Have you ever wondered why the church is called to gather together?
Why can’t we just turn on some worship music on Spotify, watch a sermon on YouTube, read the Bible on our iPhones, and then share our prayer requests with others on Facebook? Or some variation of that? Why is it that we are called to specifically gather together as a church?
In the Bible, I recognize that there is a command to not neglect gathering together, “And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 CSB). But why? Why is this important?
This is why I love Psalm 40. In this Psalm, we not only discover a song that would have been sung publicly when people gathered together for worship, but one that God used to shape the hearts of his people by reminding them who they are, and why gathering is important. Here are two insights from Psalm 40.
1. We Gather Because We’re Grateful
When we gather together, we’re saying “Lord, thank you,” as a response to his incredible work of salvation. This is why this Psalm begins and ends with our personal need for salvation.
“I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help.” (Psalm 40:1 CSB)
“I am oppressed and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.” (Psalm 40:17 CSB)
We see here in these verses that God is not some aloof or distant god who sits with his arms crossed, wanting us to pay for our debts and try to find a way to get to him. No! Instead of turning away from us, he turns toward us because he is our helper and deliverer who hears our cries for help.
This whole Psalm is a portrait of salvation. There is no hope in the pit of sin, foolishness, hatred, envy, and lust. On the contrary, if anyone stands on the rock of the saving work that Jesus has done for us, you can’t experience anything but hope!
And so, because God met us in our greatest need—and because he will always meet us in our greatest needs—we gather together to worship, as an act of gratitude.
2. We Gather to Worship
This is why David says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3 CSB). Because his heart is so full of gratitude, he can’t help but worship. This is why he goes on to say, “Lord my God, you have done many things— your wondrous works and your plans for us; none can compare with you. If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5 CSB).
David is helping us understand that the people of God are called to gather together to worship by declaring the wondrous works of God. He is saying that worship is the time when we gather together to openly, blatantly, bluntly, conspicuously, consciously, and boldly speak about the Lord. We tell of His righteousness, faithfulness, constant love, and truth because there’s no way that we can keep our mouths closed!
“I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; see, I do not keep my mouth closed— as you know, Lord. I did not hide your righteousness in my heart; I spoke about your faithfulness and salvation; I did not conceal your constant love and truth from the great assembly” (Psalm 40:9-10 CSB).
When we gather to worship together, we’re reminded that our corporate identity is not what we’ve done, but it’s what God’s done!
So maybe the question shouldn’t be why the church is called to gather together? In light of what we read in Psalm 40, perhaps the better question is, why shouldn’t the church be gathering more frequently together?