10 Minutes Before the Meeting Starts
I wonder what sort of atmosphere characterises your meeting before it begins? In some places it is light chatter that can build up into a cacophony of noise. Often there are cordial smiles and greetings as people take their seats. Every meeting has a few ‘meerkats’ whose necks crane and look around to investigate every new sight or sound that enters the meeting room. Perhaps there are some who struggle to get to the meeting 10 minutes before it begins and thus enter the building flustered and in a jangling of noise. These are often common sights that we’ve all experienced.
If you’re a man taking public part you may be more inclined to self-promotion than edification (1 Cor 14:26). If you’re a woman you may be more inclined toward your apparel than your spirituality, after all 1 Timothy 2:9 is a gender specific injunction. These things should not be.
To varying degrees and at different points in my own life, the descriptions above accurately describe my demeanour and comportment in an assembly gathering. However, as I sat at a meeting recently I began to think of the features that should mark us when we come to meet with the Lord. After all, let’s not forget that’s precisely what is taking place. When we attend the breaking of bread, the prayer meeting, the teaching meeting or any other meeting of the Lord’s people, he is personally there. The immortal words of the Lord Jesus always ring true in such gatherings; “where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there are my in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20, DBY). Let us never forget – he is there.
Why is it that we’re taken up with the peripherals and not with the Lord? Why do we look at each other and not him? Why is it that lightness marks us and not reverence? Why the earthly and not the heavenly? I am not advocating cold, manufactured, regimented reverence. I am not advocating mere externals instead of inward reality. Awe for the Lord cannot be imposed by legalism or outside constructs, rather it should be the response of a devoted heart. But neither am I an advocate of casual lightness and familiarity as we come to meet with the Lord. Ultimately what is in our heart will show out in our character and actions. The twin features of reverence and love for God need to be there at all times. The fear of God and devotion to God are not mutually exclusive. To tremble at his presence and to rejoice in his person seem to be features found throughout the Bible.
Certainly Jacob learnt that meeting with God in his house (Bethel) was not a light and casual experience as he exclaimed: “Surely Jehovah is in this place, yet I recognised it not. And he was awed, and said how sacred is this place! This is none other than the house of God this is the gate of heaven” (Gen 28:16-17). As Jacob looked back at that experience later in life, he recounted with joy how “God Almighty appeared unto me in the land of Canaan, and blessed me” (Gen 48:3).
The same was true of the Psalmist when he said “how amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God … … I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps 84:1,2; Ps 122:1). The thrill of meeting with God did not escape the Psalmist, he would not have missed that meeting for the world, there was nowhere he would rather be. Coupled with this joy was a sense of reverential awe as he said “holiness becometh thine house, O Lord forever” (Ps 93:5).
Things are no different when we come into the New Testament and Paul expects that there should be a known and felt a presence of the Lord among his people. The stranger coming into the meeting would have fallen upon his face and paid homage to God reporting “that God is indeed amongst you” (1Cor 14:25, DBY). Do we fall before God? Do we fear him? Do we adore him?
Western society has lost all sense of what is sacred, eternal and weighty. Not one of us have been unaffected by this. By the grace of God and through the guidance of his Spirit, may we recover some sense of what it is to tremble in his holy presence and say with the Psalmist “I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth” (Ps 26:8).
 Helen Spurrell - A Translation of the Old Testament Scriptures from the Original Hebrew