Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.
(Psalm 7:6-7 ESV)
All people are naturally attracted to the presence of God because of His image in them. Yet, surrounded by those who hate God, driven by a corrupted body that rebels against God and tempted by the Deceiver, coming into His presence is impossible. Sin drives away people from God. His Spirit calls, motivates and empowers those who are His to obey and they flee the attacks of the world to find refuge in Him. Only in Christ will any enter His presence, for Christ has carried the burden of their sin and reconciled them to God. Their foes come against them and God arises and lifts up Himself and awakens in triumph against His enemies.
The assembly of the peoples is the congregation of God. Throughout history God has wanted His people to gather around Him. In the Garden of Eden, a place where He walked with Adam and Eve, His intent was for them to reproduce and fill the world with people, with whom He would walk. There were no wicked, rebellious, sinful people in this assembly.“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). God will not allow evil in His presence. Those who are His will be gathered about Him, which means to turn, to go around, to surround and encircle, to change their direction. When God calls those in rebellion, His call is to repentance and faith. Before any can repent they must recognize the truth of sin, which is a walking away from God, then realize the consequences of sin, which is separation from Him, the eternal source of life. Repentance is changing direction because of the consequences of sin. Once there is repentance, which is turning away from sin, there is faith, which is turning toward God. But such faith is nothing until there is obedience to the will of God, which is a resolute walking toward Him. True faith involves the whole person, the mind, the emotions and the will, and must have the direction of the Holy Spirit. No one returns to God without His Spirit drawing them to Himself.
In the Hebrew Scripture, when God brought His people out of Egypt, He gathered them around Him by tribe and family. Within the center of the encampment was the tent of meeting. “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side” (Numbers 2:2 ESV). God’s people gathered around God, their refuge, who lead them out of captivity and the enslavement of the Egyptians.
In the Gospels we read people naturally followed Jesus wherever He was, gathering around Him.
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 ESV)
People followed Jesus because He performed miracles, healed the sick and, on occasion, fed them. They followed Him because of His teaching, healing and feeding them. They followed Him because He is God in the flesh and they are just naturally drawn to Him. But many stopped following Him when He challenged them to true repentance. Jesus made following Him hard.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:63-66 ESV)
God reigns over His people, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Those who will not, by faith, submit to His authority, will not enter His kingdom. Over His kingdom and His people, He will return on high, which means to resume His eternal, rightful place of authority. People who rebel against Him cannot intimately know Him as the God of the universe. He has no place in the thinking of their hearts. Those who are drawn into His presence, who are chosen by Him, struggle to make Him the center in their physical lives. But, at the end of time, when God finally judges sin, and the Deceiver, and the world of people in rebellion against Him, He will fling away from His presence all evil. Then, even those who rebel will recognize His true, eternal place over all.