Wordless Speech: Body Language

Wordless Speech: Body Language

Wordless Speech: Body Language.

Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the Book, they all rose to their feet. Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, ‘Amen! Amen!’ as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

Physical gestures can point to spiritual truth, or it could stimulate spiritual truth. Body movements often reflect the status of the heart. The posture of one’s body can be a sign that communicates a message. Physical movement can also stimulate an emotion or thought, and the muscle memory used is often a spiritual muscle. Do you want to signal to God that you submit to Him, that you adore Him, that you want to give your whole life to Him? There are gestures that can communicate these positions of the heart that don’t need words. Down through Judeo-Christian history, body language is vital to spiritual life and expression. The body can speak clearly without words.

LIFTING THE HANDS. We lift our hands to celebrate, to praise and adore, to acknowledge His lordship, to intercede for loved ones, to entreat the Lord in humility, and even to confess our sins to God. A survey of some of the Scriptures reveal that lifting up our hands is an important gesture and speaks volumes.

  1. In your Name I will lift up my hands.” (Ps. 63:4);
  2. May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Ps. 141:2);
  3. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.” (Ps. 134:2)’
  4. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your Most Holy Place.” (Ps. 28:2);
  5. I spread my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” (Ps. 143:6);
  6. Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children.” (Lam. 2:19);
  7. In every place of worship, I want you to pray with holy hands lifted up to God…” (1 Tim. 2:8);
  8. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say, ‘We have sinned and rebelled...” (Lam. 3:41).

PROSTRATE TO THE GROUND. When a defeated soldier is brought to a conquering king, the captured foe lays his body out, face down, fully on the ground. That physical act acknowledges the fact that he is in subjection to the king, tht he submits to his power and authority. To lie prostrate in worship is to acknowledge much the same thing, that the worshiper is humbly in full submission to God the King. To lie prostrate in prayerful worship is done out of reverence and a healthy fear of God’s might and authority over us. Interceding for the people of Israel after the Golden Calf debacle, Moses fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days and nights. He fasted the whole time he was prostrate, because he “feared the anger and wrath of the Lord.” (Deut. 9:18-19). Moses acknowledges his subservience to Yahweh by his physical gesture. Even more telling was the time when all the people on Mt. Carmel saw the fire of heaven come down at Elijah’s request, ‘When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!’ (1 Kings 19:39). Prostration is a rather radical, visual way to signal one’s submission and respect to God. It would be interesting to try this posture in private prayer, no less in community worship.

KISS OF PEACE. We are told a number of times in the Epistles to greet fellow believers with a “holy kiss.” (1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; Ro. 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:26). This gesture was a sacred greeting that symbolized the love and unity believers experienced in their spiritual fellowship. It was a sign of peace. The holy kiss signaled mutual affection, the desire for peace between individuals, and was done on the cheeks of the believers. Peter emphasized this kiss’ origin in the love of God to the degree that he calls it the “kiss of love.” (1 Peter 5:14). This kiss of peace reminds us of Judas’ treacherous kiss, and we understand even more deeply his profound betrayal, demonstrating a supposed kiss of peace merely to point out the doomed Lamb of God. The kiss of peace on each cheek was a traditional greeting in the Middle East. The Christian Church continued that tradition, and it continues to this day in  the Eastern Orthodox Church. When someone offers a kiss of peace, that person is saying that she or he has a clear conscience with that other person, that any division has been healed, any wrong has been forgiven, any bitterness is in the past. When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of peace, his betrayal was grotesque and doubly hurtful (Luke 22:48). The kiss of peace in the Orthodox liturgy is done just before the Eucharist, for Jesus clearly stated that peace with others takes priority over the duties of worship (Matt. 5:23-24).

KNEEL. The Hebrew word most often translated as “bless” is barak, which means to kneel down, to adore with bended knees. It is an act of humbling oneself as we exalt the Lord and revere His Name. Kneeling is a sign of adoration and reverence, of humility and respect. We kneel low to raise God high.

  1. Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Ps. 95:6);
  2. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives its name.” (Eph. 3:14);
  3. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other… Before me every knee will bow.” (Is. 45:22-23);
  4. As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.” (Ro. 14:11);
  5. “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11).

DANCE. Using one’s whole body in self-expression, moving in a way that matches the speed and rhythm of a piece of music, is an ancient art form in worship. The purpose of this physical movement is to express an emotion or an idea, a thought or a feeling. Dance honors the Person for whom you are dancing. Dancing has been a part of Judeo-Christian worship since ancient times. Believers have been known to dance in order to rejoice, to adore, to celebrate, to lament, and even to act out a story.

  1. For everything there is a season… a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Eccl. 3:4);
  2. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise His Name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourines and harp.” (Ps. 149:2-3);
  3. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Ps. 30:11-12);
  4. This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.” (Luke 15:24-25);
  5. David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” (2 Sam. 6:14-15).