To mix my words with fountains deep
To breathe again though air not be
Shall I wear my heart upon my sleeve
Shall I draw forth ‘neath broken breast
The fairest drips with which I’m blessed
Need be I shall let whispers unfold
The secret concealed dreams I hold
Shall I let love and love let me
Entrust to hands pure honesty
Shall I arise though scared my face
To stand and dance without a trace
An piece from Heather's book, "Dance as the Spirit Moves" due to be released in April 2009 through Destiny Image Publishing:
I have heard people say – “Oh, yes, I know that dance is biblical. David danced before the Lord.” However, the Bible has many more references to dance than we generally recognize. There are more references in the Bible commanding us to dance than there are commanding us to clap our hands!
It is ironic, in view of this fact, that handclapping is much more widely accepted in church circles than is dancing.
In the Old Testament, when a people danced it was frequently a sign of celebration. For example, Miriam and her maidens danced in celebration at God’s overthrow of the Egyptian army. Frequently dance was a sign of humility and complete spiritual surrender. It was evidence that the person wasn’t holding anything back from God, surrendering even their bodies to be used in worship. Even now, as we step out and dance there is a line that we have to cross that allows us to be that vulnerable.
Dance is a spontaneous result of a heart that is full of joy, love, passion, desire or even pain. Some may ask why a person feels the need to dance in worship, but for those who have a need to express worship in that way, they can’t help but dance. Actually, for those moved to dance, the real mystery is that others can worship without it!
There is something that rises up in the heart of a dancer, something that clapping and singing can’t fully express. As the dancer is obedient, and follows the desire to express worship in movement, there is a drawing closer to God that occurs. When a dancer is moved by the Spirit to step out, his or her eyes are totally fixed on Jesus; a beautiful intimacy results from this worshipful obedience. Every act of obedience to the Spirit of God creates a closer relationship with God. Out of abandonment to the Spirit comes a depth of relationship.
We dance because we are in love with Jesus. We dance because the Bible tells us to. If dance has a place in human warfare, so does it in the Spirit. We dance to make war. We dance to celebrate the goodness of God. We dance to lament. We dance because we can’t help it. And we dance to express outwardly what is going on inwardly. Dance is a manifestation of what is happening in our hearts towards God.
For your edification, here are the forms of dance mentioned from the time of Abraham to the time of Ezra:
1. Processions – These were conducted as processional marches, which included music and dance. In our own age we have had a revival of this in the form of the annual “March for Jesus.”
2. Festival dances – These were cultural and worshipful dances done at festivals
3. Celebratory dance - Dances of rejoicing probably included circle dances and group dances.
4. Dance for weddings – In Israel, there was no seam between society and faith; a celebration dance at a wedding was a celebration of something given by God.
5. Dance of victory – Victory has always led to street dances. Look at the celebrations following WW II!
6. Dance of warfare – These were dances done by those going into a battle.
7. Dance or the greeting of the Victor – This was done by the closest female relative to the leader in Israel. This was done to greet the victor after winning a battle. We recall that Saul and David were greeted by celebratory singing by those ‘making merry.’
Today, as dancers, we have again begun responding to God’s leading, we discover that movement can be used to demonstrate what is happening in the Spirit, to bring a visual demonstration of what God’s people are singing or saying. In a congregational setting, dance can be used to dramatize and reinforce what worship, prayer or scripture is declaring.
Anthropologists and historians tell us that primitive man dances for three reasons: love, war and harvest.
Is it not interesting, that all three of these causes of dance have spiritual counterparts found in the church? We are inspired by simple love for the Lord to dance our expressions of celebration, intimacy, adoration, and exaltation. Many of today's worship services are filled with such dances. People can be seen leaping, twirling, spinning, and even running to express their love for the Lord! This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!
