A Deadly Hinderance to Worship in Dance: Jealousy and Competition
Jealousy is one hindrance that will keep us from seeking His face. It breeds a spirit of competition that has no patience to wait for God to speak or work. Jealousy does not have the time nor desire to dance with Jesus for He moves too slowly for her. She quickly abandons Him to find another partner to dance with. In no time at all her new partner and her are spinning and twirling over the dance floor. Out of the corner of her eye she constantly observes the other dancers. Some are better dancers then her, some are less trained and gifted. Her heart’s desire is that one day she become the best. With a smile on her face, and spite in her heart, she takes note of those who seem to capture most of the attention of the crowd watching. Spin and twirl, spin and twirl, together they move happily across the floor, dancing the dance of the world.
In all her hurry to find another partner to dance with she had just missed the hand of Jesus that had begun its reach up to touch her chin. Had she waited a moment longer He was to have tilted her face up to His and kissed her. (Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth – for Your love is more delightful then wine”. Songs of Songs 1:2). In that moment, she would of found what she most longed for, but jealousy never has time to wait very long….never.
When we move ahead of the Lord and do not seek His face first, we produce fruit that may look good but was birthed out of our own ideas, of the flesh, not of faith and yet we proclaim it is of the Lord. In Psalm 37:35 it talks of a man in his own strength who flourished like a tree in native soil, and yet it withers quickly. He looked great and all he did appeared prosperous and successful, yet the Bible says it all withered quickly. Fruit that we produce from our own efforts withers quickly. The fruit which we wait for the to Lord produce through us is such that its leaf never withers” (Psalm 1: 3).
The Story of Rachel: dancing her dance (Genesis 30:1-22)
“When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children,
she became jealous of her sister.” Genesis 30:1
The story is told in the Bible of a man named, Jacob, who had two wives, Rachel and Leah. Although he loved Rachel over Leah, Rachel was not able to bear children. It was shameful for a woman in those days to not be able to bear children. On top of that Rachel had to live amongst the children that Leah had given birth to as a reminder of her own infertility. As the years went by, the jealousy festered and grew until finally one day Rachel goes to Jacob and demands that he get her pregnant.
“Are you crazy woman! Do you think I am God? He is the only One who can give you children”, Jacob replies in rage.
So Rachel in her jealousy walks away from her husband wondering how she can maneuver God in to taking the lead in this situation and give her a child. One morning, soon after their conversation, Jacob wakes up and there is Rachel standing at the door of his tent with Bilhah, her servant, standing beside her. She has this great idea. “Jacob, sleep with my servant and she will bear my children for me”. Before you know it, a son is born and Rachel gives the credit to God whether He wants it or not. “God has vindicated me! He has heard my request for a son.”
The idea seemed to work so well that it was not long before Rachel was knocking on the door of Jacob’s tent again with Bilhah beside her and before you know it, son number two is born. She names him, Naphtali (meaning “my struggle”) because “I have an intense struggle with my sister (Leah), and I am winning”. And it was a struggle. Leah by now seemed not be able to bear any more children and to keep ahead of this competition she was soon forced to twice offer her servant, Zilpah, to sleep with Jacob. The score by now is six babies for Leah and two for Rachel.
As Jacob’s love is for Rachel, she has little problem keeping Leah away from Jacob and risking that Leah would conceive of yet another child. Leah gets the break of a life time when her son Reuben comes home with some mandrakes. Among its several properties, the mandrake was supposed to promote conception. To Rachel these mandrakes possibly meant the last chance to have a child of her own so she pleads with Leah to give them to her. Leah was not about to give this precious plant to the woman who “took away my husband”. Finally they settle on a deal and Leah pays to sleep with Jacob that night for the price of the mandrakes and becomes pregnant with child number seven.
As you read this story, you can “feel” the jealousy, competition, bitterness, conniving and manipulation that mark the relationship between these two women. Yet God remains faithful, gracious and compassion for “the Lord remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by giving her a child”. And what a child He gave her! His name was Joseph. You can read all about how God used this man mightily in the Bible. The story of Joseph is known by many Christians and non-Christians alike to this day.
It is important to understand the heart of God for Rachel, for as a worship dancer you will almost certainly struggle with jealousy yourself or encounter someone who has jealousy toward you. This person will seek to engage in some form of silent or even overt competition with you. God’s love for Rachel never changed. He always saw past her behavior and schemes to the real cry of her heart. He never judged, condemned, shamed or punished her. He never pushed her away or turned His back on her. And this is the beautiful thing about seeking the face of Jesus. Jealousy can look right into the eyes of her Lover and all she will see coming back is love, compassion, and a God who is ultimately always cheering for her.
When jealousy strikes our hearts it is difficult to ignore. The best thing we can do is to admit the condition of our heart to our loving God who never had any illusions about us in the first place. When we agree with our Accuser then he is left with nothing more to say and it opens the door for God come in and begin to do His work in our hearts in a most loving and gentle way. He is the surgeon of surgeons. If we ignore it then scripture says “we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to the the truth” 1 John 1:8. It is the truth that sets us free.
