“Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land Consecrate the People to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly.” (Joel 1:14; 2:12,15-16, NIV)
Probably, the reason you are reading this booklet is that a spiritual leader has asked you to prepare for a sacred assembly or a time to renew your covenant commitments to the Lord. Sacred assembly may be a new term for you, but the concept is ancient. In Scripture:
Sacred assemblies were occasions for God’s people collectively to worship Him, to repent of personal and corporate sin, to remember His special blessings on them, and to anticipate future blessings. The prescribed sacred assemblies (or holy convocations) for Israel included the Sabbath (Lev. 23:3) and seven other days of sacred assembly: the first (Passover) and seventh days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:4-8), the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost, Lev. 23:15-21), the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25), the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32), and the first and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-36).
Sacred assemblies were times for God’s people to confess and repent of their sins. They were times to renew the covenant relationship with the Lord and return to Him in faithful love and obedience. They were times for worship and sacrifice, feasting and fasting. Even with these regular opportunities to renew fellowship with God, His people tended to depart from Him and from obedience to His commands. Spiritual leaders knew that the sacred assembly was a time for corporate repentance in the face of God’s righteous judgments.1
During the days of the prophet Joel, a great swarm of locusts brought devastation on the nation. This was a time to weep, mourn, wail, grieve, and despair. Joel asked, “Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors?” (Joel 1:2, HCSB). This was such a great catastrophe, future generations would talk about it with their children and grandchildren (see Joel 1:3). This time of great national disaster caused the prophet Joel to shout:
Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land Consecrate the People to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly” (Joel 1:14; 2:12,15-16, NIV).
Desperate times called for desperate measures. In their distress the people were ready to cry out to the Lord for help. The prophet knew a sacred assembly was the appropriate time and way to turn to the Lord.
Many sense our nation is at a desperate time that calls for desperate measures. How many disasters have we experienced lately that have been some of the worst in history—the kind we will describe to our children and grandchildren? At times like this, God’s call to us is “Return to Me.” On the occasion of one sacred assembly during King Solomon’s reign, God made the following promise.
If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (2 Chronicles
The healing of our land is waiting on the repentance of God’s people. So is the healing of our marriages, families, churches, and cities. Sacred assemblies are appropriate times and ways for people, families, churches, cities, and nations to return to the Lord. Now is the right time for us to declare a holy fast, sound the alarm, and call a sacred assembly. Now is the time for us to return to a right relationship with God.
Now is the time to renew our covenant commitments to Jesus Christ. We dare not rush into the presence of a holy God unprepared. God commanded Joel to consecrate the people. I’ve prepared this booklet for you to prepare yourself for a time of sacred assembly.
❋ PRAY that the Lord will help you prepare this week to enter His presence.
1. Claude King, Come to the Lord’s Table (Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2006), 4.