The longer I work at preaching the gospel the more I become aware that old temptations do not go away. I remember when I first became acquainted with the brotherhood there was a problem with brethren who wanted to go on vacations, world travel, hunting trips, fishing trips, sporting events, etc. that took them away from the assembly of the church on the Lord’s day. Some of these were very influential brethren whom I really believe had not given consideration to the fact that they had no scriptural grounds to miss the assembly.
These brethren dismissed their absence from the assembly by making an attempt to worship wherever they might be on the Lord’s day. hey considered themselves the “Lord’s church in the woods, on the lake, at Disney World, etc.” Over the following years the error of this practice was exposed and for the most part brethren gave up their excuses for being the roving church.
The devil never gives up. The “roving church” practice has reared its ugly head again. In the last few years those who cannot bear to have their vacation plans interrupted to assemble with the saints are again trying to salve their consciences by breaking out the loaf and cup at the motel, beside the road, lake, woods, etc. The reality of this situation is that brethren who willfully forsake assembling with the local church on the Lord’s day are simply violating the commands of God for the worship of the church.
May I remind the reader that God established a plan for the worship of the Lord’s church. This plan is not just some arbitrary, 1-2-3, A-B-C system for worship. There is a reason for everything that God ordains for us to do. So it is with the worship of the church.
When God instructed Israel how to worship under the Old Testament system, which is a type or pattern for worship today, He gave explicit instructions. There is a beneficial reason for every one of God’s commands. The command we want to notice for our study is: WHERE Israel was to carry out their responsibilities to worship. Please notice the following scriptures.
Leviticus 8:3,4, “And gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”
If you desire to do a study on this location you will be clearly shown that the worship requirements made on Israel were to be made at “the door of the tabernacle.” The following verses along with several others show this requirement. All of these verses are in Leviticus. See the following: 1:3, 1:5, 3:2, 4:4, 4:7, 4:18, 8:31.
One can see how plain the instructions are yet there were those who would violate the command of God. For reasons that we can only speculate upon, some desired to make their sacrifice “out of the camp” or “in the open field.” What difference will it make if one offers his sacrifice at some place other than that authorized by God? Isn’t the only important thing that a sacrifice is made? Perhaps the worshiper is quite a long way from the “door of the tabernacle”, maybe he is too busy to be bothered with going to “the door of the tabernacle”, or perhaps he is on vacation and he might miss something if he must go to “the door of the tabernacle.”
The difference is God said, ”the door of the tabernacle.” No other place will work. Further more, as is always the case, there is a penalty for violating what God said. Notice: Leviticus 17:3,4, “What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD; blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be CUT OFF FROM AMONG HIS PEOPLE.”
Leviticus 17:8,9, “And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice, And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the LORD; even that man shall be CUT OFF FROM AMONG HIS PEOPLE.”
The pattern should be plain for us today. God said, Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples CAME TOGETHER to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”
Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
God did not say that we could be the “Yellowstone National Park church” this Lord’s day and be some where else the next. The teaching is “the disciples came together” and we are not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together.”
As we said earlier in this article there is always a reason and a benefit to those who listen to what “the Lord hath commanded.” There is a great spiritual benefit in the requirement for the body of Christ to assemble itself together to worship God. Besides the obvious benefits of the fellowship of other Christians the command to assemble can keep you out of idolatry! This seems to have been the primary reason Israel was commanded to come to “the door of the tabernacle.”
Leviticus 17:7, “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.”
Those who would offer their sacrifices in places other than “the door of the tabernacle” were much more likely to enter into idolatrous worship. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown in their commentary explain that the “devils” in verse 7 are goats. “They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils—literally, ‘goats.’ The prohibition evidently alludes to the worship of the hirei-footed kind, such as Pan, Faunus, and Saturn, whose recognized symbol was a goat. This was a form of idolatry enthusiastically practiced by the Egyptians.”
Idolatry can be defined as anything that we place in our lives before God. It can be a vacation, ball game, fishing or hunting trip, travel around the world, visit to grandma’s house. Anything that we put ahead of what God said makes us an idolater.
In closing may I encourage you to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that we all have as Christians. That is to assemble around the Lord’s table on the Lord’s day to enjoy all the benefits of our joint participation in worship to God. This weekly assembly will help to keep you away from GOAT WORSHIP.
published in The Christian Informer, June, 2005