The Assembly at Horeb

Michael Wilcock

READ : Deuteronomy 4:9-14

Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words. (v. 10)

Ask the man in the street to define the word church, and you will get a variety of answers, even from people who themselves go to church.

A definition that holds good in all ages, both before and since the time of Christ, is here in Deuteronomy 4: the church is the assembly of God’s people. Moses is reminding the Israelites, a long time after the event, that he had been told to convene a meeting at Sinai between them and God. In Acts 7 Stephen calls this “the church in the wilderness.”

What do we learn from this Old Testament assembly? First, that the church is not a building or a denomination or an organization, but people. Next, these are people rescued by God, who then provides for their needs and leads them in his ways. Finally, they are guests invited to come together to hear him speak words for them to take in, respond to, and pass on, concerning himself and his plans for them.

There are few better descriptions of this much-misunderstood word: a fellowship of God’s people listening to him and responding in united praise, prayer, service, and testimony. Churches trying to work out “mission statements” for themselves could do worse than follow Deuteronomy 4.


Lord, keep my church true to your original pattern.