Christ Exalting Dance is for Today
Dance as praise and worship is something God is calling His people to enter into today. Some hold that because dance was often mentioned in the Old Testament in contexts of the people of God offering sacrifices, it has passed away with the sacrificial system at the cross and resurrection. There are several passages that speak of the Israelites rejoicing at the feasts and celebrations at which they did offer sacrifices according to the law. The sacrifices were necessary to draw near to God. A significant part of what was being celebrated in the dance, music, and Psalms was the reality that God had drawn near and blessed them with His goodness. In Nahum 1:15 it says, “Keep your feasts, O Judah..” This word for feast in Hebrew is ‘chagag’ which means to dance in a circle. This passage and others as well as several historical sources paint a picture of celebratory movement being a characteristic aspect of how the people of God observed these sacred celebrations. All of these sacrifices and feasts did in fact find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. But it is important to remember that the value of this system, according to the New Testament, is to function as a shadow that points us to the reality and substance that is in Jesus. That means that the glory and joy in God that the Israelites celebrated through dance as they feasted and offered sacrifice was pointing toward Christ, though they could not see the full reality of what they were proclaiming. But this does not argue for the irrelevance of the dance under the new covenant. In fact, it suggests the opposite. Since the Israelites were called to dance even in the shadow (Ps 149:3, 150:4), how much more should the people of God now, Jew and Gentile alike, rejoice in the substance who is Jesus! How could our praise diminish and the fullest expression of joy given to us by our God be forbidden? Yet so many of God’s people in Western culture are stuck in immobility during praise and worship because of this wrong understanding among others. Things that were themselves a shadow, like animal sacrifice and the Levitical code have passed away. Hebrews 8 among other verses makes this clear. Hebrews 8:6 says, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better (New Covenant) promises.” But the substance of our salvation can still call forth the same response. What a glorious salvation and deliverance the sacrifice of Jesus has bought for us! It is greater than the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea described in Exodus 15. After they safely passed through the waters, Moses sang and Miriam led all of the women of Israel in celebrating such a mighty salvation through song and dance (v20-21). Colossians 1:13 testifies to the reality that if we are in Christ we have experienced a greater deliverance and salvation than that. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” How much more worthy is Jesus of the dance of our hearts as the deliverance he has accomplished for us is greater and eternal!