"Together"

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133).

To whom is it good and pleasant? To the brethren themselves surely, and to all who can admire what is comely, but most of all to the Father of them all. A true father is sorely grieved if his children quarrel, and is never happier than when they gather affectionate and united at the family hearth. God is a father and He has children, and it is good and pleasant to Him when they dwell together in unity. Indeed when they do it is evidence of His love flawing into their hearts and flowing out again to those who are begotten of Him, and by this dwelling together they show that they are His children and that His own nature is strong and vigorous in them.

"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" is a word of first importance. It is necessary for our mutual prosperity in spiritual things; we have not been born of God to be independent one of another, and if we are to hold fast our confession we must assemble together, and consider and exhort one another, and provoke one another to love of good works. All that is true, but behind it all lies the delight that God our Father finds in seeing His children caring for another and delighting in one another's company. And such is the delight of the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, when His brethren are gathered together, that He will not, cannot, remain away from them. He has said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them, " and where He is there the Father is also.

We may not have realised it, but just as a register of the children's attendance at school is kept, so God keeps a register in heaven in which He records the gatherings together of His children on earth and who they are that gather together to speak and think of Him. But it is so. That remarkable passage in Malachi 3:16, certainly teaches this. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His Name." And the deep satisfaction and joy that it gave Him finds expression in what follows. "They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." As it was so it is; indeed it must be more so in these days than those, for the tie that binds His children to God now is a closer and dearer one than that which bound the saints to Him in Malachi's days. How profoundly it should affect us, that every time His children gather together to speak of Him it delights His heart, and that He records it in heaven's indelible, eternal record, and that to Him it is a service that only a son can render to a father. This should constrain us above all other thoughts, but there is this other added for our encouragement: all such are to be distinguished as His special jewels in the day when He manifests His glory. As they have been faithful to Him, and have pleased Him in degenerate days when His Name is derided and blasphemed, so shall they flash forth His glory when He shall make all things bend to His will.

In musing on this joy of God in the unity of His children there comes to my mind words that deeply move the heart and tell us how only this unity could be. "Jesus should die. . . that He should gather TOGETHER in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:51-52). It was the Father's will, yet in no other way could His will be accomplished, and Jesus came that the Father's will might be done. He said, "That the world may know that I love the Father, and as He has given Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence, " and that hence was Golgotha! The darkness, the sorrow, the shame, the judgment of our sins, the forsaking of God, and then death! It was through that that Jesus passed to set the children free from the devil's power, and bind them together in a unity of life that not death itself can dissolve. He died to gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.

Do we consider this as we gather together in holy, happy Christian unity, that it is the death of Jesus that has made it possible? We should have had no title, no desire, no power to gather together, or dwell together, or talk together, if Jesus had not died. How near to the heart of God must this be since He secured it at so great a price. And yet I have heard it argued that divisions among God's children are of God, and so to be sanctioned and vigorously maintained. The word says, "for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one says, 'I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?'" (1 Cor. 3:3-4); and we know that it is the wolf that scatters what God would unite (John 10). Divisions among the children of God are not of God, but are of the flesh and the devil, and they please well a scoffing world. "He that sows discord among brethren" is one of the seven abominations in God's sight, He hates him (Prov. 6:19), and no wonder, since Jesus died to make them one, and bring them into harmony with God.

What pleases God must be a joy to His children if they are in communion with Him. They do not love a solitary path. Love for their brethren, love in the Spirit is written on the fleshy tables of their hearts, and they seek the company of those they love. This is shown in a striking way in the life of Paul, in whom all the thoughts of God for a saint and servant on earth were delineated. It he went forth as a missionary where no brethren were he took them with him. On one of these journeys he seemed likely to be left alone and he sent a commandment to Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed (Acts 17). And if on his voyage as a prisoner to Rome he had not this companionship, what a joy it gave him when at ports of call some of them were waiting to greet him. He gave thanks to God at the sight of them, and took fresh courage.

It must be a grief of heart to God when any of His children begin to forsake the assembling of themselves together, and choose the company of the ungodly instead of that of their brethren, for that is a sure sign of spiritual decline and backsliding. I would urge upon all, and especially upon young Christians, to seek the company of those who love and fear the Lord. God has set you in His family, and family affections cannot be developed if one is isolated from his brethren or seeks the friendship of the world.

I know that there are those to whom the gatherings of God's children are impossible, invalids, aged saints, mothers of large families and others, what of these? There is an encouraging word for such in Psalm 69, "The Lord despiseth not His prisoners." He knows how to make up to such what they may lose by their isolation. Though He is the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity whose name is holy; and dwells in the high and holy place, yet He also dwells with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isa. 57:15). It is a wonderful word, but as true as it is wonderful. Yet these, the prisoners of the Lord, so greatly blessed by the company and care of the Lord will be interested in the gatherings together of the children of God they will be with them in spirit, for they will be in communion with Him.

We are waiting for the complete and final gathering, the gathering that will never be broken up — "Our gathering together to Him." It is described in well-loved and oft quoted word. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:16-18).