Under the Law of Moses, God expected the Jewish people to meet together regularly. He gave them special feast days and weeks scattered through the year, and their Sabbath Day to be a weekly oasis, a rest from the drudgery of the other six work days.
God had sanctified and blessed the seventh day (Sabbath) in creation:
By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen. 2.2-3)
During each Sabbath rest, the Jews were forbidden to do any of their normal work or daily chores. Deadly serious about keeping the Sabbath Day holy (Exod. 35.2), God embedded it as the fourth of the Ten Commandments:
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exod. 20.8-11)
Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves. (Exod. 23.12)
Every regular day the priests were to offer one lamb in the morning and one lamb in the evening as burnt offerings to YHWH (Num. 28.3-4), but on the Sabbath Day they were to offer two additional lambs (Num. 28.8-9).
And on the Sabbath Day the people were to gather together for worship.
“So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” (Exod. 31.16)
“For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings.” (Lev. 23.3)
The “holy convocation” was a special time when the Israelite people gathered together for dedicated corporate worship. Jesus faithfully kept the Sabbath Day convocations as the Hebrew brethren gathered weekly in their synagogues for the reading of scripture, singing, and prayer.
Since the time of Moses, God set forth a pattern of corporate gatherings of His saints, which He has always intended they keep faithfully. The church gathering together in the New Testament is not much different from the Jewish synagogue gathering together. James even called the gatherings of the early Christians a synagogue in his second chapter:
“For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes…” (James 2.2)
The word translated “assembly” in most English bibles is the noun “συναγωγὴν” (sunagogan): synagogue. So the New Testament usage of “church” (which also means “assembly”) flows easily from the first century understanding of synagogue.
Used as a verb, I ask: do you synagogue regularly? Do you church regularly?
More soon to come, Lord willing…