmoved by the enthusiasm and the passion of the people. Michal observes the worship, but she doesn't join in the worship. Hold that thought as well. We'll come back to it. But what is I think most revealing is what we see about the way that Michal reacts to David's worship. She reacts to David's worship, we're told in the text with scorn, with contempt. Verse 16, when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him. You know what contempt is. John Gottman, Dr.
John Gottman, pretty well nationally known marriage researcher, counselor and marriage researcher, did this extensive study of married couples, particularly married couples that were struggling. Watch them study them over time, which couples made it and their marriage survive, which couples ended up breaking up and getting divorced? He found four factors four factors that he could routinely see in some pattern in all of the couples that didn't make it, that ended in divorce. And one of those stood out more than any other factor. And that was contempt when there was contempt in a marriage, one spouse towards the other or both spouses towards each other, he said virtually the marriage is over at that point. Hard to recover when there's contempt in the marriage. Contempt in a relationship is that way that we look down and we judge somebody else. We in some way, even if we wouldn't say this, we think that we're better than them. And so we look down on them with scorn. We speak to them sarcastically. Well, that's what we see here of Michal towards her husband, by the way. I haven't mentioned that yet. But this is her husband. Michal has contempt towards David as she sees him worship. Now, there is a complicated marriage between David and Michal, and I don't have time to go into it all. But Michal was actually David's first wife. He married other women, but she was his first wife. Michael, as we're told over and over again in this text is the daughter of Saul and very early and God raising David up.
Michal becomes infatuated. She she falls in love, I guess we could say, with David, the great hero. And so Saul gives Michal to David in marriage. But then, you know, if you've read through the stories of Saul that Saul quickly turns against David, Saul pursues David and tries to kill them. And in turning against David, he takes Michal back from David. He actually gives her to another man in marriage. And Michal remarries, marries this second man. Well, sometime later in the story, after much time has passed and there's been a lot of water under the bridge, David takes Michal back and her husband, her second husband isn't dead. He rips her really from his arms and and takes her back. And so this is a complicated relationship. This is a woman probably who, again, in early infatuation and then a lot of water under the bridge and and controversy and conflict between her husband and her father, that probably led to some distancing. And then we'll give her credit. She may have genuinely come to love her second husband and then being forced to leave him and come back to David. It's a complicated relationship, but I think what we see the most about her is in the author's reference here. And second, Samuel six to he doesn't refer to her as the wife of David, does he? He refers to her several times as the daughter of Saul.
And I think that tells us a lot. She likely resented David succeeding her father's throne because she's the daughter of Saul and she knows if David becomes king, then Saul's lineage, Saul's house is going to come to an end. And she probably had some bitterness about that. She probably, as the daughter of Saul, felt that she was a king's daughter. And yet here is her husband, who is embarrassing her by his behavior. She likely thought, as the daughter of Saul, that for any king to lay aside his his robe, that's just utterly appalling, to lower himself, to put himself among the common people like that. She likely, as the daughter of Saul, thought that his behavior was unbecoming of a king. And so she looks at contempt. She looks with contempt upon his his zeal. For her maybe, you know, we don't know if the full extent of her heart, but for her, maybe when you worshipped it was about how you appear to others. It's formalism, its appearance for her. If you are the king or the daughter of a king or the wife of a king, there is a pride that you must uphold. And all of this spills out in this poisonous contempt that she has, that she demonstrates towards him. Listen to the scorn and the contempt in her words, in verse 20 and just it's dripping with sarcasm, is it not, "how distinguished the king of Israel look today, shamelessly, shamelessly uncovering himself in the sight of the servant girls like any vulgar person might do?" Vulgar - don't read that word necessarily as profane read that word is common.
She she has scorn towards him, contempt towards him because he's made himself who - he's a king and he's made himself like all the common people. And then the reference to servant girls, you know, we can infer from that that what bothered her most is, is all these servant girls that she had there, they're going to be whispering about David, laughing at him behind her back. And so that is what is most upsetting to her. Michal's focus was on how David's worship appeared to others, not to God, but to others. To her, outward appearance was extremely important. And so she's embarrassed by his actions. Why? Because she cares more about what others think about him and therefore her as as the queen than she does about God. Freddy Fritz, a preacher I like, said this, Michal reminds us of people who attend worship, who come to church and attend worship and and really their primary motive is to be seen by others. And so they're all about outward appearance. They're all about what do other people think of me as I worship? There's no heart relationship with God. What do we know is important to God, 1 Samuel, 16, God says, yeah, man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.
That's what's important to God, not what what you look like in worship. Contrast that with the complete opposite response that we see in David as he responds in verse twenty one, I was dancing before the Lord. I will celebrate before the Lord, what is David acknowledging there by using that phrase over and over again, his worship is for God's benefit. He worships for an audience of one. His actions are all about what is pleasing to God. David's worship is not intended to please others, he's not performing for the crowds. He's not trying to make his wife happy. His focus is not on what other people think of him. Again, store that away; we'll come back to that thought. We see this further in verse 22, he says, yes, and I'm willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my eyes. And David's acknowledging there that even if the servant girls laugh at me behind their backs and before I finish that thought, my guess is the very opposite happened. My guess is that all the servants and all the common people, they see their king worshipping just like them, not as their king just worshipping as a man who loves the Lord God. They see the genuineness of his expression and they're drawn in, I think. But David's saying here, even if I'm humiliated by what the servant girls and others think of me, it's still - I have an audience of one.
I'm not doing it for them. And so I will worship even more like this to please the Lord. He will not focus on himself. His focus is on the Lord. That's the story. What does this story speak to us today about how we worship, I believe it illustrates the truth that that what is important in worship is not about how we dress. It's not about how we sing. It's not about the quality of our voice. It's not about how we act, whether we raise our hands or don't raise our hands. Worship is all about the state of our heart. Now the state of our heart may produce things externally, but what matters to God is the state of our heart, and that's the picture I think that we're given here. This is a real historical story. And it had consequences historically. But even so, or maybe over and beyond that, it's given to us because both David and Michal, they illustrate something for us. Both witness the ark of God coming into Jerusalem. This event that should produce worship, but both respond in very different ways. And the way they respond reveals their hearts. And maybe one of the ways that you can think about this as we go a little further here for these last couple of minutes is: Am I more like David or am I more like Michal as I come to worship? So allow me to guide you in examining your heart, and I need to tell you, I've done this first with my own heart.
This pierces me. And so I've asked these questions of myself first. But let me ask you these questions. First of all, this first question is a little more abstract, but I'll explain it. Do you desire that the ark be restored to its proper place among God's covenant people? OK, that's that's a little vague. So let me let me bring that down to the level where we live. Remember what the ark is. The Ark is the visible presence, the symbol of God's presence among his people. That's under the old covenant. How does God make his presence known to us today through Christ? Christ, Christ Jesus is not only the symbolic presence of God, he is God incarnate, he is God in the flesh, he is Emmanuel God with us. So when we come to worship, just like David's focus was on restoring the ark to its proper place, is our focus in worship, if we are followers of Jesus Christ, is to raise up Christ to his proper place among his people. Is our focus more on - is Christ being lifted up and glorified than it is on whether I like the music or don't like the music or whether I'm comfortable or not comfortable or whether we're standing too much or we're sitting too much or whatever it is.
However, you define whether you like a particular worship service or not. Is it the heart of us; is the center of our heart that Christ is to be lifted up. Christ is to be restored to his proper place among his people. The more we can maintain that focus, the more it brings everything else about worship, about our public worship into perspective. Does your heart desire to see Christ lifted up and glorified? Second question. Will you watch from the window? Or will you join in the celebration? You can come to worship week after week and be watching from the window. You know what I mean? Think about Michal. Michal had the opportunity. She was there in the city, but she didn't join in the worship. Is that you you're here, but you're kind of on the edges, you don't really let yourself get drawn into the worship. Michal was was detached. Michal was unmoved by the enthusiasm and the zeal that she saw among the other people that you? Do you look around and and see other people worshipping and being drawn into worship at you for whatever reasons or whatever is going on in your heart, you know. No, no, you're going to maintain a distance. You're going to be collected. You're going to be calm. You're not going to let this move you. Michal was contemptuous towards the enthusiastic, zealous display of worship. Is that you? Do you look at other people, whether however they're acting, however they're behaving, maybe tears in their eyes, and you look down on them, do you judge them? Do you think that somehow you're better than them? What weak people they must be to be reacting like that? Are you watching from the window or are you joining in the celebration or are you coming down to the street and joining in the celebration, you can come to church Sunday after Sunday and you can watch from the window every one of those Sundays.
Thirdly, will you lay aside your robes and humble yourself? Remember what David did? He removed not just his outer garment, which happened to be a robe, he removed the symbol of his kingship. He took off what distinguished himself from the common people there that day and he laid it aside. What does that tell us, David, wasn't there to be seen as the king, David wasn't there, so that in the midst of worship, everybody gave deference to the king. David was there to join in the worship with all of the other people. He laid aside his kingly robe, humbling himself. What about you? What's your robe? You know, some of us come with a robe of our status, maybe it's status that we gain from our vocation where we work, maybe it's the status we have in the community, maybe it's status that we've accumulated from what we've earned and what we possess. Some of us come wearing the robe of our accomplishments and maybe our educational degrees or all these wonderful things that we've accomplished in life.
Those are not bad. But do we wear them like a robe? Do we wear them in some way to set ourselves apart, to distinguish ourselves? How does that robe, if you insist on wearing it, insist on distancing yourself from other people? How does that robe remove you, hold you back from worship? How does that keep you from joining in? How does that robe even continue to a heart where pride is growing? A.W. Towser says this about worship, worship humbles you. The proud man or woman can't worship God any more than the proud devil can worship God. There must be humility in heart before there can be worship. And this morning, if you're convicted, that in one way or another, you wear a robe as you come in to worship your status, your accomplishments, your position, maybe it's the spirit telling you this morning you need to lay aside your robe. You need to come in your linen ephod. Come and like everybody else, everybody equal at the foot of the cross and worship in that way. Next, are you willing to even look foolish? Remember that phrase that David used, are you willing to even look foolish as you worship? And by that I mean not concerned about what others think of you. That's David. David's actions aren't intended to to please anybody else.
They're intended to please only the Lord. His focus is not, what's the crowd thinking of me? What are those servant girls thinking of me. His focus is only upon the Lord. When you worship, are you performing for other people, whether you are fully engaged or whether you hold yourself back, is what's driving you there? What are the people around me thinking? What's my family thinking? Or as you worship, are you focused on Christ? What pleases him, what brings him glory? Will you offer your worship before the Lord? Remember that phrase that David uses? I will worship before the Lord, I will celebrate before the Lord. Will you offer your worship before the Lord - another word for his pleasure, for his approval alone? Do you perform for the audience or do you perform for the audience of one? Finally, will you celebrate? That's the word that David uses to to describe his what this worship, this day of worship is. Will you celebrate? Will you celebrate with enthusiasm and joyful expression? Not every act of worship is a celebration. There's there's times for for grieving in worship, there's times for repentance in worship. But overwhelmingly in churches all across this nation, celebration is not descriptive of what worship is. And that's what we see. That's what we see in and Psalm 150 that we read today. It's a celebration. And for David, that celebratory spirit, that zeal and that enthusiasm, it bubbled over in leaping and dancing.
That may not be you. But again, what would your heart, if it is genuinely engaged in worship, what would your heart cause your body to do if you let go of the restraint, if you've quit thinking about what other people thought about you, do you hold back in worship avoiding outward expression? Again, I'm not saying that the standard is everybody should be raising their hands, but do you hold back in any way from what God the spirit moving in you would prompt you to do because you're concerned about what other people would think? As you examine your heart, let me close with these comments about worship by Douglas Stewart. This actually comes from a commentary of Exodus not second Samuel, but a commentary on Exodus where the sections where God is prescribing how he is to be worshipped? But it fits so well here. Stewart says this - worship is the first most basic response of a true believer to the true God. It should begin immediately upon conversion. Our worship should continue with regularity and consistency throughout the rest of life, and our worship will be continued forever in heaven. He goes on to say, It is clear in scripture that God enjoys being worshipped and he expects his people to find joy in worshipping him as well. Worship should bring pleasure and benefit both to the worshipper - that's us - and to the true divine object of his or her worship.
That's Christ, that's Christ. Is that your heart? It's not fully my heart, that's what I want my heart to be. We can pray for that. We can ask for that. Let's do that now. Let's pray. We thank you for this story, Lord, in your word. In the midst of where this fits in the history of the Old Testament, it speaks today to us. And Lord, we see in David and Michal, we see two different states of heart as they come to worship. And Lord, it's two different states that help us examine our own hearts. Oh, Lord, I pray that my brothers and sisters here today, they with me would say, I want my heart to be like David's. Too often my heart is like Michal's, make my heart like David's Lord, make worship my first my most basic response to all that you are and all that you have done for us in Christ. Lord your word here, it gives us many ways that the spirit may desire to convict us and to cause us to repent and then change us and transform us. We pray that you do that work. We we open our hearts for you to do that, to examine our hearts and change our hearts by what you've revealed in your word here today, we want to be a people who worship you, who worship you as a celebration. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.