A Grateful Heart

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

“How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you…

2 Samuel 7:18-22

This is an amazing example of gratitude to the Lord. King David models for us what our heart posture should be as we pray and contemplate all the Lord has done. What is so amazing about this stream of gratitude that pours out of David is that it comes right after God tells David that he won’t be allowed to build the Temple.

Think about that!

King David made plans to build the Temple of God. But before he could start, the Lord spoke through the prophet Nathan and told David that he’s not allowed to build it. God also told David that God would give David success as King of Israel and that David’s son would build the Temple. God also told David that his house and his kingdom would endure forever (this is a prophetic word about Jesus).

So what we have is a mixture of words to David from God. God tells David what God will do, and He also tells David what He won’t do. But which of these does David choose to focus on? David’s response is pure gratitude. King David doesn’t waste time being upset about what God isn’t doing and instead focuses on what God is doing.

If we are going to be people of gratitude, this has to be our focus as well. So many Christians are only focused on what they want God to do that He isn’t yet doing. They get frustrated and bitter at God, and in the process become completely blind to what He is doing.

We need to release those things we think God should be doing but isn’t. And we need laser-like focus on what God is doing in our midst. If we are able to focus on what God is doing rather than on what He isn’t doing, gratitude will be the natural overflow of our hearts. We won’t be able to help ourselves as gratitude will daily pour out of us as it did King David.

Are you focusing on what God is doing in your life and in your midst? Or are you stuck on what He’s not yet doing? Maybe it is time to shift your focus and lean into gratitude. The apostle Paul gives us clear instructions about thanksgiving and gratitude.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:15-17

Undignified and Despised

Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

2 Samuel 6:12-16

King David eventually learned his lesson and let go of his fear of the manifest Presence of the Lord. He also learned his lesson about reverence. This time, instead of leaving the ark at Obed-Edom’s house, he would take it into his own city. But he would transport it as prescribed in the Law, and he would do it with reverence, awe, and worship.

As I described in my last post, when the manifest Presence of God comes in power, people can sometimes do unusual things. King David couldn’t help but dance before the Lord with all his might. He couldn’t help but celebrate, shout, and leap before the Lord. It’s as if gratitude and love began to well up from within him and it started leaking out into his body. His body couldn’t contain all of it and had to let it out through dancing.

Yet, when King David’s wife sees him acting like a passionate worshiper and not a King with royal decorum, she despised him in her heart. This reaction was pure disgust at David’s exuberance.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

2 Samuel 6:20

King David’s response to her is perfect and something every Christians should take note of.

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

2 Samual 6:21-22

Essentially, David had to remind Michal that he was dancing for an audience of one. He didn’t care what others might think about him. He wasn’t focused on that. He was full of gratitude in that moment and had to worship the Lord for His goodness and kindness. He wasn’t held back by pride and protocol like Michal was. He wasn’t held back by a sense of shame and superiority like Michal. Unfettered by self-absorption, David could fully worship the Lord with his whole self. And the slave girls seem to understand this better than his own queen.

This happens so often in church services. While one person–unshackled by pride, self-consciousness, and shame–worships with their whole being, the person nearby scoffs in their heart, judging them with disgust and distain for their outward expression. Yet, secretly, the scoffer wishes that she could worship so freely.

In the American church we have to get past this accusation of being “overly emotional.” Is it even possible to be “overly emotional” about Jesus dying on the cross for our sin? Is it even possible to get “overly emotional” about a Savior who gave up everything to rescue us from eternal destruction? In light of God’s infinite goodness and kindness toward us in Christ, just how much emotion is too much? And when the Holy Spirit starts stirring in our hearts, will our heart not react with emotion? Isn’t that what it is supposed to do? My guess is that most Christians aren’t showing near enough emotion, and our lack of emotion is proof that we don’t understand how good this “good news” really is.

When people get rescued from imminent death from police or fire fighters, they don’t just stoically shake their rescuers hand and walk away. They passionately embrace their rescuer with tears streaming down their face and weep in the presence of their savior. Maybe the person in the corner who is raising their hands, shouting to the Lord, and weeping has a better handle on reality than the rest of us. Before we judge them, maybe they are grasping this great gospel we believe a little more fully than the rest of us. Maybe in that moment, they are the undignified King David and we are the Michal.

