COVID’s catastrophic cacophony
(cacophony: literally, a bad sound; an incongruous or chaotic mixture; a dis-settling combination; dissonance)
In music theory, a scale often consists of 7 notes that are octave-repeating, and the benefit of knowing such scales in music is that you know how to orient yourself among notes. Similarly, there is a cyclical pattern of 7 days that God established for man at the creation of this world, and the benefit of this pattern is that it helps to keep us correctly oriented toward our Maker; to keep to His agenda for our lives; to look to Him for our direction when it comes to prioritizing the days that He has given us. Thus, when we deviate from God’s cyclical pattern of 7 days, the inevitable result is that we lose our spiritual bearings because we are no longer properly orientated toward our Maker.
God’s cyclical pattern of 7 days can be further broken down into 6 days of work and 1 day of rest, and on that day of rest, we are to physically congregate as God’s people in order to worship our Creator and our Redeemer. When this pattern is breached, when we don’t observe the Lord’s Day in congregational worship, it is like listening to an incomplete musical scale.
According to a charming myth, when Franz Joseph Haydn - the great 18th century composer - was a child, he resisted getting up in the morning. His mother, however, found a way to rouse him out of bed by playing an incomplete musical scale on the keyboard. She would begin with middle C, play D, E, F, G, A, B…and then stop. Nestled in bed, little Franz would hear the 1st seven notes and would anxiously wait for the 8th note that would bring resolution to the octave. But when the C octave note did not sound, Franz would be unable to bear the tension, so he would leap out of bed and run downstairs to hit “C”, the final note. Haydn’s mother understood the power of music to restore order and get her son moving; likewise, our heavenly Father knows the power of congregational worship to restore His people and to keep His church moving.
In light of this, the question we might be asking ourselves why the church universal was so quick to deviate from God’s cyclical pattern of 7 days throughout this COVID-19 crisis? As the weeks have dragged on, many of us have increasingly felt like little Franz – unable to bear the tension. Virtual “worship” services are just that – virtual, i.e., not the real deal; thus, they have largely failed to bring us the weekly resolution that comes when we worship God in the physical company of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Not only has the Lord’s Day of rest and corporate worship been abrogated, but so too has the normal rhythm of the work week. For millions of Americans, their work week has come to a sudden and abrupt halt, and in this way, the entire 7-day cycle that God established for man at the foundation of the world has been completely overturned by a virus. This is unprecedented in the history of mankind. It is worse than an incomplete musical scale being played over and over again on a keyboard; it is more akin to a cat prancing across a keyboard, leaving nothing but cacophony in its wake.
Although much could be said with regard to the sabotage of our God-ordained 6-day workweek, we will focus on the God-ordained day of rest. Is it ever right to forbid the church from gathering together to corporately worship God on the Lord’s Day? Are we ever allowed to interrupt God’s regularly scheduled worship program for His church?
It is astounding that nearly ever church in America, across every denominational & non-denominational line, made the same decision – to completely stop gathering together for corporate worship. When have we seen nearly 100% unity in the church universal? Never. It is almost impossible to unify the church universal on anything, yet in the case of COVID-19, it would seem that the decision to “shut ‘er down” was a theological no-brainer. Surely, then, the ubiquitous decision to stop congregating was solidly backed by Scripture, right? Well, that’s the million-dollar question. What, if any, is the Biblical basis for prohibiting congregational worship? Is there any Scripture that explicitly, or even implicitly, states that man has the right to break the rhythmic 1-in-7 metronome pattern that God initiated at the outset of creation, especially when we consider that the Sabbath was given to man to be a weekly blessing (Mark 2:27)?
The text that has been appealed to more than any other in support of the decision to suspend congregational worship on the Lord’s Day, is Romans 13:1-7. Let us therefore consider whether or not this passage applies. The essence of the passage is stated quite clearly by Paul in verses 1 and 2:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
The imperative here is that Christians are to be subject to the government that God has placed over them; Christians are not to form a coup; we are not to attempt to overthrow the government in an act of revolutionary defiance. Why? Paul gives the answer in verses 3-4:
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.
The reason that we are to be subject to our governing authorities is because they are the means by which God maintains justice – punishing evildoers, and approving those who do good. More specifically, I think the context is strongly suggestive of the government’s right to punish criminals via capital punishment; i.e., the government does not bear the sword in vain, it is an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
For this reason, Paul tells us in verses 5-7 that we are to pay our taxes, and give honor and respect to those who are deserving of it.
