Knee-high Miah II

The other thing I noticed (here’s the one thing) from the book of Nehemiah, is that Nehemiah instructs us not to dance in church. The advocates of shakin’ yer groove thang as part of corporate worship can offer only one justification: “David did it, and he told us in the Psalms to do it”. Well, Nehemiah (and Ezra) record that:

Ezra 3:10: the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel.

(From Neh 12) And the chiefs of the Levites [did] praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch…Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks…and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets…and his relatives…with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them…The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north…So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God…and the priests…with trumpets… And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away…And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.

That’s a lot of instruction for worship. Today, we can nix the “great sacrifices” and “service of purification”, because Christ has fulfilled those for us. But that still leaves a lot of elements: singing, and musical instruments, and standing, and rejoicing, and Neh is full of examples of corporate confession and repentance (see ch 9-10).

But you won’t find any dancing in Nehemiah. Apparently the inspired Biblical author Nehemiah didn’t see dancing as part of David’s instructions for corporate worship.

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8 Responses

  1. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away…

    How does one rejoice? Could dancing before the Lord be incapsulated within the term “rejoicing”?

    This service sounds alot different from the service you advocate for the church today. It seems rather loud for one, “Joy was heard far away”. There are instruments plural. And it is filled with joy, not a somber mood of affliction.

    That is my kind of church! Praise God!

  2. Gambling to make an easy buck without working for it,

    You imply quite a few things here. First of all, unless you can go to the text and look at the Hebrew word for “rejoicing”, and can find some reason why that might include dancing, then you are just being silly for making this suggestion. This is like saying that if I claim to have had a party, there was necessarily alcohol involved. Alcohol is a common thing at parties, and if I say I had a party without mentioning alcohol, that might mean I did have alcohol but just failed to mention it, but it also might mean I’m deliberately leaving it out. After all, I called it a party, not a drinking party. My point is that you can’t say that the word “rejoicing” includes dancing. You can’t even say that that’s “possibly” what it means. You can’t read the Bible that way. Reading the Bible that way would introduce WAY too much ambiguity to the text, because everyone would be talking about the many things it COULD mean, when we can really only go off of what it does mean. Sometimes, some things are implied by what is said, but this is not one of those times.

    But don’t worry your little theological head about it. Whether or not there was dancing in Nehemiah really has little normative implications for us today. That they didn’t dance doesn’t mean we shouldn’t anymore than David’s dancing means we should. There’s a greater principle involved that you have yet to understand, though it has been explained a thousand times.

    Take note that the noise was loud because it was a couple thousand people. If an entire CITY, indeed, an entire NATION is gathered together in one place, even if they all whisper it will be a loud noise. But you say, they were LOUD, but you seem to advocate being quiet, so you’re wrong about worship. This is really a silly argument to make, and you can’t expect anyone to take it any more seriously than I’ve done here. We don’t want people to be quiet. We want them to be reverent, like the book of Hebrews teaches.

    By the way, you’ll notice that the OT worship was not always characterized by reverence, though the NT worship should be. You’ll notice that the OT is full of outwardly glorious things, while the NT is spiritual, simple, humble, plain. The Passover meal was a big elaborate feast, the Lord’s Supper is a piece of bread and a cup of wine. Their baptism entailed a parting of a sea and a nation crossing and a nation drowning and being destroyed. Our baptism is a few simple words and a sprinkling of water (or dunking if you insist, which is still far humbler than a sea being parted). Their temple was gigantic, full of gold and marble and precious artifacts, sights and smells – it was a wonder of the ancient world, and people came from far and wide just to look at it. Our temples are our hearts, where the Spirit dwells. Our sacrifice is not made regularly, with the shedding of blood and the bleating of goats to remind us of the cost of our sin – our sacrifice we have never laid eyes on, because it took place 2000 years ago in a land far away outside the camp, where the garbage dump lay. Then it was all gold and glory, today it is humble and reverent and simple. But we silly people long for the gold and the glory and the glitz and the glamor. The book of Hebrews rebukes us for such things, because in such longings we are like the Israelites who longed to go back to slavery in Egypt, that they might eat meat and drink wine, rather than suffer with only manna from heaven.

    But I know how you will react to this sort of thing. Anger.

  3. point is that you can’t say that the word “rejoicing” includes dancing.

    You go ahead and “assume” the word rejoicing DOES NOT include dancing and I will go ahead and “assume” the word rejoicing DOES include dancing.

    Thanks

  4. Whether or not there was dancing in Nehemiah really has little normative implications for us today.

    True, if David’s OT dancing was normative for Nehemiah, that does not make it normative for the NT church. But my point is, if David’s dancing was not even normative for Nehemiah, there’s no way it is normative for the NT church.

    This service sounds a lot different from the service you advocate for the church today. It seems rather loud for one, “Joy was heard far away”. There are instruments plural. And it is filled with joy, not a somber mood of affliction.

    You don’t have a very accurate impression of my church, that’s for sure. Singing should definitely be both loud and joyful. And we always have instruments plural: at least organ and piano, or quite often keyboard and guitar(s), sometimes with electric guitar and/or bass thrown in, and very occasionally a drumkit. Tomorrow morning I’ll be playing in a violin/violin/flute/cello/trombone quintet for prelude and a hymn. And nobody will be feeling somber or afflicted.

  5. Nice to see the lack of an accurate impression of our churches goes both ways.

  6. Poker,

    That was not an intelligent reply.

  7. Rube,

    All this talk of normativity only means something to us. To these poor souls, it means little, since of COURSE dancing is optional, as is everything else in worship, being merely a matter of taste. Like Romanticism.

  8. Nice to see the lack of an accurate impression of our churches goes both ways.

    Who has grown up in whose church, and who has never visited whose church?

    I remember the “latter-rain” days of BMT, I survived the televangelistic style of the Rock Church, Baltimore. I know LWC is not quite that bad (at least in terms of dancing), but DBalc’s original post expressed a desire (and doctrinal endorsement) to head in that direction.

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