We must ask ourselves what kind of worshiper we are. Are we shackled by our own pride? Are we bound by our shame and our concern about what people might think? Are we fettered by a sense of superiority or embarrassment? If so, we need to heed of the writer of Hebrews who challenged us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”(Hebrews 12:1). Let’s worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth, and let’s abandoned our self-consciousness and all that would hold us back from a robust and worshipful response to the goodness of God.

Welcoming God's Presence

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God…

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

2 Samuel 6:6-11

King David was taking the ark of God to the City of David (Jerusalem). The manifest Presence of God went everywhere the ark went, so David wanted His Presence in his own city. But instead of carrying the ark on polls by priests, as prescribed by the Law, David and his men clumsily transported it on a cart pulled by oxen. This was the equivalent of treating the ark like a common pagan idol. It was how one might transport a harvest of produce.

In addition to this, no one was supposed to touch the ark. To touch the ark was tantamount to treating the Presence of God flippantly and irreverently. Imagine meeting the Queen of England and greeting her with a “good game” on her backside, then multiply that times a hundred, and we’re approaching the irreverence of touching the ark.

All of this sloppy irreverence with God’s Presence culminated in the unexpected. Uzzah, thinking he was doing a good thing by grabbing the ark, fell down dead in God’s Presence. This terrified David, and fear caused David to want to avoid the manifest Presence of God.

This still happens to us today. The Presence of God is not something to be taken lightly. God is awesome and powerful and His manifest Presence will do some strange things to people. I’ve been in worship services where people fall to the ground having lost control over their bodies in God’s Presence. I’ve seen people tremble uncontrollably. I’ve seen people get bombarded with the joy of the Lord in such a powerful way that they start laughing uncontrollably. One might think they were drunk if they didn’t know better (just like in Acts 2:4 & 13).

I’ve seen people get muscle contractions in their abdomen so strong it looks like–and sometimes sounds like–they are giving birth. I’ve seen both men and women experience this. I’ve seen the Presence of God fill a person so powerfully that they start jumping up and down like a pogo stick. And I’ve seen people just completely pass out in His Presence.

All of the above, except for the pogo stick jumping, I have personally experienced firsthand, so I know it is not fake. I’m sure a few people exaggerate or fake some things, but having experienced almost all of these, I know that these encounters are incredibly intimate, massively powerful, and often unexplainable.

Why do these strange things sometimes happen in the midst of God’s manifest Presence?

Well, picture an unattended fire hose on the ground which suddenly experiences high volumes of water passing through it. That hose is going to do some strange things when that much water, that much power, flows through it. Or, imagine a circuit or power cord normally meant for 110 volts suddenly has 220 volts passing through it. We should expect unusual physical phenomena when God’s manifest Presence comes near.

Unfortunately, our reaction is often the same as King David’s. FEAR. We don’t understand God’s power and we certainly can’t control it. As typical humans, anything we don’t completely understand that we also can’t control makes us afraid. And when God’s Presence does the unexpected or unusual, our fear causes us to step back. We push God’s Presence away. We don’t want to be a part of it. We don’t want to lose control like “those people.” We want sanitized, safe Christianity. We want measurable and controllable Christianity. We don’t want God’s Presence if it shows up in a way we can’t predict or subdue.

However, King David paid a price for this reaction and so will we. David left the ark of God (and therefore the manifest Presence of God) at the house of Obed-Edom. And simply because Obed-Edom was willing to steward the ark (and the Presence of God) in a way that was both reverent and without fear, Obed-Edom and his whole household were blessed.

The churches that are willing to invite God’s manifest Presence, treat it with awe and reverence, and not succumb to fear when God’s Presence starts affecting people in unusual ways will be the houses that God will bless. God’s manifest Presence always brings blessing where it is welcomed and stewarded well.

But here are some decisions we have to make ahead of time, before God’s Presence shows up in power:

  1. We have to decide ahead of time that we won’t be afraid if God does something unusual.
  2. We have to decide ahead of time to let the Spirit move without trying to control Him.
  3. We have to decide ahead of time that God’s manifest Presence can sometimes get messy.
  4. We have to decide ahead of time not to take His Presence for granted, as if God owes us something, and instead treat it with awe and reverence.
  5. We have to decide ahead of time to be as welcoming, inviting, and hospitable to the Presence of God as we try to be to guests who visit our church.
  6. We have to decide ahead of time not to quench the Spirit if God starts moving powerfully in us or in the person next to us. In other words, if things start getting weird, we have to resist the urge to extinguish it and instead hold a “Yes” in our hearts.