Now, when Paul says that the government has been put in place to approve of those that do good, and to punish those who do wrong, certainly it is not the governing authorities who determine what is good and what is wrong. The underlying assumption here is that the government is correctly distinguishing right and wrong in accordance with what God would deem to be right and wrong. But if the government is approving that which God has deemed to be evil, or is condemning or punishing that which God has deemed to be good, what then? Are we still to submit? The answer is obviously, no.
A clear example of when it is right to not submit to governmental authority is found in Acts 5:11-42. In these verses, we read of the apostles being arrested by the High Priest and the party of the Sadducees, but for what crime? For declaring the Gospel with accompanying signs and wonders. Ultimately, the council – which consisted of all the senate of the people of Israel – charged the apostles to no longer teach and preach in the name of Jesus. And what was the response of Peter and the apostles? “We must obey God rather than men.” (verse 29)
Thus, when it comes to being subject to those who govern over us, there is a primary principle that must always be upheld: No government has the authority to command what God has forbidden, nor does any government have the authority to forbid what God has commanded. Whenever this primary principle is violated, the Christian is not obligated to submit; indeed, the Christian is obligated to respectfully resist.
With this primary principle in mind, let us return to the question of whether or not it is appropriate to apply Romans 13 to the decision to suspend congregational worship on the Lord’s Day. Does any government have the right to tell God’s people that they must cease and desist from gathering together to worship Jehovah on His holy day? Is this what Paul had in mind when he wrote Romans 13? Surely, gathering together as the body of Christ to worship our Lord on His holy day is good in the eyes of God. And if we do what is good, should not the government approve, since it is God’s servant for our good? It is only if we do wrong that we are to fear the sword of the government. But how can gathering together in faith to worship God on His day, regardless of the circumstances, ever be deemed morally wrong?
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that the church universal had respectfully declined to submit to the government’s demand that churches no longer gather together to worship God on Sundays. Would the government then have the right to use the sword against us, to execute capital punishment towards those churches who chose to “sin” by continuing to congregate and worship God? Would we be considered evildoers in the eyes of Christ because we refused to stop worshipping Him on His day, AS HE HAS COMMANDED US TO DO?! In such a scenario, would the government be acting as the avenging servant of God by carrying out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer – in this case, the wrongdoer being His own church gathering in faith to worship Him?
Hopefully, it is abundantly obvious that an appeal to Romans 13 is completely illegitimate when it comes to whether or not the church may corporately gather together on the Lord’s Day to worship God. No government can forbid what God has commanded, period. There are no exceptions to this fundamental axiom.
Are we to look to the government to tell us when we can or cannot gather together to worship our God on His holy day? Are we to take our cue from so-called “experts” as to when it is okay to worship corporately? Are we to wait upon the wisdom of the CDC to tell us when we are allowed to congregate and worship Jehovah?
Again, no government can forbid what God has commanded. And when we say no government, we mean no government, including those who govern a local church. Does this primary principle of not forbidding what God has commanded (and vice versa) only apply to national, state, and local governmental authorities, but not to the sphere of church government? Is there some sort of exception clause when it comes to the church? Is the church permitted to forbid something that God has commanded, or to command something that God has forbidden? If so, what Scriptures would justify this? Certainly not Romans 13.
The first and greatest command
Now, some may object by saying that there is no clear-cut command given by God that we are to regularly gather together corporately as a church to worship Him on His day. Rubbish. As has already been mentioned, from the very beginning, God initiated a 1 in 7 cycle for man – 6 days of work, and 1 day of rest to worship God corporately. Moreover, the imperative of congregational worship is found both under the old and new covenants.
The imperative to keep the Sabbath day holy is explicitly stated in Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17; and Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Moreover, in Leviticus chapter 26:1-2 we read the following:
You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it [the 2nd Commandment – worship God only as He has ordained], for I am the Lord your God [the 1st Commandment – worship only Jehovah]. 2 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. [the 4th Commandment – worship God in His sanctuary on His holy day].
