From the beginning of creation there has been a war over the worship of humankind. This is no surprise as the affection of our hearts and thus control of our lives are given to whomever we worship. In the garden, Satan convinced Adam and Eve (Genesis 3) that their was another way than God’s way–a way to the knowledge of God (you will be like God-knowing good and evil) apart from intimacy with and obedience to God. This war over human hearts has raged ever since and will continue to intensify until the return of Jesus to the earth. At the center of this battle is the glory of God. We were created to brilliantly reflect His glory for all of eternity. Thus there is nothing the enemy of our souls desires more than to mar, pervert, and steal the glory of God for himself.
Because dance is a key of praise and worship given to us to encounter the presence and power of God in accordance with His Word *(see earlier posts), Satan has perverted it and used it as a key to draw the nations into communion with evil spirits. His purpose is that the kingdom of darkness would be gain power and be advanced in the earth. As I began to research the history of dance in the world, I was looking for some small glimmer, however faint and corrupted, of the role, purpose, and significance of dance in the earth. I believed that what I would find would serve to confirm God’s Word and deepen my understanding of the cultural context of the Biblical passages referring to dance. As I studied, I was shocked to learn that the primary purpose of dance in every culture for the majority of human history has been to connect with the spiritual realm! In almost every ancient people group, this purpose was served by inviting demonic presence and possession through music and dancing. This was not an occasional occurrence but a primary means of religious expression. Music, dance, and spiritual reality were inseparable in their minds.
Dance is one of the premier ways the “medicine men” or religious leaders of each native tribe sought both spiritual counsel and power. In fact, according to Curt Sachs World History of the Dance, “In ancient and primitive peoples, scarcely anything approaches the dance in its importance.” “On no occasion of the life of primitive peoples could it be dispensed with”.* It was thought of as a sacred act and priestly office–the premier way to bridge the gap between the physical and spiritual realm. Today in our Western culture, dance has for the most part been relegated to the entertainment and artistic realm of society. Yet its power to influence the hearts and minds of people is seen everywhere from the television dance shows that top the charts to the thousands of commercials that use dance in attempt to sell products. Dancers beckon to us constantly from such venues without us even stepping foot or setting eyes in such places as nightclubs, raves, or the dark corners of the internet.
There is much more to say about the war over our worship and the role of dance in this battle, but for now, I want to leave you with a question. How should we as believers in Jesus think about dance? Should we love it or hate it, welcome or fear it? There are complexities to the answer that will take time to develop, but to begin with, we surely should not take it lightly or flippantly. Dance can be “fun”, but it is not merely fun. It is spiritually powerful unto life or destruction. There should be a tremble in our souls in an awe filled fear of the Lord as we view this gift of expression he has given us. Where dance draws peoples hearts to Jesus and releases pure and holy delight in one another, it is to be welcomed and celebrated. (Ps 149, 150) Where dance leads people into idolatry, sensuality, pride, and other such expressions of darkness and wickedness it should be detested and and turned away from. A Biblical example of this is found in Exodus 32 when Moses comes back from receiving the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel worshipping a golden calf. Verse 19 says, “And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’s anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.” In the context of the chapter and book of Exodus, it was not the dancing itself that was the problem. It was the fact that their dancing was at that time an act of idolatrous worship. It led to thousands of them being destroyed immediately following. When they had danced unto the Lord at the crossing of the sea described in Exodus 15, it was right and honoring to God. They appropriately celebrated the Lord’s gifts of freedom, victory, and salvation. As I look at these examples in God’s Word and many throughout history as well, one conclusion is that I do not love dance for its own sake. I love Jesus, and I love to worship Him with all that I am through dance. This is an extremely important distinction to make at the beginning of pursuing understanding regarding the purpose of God for dance. Dance was created to be an expression of the heart…thus the fundamental significance of it can not be found in the mere movements themselves but in the reality of the affections they reveal.