worship by the stream and WORSHIP in the street

Lessons from King David: private and public worship

by Emily Minto


King David wasn’t always King. He spent his formative years working as a shepherd. In this time, David built a personal history of worshipping God when no one was watching. While in the fields with the sheep, David was worshipping God and learning of His heart and character. David likely refers back to his experiences as a shepherd when writing Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams..."

Stream near modern day Bethlehem, Palestine (courtesy Hike the Holy Land tours)

Stream near modern day Bethlehem, Palestine (courtesy Hike the Holy Land tours)

Modern day Nachal Prat stream, Judean desert (Yehoshua Halevi)

Modern day Nachal Prat stream, Judean desert (Yehoshua Halevi)

God used David’s time in the fields to equip him for his role as king. When David was anointed as king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16), he was still a really young guy. But he was developing important qualities through his time in the fields: his musical ability, his bravery and courage, and his heart for God (1 Samuel 16:18).

Recently my three year old daughter came to me and sang a simple little song: “I love you so much, I love you so much”. It wasn’t a YouTube-worthy performance or a fancy lyric, but I loved it. And just as I loved to hear my daughter’s expression of love for me, our God loves to hear our simple songs of love when no one else is watching.

When we worship in private we don’t have to worry about what people think of us. But King David showed what it looks like to worship in public with the same abandon as he would have done while alone in the fields. He was willing to make a fool of himself, to lay down his own reputation and glory because his excitement about God overtook him. In 2 Sam 6:20-22 David explains: “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me… so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” (NLT)

The Joy of the Redeemed (King David Dancing)  from  jtbarts.com

The Joy of the Redeemed (King David Dancing) from jtbarts.com

When I was reading this story, it reminded me of Jesus who lowered himself from the throne of heaven to be born in a lowly manger and humble himself unto death. There is something about lowering ourselves and dying to our flesh that God loves and honours. I think this is a state of worship that He really delights in: when WE become the sacrifice. In Romans 12:1 we’re told: “In view of Gods mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” (NLT)

Not everyone appreciated David’s display of worship. David’s wife Michal, on seeing her husband “leaping and whirling” in the street, “despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16 and 1 Chronicles 15:29). There may be those who don’t appreciate your worship either. So what do we hold in higher regard? Our reputation and how others view us? Or the glory of the God who has chosen us and given us everything?

If we follow the lesson of King David, we need to cultivate personal, private worship that nobody sees. And at the same time, be willing to look like a fool by worshipping God wholeheartedly in public. Whether we’re worshipping by the stream or in the street, may we offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” to the One who is worthy of both our private and public praise.

Get practical:

Build your own personal history with God. This week, take the time to turn your attention and affection towards Him in the quiet moments of the day when no one is watching. 


Emily is a songwriter, worship leader and the worship pastor at Redhill Church. You can read more about Emily in her previously published blog post 'Life as a Worshipper: My Story'.