True assembly of the saints

A friend recently confided in me. He said, “Because of my schedule, I often attend church online. I had missed a service and tuned in online. The pastor, who I highly regarded, preached a sermon about tithing. He essentially guilted the people about the money it takes to maintain the building, the church programs, and the costs of running the congregation. And I thought to myself, “is this what church is about.” Absent were references of the gathering together of the believers in heartfelt worship, he said, instead it was all about money and costs. He said he felt an emptiness in his heart. He asked if he was wrong. So often this is what church has become—a business. This is antithetical to God’s intentions.

Let us seek clarity. In Exodus 35-38:20, Moses assembled the people together. Vayakhel is Hebrew for “He Assembled.” Moses begins by teaching the people Torah, and first up is observing Shabbat, a day of complete rest, including the restriction to not build a fire on the Sabbath. In Mark 2:27-28, Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Jesus, as the Lord of the Sabbath, means that He is God in human form, and that He created the Sabbath. The Sabbath day points to the spiritual rest we all have in Messiah, as he said in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Moses then told the people that the LORD was calling for free will offerings of materials for the building of the Tabernacle.  This was a partnership between God and His people to make a sacred place for Him to dwell in their midst. What transformed the Israelites wasn’t just what God did for them, but what they did for God. The Tabernacle, or in Hebrew the Mishkan, was symbolic of “God with us,” the basic meaning behind the word Mishkan, which means “to dwell.” Later, during the time of Solomon, the Tabernacle was replaced by the Temple. The ultimate gathering place for people to meet with and worship God in Jerusalem. Hebrews 8:5 tells us the earthly Tabernacle/Temple was an “example and shadow of heavenly things.”

Revelation 1:20 alludes to elements like the lamp stands (Menorah) as metaphors for the earthly churches, and Christ is seen as the priest maintaining the lights of the seven “churches” including us as lights to others, just as priests of the Tabernacle/Temple did the Menorah (1:13). In Revelation 11:19, John announces that “the Temple of God in Heaven was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant was seen in his Temple.” Revelation 21:3 says, “See!  God’s Sh’khinah (glory) is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be His people, and he himself will be their God.” This is the ultimate fulfillment of the Vayakhel. You see, church is not a business. It is the gathering together with the LORD first and foremost; the sabbath day in the Lord’s rest, our heartfelt worship to be about the LORD’s business. Something to ponder.

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Bill Wilson