If Only On the Inside

This morning I’m re-working some thoughts from 2012 after reading Psalm 149 . . .

I was saved into a pretty conservative, pretty low key, church system. While the praise was very heartfelt, it was also very bodily still. Voices were raised with gusto, but hands stayed by the side. And dancing? Well, dancing wasn’t even in the vocabulary.

I remember, years ago, one of my young daughters asking if we’d sign her up for dance lessons. My answer to her was something like, “Why? You can’t use that for the Lord.” Then we enrolled our girls in a Christian school . . . a school led by those of a different ecclesiastical practice than we were used to. The first school assembly of the year began with worship (that’s what we wanted from the Christian school) . . . and as part of that worship there were some “interpretive dancers” (that’s what we didn’t expect from the Christian school) . . . and my daughter returned home that day from school and said, “Dad . . . remember you said you couldn’t use dancing for the Lord? Wrong!!!” (that’s what I love about my girls).

Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre!   (Psalm 149:1-3 ESV)

Praise the LORD? I’m in! Sing out the new song He’s given me? Absolutely! Assemble with His saints . . . be glad in the Maker . . . rejoice in the King . . . make melody to Him with instruments of praise? You bet! . . . I’m there! Praise His name with dancing . . . uh, can I just tap my toe?

Praise His name with dancing. That’s what the inspired word of God says. It will say it again in Psalm 150.

Miriam did it in response to their deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 15:2). Jephthah’s daughter did it as thanksgiving for the victory her father had known in battle (Judges 11:34). David did it when the ark of God was brought home to Jerusalem (2Sam. 6:16). Jeremiah prophesied that when the LORD restored Israel He would also restore their joy and there would be dancing (Jer. 31:13). When the prodigal returned, the father threw a great feast and there was dancing (Luke 15:25). There is something about knowing the great salvation of God that should ignite great joy. And there’s something about great joy which, it would seem, should lead to dancing . . . if only on the inside.

Now dancing for me is still largely connected to the “old man” and the way I lived before knowing Christ. It wasn’t dancing for the LORD . . . it was dancing for other reasons . . . often dark reasons. So while I don’t think I’m being called this morning to embrace a ministry of dancing, there is something in hovering over this verse that speaks of times when the wonder of God should propel the people of God to be all in when it comes to offering up praise to God. That there are times when the soul’s desire to worship will result in the body’s need to move.

I get that there are times when worship is manifest in the “be still and know that I am God” mode. That sometimes, facedown praise evokes a holy hush before the God who is worthy of all manner of praise. But I also fear that sometimes our “be still” praise is more like a “play possum” praise. Lifeless. Unresponsive. I’m not saying that real praise is always dancing praise . . . but that in this possum approach to praise there’s nothing . . . no connection with the God of heaven . . . no response to our God in the midst . . . little rejoicing in the wonder of the fullness of our salvation.

Shouldn’t there be times when some manner of emotional expression is evident when “the godly exult in glory” (149:5) . . . and when the “high praises of God be in their throats” (149:6)? I’m thinkin’ . . .

I get that we’re not all going to be comfortable moving our feet or raising our hands, but shouldn’t we at least be dancing on the inside? And if we’re dancing on the inside won’t it manifest itself in some way on the outside? Faces turned heavenward . . . eyes smiling with love infused joy . . . countenances that shine for having been in the presence of God? Yes, and maybe even a bit of toe-tapping . . . leg shaking . . . wanna be dancing. How do we sing to the Lord a new song . . . how do we praise Him in the assembly of the godly . . . without some expression of joy?

When we come before the God who takes pleasure in His people . . . when we gather to sing together to Him adorns us with salvation . . . how can we not, at least sometimes, end up dancing . . . at least on the inside?

God is worthy of our praise. He delights in our exultation. He inhabits our worship. And He who adorns us with salvation takes pleasure in the sacrifice of the fruit of our lips. So how can we not sing? How can we not be glad and rejoice? And how can we not praise His name with dancing . . . if only on the inside.

All because of joy-filled grace . . . all for His ever deserving glory.

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