BIBLICAL BACKGROUND OF THE SOLEMN ASSEMBLY
There are no less than twelve revival movements in the Old Testament. While each of these revivals is very different from the others, there are four factors preceding each revival that they all hold in common.
- A Tragic Declension. Every Old Testament revival was preceded by a period of moral and spiritual decline among God’s people. The revival of Exodus 32-33, for example, was preceded by the construction and worship of a golden calf statue. The revival under king David came after a period of more than six decades of the Ark of the Covenant dwelling outside its rightful place in Jerusalem.
- A Righteous Judgment From God. Without exception, Old Testament revivals were also preceded by some form of righteous judgment from God. While some of these judgments were immediate and final, resulting in deaths among the wicked, others were gracious and remedial, resulting in brokenness, prayer
- The Raising Up of an Immensely Burdened Leader or Leaders. This fact is best illustrated by simply listing the Old Testament revivals:
a) The Revival under Moses – Exodus 32.
b) The Revival under Samuel – 1 Samuel 7 (with chapters 1-6 providing the background).
c) The Revival under David – 2 Samuel 6, 7.
d) The Revival under Asa – 2 Chronicles 14-16.
e) The Revival under Jehoshaphat – 2 Chronicles 17-20.
f) The Revival under Jehoida – 2 Chronicles 23-24.
g) The Revival under Hezekiah – 2 Chronicles 29-32.
h) The Revival under Josiah – 2 Chronicles 34-35.
i) The Revival under Zerubbabel – Ezra 1-6.
j) The Revival under Ezra – Ezra 7-10.
k) The Revival under Nehemiah – Nehemiah 1-13.
l) The Revival under Joel – Joel 1-2:27.
In each case, God Himself raised up a leader who was deeply concerned for the moral and spiritual needs of his people. The words of Moses in Exodus 32:32 emphasize the extent of this concern; “But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin – if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou hast
- An Extraordinary Action the People were required to undertake. While this action varies from revival to revival, the most common action taken was that of a Solemn Assembly. Again, note the record of the revivals in the Old Testament:
a) Exodus 33:7-11 – Moses took a large tent and pitched it outside the camp, a good distance away. He called it the “tent of meeting,” and required everyone who sought the Lord to go outside the camp and away from the place of sin, to the tabernacle.
b) 1 Samuel 7:5, 6 – Samuel required all Israel to fast and gather at Mizpah in a solemn assembly, where they confessed their sins and he prayed for them.
c) 2 Samuel 6:1-15 and 1 Chronicles 13-18 – After sinning against the Lord by transporting the Ark of the Covenant on a new cart (a Philistine method), David and the Israelites moved it according to the Word of the Lord, by carrying it. In joyful humiliation, he cast aside his royal robes and danced before the Lord with all his might. Wearing a simple linen ephod, he acted as a common man among common men. While no mention is made of a solemn assembly in the account of Second Samuel, it is detailed in the parallel passage of First Chronicles.
d) 2 Chronicles 15:9-15 – Asa called a solemn assembly in Jerusalem, where the people entered into
e) 2 Chronicles 20:3-13 – Jehoshaphat called a solemn assembly throughout Judah and Jerusalem, and the people fasted and sought the Lord.
f) 2 Chronicles 23:16-19 – Jehoiada the priest made a covenant between himself, all the people, and the king, that they should belong to the Lord. They then proceeded to cleanse the land of the evil.
g) 2 Chronicles 29:4-31 – Hezekiah gathered the priests and Levites together in solemn assembly, issuing a decree to sanctify the temple and re-instate temple worship.
h) 2 Kings 23:1-4 – King Josiah gathered the people together in a solemn assembly and read the Book of the Covenant in their hearing.
i) Ezra 6:16-22 – Zerubbabel led the people in a solemn assembly and a
j) Ezra 8:21-23; 9:4-15 – Ezra proclaimed a fast at the River Ahava that they might all humble themselves and seek the Lord’s protection. They later engaged in public humiliation and repentance in the form of a solemn assembly.
k) Nehemiah 8-10 – A Solemn Assembly was held before the Water Gate, where the Book of the Law of Moses was read each day for seven days. On the 24th day of the month
l) Joel 1:13; 2:12-17 – The prophet Joel called a solemn assembly. All were to attend, being urged to return to the Lord with their whole hearts, with fasting, weeping
Joel’s Solemn Assembly- A Template
Let us dwell for a moment on the solemn assembly called by the prophet Joel Chapters 1 and 2. The situation was all too familiar—the people were guilty once more of flagrantly sinning against God. Furthermore, they had not confessed or turned from their sins. Consequently, God visited them with a remedial judgment–a plague of locusts on a scale never before seen:
The Judgement: “What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; and what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.” In addition to this terrible plague, a fierce drought had afflicted the land. The effects were felt by all Israel. The drunkards wailed because they had no new wine to drink, the vinedressers wailed, the fields lay in ruin and the land “mourned,” and the beasts groaned, as herds of cattle wandered aimlessly without pasture. The priests mourned because the grain offering and libations were cut off from the House of the Lord, and the people wailed “like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth.” (Joel 1:8)
The Prophet issues the call to repentance: “Gird yourselves with sackcloth, and lament, O priests; Wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God… Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the House of the Lord your God and cry out to the Lord… Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble… Yet even now, declares the Lord, return to Me with all
Promises were offered as encouragement: “Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and will have pity on His people. And the Lord will answer and say to His people, ‘Behold I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied in full with them; and I will never again make you a reproach among the nations. But I will remove the northern army from you [the horrendous swarm of locusts], and I will drive it into a parched and desolate land, and its vanguard into the western sea, and its rear guard into the western sea. And its stench [of rotting carcasses] will arise and its foul smell will come up…”
God poured out his mercy and forgiveness: In response to the corporate repentance of the people during the divinely ordained Solemn Assembly, the land “rejoiced and was made glad” (Joel 2:21). The pastures of the wilderness turned green. The trees and the vines bore fruit. Not only did they bear fruit, but the harvest was supernaturally plentiful. God brought abundant rain during the wet
Lastly, it is worth
(an excerpt from The Solemn Assembly by Richard Owen Roberts)