"...not forsaking our own assembling together,
as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another;
After 35+ years as a pastor's wife, I'm tempting into thinking I've earned a few passes to play hooky from church. How vividly I remember driving to church Sunday after Sunday, praying that the Lord would give me strength to teach children's church one more time because my body sure didn't feel like it. With an autoimmune disease, sometimes going to church was an uphill climb, especially with all there was to do. Looking back, I don't know how I did it. House churches began to sound nice, simple, uncomplicated assembling together. Now I get to be a couch potato introvert blogging away. Going to church is one of the only times I get out being around people--going to Walmart doesn't count.
But do we really get passes to play hooky? The word forsake means something akin to breaking a vow of love. It is part of the traditional wedding vow, forsaking all others. The dictionary says forsake means "to renounce or turn away entirely." Do we really want to do that when it comes to fellowship, gathering or assembling together? Just look around, and you will see how many choose to do just that. Actually, once you miss a few Sundays, it's easy to make a habit out of missing most of them. Since I am using the dictionary, one definition of habit is "a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition."
It also hints of one of the Ten Commandments, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." In our blest country, attending church doesn't have a lot of obstacles and comparatively little persecution. But as for the people in this letter to the Hebrews, Adam Clarke says, "it is evident that the Church was now in a state of persecution, and therefore their meetings were most probably held in private. For fear of persecution, it seems as if some had deserted these meetings...and others were in danger of following their example." Goodness, Americans miss church more likely to watch the ballgame or to sleep-in!
"For where two or three have gathered in My name,
I am there in their midst."
The size of our gathering isn't important, it's who is there, the Lord Himself!
Adam Clarke says, "Those who relinquish Christian communion are in a backsliding state;
those who backslide are in danger of apostasy (abandoning a former loyalty). As seen in the verse above, when you miss gathering together, you are not only missing communing with fellow Christians, but you are standing up a date with God! Don't stiff the Holy Spirit when He's expecting you to join Him.
So let this be an encouragement. Don't forsake gathering together. It is even more precious than gathering around a family table when you join the family of God in worship and the Word. At sometime or other, I dare you to save a seat right next to you in church just as a reminder that Jesus is right with you when you get your church on!
Andrew Murray says, "...the assembly of God's people (is) not only for what it needs and hopes to receive, but for the communion of saints, and the help it can give in helping and encouraging others." He also says concerning this passage, "The inward and the outward must ever go together. As is in every man a hidden inner life of the soul, along with the outer life of the body, so too in the Church of Christ. All members are one body; the inward unity must be...seen in the assembling together...a divine appointment."