Showing Respect for Our Sacred Gatherings
“I will also bring them to my holy mountain and make them rejoice inside my house of prayer.”—ISAIAH 56:7.
1. What Scriptural reasons do we have for showing proper respect for our meetings?
JEHOVAH has gathered his people, anointed Christians and their companions, to worship him at his “holy mountain.” He is making them rejoice inside his “house of prayer,” his spiritual temple, which is “a house of prayer for all the nations.” (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17) These developments indicate that Jehovah’s worship is holy, pure, and elevated. By showing proper respect for our meetings for study and worship, we prove that we share Jehovah’s view of sacred things.
2. What indicates that Jehovah held as sacred the place he chose for his worship, and how did Jesus show that he too did so?
2 In ancient Israel, the place that Jehovah chose for his worship was to be held sacred. The tabernacle and its furnishings and utensils were to be anointed and sanctified ‘that they might indeed become most holy.’ (Exodus 30:26-29) The two compartments of the sanctuary were called “the Holy Place” and “the Most Holy.” (Hebrews 9:2, 3) The tabernacle was later replaced by the temple in Jerusalem. As the seat of Jehovah’s worship, Jerusalem was called “the holy city.” (Nehemiah 11:1; Matthew 27:53) During his earthly ministry, Jesus himself showed due respect for the temple. He was incensed at the people for the disrespectful way that they used the temple area for commercial purposes and as a shortcut.—Mark 11:15, 16.
3. What illustrates the sacred nature of Israel’s assemblies?
3 The Israelites assembled regularly to worship Jehovah and to listen to the reading of his Law. Certain days of their festivals were called holy conventions or solemn assemblies, indicating the sacred nature of these gatherings. (Leviticus 23:2, 3, 36, 37) At a public assembly in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Levites “were explaining the law to the people.” Since “all the people were weeping as they were hearing the words of the law,” the Levites “were ordering all the people to be silent, saying: ‘Keep quiet! for this day is holy.’” The Israelites then celebrated the seven-day Festival of Booths with “very great rejoicing.” Furthermore, “there was a reading aloud of the book of the law of the true God day by day, from the first day until the last day; and they went on holding the festival seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.” (Nehemiah 8:7-11, 17, 18) These were truly holy occasions requiring respectful attention on the part of those in attendance.
Our Meetings Are Sacred Gatherings
4, 5. What features of our meetings prove that they are sacred gatherings?
4 True, today Jehovah has no literal holy city on earth, with a special temple dedicated to his worship. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the fact that meetings for the worship of Jehovah are sacred gatherings. Three times a week, we meet in order to read and study the Scriptures. Jehovah’s Word is “expounded,” and as in Nehemiah’s time, there is “a putting of meaning into it.” (Nehemiah 8:8) All our meetings begin and end with prayer, and at most of them, we sing songs of praise to Jehovah. (Psalm 26:12) The congregation meetings are truly a part of our worship and call for a prayerful attitude and respectful attention on our part.
5 Jehovah blesses his people as they meet together to worship him, study his Word, and enjoy sweet Christian fellowship. When the time comes to attend a meeting, we can be sure that it is there that ‘Jehovah commands the blessing to be.’ (Psalm 133:1, 3) We share in that blessing if we are present and attentively follow the spiritual program. Moreover, Jesus stated: “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” In context, this statement applies to Christian elders who are meeting to handle serious problems between individuals, but in principle, it also applies to our meetings. (Matthew 18:20) If Christ, by means of holy spirit, is present when Christians meet together in his name, should not such gatherings be considered sacred?
6. What can be said of our meeting places, both large and small?
6 It is true that Jehovah does not dwell in man-made temples. Nevertheless, our Kingdom Halls are places of true worship. (Acts 7:48; 17:24) We meet there to study Jehovah’s Word, pray to him, and sing his praises. That is also true of our Assembly Halls. Larger facilities rented for our conventions—such as auditoriums, exhibition halls, or sports stadiums—become places of worship while being used for our sacred gatherings. These occasions for worship, large and small, deserve our respect, and that should be reflected in our attitude and behavior.
Ways to Show Respect for Our Gatherings
7. In what tangible way can we show respect for our gatherings?
7 There are tangible ways that we can show respect for our gatherings. One way is by being present for the singing of Kingdom songs. Many of these are worded as prayers and should therefore be sung reverentially. Quoting Psalm 22, the apostle Paul wrote of Jesus: “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the middle of the congregation I will praise you with song.” (Hebrews 2:12) Hence, we should make it a point to be in our seats before the chairman introduces the song and then to concentrate on the meaning of the words while singing. May our singing reflect the feelings of the psalmist who wrote: “I shall laud Jehovah with all my heart in the intimate group of upright ones and the assembly.” (Psalm 111:1) Yes, singing praises to Jehovah is one very good reason to arrive early at our meetings and to stay until the end.
8. What example in the Bible shows that prayers at our meetings merit our respectful attention?
8 Another feature that spiritually enhances all our meetings is heartfelt prayer offered on behalf of all those assembled. On one occasion, first-century Christians in Jerusalem met together and “with one accord raised their voices to God” in fervent prayer. As a result, they continued—in spite of persecution—“speaking the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:24-31) Can we imagine any of those present letting their mind wander during that prayer? No, they prayed “with one accord.” Prayers uttered at our meetings reflect the feelings of all in attendance. They merit our respectful attention.
