Posted by: missionventureministries | May 11, 2017

DOES THE BIBLE SPEAK ABOUT DANCING IN CHURCH?

In many Christian churches dance has been incorporated into the worship service. To justify such an action they focus their attention on the dance of Old Testament times. Surprisingly, they do not do a serious analysis of the passages where dance was used by the Israelites. They ignore that dance was NEVER allowed in the religious services of the sanctuary, temple, synagogue and was not even part of the worship of the early church. It is only by performing an analysis of the verses where the dance appears in the Bible that the role played by Israel in Old Testament times can be understood. 

The first occasion in which dance is mentioned in the Bible was when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Exodus 15:20-21 says, “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” It is interesting to note that this activity took place outdoors, as a celebration for the total destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. 

In all passages of the O.T. dance was related to a social and natural expression within the culture of the people. In the history of Israel dance appears as an expression learned within the Egyptian culture, and this we can also see when Moses came down from the mountain after receiving the tables of the 10 commandments: “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it” (Exodus 32:19-20). In this case it was an idolatrous dance, which infuriated Moses. 

Almost all the texts that speak of dance refer to an expression of festivity, happiness and joy linked to the Hebrew culture, which was possibly learned in Egypt, since in Genesis there are no actions or references to it as a practice of the patriarchs. 

The Bible gives us many references inviting us to praise God. For example Psalm 105:1-2 says, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” It is important to note that there are many, such references in the Psalms, the hymnal of Israel, about singing to the Lord and proclaiming His name, but references to dance before Him or to Him in the Psalms are limited to only two verses in all the 150 Psalms, and these references within the context of Israel’s special celebrations. 

In the New Testament we are encouraged to talk among ourselves with psalms, hymns, and with spiritual songs, but nothing is said about dancing. Only Psalms 149:3 and Psalm 150:4 urge to praise God with dance. They are the only two verses found in the vast Word of God that mention praise to God with dance, and were given in the context of being an order or command of the form of praise but the emphasis of the psalm is in urging to praise the Lord with joy. He mentions dance because it was the community cultural way of expressing joy in some of the Jewish holidays. By contrast, dance played a prominent role in many pagan cults, such as the orgiastic cult of Dionysius. 

So the question for us is: Is it normal where we live that we go out on the streets to dance every time we celebrate something? Is this a common expression of our culture? Certainly in many sectors and regions of the world it still remains, but tends to be associated with celebrations with alcohol and immorality. It is for this very reason that when people come to Christ, they cease to attend the celebrations and feasts of which they participated before, by conviction and motive of conscience. 

In 2 Samuel 6, David gathered together chosen men of Israel with the purpose of moving the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Abinadab, to Jerusalem. Verse five says, “David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.”

In Psalm 68:24-27 the image of a procession is presented that was heading for the sanctuary. “In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the young women playing the timbrels.” In Psalm 42:4 a similar picture is presented: “… I remember how I used to walk to the house of God. The Mighty One guarded my steps. We shouted with joy and praised God as we went along with the joyful crowd.” These two passages are consonant with the fact that these festive processions where the people danced and sang, took place outdoors and not in the temple. In the temple, only the Levites sang the praises and played musical instruments (1 Chronicles 15:16, 19-24, 16:4, 25:6-7, 2 Chronicles 7:6, 29:25, Ezra 3:10-11). 

In none of these cases was the dance performed in the sanctuary, or in the temple. The dance was always outdoors and was associated with Israel’s victory over their enemies and with the cultural and religious festival celebrations of Israel.  

There was never any frantic waving of scarves and streamers during the temple worship in the New Testament churches. As God’s irreversible command states: “But everything should be done in an honorable and orderly manner,” 1 Corinthians 14:40. 

The fact that King David did not include dance in worship within the sanctuary implies that he distinguished between secular music played in his festive celebrations; such as singing and dancing when Saul and David returned after defeating Goliath, and the Temple music. 

Israel was a theocracy, a government established by God. Their whole life revolved around God. Their songs and their cultural celebrations were centered in Jehovah but their dances on the occasion of annual festivals were never done inside the temple. 

