20 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will make merry before the Lord. 22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be based in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.”
Some passages of the Bible become known more for their legend than their fact. Such a passage is the above event from 2 Samuel 6. When David finally followed the biblical instructions for moving the ark of the covenant, what did he also do?> Did he, as some people still readily claim, dance naked before the Lord and the people? I think it likely that you will have heard someone make this claim, but is it truth? Or, as is so often the case, is the story of David’s Full Monty performance actually more like the warping of a secret in the old telephone game, becoming more and more corrupt as it is retold by careless people?
It seems, from a cursory examination of the passage and a few commentaries, David did not dance in the buff. Instead, he was wearing a linen ephod, a priestly garment. “And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod” (2 Sam 6:14). Part of the point of priestly garments, if you recall, is to keep them from exposing nakedness (Exo 28:42-43). Thus, David did not show off anything that would be inappropriate to see.
David’s wife was embarrassed by his behavior, not because David was lewd (though that could be implied in her accusation), but because he behaved in a manner that she did not feel was befitting his station as king. She did not like the idea of the king taking off his symbols of authority and dancing around like a commoner.
Add to this discussion the idea that David was “undignified” in his actions. This is not saying that David was out-of-control, mad, or crazy in any way—regardless of what some popular worship songs have suggested. No, the point is that David would not hold himself aloof as king and refuse to worship the Lord and celebrate the Lord’s glory. The call is not for us to be silly in our worship services or to be chaotic or disorderly in any way; the call is, rather, that none of us assume that we are of too lofty a station in life to humble ourselves before God in the same way as the poorest person on earth.
Oh, and while I’m poking at this story, let me also say that I do not believe that this passage is in any way an argument that dance should be used in modern worship services. The dancing that was done was akin to the kinds of dancing that might occur as celebration in any event. People dance in the aisles of a stadium when their team wins a game. David and others seem to have spontaneously danced for joy. IT was not programmed. It was not an attempt to interpret a song for the benefit of the congregation. It was simply dancing for fun, out of overflowing joy at the presence and honor of God. Such need not be programmed. I’m not calling dance wrong. I’m simply saying that this passage is no argument for the inclusion of programmed dancing in our formal services of worship.
So, stripping the legend from the facts, we still can learn a great deal from David’s actions. He was the king. He did not, however, assume that his kingliness prevented him from humbling himself before the Lord. IT is good for the people of God, when they come to worship, to let go any thought of social rank and to simply, as one body and family, offer praise to God as humble servants of the King of kings.