9. How can we show our respect for sacred gatherings by our dress and behavior?
9 Furthermore, we can show how deeply we respect the sacred nature of our gatherings by the way we dress. Our appearance with respect to both our clothing and our hairstyle can do much to add to the dignity of our meetings. The apostle Paul counseled: “I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer, lifting up loyal hands, apart from wrath and debates. Likewise I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God.” (1 Timothy 2:8-10) When we attend large conventions held in open-air stadiums, our dress can be appropriate to the weather conditions and still be dignified. In addition, our respect for the occasion will lead us to refrain from eating or chewing gum during the sessions. Proper dress and behavior at our gatherings honor Jehovah God, his worship, and our fellow worshippers.
Conduct Befitting God’s Household
10. How did the apostle Paul show that a high standard of conduct is required at our Christian meetings?
10 In 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, we find the apostle Paul’s wise counsel on how Christian meetings should be conducted. He concluded by saying: “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.” (1 Corinthians 14:40) Our meetings are an important part of the activity of the Christian congregation, and they require a level of conduct that befits Jehovah’s household.
11, 12. (a) What should be impressed upon the minds of children who attend our meetings? (b) In what appropriate way can children express their faith at our meetings?
11 Children, in particular, need to be taught how to behave at our meetings. Christian parents should explain to their children that the Kingdom Hall and the Congregation Book Study location are not places to play. They are places where we worship Jehovah and study his Word. Wise King Solomon wrote: “Guard your feet whenever you go to the house of the true God; and let there be a drawing near to hear.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) Moses taught the Israelites to assemble together adults and “little ones.” He said: “Congregate the people . . . in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law. And their sons who have not known should listen, and they must learn to fear Jehovah.”—Deuteronomy 31:12, 13.
12 Similarly today, our young ones attend meetings with their parents primarily to listen and to learn. Once they are able to follow along and to understand at least basic Bible truths, children can also make a “public declaration” of their faith by participating with brief comments. (Romans 10:10) A young child may start by saying a few words in answer to a question he understands. At first, he may have to read the answer, but in time, he will try to express himself in his own words. This is beneficial and enjoyable for the child, and such spontaneous expressions of faith delight the hearts of older ones in attendance. Naturally, parents set the example by giving comments themselves. Where possible, it is good for children to have their own Bible, songbook, and copy of the publication that is being studied. They should learn to show proper respect for such publications. All of this will impress on the minds of the children that our meetings are sacred gatherings.
13. What is our hope with regard to those attending our meetings for the first time?
13 Of course, we do not want our meetings to resemble Christendom’s church services. These can be either cold and sanctimonious or boisterous like rock concerts. We want the meetings at our Kingdom Halls to be warm and inviting but not to the point of resembling a neighborhood social club. We meet in order to worship Jehovah, so our meetings should always be dignified. Our desire is that after listening to the material presented and observing our behavior and that of our children, those attending for the first time will say: “God is really among you.”—1 Corinthians 14:25.
A Permanent Feature of Our Worship
14, 15. (a) How can we avoid ‘neglecting the house of our God’? (b) How is Isaiah 66:23 already being fulfilled?
14 As stated before, Jehovah is gathering his people and making them rejoice inside his “house of prayer,” his spiritual temple. (Isaiah 56:7) The faithful man Nehemiah reminded his fellow Jews that they should show proper respect for the literal temple by supporting it materially. He stated: “We should not neglect the house of our God.” (Nehemiah 10:39) Furthermore, we should not neglect Jehovah’s invitation to worship him inside his “house of prayer.”
15 Showing the need for regularity in meeting together to worship, Isaiah prophesied: “‘It will certainly occur that from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath all flesh will come in to bow down before me,’ Jehovah has said.” (Isaiah 66:23) This is happening today. Regularly, every week of every month, dedicated Christians come together to worship Jehovah. They do this by, among other things, attending Christian meetings and engaging in the public ministry. Are you one of those who regularly ‘come and bow down before Jehovah’?
16. Why should regular meeting attendance be a permanent feature of our lives now?
16 Isaiah 66:23 will fully apply to life in Jehovah’s promised new world. At that time, “all flesh will,” in a literal sense, week by week and month by month, “come in to bow down before,” or worship, Jehovah throughout eternity. Since meeting together to worship Jehovah will be a permanent feature of our spiritual lives in the new system of things, should we not make regular attendance at our sacred gatherings a permanent feature of our lives now?
17. Why do we need our meetings “all the more so as [we] behold the day drawing near”?
17 As the end draws near, we should be more determined than ever to attend our Christian gatherings for worship. Out of respect for the sacred nature of our meetings, we do not allow secular work, school homework, or evening schooling to cause us to miss out on meeting regularly with our fellow believers. We need the strength that comes through association. Our congregation meetings provide us with the opportunity to get to know one another, to impart encouragement, and to incite one another to “love and fine works.” We need to do this “all the more so as [we] behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) May we, therefore, always show proper respect for our sacred gatherings by regular attendance, appropriate dress, and fitting behavior. By doing so, we show that we share Jehovah’s view of sacred things.
By Way of Review
• What shows that the gatherings of Jehovah’s people should be held sacred?
• What features of our meetings prove that they are sacred gatherings?
• How can children show that they respect the sacred nature of our meetings?
• Why should we make regular meeting attendance a permanent feature of our lives?
[Pictures on page 28]
Meetings to worship Jehovah are sacred gatherings wherever they are held
[Picture on page 31]
Our little ones attend meetings to listen and to learn