I have the privilege of looking after my two nieces, Tilly and Pippa, fairly regularly, and we always have a wonderful time together. I have my own daughter as well (Lucy), and the three of them especially love music: dancing and singing. Recently, as the four of us were hanging out, I was especially blessed by this shared joy.
To set the scene, I was sitting in an armchair in our playroom (which was a chaotic mess) towards the end of a busy day with all three girls. I was having a much needed coffee and watching them play, when Pippa, three years old, requested I put on her favourite song “Shout Hosanna” (by Passion Conference).
As I sat and watched, these three little girls (five, three, and one) danced around the mess, banging on drums and shaking maracas, singing praises to King Jesus at the top of their lungs.
I watched in awe, grinning uncontrollably (and possibly shedding some happy tears), being totally blessed by the worship of these three little women of God. And I thought to myself, “if I am so blessed by this, imagine what joy this must bring to God, our father!”
Often when we look on scenes such as this, we assume such uninhibited, joyful worship (worship is more than song, but for the sake of this article I am referring to worship through music) is reserved for young children, people on stage, or certain 'happy clappy' Christians. At least in the 'brand' of Christianity I am most accustomed to, quiet, thoughtful, reverent worship seems to be the norm.
I understand that there is a place for contemplation (something I need to get better at), and that we should revere God, but personally, when I worship God in song, I regularly have an uncontrollable grin on my face and my arms waving in the air. I can't help it, when I start to praise God through song, joy overflows.
King David had a similar experience. In 2 Samuel chapter six, we read how David and his men retrieve the ark of the Lord, and are so ridiculously happy, so delighted to have God's presence with them again, that they take a mere six steps (verse thirteen) before breaking out the sacrifices. David danced “with all his might” (verse fourteen), in nothing but his jocks (Australian for undergarments)!
The story goes on to say that as David approached the city, as he leapt, shouted, danced, and his men played music, his wife, Michal, saw (and heard, I'm sure) them coming, and she was embarrassed for David. In fact, she “despised” him (verse sixteen). To put it simply, Michal was mortified by David's act of worship.
Michal was so offended by David's display that she didn't just keep it to herself, she waited for him, ready with a sarcastic comment about how dignified he wasn't, even calling him vulgar. Pretty harsh words to deliver to the King of Israel!
For anyone who worships God, David's response to his wife is humbling, powerful, and ultimately, self-deprecating.
“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel - I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes...”(2 Samuel chapter six verses twenty-one to twenty-two)
David did not give two hoots about what anyone, even his wife, thought about his joyful display of worship before the Lord. He didn't care that he looked foolish or silly, he wasn't worried about what people would say about him or if it would affect his position as King. As we can see in his response to Michal, David was completely secure in whom God had made him to be, and he was so overjoyed by the presence of God, that his joy overflowed into pure celebration.
Reflecting on my opening illustration, it seems to me that somewhere between childhood and adulthood, most of us lose something of the joy of worship. Perhaps we are worried about what people might think, maybe we're embarrassed about our singing or inability to clap in time, maybe we just don't feel very joyful to begin with. Whatever it is, often our worship seems more like a chore than a chance to let loose, and 'shout hosanna'.
I'm reminded of that popular 90's hit by Michael W. Smith, “The Heart of Worship”: “I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about you, it's all about you Jesus...”
As I said, of course there are times to reflect, to repent, to be still, but there is also a time for uninhibited joy. If the heart of worship is Jesus, shouldn’t there be times (I would even say more often than not) when we are so pleased by his presence, so grateful for his sacrifice, so full of joy about who he is and what he has done, that the right response is to put fear or embarrassment aside, and to dance before the Lord with all our might?
Next time I come before God in worship, I want to be secure in who God has made me to be, I want to acknowledge who he is and what he has done, and I want to learn from our three little girls (who have so much to teach me), how to joyfully and unashamedly, shout hosanna!
Jess is married to Colin, and they have a one year old daughter, Lucy. Together they are striving to live like Jesus every day, by loving God, loving people, and serving the world with joy.
Jess Currie’s previous articles may be viewed at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jessica-currie.html