As well, there are many people who have experienced times of intercession and warfare that have caused them to move into more violent forms of dance; these involve stomping, kicking, punching or chopping movements in the air. These are not people shadow boxing, but those wrestling with darkness. Consider that the Lord often caused physical acts to produce spiritual results, both in the miraculous and in war. Consider that in Exodus 17:6 the Lord commanded Moses to strike the rock so that water might come out. On one occasion, Moses’ outstretched arms towards heaven brought victory to Joshua’s army. In 2 Kings 13, Elisha enjoined the King of Israel to smite arrows on the ground as emblems of the defeat of Israel’s foes. There are many other examples that we read in the Bible.
The dance that was done at harvest corresponds to the dance done in celebration of the spiritual harvest known as revival. When we see the lost coming into the church, and God's power moving in dramatic ways, there is a high celebration of God’s harvest that will and should come forth in dance.
Although dance was a form of worship for the Hebrews, it also had idolatrous forms, both in other nations and Israel itself. When Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were busy dancing around an idol at the bottom of the mountain. The fact is that in history dance was a part of worship, whether real or idolatrous. One can sympathize with why dance was banned for heathens used it to worship idols. Perhaps it was easier to simply ban the practice than to honour its proper use. If we study the Puritans of medieval England, we discover that they banned not only dance but theatre as well. Since the arts easily lend themselves to idolatry, we are not unsympathetic to these measures, but it as though the baby were thrown out with the bath water!
However, people still had, and always will have, the desire to dance. When the church forbad its use, dance simply became increasingly secular in nature. Social balls, folk dances, and even the start of ballet were all a result of humanity’s desire to dance. During the Renaissance, there was not only a rebirth in the area of the arts, but also in the church. Dance was one of the things that for a season resurfaced in worship services. Worship, which had become dry and monotonous, now was more vibrant and full of life. There was once again an allowance for a fuller expression of worship in public gatherings. Sadly, fear again shut it out after a short season of tolerance.
As we have seen, there were many types of dance in Israel. It helps us to better understand what dance meant to them culturally when we examine the meaning of the words that they used for dance, and also study those who were dance leaders in biblical times.
Miriam was the first ‘dance minister’ the Bible mentions. She was a prophet and she was a leader. She did "the Dance of the Greeting of the Victor!" Exodus 15:20, “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, ‘Sing ye to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and rider he has thrown into the sea’”. The Israelites were in a peak time of celebration, for they had seen their God deliver them from the Egyptians. Dance was a central part of that celebration.
1. Let us carefully consider this fact: Miriam was a prophetess and she was creative in the use of her prophetic gift. She sang her prophecy while dancing with her tambourine. Dance can be used again as it was by her, as a way of delivering a prophetic message.
2. Consider the prophetic significance for the church in what Miriam did. The closest female relative of the victor led this Dance of Greeting for the Victor. Moses was the leader of Israel, and therefore, it was Miriam’s job to greet him in dance after such a great victory. This dance is specifically important to the church today. More and more we are seeing a release of dance in the body of Christ. The point in what I am saying is that we are the ‘Bride of Christ’; he is our Victor. We are, collectively, the closest female relative to our Victor! As the return of Christ draws nearer, the Bride is going to be moved to step out more and more to greet her Victor!
3. Miriam was also the leader of this company of dancers. There are things that we can learn from the way she led. Dance groups should have leaders to bring the group together for corporate times of worship, and to serve the church in their collective gift. Dance leaders should be the ones to call the dancers into times where the whole team speaks together either to God or to the people.
4. Miriam was sensitive to what was happening at the time of the celebration. Just before she stepped out in her dance, the children of Israel were singing to the Lord about how strong and mighty He was as He delivered them. They were singing about the greatness and excellence of their God. It is written, “Miriam answered them” which shows that she was participating in the celebration, and as was appropriate, she lead the dancers out, using dance and tambourines. She expanded on the song that was being sung. Dance leaders and teams today should still respond to and expand on what is being sung in the service. This doesn’t always have to be done in the same manner Miriam did, but she is an example to us.
5. Miriam used a prop in her dance, a tambourine. As dancers there are things that we can dance with to expand our expression such as flags, tambourines, swords, sticks, or any other creative tool, things which will help to communicate what is in the heart of the dancer.
