We read in 2 Chronicles 30 of how Hezekiah organised a great Passover celebration in the Temple he had restored for worship. Invitations were sent to all the tribes. It was necessary to hold it a month later than normal (30:2) but that was permissible in the circumstances. Hezekiah’s “proclamation throughout all Israel” (verse 5) includes all the northern tribes. He says, “… if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion … For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful …” (verse 9) and “The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart …” (verse 12).

There will be a far greater assembly in the future Temple. Jesus said there will be “a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11:7) when God’s kingdom covers the earth (Isaiah 2:2,3). The start of the spread of the gospel news to all nations was illustrated for us in Acts. Peter receives a vision (10:9-17) that “perplexed” him, but then learns that it means he is to preach to a Roman Centurion and “his relations and close friends” (verse 24). Cornelius has learnt there is one true God and tells Peter about the vision he has experienced, and then says, “Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (verse 33). We need to ponder carefully that phrase “we are all here in the presence of God” recognizing that whenever we meet to read and discuss God’s word we are “in the presence of God”. Peter concludes his preaching by saying Jesus “is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”.

What is recorded is only a brief summary. Peter is astonished when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and declares, “Can anyone withhold water for baptising these people who have received the Holy Spirit as we have?” (verse 47). The practice of baptism was the climax to the preaching of the essential message of God’s word – and so it is today.

True believers live “in the presence of God” because they have been “bought with a price”. They belong to Him. As Paul told the Athenians, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).