By the way, the percussion instruments that were used in the dances, were not considered by David when the music for worship was institutionalized (2 Chronicles 5:13, Nehemiah 12:27). It is mentioned in the Bible that the Levites used the cymbal (percussion instrument) (1 Chronicles 15:19, 25:1, Ezra 3:10, Nehemiah 12:27). According to “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”, these were used only to mark the time (Vol. III, page 2101). 

Percussion instruments, such as tambourines and drums that were used in cultural dances, were clearly excluded from worship. Cymbals were used to mark the transition between the stanzas of the hymns and not to accompany the chorus. The lyre, or zithers, which are a type of harp was the instrument that David and the Levites considered the noblest instrument of all (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (vol. 3, page 474). 

In the book of Revelation, when mention is made of praise in heaven, harps are mentioned (5:8; 14:2; 15:2). During the inauguration of the Temple of Solomon, percussion was not used in praise (2 Chronicles 29:25) or during the inauguration of the temple in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 3:10, Nehemiah 12:27-36). Definitely, a clear distinction must be made between the music played on the occasion of these celebrations that took place outside the temple and the music played in worship in the temple. 

It is interesting to note that dance as a way of praising God does not appear throughout the New Testament. We are never exhorted in the New Testament to dance. 

The Old Testament only refers to dance on special occasions of celebration; it was never was part of the standard weekly worship of God. In this research we discovered that dance was not part of worship in the early church. Jewish culture featured dancing at weddings and the Feast of Tabernacles, and of course there are numerous references to David dancing in the Old Testament, but such dancing was spontaneous and celebratory, not liturgical. As a result, early Christians from Jewish backgrounds lacked a tradition of dance during formal worship. Dancing only appears in the New Testament in two contexts: Herod’s banquet (Mark 6:21-22, with disastrous results for John the Baptist) and the celebration of the Prodigal Son’s return (Luke 15:22-27). 

The program of weekly worship to God in the Jewish synagogue (of which Christ and the apostles were a part) did not include dancing. 

Conclusion: For 19 centuries of the history of Christian church there are no references to dancing before God in a Christian worship service. We have thousands of writings of Christian pastors and writers throughout 19 centuries of Christian history and there is no reference to any kind of dance in the weekly worship of believers. 

So it is important to understand that Christian dance in churches is a recent phenomenon. It is a practice that has started since the birth of the Pentecost doctrine in 1906, and the charismatic movement in 1960. 

If the church of Christ worshiped the Lord without dance for 19 centuries, and the fact that dance as a way of praising God does not appear throughout the New Testament or during the first 19 centuries, shows us that biblically, dancing is not part of the expression of the Christian faith in the sanctuary; then why do so many churches do it? 

Jesus never taught about dancing but He did sing hymns as stated in Matthew 26:30. 

We need to pay close attention to the words of the Holy Scripture because it is very dangerous to add or take away from the Word of God and one day we will be judged. 

Disregard for God’s Word and acceptance or defense of false teaching, slowly but surely blurs the truth and destroys one’s ability to be discerning. It eventually makes those who choose to accept something they like or want, regardless of biblical truth, incapable of recognizing the depravity of their situation. 

The fact is that people who do not adhere to the Word of God and make claims not founded on or supported by the Bible, do not understand, and believe incorrectly. 

This is a typical practice of the Emergent church. It is also what cult leaders do as they add to or subtract from God’s word and then start believing their own false ideas as authentic “revelations.” 

That is what those given over to a reprobate mind do, and this is what we have happening in our churches. 

Would you serve your family a meal if you knew poison had been sprinkled on it? Then why would you accept the words of a person who has consistently proven that they are untrustworthy and their teaching defies the Bible, just because someone claims there is a bit of good in it? 

When you give yourself over to a teacher and his teachings, or an author and his books through your investment of time, money, and emotions without allowing God’s Word to always be the judge, and then defend the message even though it is contrary to God’s Word, then, you have allowed Satan a foothold. But unless there is repentance it doesn’t stop there, soon it becomes a stronghold, and before long you become incapable of deciding what is right from what is wrong. 

Church, stop defending the indefensible teaching and come to your senses before it is too late! “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

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