David was a mighty man, both in battle and in worship. His heart beat for the purpose of worshipping and loving God. Nothing was too extravagant for David when he worshipped. His sacrifices were lavish, his songs (Psalms) intense and excruciatingly truthful, his dance utterly energetic and abandoned. David used every form of worship that he could employ in order to express his deep love for God.
In 2 Samuel 6, as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem, there was a celebration, “And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir, wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels and on cornets, and on cymbals,” (vs. 5). This was a time of lavishly expressed worship. Every six paces there was a sacrifice. Evidently, much preparation went into this worship. “And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod…” (vs14).
1. First of all, contrary to popular belief, David was not dancing without anything on. He was dancing stripped of his kingly garments. It was a sign of surrender before God. When Michal judged him she said, “How glorious was the King of Israel today, who uncovered himself in the eyes of the hand maids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself,” (vs20). What David did was humble himself in the sight of man and God as he danced with all his might. Michal was basically saying that he humiliated himself by doing what he did. The truth was that Michal, being David’s wife, should have been down there dancing herself! Not only was she wrong in judging him, she was negligent in that she didn’t participate in the celebration.
2. The King of Israel was not concerned with how dignified he looked in the eyes of those around him. He worshipped with abandonment and in the company of the whole congregation of Israel. He played instruments with them and danced along with them. David was a man after God’s own heart. He cared for what God thought of him, and didn’t regard the opinions of men.
There was such joy in his heart as he brought the Ark back into Jerusalem!
We can learn from his example. David was not concerned with what his worship looked like to men, but rather surrendered fully to the Lord in worship. So should we!
3. Consider also that although he was the leader of Israel, yet he led by example. Leaders should still lead by example and not by simply telling others what to do.
By examining the meaning of the Hebrew words used in the Old Testament, we can often arrive at a better understanding of what the people of those times experienced. In the case of words referring to dance, the student of scripture will be surprised to see: first, how often dance was part of Israelite celebration and, secondly, the variety of dance they employed. Dance, then as now, involved a much wider variety of movement and style than simply jumping up and down.
Psalm 30:11 says, “You turned my mourning into dancing.” The Hebrew meaning for dance in that scripture is “a round dance”, which is a group dance done in a circular motion. Psalm 149:3 and 150:4 tell us to "praise Him with the dance". These both have that same meaning, "a round dance". The visual significance of the circle here seems to be that God turns misfortune ‘around.’
The following meanings come from the Strong’s Concordance:
There are some scriptures that use the word “rejoice” (gul) that have the meaning - to spin around under the influence of any violent emotion, usually rejoice or fear, be glad, joy, to go around in a circle.
Psalm 9:14, “I will rejoice in Your salvation.”
Psalm 13:5 “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”
Psalm 16:9 “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.”
Psalm 21:1, 31:7, 32:11, 35:9, plus 35 more references.
In Exodus 15:20, when Miriam leads the women out, the word for dance is Macholah - a company dance involving singing. It is the same meaning for the word dance when the women came out to greet David after killing the Philistine singing, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands,” 1 Samuel 18:6. Jeremiah 31:4, “And I will build you, and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines. And you shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.” This too, is a dance company: a group of dancers who are set apart for the purpose of ministry in dance. It is no stretch to think of at least some aspect of this prophecy as pointing to local church dance groups!
When David danced before the Lord, the word used is Karar - to dance, whirl, or move in a circle, to exult, leap run. This dance denotes something very vibrant and expressive, full of joy and emotion. Today we seem to think that the only acceptable celebratory dance is the “Pentecostal two-step”, done with our eyes closed and in our seats. However, biblically, there is more to the expression of dance than that!
