Gathering the Saints

“Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” —Psalm 50:5

MANY CHRISTIANS associate the word saint with an especially holy person. Some Christian churches formally identify as saints those long dead who have performed noteworthy acts. But the word saint is not restricted to only those who have lived since the time of Christ. In addition to Psalm 50:5, this word occurs 34 more times in the Old Testament.

Professor Strong defines the Hebrew word here translated “saints” as ‘kind, i.e., (religiously) pious (a saint)’. It is translated: “godly,” “good,” “holy,” “merciful,” and “saint.” The New International Version reads: “Gather to me my consecrated ones.” This is the correct thought: a saint is someone who is separated from the world because they have made a consecration to God.

The 50th Psalm is a prophecy of the coming kingdom of God. Jehovah himself speaks, saying, as recorded in verse 1: “The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” [NIV] The expression ‘rising of the sun’ is similar to the words of Malachi: “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.”—Mal. 4:2

All life on earth is sustained by the sun. Thus it is an appropriate symbol for the life-giving nourishment which will flow during the kingdom from the one whom God has designated as the heir of all things—Jesus Christ and his church, the ‘saints’. The phrase “place where it sets,” indicates that this kingdom will come to an end when its work is finished.

The preparation for Christ’s kingdom began many centuries ago, when God selected the nation of Israel to be his special people. But, except for a very few faithful Ancient Worthies, they proved unfaithful to him. Time after time they turned their backs upon God, embracing instead the heathen practices of their neighbors. The Book of Hosea describes their sorry state: “Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery.”—Hos. 4:1,2, NIV

Time and time again, God showed his patience and mercy by sending prophets to Israel to turn them from their evil ways. But, in general, the prophets were ignored; at times they were cruelly used, and even killed. At the end of his ministry Jesus sadly looked at this nation and said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”—Matt. 23:37

The nation of Israel treated the greatest prophet, Jesus, no better than the ones sent before him. As a prediction of what they would do to him, Jesus spoke a parable about a man who had a vineyard which he rented out to others. At the time of harvest the renters refused to pay; they beat the owner’s servants unmercifully. Finally the master sent his beloved son, thinking that they would surely reverence him. “But when the husbandmen [the ‘renters’] saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.”—Luke 20:14,15

The consequences of this act were predictable. As verse 16 of the parable puts it, “[The lord of the vineyard] shall come and destroy these husbandmen and shall give the vineyard to others.” From the time of their casting off in A.D. 70, and forward, the Gospel message went to the Gentiles, opening up to them their first opportunity to become saints. Notice how the Apostle Paul addresses the Early Christians in his many letters: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ … unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.”—I Cor. 1:1,2

Probably none of Corinth’s citizens thought any of the Early Christians were saints. Those whom God selects are so insignificant, so unknown by the world, that the process of assembling the church occurs without observation. “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things … and the weak things … and the base things of the world, and things which are despised [by the world] hath God chosen … that no flesh should glory in his presence.”—I Cor. 1:26-29

But when the work of calling out the church has been completed, the 2nd verse of Psalm 50 will be fulfilled: “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” When the coming kingdom has been set up upon the earth, the world will appreciate the ‘beauty’ of those who are the rulers in the wonderful work of rehabilitation. They will be in “Zion,” a term descriptive of the heavenly phase of the kingdom, just as “Jerusalem” is frequently used in the Old Testament to describe the earthly phase. A similar thought was expressed by Jesus when he interpreted the end of the parable of the wheat and the tares: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”—Matt. 13:43

When we contemplate the wonderful promise contained in Psalm 50, verse 5, we realize it is saying that a day is coming when the work of calling out of the world a class of ‘saints’—the primary work of the Gospel Age—will be finished. It will be at that time—the time when the church is complete—that the blessings of the kingdom will begin to flow to mankind. The opportunity to become a ‘saint’, in this sense, will cease.

The subsequent verses of Psalm 50 describe how God had no need of gifts from natural Israel. What he wanted from them then, he continues to want from us: “Offer unto God thanksgiving and pay thy vows unto the Most High.” (Ps. 50:14) God does not demand complex, or difficult rituals, rife with pomp and circumstance, performed on his behalf. As Jesus said, “The hour cometh and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”—John 4:23

Even though we are almost at the close of the Gospel Age, there is still time for one here, one there, to come to him in full consecration to do his will with the hope of having a part in the class of saints. In the harvest of this age the work is to “gather the wheat into his barn.” (Matt. 13:30) Those who are seeking to do the will of God only, will echo the words of the psalmist: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”—Ps. 116:12-15

Our very first thought each day should concern how we can render thanks and praise and worship to the Lord for all his many benefits that we have received at his hand. We might start by simply taking a deep breath! And by realizing that there is no other place in our planetary system where we can do that! Everything has been designed ‘just right’ for us on Planet Earth. But far more than these myriad of natural phenomena for which we are truly thankful, we should be even more thankful that the Lord has given us a knowledge of his wonderful plan of the ages! This has been made possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” There is not one thing that any of us could give to him that the Lord needs or wants, except ourselves—our hearts. It is by consecrating our ‘all’ to the Heavenly Father’s service that we render a sacrifice of thanksgiving. We “take the cup of salvation,” which pictures God’s precious gift of his own dear Son who died on our behalf.

This ‘cup’ is one we take, and join together in common union to drink of it. Shortly before the Master’s crucifixion, James and John went to Jesus to ask for the chief places in the kingdom. Instead of answering directly, Jesus inquired of them: “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can.” (Mark 10:38,39) They did not understand at that time, just all that his question involved, but with the help of the Heavenly Father, they did, in time, “take the cup of salvation and … [paid their] vows unto the Lord.”

Like James and John, and all the other footstep followers of the Master throughout the Gospel Age, we also have the grand privilege and opportunity to lay down our lives in sacrifice. Our example is the perfect one given to us by Jesus himself. Notice the words of Paul in his letter to the Philippians: “Let this disposition be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though being in God’s form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God, but divested himself … and being in condition as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”—Phil. 2:5-8, Diaglott

At this time, God is nearing the completion of the work of gathering his saints together unto him, so that when united with his dear Son, then highly exalted, “every knee should bend … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God the Father.”—Phil. 2:10,11

The saints are God’s special treasure. In Malachi’s prophecy we read about those “who feared [reverenced] the Lord, … who thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them [“deal tenderly”—Rotherham], as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Mal. 3:16,17) Notice that the saints are considered by God in the same manner as he considers his own Son, Jesus, because they serve and reverence him! When Israel’s High Priest went into the Most Holy, into God’s presence, he bore upon his chest an ephod containing twelve jewels, each enscribed with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Exod. 28:17-21) These ‘jewels’ represent the saints spoken of by Malachi. And in Revelation we read the statement that this special class consists of 144,000 individuals taken from “all the tribes of the children of [spiritual] Israel.”—Rev. 7:4

The final verse of Psalm 50 says, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation [or conduct] aright will I show the salvation of God.”

This is our prayer: may we indeed faithfully follow in the footsteps of our Master, so that we might be reckoned worthy to achieve the salvation of God, and be accounted among his saints. It is our hope to spend eternity with our Lord Jesus, and to gain a heavenly inheritance in joint-heirship with him that we might teach the world of mankind the wonders and glories of our God, to his everlasting praise, honor and glory! Amen!

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |