Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So, David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes. (NIV)
After the worship debacle earlier in which two of the Levites attending the ark of the Lord were struck down by God, King David took time to refocus and go about bringing the ark back to Jerusalem in a proper way. A true celebration was underway that enjoyed the blessing of God upon it. The sacrifices before God were sweet smelling because they were done in a spirit of obedience and humility.
However, David’s wife, Michal, the daughter of Saul, did not worship. She critically observed David and the others and evaluated the worship service by how it appeared to her. Michal was not with everyone else giving herself to the true worship of God. She did not like how David went about worship. The acceptable worship of God was unacceptable to her and she let David know it. Yet, David was undaunted and had his focus where it needed to be. We get a cryptic last note on Michal, describing that she was barren to the day of her death – a note meant to convey both a physical reality of her body, and a spiritual reality of her soul.
So, how are we to worship God? Jesus commented about worship:
“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24, NRSV)
Neither good intentions alone (in spirit) nor appropriate actions alone (in truth) constitute acceptable worship. Both are necessary. The worship Jesus mentioned is literally “to prostrate oneself before God.” In other words, it is to have a disposition and attitude of submission and humility toward God, seeking to obey him as king rather than superimpose our desires on him.
Furthermore, God is near to us and far away from us, at the same time. God is close to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and now in the person of the Holy Spirit. God is also sovereign and far above us, orchestrating the universe. In worship, we appreciate both God’s transcendence and immanence.
The presence of God is both comforting and dangerous. Divine holiness is like a fire, giving us light and warmth; but get too close to the flame and you will get burned, even destroyed. We have collective promises and blessings given to us as God’s people; and at the same time, we have individual responsibilities to know the will of God and do it in the way prescribed for us.
The book of 1 Chronicles gives an additional account of David’s worship service in bringing the ark to Jerusalem, which includes a psalm of thanksgiving to God that he wrote himself to be sung by Asaph and his associates, the worship leaders. Here is part of that psalm:
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Share the news of his saving work every single day!
Declare God’s glory among the nations;
declare his wondrous works among all people
because the Lord is great and so worthy of praise.
He is awesome beyond all other gods
because all the gods of the nations are just idols,
but it is the Lord who created heaven!
Greatness and grandeur are in front of him;
strength and joy are in his place.
Give to the Lord, all families of the nations—
give to the Lord glory and power!
Give to the Lord the glory due his name!
Bring gifts! Enter his presence!
Bow down to the Lord
in his holy splendor! (1 Chronicles 16:23-29, CEB)
After the worship service, after the psalm had been sung by Asaph and the singers, the text goes on to say:
Then David placed Asaph and his relatives, together with Obed-edom and sixty-eight of his relatives, to minister there continually before the chest containing the Lord’s covenant, following the routines required on each day…. With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen by name to give thanks to the Lord, because his faithful love lasts forever. With them were also the trumpets and the cymbals for the musicians and the instruments for God’s songs. (1 Chronicles 16:37, 41-42, CEB)
In Israel, King David instituted that the worship of God was to take place every day – not just one day a week. What is more, David hired hundreds of musicians, singers, and worship leaders to minister before the Lord every single day, twice a day. Every conceivable instrument and voice were used to praise God in worship. New songs were written continually by David, and arranged by Asaph, the lead worship person.
God longs for our worship each day: to remember who we are and who God is; to sing; to confess sin; to claim forgiveness; to read the Holy Scriptures; and to pray. If we all devoted ourselves to worship in such a way, then we can begin to imagine God opening to us blessing upon blessing.
Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning: Grant that we may hear it, read it, mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest it, so that we may embrace worship in body, mind, and spirit through our Savior Jesus Christ in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Amen.