Scripture: Nehemiah 8:
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear [a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve."
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
Observation: We go to Church to fellowship with other believers and to receive instruction and hear interpretations of the scriptures for our better understanding.
Application: As I read through the scripture this morning I was amazed at how much it resembles a church service that we might have today. It’s funny how reading through something even after you’ve read it a number of times before can bring new insights. Here we see a person who is anointed by God to teach, who stands up before the people to read the holy scripture and the people stand in reverence of the word. Instruction and interpretation of the word is shared and the hearts of the people are moved by it. Then there is fellowship and sometimes a feast, plates may be made to share with some who are not able to attend and there is praise and joy because we come away with a greater understanding of God’s will for us.
These words were written some four hundred and thirty years before Christ and its amazing as to how similar they seem to our services still today. The practices of our Church services are long standing traditions for good reasons. In the act of going to Church and studying the scriptures, hearing interpretations, and fellowshipping with each other we grow spiritually, we mature, we learn, and we share in God’s grace and love.
I have heard so many people say "You don’t have to go to Church to be saved." or "You don’t have to go to Church to worship God." and you know, to a certain degree I have to agree with those statements, because God is in all places and you can be saved or you can worship Him anywhere and at any time. But usually these statements are not made by those who are trying to prove the omnipotence and omnipresence of God, but rather they are made by people who are looking to excuse their absences from Church. Here is another good one I’ve heard before "I can worship God just as good down at the lake, or out on the golf course as I can at Church." Yeah, ok… I think that if you really are saved, and if you are truly interested in worshiping God, then Church is a place you should want to be.
Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Going to Church in and of itself wont save you, nor will hearing the interpretations of scripture from a preacher, nor having a fine meal with other believers, but nevertheless, all these things are good for you. These things are part of a healthy Christian life and if we neglect them, I believe that it will eventually take a toll on our souls.
I’m the first person to admit that there are problems in the Church, you are going to find problems on a universal level and problems all the way down to the individual congregation and the small groups within those congregations. Still, the Church is the best boat afloat when it comes to growing closer to God.
If there are things about Church in general, or your home Church congregation that bother you and you’ve decided that you will just worship God in your own way consider this. Perhaps God has troubled your heart for a good reason, and maybe – just maybe, He is expecting great things from you. You can’t fix a sinking ship from the outside, you have to make a positive impact from within.
Prayer: Almighty Jehovah,
Please help me to remain steadfast in my commitment to serving you. You have placed me in a position in which I can serve, help me to take every opportunity and use it to the fullest of my abilities.
Make me an instrument of your Peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.