In the days of King Hezekiah - one of the best kings to ever rule over the southern kingdom of Judah - the king called the people to once again celebrate the Passover. For some reason, the people had been neglecting the feasts of the Lord for a very long time. Maybe the paganism of the surrounding nations had gradually influenced them to adopt more of their own customs and celebrations, or maybe the various kings who came before had neglected their God-given responsibility to make their own copies of the Law, and thus were unaware that they were commanded to celebrate these things, or maybe it just happened that over time the people stopped thinking that all of those feasts were important enough to justify making a long and expensive journey to Jerusalem. More than likely all three of these things contributed to the long neglect of God’s feasts.
But the somewhat surprising detail in the story of this historic return to faithfulness is just how much the people all enjoyed participating in the celebration.
“And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 30:21)
This is such a beautiful picture to me. The people of Israel, who had been almost indistinguishable from the people of the nations around them for so long, suddenly found their faith and their joy when they were together in obedience! It reminds us of the importance of not neglecting to meet together with the saints (Hebrews 10:25). We need each other as we seek to live out all that God commanded. This is a massively multiplayer game, not a single-player one.
This story of the renewed Passover also makes me long for the kind of thing that we see happening in Acts:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42,46-47)
Christian joy, fulfillment, and - dare I say - happiness are really very easy to foster. All it really takes is to meet together often - even in your homes - and spend time fellowshipping, eating, and discussing the apostles’ teachings. This is the God-prescribed cure for loneliness, doctrinal decline, and lack of morals all rolled into one! What is striking to me is how few churches actually seem to understand this.
Some modern churches reduce the number of meeting times under the false assumption that requiring too much of twenty-first century Americans will chase them all off. They are so busy and have such short attention spans, after all. Not to mention, the kind of churches that like to do this don’t really have much to share anyway. Their doctrine is so shallow, it wouldn’t even get your shoes wet.
Other churches - more doctrinally robust churches - tend to swing the pendulum another direction. Not understanding the value of true fellowship, they fill every single meeting with a formal program, or else prefer Bible studies to be the kind of affair where only one person speaks. This kind of buttoned-up stiffness can choke the life out of a church just as surely as a lack of doctrinal purity.
So let’s remember the value of getting together regularly. We need each other! Our souls are fed by the worship and fellowship of our brothers and sisters. And when we do get together, remember to take time just to catch up with each other - and get to know the newer faces. God has built this spiritual house for the purpose of showing His glory as it is assembled weekly into the visible church for His worship, according to His command. And if there is no time to pray honestly with one another, or to discuss the apostles’ teaching with one another, then look for ways to make happen, because in so doing there is great, soul-sustaining joy that is free for the taking.