This Sunday, millions of people will gather in homes and churches all around the world to worship God on the Lord's Day. Those that can will meet in large groups to meet with God.
Ezra, in Nehemiah 8, displays a good model for what should happen in these moments. Although there is freedom in our worship and in elements of worship, the following are things we should never displace in our gatherings.
1. We should GATHER
"And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate" (8:1)
2. We should PREPARE FOR WORSHIP
Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. (8:2)
3. We should listen to GODLY TEACHERS
"... and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel ... Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose ... Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people ... they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading." (8:1-8)
4. We should READ THE WORD
"He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand." (8:3)
5. We should HONOR and BE ATTENTIVE to GOD’S WORD
"Ezra opened the book ... and all the people stood up ...and all the people were attentive to the book of the law." (8:3,5)
6. We should PRAY
"Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God, and all the people answered "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands" (8:6)
7. We should WORSHIP GOD TOGETHER
"Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped he Lord with their faces to the ground." (8:6-7)
8. We should GIVE
" (Nehemiah) said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared. (8:10)
9. We should RESPOND
"Then he said to them, "Go ... All the people went away to eat, to drink to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them." (8:12)
10. We should set aside SPECIAL SEASONS OF EXTENDED WORSHIP
"The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. He read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance." (8:17-18)
11. We should CELEBRATE!
"and (Nehemiah) ... said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep ... Do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (8:9-10)
"And there was great rejoicing ... and they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance." (8:17d-18)
The end result of this return to worship? Read Chapter 9 of Nehemiah and you will hear of one of the greatest revivals in human history as an entire nation returned to God. The people confessed their sins, sang and worshiped, and made a covenant to return to the Lord together.
I wonder if we would give attention and full response to God in worship if we would not see the same?