The list doesn’t end there, here – briefly – are other words used for dance and their locations in scripture:
Old Testament - Hebrew
Rekad - To stomp, to spring out wildly for joy, dance, leap, jump or skip (Psalm 29:6, 144:6, 1 Chron. 15:29)
Dalag - to spring or leap (2 Sam. 22:30, Psalm 18:29, Isa. 35:6, Songs of Solomon 2:8)
Chagag - to move around in a circle, specifically march in a sacred procession, to observe a festival, to celebrate, idea of leaping, dancing a sacred dance, to reel to and fro (Lev. 23:41, Psalm 42:4 1 Sam. 30:16)
Hiliykah - a walking procession or march, a caravan or company (Psalm 68:24,25)
Shuwr - to sing as strolling along, minstrel, to turn, travel, strolling along with a song. (Exodus 15:1, Psalm 33:3, 137:3, 100:2 Jer. 20:13, Isa. 54:1, I Chron. 15:27)
Halal - To make a show, to be clamorously foolish, to boast, to celebrate (Psalm 149: 3)
New Testament - Greek
Agalliao - to jump for joy, be exceedingly glad for joy, very much leaping
(Luke 1:14, 44,47, 10:21 – there are 12 more references)
Hallomai - to spring forth, to leap up (Acts 3:8, 14:10)
Skirtao - to jump, sympathetically, to move leap for joy (Luke 6:23)
Any unbiased student will perceive that dance is an appropriate response to God! In the Bible, people danced before God. If we intend to return to a biblical model of worship, dance should frequently be an integral part.
Yet, today, those who dance before the Lord do not do so because of correct theology! They do so for joy! We dance as a response to the presence of God. Anything that can be expressed in words can be augmented by motion! A full expression of worship cannot be limited at all times and seasons to spoken words. We should – perhaps we must – write, sing, compose, paint and DANCE!
TAMBOURINES, FLAGS, RIBBONS, AND BANNERS
Today many dancers have chosen to dance with tambourines, flags, ribbons and banners. Since this is prevalent, I think it is wise to consider a few scriptural references to these activities. In actual fact, all of these were used in Bible times as an aid when dancing. Then as now, they add expression by amplifying movement.
Here are some scriptures that mention tambourines, some of which have been discussed earlier: Exodus 15:20, Judges 11:34, Psalm 68:25, 149:3, 150:4. Other words that are used for tambourine are timbrel and drum. Tambourines were used in preparation for warfare, used when God called his people to battle. As dancers beat the tambourine they are using that motion as a representation of intercession and warfare in the spirit.
The words for banner and flag are interchangeable. As Christians, we use the word flag or ensign for a plain piece of material on a stick that can be waved. A banner is generally something larger than a flag and is decorated with some kind of inscription. Biblically, the words for banner and flag are sometimes translated “standard.” I consider this as important because, as we are holding up a flag or banner, we are holding up a moral or spiritual standard as well. (The two meaning of standard are etymologically linked, coming from the Old French wordestandart – meaning simply to stand.) More importantly, one of the names that God employs to reveal himself is Jehovah Nissi - the Lord is our Banner, Ex. 17:15! Some other references to flags in scripture are Psalm 60:4, Isa.13:2, 62:10, Songs of Solomon. 2:4, 6:10.
Although none of these specifically refer to dance, some do refer to celebration. The Song of Solomon reference, involves the man comparing his lady to an army. He says she is as awesome as an army with banners. This tells me two things. First, an army with banners is something awesome, something wonderful with which to be compared. The second is that armies had banners. In the history of war the flag was waved to give the army the next command. If the commander of the army wanted the archers to go forward, the standard barer would wave the appropriate flag and the archers would respond. So the banner or flag along with the tambourine was also used in war. In the Bible, God himself raises a banner, and in raising it draws people to himself. At other times He holds his banner over someone to speak something. For example, Songs of Solomon 2:4 “He brought me to His banqueting table and His banner over me is love.”
As we lift up a banner, we are proclaiming a message. Banners can be really simple or very elaborately decorated. Using a banner is another way of speaking in visual demonstration. For example, if a banner said, "Our God is a consuming fire", that banner could be held up at a certain point of a song to provide an exclamation point for a particular word or expression. It can inspire people to seek after the one they are singing about, drawing them – as scripture says.