The God Who Also Gives (another dispatch from the divided kingdom)

Another dispatch from the divided kingdom:

“You have no right to be happy,” the gentleman said to me.

“I’m sorry, what?” I was a taken aback by his opposition to my worship that morning.

“You were raising your hands and smiling. Don’t you know our church is split right down the middle? Don’t you know we’re coming apart at the seams? Don’t you care? This is no time to celebrate!”

This is where he and I disagreed.

I did, in fact, know the truth of what he described.

I’d never been through a church split before that one and pray I never endure one again. Nasty business, that. He misunderstood my celebration, my joy in worship.

I wasn’t happy. I’d never cried so many tears over a church! Still, in the midst of the turmoil, God had touched my heart through His Word, through music, and through the message and He’d restored my soul. So, I celebrated Him from my pew.

The joy of the Lord is our strength. No one can take this from us. This joy isn’t situational. We don’t earn it or deserve it. It’s a gracious gift from our Father and it can help us survive the divided kingdom.

David knew about divisive times, but still, he danced before the Lord.

The kingdom of Israel had divided, for a time, following the death of Saul. Some followed Saul’s son who set himself up as king. Others acknowledged David’s anointing to the throne. When David finally brought the ark of God into the city of David, he celebrated before the Lord.

David’s wife, Michal, daughter of Saul, watched from a window. They had a long and ragged history, these two. Their relationship status chiseled onto Old Testament Tabletbook reads, “It’s complicated.”

To say the least. Their relationship represents how insidious it is living in the divided kingdom because it doesn’t just divide parties and powers, it divides families – brothers from brothers, husbands from wives, parents from children.

2 Samuel 6:16 ESV says, “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart.”

How can he celebrate? He looks like a fool. Doesn’t he know how a king should act? He’s completely debased himself. Everyone was watching. He wasn’t even properly robed. It’s fine to be devoted to one’s God but seriously, there’s no need to be a fanatic. What will people think? It’s undignified. And doesn’t he know some are still grieving those they lost in battle? Doesn’t he know the kingdom is facing hard times? Doesn’t he even consider what people will think of us?

When we live in divided times, even our celebrations can draw criticism and anger.

But, God calls His people to celebrate. He wove feasts and celebration into the fabric of His people’s lives. There is a time for mourning, but there is also a time to dance.

David’s son, Solomon, who would rule Israel during hard, hard times wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:4 ESV that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”

Even amid conflict, hardship, and division, the human heart must make room for joy. We must laugh to lighten our hearts, or they can break. We must dance to release the sorrow and pain, to celebrate the One True God who carries us through, to honor Him who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

The danger inherent in divisive times is that we become cynical, too full of ourselves, or too afraid to be vulnerable, transparent, or genuine – to almost become like stone. Music and dance and food and drink and good company and worship and joy remind us that our God takes away, but He also gives. He is a good God who gives good things. And life will not always be this heavy because we are destined for more.

It is the spirit of the age to scoff. Didn’t we hear it in Judas’ voice when he disdained the offering of the woman who poured oil on Jesus and washed His feet with her hair? Judas’ sounds so pious and righteous, as if he’s actually thinking about the poor, when really this woman’s devotion to Christ, her celebration of Him as He neared His betrayal, only highlighted to Judas the deficit in his own soul.

And therein lies the rub. Those lacking Christ are more than empty – their souls function as vacuums and they would Hoover our joy away, too, if that were possible.

Michal is the poster child of our timespouting, petulant, self-absorbed, sneering, self-conscious, arrogant, and unkind. Jesus said it this way, “‘But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.’” Matthew 11:16-19 ESV

In other words, your mother was right – you can’t make everyone happy. If you only dance to the tune of these times, you’ll dance to the demise of your heart and soul and you’ll still never please them all.

Dance, instead, with the Lord of the dance. Weave times of celebration into your life no matter what else you’re facing. Celebrate with a vengeance.

Abscond with joy even in the divided kingdom – not because our situation merits happiness but because joy is our birthright in Christ.

We’re free to dance before Him even as our enemies scoff and plot our downfall because with Him, we will surely dance forever.

Get in on the conversation

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. KATHERINE CLEMONS says:

    It is so important to worship especially in the hard times. Your story reminds me of a church split I endured. I was on the worship team but the worship pastor, who rarely showed up, did show up one practice and reamed me out for being on the team when I couldn’t support the pastor. The rest of the team was aghast at his treatment towards me. My argument was that the sheep needed to be united in worship for healing. It was very important, especially during that time. The following Sunday the church fell apart because I challenged the pastor’s stance in a private conversation, asking him if he agreed with the worship pastor that only those who were “on his side” should be involved in worship. He did. So I called all the board and elders and let them know. On Sunday the pastor made some kind of remark about it being “his” church, and with that, all the elders stood up and told him he couldn’t kick them out of their church, but he did. He was very crooked and eventually lost everything. But God is good, and we should all worship Him together even when we have disagreements. We should agree that He is worthy of praise.

  2. Virginia Sanders says:

    A situation in my life now, the enemy seeks my soul to bow-
    In grief and sorrow, despair, not joy.

    But, oh my soul, Christ did conquer the enemy-and how!
    To me His peace, rejoicing steadies, delight to bow

    My will to His, delight to give!

  3. Deborah Kreyssig says:

    In the midst of the storm, yet,I will praise Him. No matter what is going on in our lives or in the world around us, our God, Creator, Savior, deserves our praise. The beauty is, it’s in that praise that we find our strength and renew our thoughts. Keep dancing Lori! I know I will.

  4. Cindy Hamblen says:

    Yes! Thank you, Lori. What an encouragement.