Sunday, June 17, 2007

Assembly & Sabbath

In the comments section for the last post, a wonderful suggestion was made: reexamine what the Old Testament says about assemblies, particularly weekly assemblies. As I expressed there, my special interest is not just looking at what people did in the Old Testament, but what God told them to do.

The concept of the Sabbath goes back to creation, when God rested from His work on the 7th day. Beginning in Exodus 16, He tells His people to observe the 7th day of the week as a day of rest. That’s what Sabbath was about: rest. People were to refrain from all unnecessary work and allow their servants and animals to do the same. The Israelites were to keep the Sabbath holy by refraining from work.

Leviticus 23:3 calls the Sabbath “a holy convocation.” This could mean an assembly. However, when people were reprimanded in the prophets for failing to observe the Sabbath, they were never charged with “forsaking the assembly.” They were accused of working on the Sabbath.

During the Babylonian exile, the synagogue system was developed. People began to meet there for instruction in the Scriptures. Eventually they began to come together there each Sabbath. This was not because of divine instruction, but because men chose to do it that way.

Modern Jews are encouraged to meet on the Sabbath, but the assembly is not considered to be the main point of the day of rest.

When looking for a biblical emphasis on a weekly assembly, we’ll have to look elsewhere. The Sabbath doesn’t provide justification for such an emphasis.

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