14 Aug 2012

Reverence and Reservation, Part 2

In a previous post, we looked at the relationship between reverence and reservation in worship. In particular, reverence should not be equated with reservation. That is, reverent worship is not always reserved worship.

However, let's go back to the same account concerning David and the ark to examine how reservation does fit into David's thinking.

And it was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn. 2 Sam. 6:12-15

The author of 2 Samuel is careful to tell us David was wearing a linen ephod. It's not always common to read such wardrobe details on the pages of Scripture, but this detail draws our attention to David dressing in common clothing rather than special kingly attire. His typical public appearance likely involved royal robes - Saul even wore his royal robe when he went out to hunt David (1 Sam. 24) - but David was reserved in his appearance on this occasion, not wanting to become the center of attention. It might be tempting for the people to see King David in the procession and talk about how great he was for bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, but this celebration was intended to draw the people's hearts and minds to the Lord in remembrance of His presence among them.

The Tower of Babel
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1563)

However, not everyone held to David's way of thinking. His wife, Michal, was appalled at his decision to act as any other "vulgar fellow." Perhaps she feared his reservation would undermine the authority and respect he held as king of Israel (and thereby lessen her status as his wife). She was not married to a common man, but a king, and it was proper for a king to elevate himself above the people. Fortunately, her arguments fell flat and David knew it would be irreverent for him to garner any attention that rightly belonged to the Lord who established him as king.

As we gather for corporate worship, it is helpful to consider how we can mimic David's thinking. As we decide what to wear or how to present ourselves in general, we can ask if we're showing proper reservation. Are we trying to impress another person? Will our appearance draw particular attention to ourselves? Are we concerned about trying to make a certain statement about ourselves?

It would be wise to occasionally ask ourselves if we're trying to set ourselves apart in the eyes of those around us. Do we share David's desire to focus attention on the Lord as He gathers with us or do we want others to sit up and take notice of us? Though David withheld nothing from his worship, he was intentionally reserved in his appearance so he would not compete for attention that rightly belonged to the Lord. Likewise, when we gather for worship, we strive do so as part of a larger body, not as leaders or individuals who are set apart from anyone around us.

As for Michal and her disdain for David's humility before the people, David rebuked her:

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 celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor." 2 Sam. 6:21-22

And it would seem the Lord agreed with David's assessment by reaffirming His selection of David over the entire house of Saul and preventing any further descendants Saul might have gained through Michal (see 2 Sam. 6:23).

To sum up, David's reverence did not produce reservation in his worship, however, it did motivate him toward reservation in his esteem for himself. He maintained a high view of God while cultivating a low view of himself when he engaged in worship. Similarly, it is appropriate that we should express reverence for God through expressions of reservation concerning ourselves.