Joy in the Assembly
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).
This is a familiar verse to many of us (and for good reason). In this psalm, David described the attitude that God’s people should have toward worship – particularly the opportunities to assemble for worship. The psalmist described going to Jerusalem and worshiping in the temple (“the house of the Lord”). The parallel for us today is in our gathering with the church as we assemble for worship.
This psalm is a “Song of Ascents” – a collection of fifteen psalms (120-134) which are generally recognized as songs that would be sung by those ascending the road to Jerusalem to worship. This would happen three times a year (Deuteronomy 16:16) – at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. This psalm began with an exclamation of joy over the mere mention of the journey to the place where the people of God would be gathered to worship Him.
Today, worship is not something that is confined to Jerusalem (John 4:21); it can be done anywhere. Yet wherever we gather to worship, we need to have the same attitude expressed by the psalmist.
Why is assembling for worship a joyous occasion?
- It is an opportunity to worship God– “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). The fact that our Creator is seeking worshipers shows that He is aware of and interested in each one of us. He has abundantly blessed us in this life (cf. James 1:17) and we have an opportunity in worship to express our thanksgiving to Him.
- It is an opportunity to study His word– “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). We often cite this verse to show that the early church gathered on the first day of the week to observe the Lord’s Supper (part of their worship). This is certainly true. Yet this verse also shows us the place of preaching or teaching in the assembly. Each time we gather we have the opportunity to learn more about the word of God.
- It is an opportunity to assemble with brethren– “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). As we face difficulties and challenges in life, we need encouragement from others. By the Lord’s design, the assembly of the saints provides an opportunity for each of us to give and receive encouragement.
- It is an opportunity to escape the troubles of this life– “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This verse looks ahead to the time when the troubles of life will be a thing of the past. Sadly, we still experience such things in this life. Yet when we gather with the people of God to worship Him, we have an opportunity to escape – if only for a short while – the cares of this world as we focus together on spiritual things.
- It is an opportunity to be reminded of the joys of heaven– “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). As we sing songs and hear words about our eternal home, we are encouraged to continue to “press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14).
Rather than look for any excuse we can imagine for staying home from the assembly, we need to recognize all of the benefits we gain from these opportunities to gather with other Christians to worship. It truly is a joyous occasion to be able to come together with our brethren to worship God. Let us not take these opportunities for granted; instead, let us use them to encourage our brethren, receive encouragement ourselves, and give glory and honor to our Creator.
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