“Gather my saints together unto Me, those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice”—Psalm 50:5.
We move forward in history about 400 years from the time God gave instructions regarding the gathering of His people at a place which He had chosen to place His name. We find God is still interested in the gathering of His saints.
In Psalm 50 God sets forth the principle of that gathering. There are six characteristics which we will consider:
1. The authority for gathering. It is God who speaks and these can be no greater authority. The gathering together of OT saints rested on this sore foundation, “Gather My saints together unto Me,” etc. They obeyed and were blessed.
2. The members of the gathering. “Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” These alone were embraced in the divine command. As in OT days so today, believers are those who have been brought into covenant relationship with God. This covenant is based on the cross-work of the Lord Jesus. The Lord said, “For this is the blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remissions of sins”—Matthew 26:28. Christ negotiated this covenant “by means of death”—Hebrews 9:15. He ratified it with His own blood—Hebrews 9:18; 22:26. He guarantees it by His life at God’s right hand—Hebrews 7:25.
3. The center of the gathering. The Lord gathers His people together that they may be gathered around Him. In the wilderness He said, “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” Prior to their redemption from Egypt, God never dwelt in the midst of His people. He only dwelt among them after they were redeemed by blood. When the sin of idolatry broke out in the camp (golden calf), Moses took the tabernacle and “pitched it without the camp.” Exodus 33:7. That position without the camp separated those on the Lord’s side from the evil within the camp, and identified them with Himself. How important and precious to hear the NT exhortation, “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” Hebrews 13:13. When we do this our position is that of gathered saints with Jesus in the midst. See Matthew 18:20. What a privilege to meet the Lord in this capacity.
4. The separation of the gathering. It was always God’s will that His people be separated unto Himself. Separation in the Scripture is always twofold—from and unto. From that which displeases Him, unto Himself. The NT emphasizes this truth in Hebrews 13:13, “Let us go forth,” etc. 2 Corinthians 6 says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The unclean thing from which we are to be separated is clearly defined in the immediate context—the unbeliever, the unrighteous, darkness, Satan, infidels, and idols. God would have His people separated from all this and gathered unto Himself. In this situation God will be able to display His father’s heart and love to us. We will be to Him that which He would desire a son or daughter to be.
5. The unity of the gathering. If God would have us separate ourselves from that which is evil, He does not contemplate division among His saints. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”—Psalm 133. The new church in Jerusalem was a good example of this condition. “All that believed were together and had all things in common.” “They met daily with one accord.” There was gladness and singleness of heart among them, as they praised God and found favor with the people.—Acts 2:44-47. Such a gathering of believers is assured of the blessing of the Holy Spirit. “There the Lord commanded the blessing.”
6. The purpose of the gathering. Worship, prayer, discipline. God’s purpose in gathering His people together is that they might worship Him. “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High”—Psalm 50:14. One of the responsibilities attacked in Hebrews 13 to going forth unto Him without the camp, is offering the “sacrifice of praise to God continually, the fruit of the lips, giving thanks to His name.” one of the characteristics of the early church was steadfastness in prayer. Acts 2:42. “And when they had prayed the place was shaken where they were assembled, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness”—Acts 4:31.
Immediately after the call to gather unto Him there comes the declaration, “He shall call to the heavens above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people.”
God dwells in the midst of His saints that He may praise the holy character of His own house. Matthew 18:20—“Where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst.”
Not only is the assembly a “place of separation” and a “place of commemoration,” it is a “place of worship.” Note how this worked out in the experience of Israel in Deuteronomy 26:2. During their wilderness pilgrimage Israel neither planted or reaped harvests. Yet they did not want, God fed them with manna.
When they reached the Promised Land they ate “the old corn of the land.” Then they had to sow the seed for themselves. This generation had never seen this sowing and reaping process. What a thrill it must have been as they watched what they had sown in faith months before gradually mature and finally become ready to harvest. God instructed him that the first-fruits, the grain that was ready first, was to be put in a basket and given to the Lord in the place where He had chosen to put His name.
The golden grain in the basket was the first-fruits of his harvest. It was also a promise of the coming harvest. It was also a sample of what that harvest would be like.
God required of His ancient people that they should bring “the first of all the fruit of the earth,” and “put it in a basket” and go to the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His name.
Before the Israelite could present his basket of first-fruits to the Lord and worship Him, there were three conditions which he had to meet.
1. Confession of ruin—v. 5. This was a confession of what he was before he was redeemed. He confessed to a poor genealogy. By birth he had no claim upon God. “A Syrian ready to perish was my father.”
2. Acknowledgement of redemption—v. 7-8. “We cried unto the Lord.” “The Lord brought us forth from Egypt with a mighty hand.” How uniquely the story is summarized in these few words. Selecting a lamb without spot or blemish. Proving it until the 4th day of the month. Killing it at evening-time, catching the blood in a basin, sprinkling the blood on the door posts, taking shelter behind these blood-sprinkled doors. God passing over their households, preserving them from the destroyer. Eating the roast lam, marching out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, the destruction of their enemies, singing in the wilderness.
3. A profession of separation. Not only had the Lord brought them out of Egypt, but “He hath brought us to this place.” Into a land which floweth with milk and honey. A land full of temporal blessings, full of spiritual blessings. In this land, separated from evil nations and idol worship, the Lord God chose a place to put His name. To this place of separation these faithful ones came with their baskets of first-fruits.
The Israelite, after have confessed that he sprang from ruined stock, acknowledged his redemption by blood from Egypt, and witnessed to his separation from all but the place to which God had brought him, he presented his basket of first-fruits unto the Lord, and worshipped with rejoicing in His presence.
So with the believer in Christ today. He comes to the place which God has chosen, where God has promised to be. In coming to worship we must first confess our ruin, our redemption by blood, our separation from the evil world system. Then with rejoicing we present our basket of first-fruits, which is Christ who once was dead, but is now alive, the first-fruits of that coming harvest. He gratefully remembers the Lord in His death. “As the corn of wheat that died,” etc. As he breaks the bread and drinks from the cup the solemn scenes of Calvary come before him by the Spirit. Then his thoughts are led to rejoice in a risen Savior, the first-fruits of a great harvest.