Call all people and their leaders to repentance
We need to make an honest inventory of personal as well as corporate (national) sin. In order to rectify them, we must acknowledge these sins, own them, and humble ourselves before the Lord. Pray that the Lord helps us, giving us the spiritual fortitude and grace to not only recognize spiritual deficiency but to be remorseful in spirit, pleading for His mercy and forgiveness.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)
“Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord, your God, and cry out to the Lord. ‘Yet even now’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 1:14, 2:12-13 ESV)
In the book of Joel, the prophet recognized that the Day of Judgment by God was at hand. He then called for a holy convocation (a solemn assembly) of all people and their leaders to repentance. The Bible gives many examples of solemn assemblies, but its main focus is a special time allotted for the resentence from sin(s) that may invite the judgment of God upon the nation.
According to the book of Joel, the solemn assembly is to function as:
- A time of turning, of soul-searching, of repentance, of turning one’s life around, and of new direction.
- An intensely personal encounter with God, at the level of one’s heart and the innermost core of one’s being.
- A time of fasting and of restraining the appetite to prefer the spiritual over the carnal.
- A time of emotion and passion that involves humble repentance to the point of tears. It is a time of weeping before God, of mourning over the dying embers of what we have lost, whether righteousness, joy, a sense of communion with God, or national holiness.
- An encounter with God that must go beyond symbolic action, as in the rending of the garment, to the core meaning behind that symbol, the baring of a broken heart before God, broken due to recognition of how one has failed Him.
- A time of seeking the favor of God and a reprieve from the imminent judgment.
- A time to remind ourselves that although our sin deserves God’s judgement, if we will pour ourselves out before Him, as a drink offering is poured out, then He will hear us. If we redirect our energies to the sacred, offering to God our whole being and talents (as symbolized in the meat or grain offering), He will show us His tender and compassionate nature. He will turn his intended judgment from us, leaving in its place a blessing.
A solemn assembly for our nation is a National Day of Repentance. Scripture documents that when there were times of great turmoil, grieving and conviction of sin, leaders arose and called together a solemn assembly of the nation for repentance. In standing up against King George III, the founding fathers of this nation demonstrated that the source of our rights to liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness do not come from man but from God. Keeping God as Sovereign over all, the founding fathers wove Biblical morality into the fabric of our nation; into its laws, values and culture, in order to preserve our godly heritage. They understood the consequences of not upholding the word of God.
“Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.” (Joel 2:15-18 ESV)
The last time our nation was called to a solemn assembly was by Abraham Lincoln. We are long overdue for a time of repentance before God. The former passage instructs us the actions we should now take. We are to:
- “Blow the Trumpet in Zion, sound an alarm on my Holy Mountain!” Send forth the sound of the Spirit and sound the alarm to my people. Proclaim a National Day of Repentance.
- “Consecrate a fast.” Declare a time of exalting your spiritual needs over the needs of the flesh.
- “Gather the people and set apart the congregation.” This denotes that we are setting apart our nation unto God, marking us as his distinct people, and that our behavior is different than that of the world’s.
- We should encourage all to attend. The Solemn Assembly is not a selective assembly. It is for elders and children, for leaders and followers. It is both for the wise and experienced, and also for the yet uninitiated generation of promise—and all in between. The nursing mother is not given exemption, nor is the engaged couple, who were normally excused even from conscripted service. All are summoned by God to come, to stand before Him in solemnness, to know who He is, and to humble themselves before Him.
P. Douglas Small paints a beautiful word picture of what an authentic Solemn Assembly looks like. “The actions of the Solemn Assembly are dramatic and emotional. Brokenness and transparency should rule. Priest and ministers are to weep in the area of the porch, or the approach to the altar. At the place where the lamb died for our sin, there must be brokenness at the reality of what sin does. It destroys. It ministers death. It is a killer, a life-waster. It inflicts needless pain. It spills blood. It makes us ministers of death, and not of life. We must weep over our sins, the sins of our people, and the sins of the nation. We must weep over the dead lamb, the innocent Christ who has been killed at the hands of sinful man. Priests, who are the bride builders, are those who stand in for others and weep in the place of a nation that has committed itself to sin.”
Two-thousand years later, the world has not repented of these terrible deeds. On the contrary, our sins have increased. But God says:
“John the Baptist’s words continue to resonate today as we await our Savior’s second coming. Those words are, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:2 ESV)
When Jesus started His ministry, “from that time Jesus began to preach, saying ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 4:11 ESV)
The consequence of not humbling oneself with a contrite heart before the Lord is death. “I tell you; but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” (Luke 13: 3 ESV)