We can also extend love, encouragement and blessing to those who are bound by the chains of jealousy. Dance open and honestly before your God who never condemns you. You are His delight and if He does want to speak to you about the condition of your heart, it will be done with kindness and will bring sincere tears and a sorrowful conviction…anything else is probably not from God.
“Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.” 1 Samuel 1:12
Hannah is a beautiful picture of what it is to seek the face of God first, and out of that the dance emerged. Her dance was the movement of her lips and a silent voice. It was a dance that was misunderstood for as we read the story we discover that she was accused of being “drunk” by the priest who watched on from a distance. She was a woman in deep anguish, and rather then take the lead in the type of dance Rachel danced, she clung to God with all that was in her. She cried out to Him from the depth of her hearts and from that depth came the moving of her lips…a silent dance before God.
Like Rachel, Hannah had to share her husband with another woman. In this case the other woman was named, Peninnah. And just like Rachel, Hannah could bear no children while Peninnah had many children. Peninnah used Hannah’s inability to bear children as fuel to taunt and make fun of Rachel for she was consumed with jealousy over the realization that their mutual husband, Elkanah, loved Hannah more then her. If Rachel had a reason to be jealous, Hannah had even more justification, for she was openly mocked. Yet Hannah did not retaliate nor did she have her servant bear her children for her. Instead she poured her heart out to God and waited.
Every year Elkanah would take his entire family up to the tabernacle to worship God. Imagine Hannah kneeling in the tabernacle along with Peninnah and all her “sons and daughters”. How lost and alone she must have felt. All the love of her husband could not remove her shame or comfort her heart.
Together her family worshiped….after, she went back alone to pray.
Hannah did not have to go back to the tabernacle. She could of sat after the supper meal and let jealousy and hatred toward Peninnah stew within her. She could of entered the competition and challenged what scripture calls her “rival”…two women dancing a dance of jealousy together. If they maintained smiles on their faces no one would have even noticed, just as in the heat of the battle, Leah named her sixth “son”, Asher, because “How happy I am. The women will call me happy”.Yet the motive behind this child’s birth was to ensure Rachel would not have as many children as her. Leah has obtained this child, Asher, through her maidservant. God has no part of it.
Hannah’s heart was not inclined to such a dance. Did she battle jealousy? Most likely, for it says that “in bitterness of soul” she went seeking the face of God. The difference between Rachel and Hannah was that, all though both shared the same story, Hannah poured her bitter heart out before the Lord while Rachel took matters into her own hands. Rachel did not have the patience for the Lord to initiate. She was anxious to dance the dance and when the Lord seemed not to be moving on her behalf, she found another partner, which was her maidservant.
Hannah, instead, sought that secret place of intimacy with God rather then let the jealousy within her move her to fight back at her rival. It was not worth going down that road. She instinctively knew that would not answer the cry of her heart. She would instead grab hold of the hem of God’s garment and not let go until He answered. She tells Eli the priest, who accuses her of being drunk, that, “I was pouring my soul to the Lord”. She poured out her bitter soul, full of jealousy and shame to the Lord. It says that God remembered her and it was soon after that that she bore a son, Samuel, whom God called as a prophet to the nation of Israel. God spoke often to Samuel right from childhood to old age in those days when “the word of the Lord was rare”.
When ever we put dance before seeking His face, we are in danger of producing fruit of our own effort. Fruit that will wither quickly and impact few. It will most often be birthed out of jealousy or competition and not out of intimacy with the Lord. We may say that our dance is from the Lord, even as Rachel proclaimed, that “He has heard my request for a son”. However when we read about the descendants of Jacob in Genesis 46, the Lord does not acknowledge of having any part in it. He does not recognize the children birthed by the maidservants as belonging to either Rachel or Hannah.
When we seek His face first, it may be years before He we feel the gentle and subtle pressure of His hand on our back leading us into the first steps of a dance with Him. Meanwhile, God seems to be birthing so much through the lives of others around you. Still there are others who could not wait and our busy devising ways to birth children of their own making…big productions using only the most talented, dance teams beautifully synchronized, and worship dance videos using the latest dance styles and popular Christian music.
And you wait midst it all, like Hannah in the tabernacle… with no children.
Are you going to wait for Jesus and seek His face or find another woman to birth your children for you?
If you wait, God will remember you. When He does begin to lead you in the dance, the church and the world will stop to marvel and say, “Who is this coming up from the desert, leaning on her lover?” (Song of Songs 8:3) As Joseph and Samuel were used to impact nations, so will the dance He leads you in pierce the hearts of those who watch. You won’t have to proclaim, “Look what the Lord has done”, for others will speak the words for you.
Seek His face first and the dance He leads you in, and the children you produce, will touch the hearts of people. His Presence will fall in that place and people will wonder why tears are streaming down their face. Jealousy watches you from a distance with envy and longing in her heart for what God birthed in you. What she had tried so hard and for so long to accomplish in her strength and talent, you found simply by standing still and waiting for His lead..
Isn’t it time now for you to go alone to the tabernacle?
He is waiting.