The Lord always wanted his people to call the Sabbath a delight and that includes the special privilege of gathering twice on Sunday to enjoy the Lord. Wouldn’t it be great if we could cancel the cancellation of the evening service? If we’re concerned, at all, about the state of Christianity in our day, a great way to reverse our perils might be to reverse our cancellation of evening worship on the Lord’s Day.
We live in a day when those things that stand in the way of the prevailing narrative of the culture are canceled, thrust out from societal recognition. As much as people express concern about cancel culture in the world, perhaps we Christians should repent of our own cancel culture in the church in our cancelling of the second service on the Lord’s Day. As things currently look, this great cancellation in the kingdom of God may never be recovered. We seem to have said good riddance to the evening worship service forever on the very day God set aside for us to anticipate entering our eternal rest.
This cancelation of the evening worship service on the Sabbath is a sad development in America and speaks volumes about our view of corporate worship. In fact, most readers of this article will question that such a complaint has any warrant since most modern Christians are completely unaware that such a practice ever existed. Yet, it shouldn’t go without mentioning that what appears now to be completely unknown was, at one time in this country, across denominational lines, a mainstream conviction. Churches used to have a morning and evening service on the Sabbath. The rare occurrence would have been to find a church whose doors were closed at six o’clock. How did we get here and what are the consequences of this ginormous cancellation of the evening service in Christ’s church?
A Canceled Sabbath?
The value of the evening worship service is bound up with one’s view of the Sabbath. When God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath, he intended for Israel to call the whole day a delight, resting from their evil works, and trusting in the Lord’s provision to care for them in the wilderness. Patterning the very creation of the world, God called Israel cease from their work done in six-days to rest on the entire seventh day. Part and parcel to Sabbath observance was the corporate gathering of the people for worship.
In the only psalm specifically designated as a “Song for the Sabbath,” Psalm 92, we have described the delight of Sabbath worship. Israel would gather together at the tabernacle for worship, recognizing the pattern established in the law for the morning and evening sacrifice, and they would celebrate God’s “steadfast love in the morning, and his faithfulness by night (Ps. 92:1-2).” It’s not a mere coincidence that Psalm 92 references worship on the Sabbath as belonging to morning and evening.
The great purpose of the Sabbath was to worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness, providing a great opportunity for the people to be instructed in God’s holy Word and gospel. As Abraham was said to have the gospel preached to him, so too, the Sabbath provided for the people the greatest means to hear about Jesus—his sacrifice, his righteousness, and how to live by faith in the promise. It also provided a way for the people to express gratitude to their God through praise and prayer, growing together in holiness as a separate people. The Sabbath was the best way for Israel to honor the call of Deut. 6, that their children would be diligently instructed in the Lord’s love and will, both in the morning, “when they rise” and at nightfall, “when they lie down.”
Another great purpose of the Sabbath was to enjoy the communion of the saints. On the Sabbath, the people are taught how to love their neighbor, learning each other’s needs, praying for the needy, and giving offerings for the poor.