Integral to keeping the Sabbath was having reverence for Jehovah’s sanctuary. In other words, in order to keep the Sabbath, the people were to congregate at the sanctuary to worship Jehovah together. Failing to congregate at Jehovah’s sanctuary would be an act of irreverence, which in turn, would be failing to keep the Sabbath. For Israel, the sanctuary was the special dwelling place of the Lord, it was the place of meeting. The word sanctuary indicates a sacred place – a designated location whereby the children of God can commune together with their heavenly Father (a weekly family reunion of sorts). The concept of a sanctuary also includes the idea of a place of refuge or safety, which is ironic when we consider that the reason for closing our sanctuary’s today is in the name of safety. For our own safety, we have closed our places of safety. But I digress.
In the verses cited above (Lev. 26:1-2), a representative summary of the Ten Commandments was set forth as the standard by which Israel’s obedience or disobedience would be measured. Three of the Ten Commandments are given (the 1st, the 2nd, and the 4th), and significantly, all three come from the 1st table of the law, which deals with loving the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The 1st table of the law (the 1st 4 Commandments) summarizes the greatest and first commandment (Matt. 22:37-38). The 2nd table of the law (the last 6 Commandments) summarizes how we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). The 2nd table of the law flows out from the 1st table; thus, one cannot fulfill the 2nd table of the law (loving one’s neighbor) if the 1st table of the law has not been fulfilled (loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength). This is important to recognize because many have argued that in order to love our neighbor, we need to stop gathering together on Sunday to worship God corporately. But this is putting the 2nd table of the law before the 1st table of the law. The greatest and first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – a summary of the 1st 4 Commandments, which includes keeping the Sabbath Day holy, i.e., corporate worship. The greatest and first commandment is not loving your neighbor as yourself. We were created to worship our God. Worship is primary.
Following verses 1 and 2 of Leviticus 26 are the blessings that result when God’s laws are kept (particularly the 1st table of the Law). In verses 3-13, God promises economic prosperity, national security, and peace in the land from wild beasts and foreign enemies. God also promises to dwell among His people and to walk with them as their God. Then, in verses 14-45, we see the many punishments that result from disobedience. In verses 14-16 we read, “But if you will not listen to Me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn My statutes, and if your soul abhors My rules, so that you will not do all My commandments, but break My covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache.”
Further down in verses 23-25 we read, “And if by this discipline you are not turned to Me but walk contrary to Me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I Myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.”
Then in verses 33-35 we read, “I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. 34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.”
The point is this: we see very clearly from this chapter in Leviticus the heart of our Lord; He values His worship, especially His Sabbath day and the reverence of His sanctuary (the gathering together of His people in congregational worship). There are great blessings that come when we keep His worship primary; conversely, there are great curses that come when we fail to do so, including curses of wasting disease, fever, and pestilence. Put simply, disease and pestilence were a form of judgment for failing to worship God as He had commanded. Yet, with this current judgment of wasting disease, fever, and pestilence (i.e., COVID-19), we have responded by forbidding the congregational worship of God. Why, in past times, would God send a pestilence as punishment for failing to observe the Sabbath and reverencing His sanctuary, but then today send a pestilence so that we might respond by failing to observe the Sabbath and reverencing His sanctuary?
Let us not forsake the gathering together
We have seen the imperative of keeping the Sabbath day holy under the old covenant. Now, let us observe the same imperative under the new covenant.
Conspicuously, Christ spent far more time clarifying misconceptions and affirming the importance of the 4th Commandment (the Law of the Sabbath) than He did any of the other Ten Commandments. Once again, this reveals the heart of God and the value He places upon congregational worship. Indeed, it was Christ who declared that the Sabbath was made for man, and that He Himself was LORD of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). Now, if Christ is the LORD of the Sabbath, does any governing body (church or state) have the authority to suspend the Sabbath for an indefinite period of time? When it comes to jurisdictional lines regarding the Sabbath, the authority unmistakably belongs to the LORD of the Sabbath – not to the governing bodies of any church or state.
That being said, we have an unambiguous imperative from the LORD of the Sabbath (the Word) to not forsake the gathering together of the saints.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
In these verses, Jewish believers – suffering rejection and persecution by their fellow Jews because they were no longer observing the rituals and traditions of Judaism – are being exhorted to continue congregating together. They are strongly urged to continue gathering because it was through gathering together that they would be encouraged to hold fast the confession of their hope without wavering. In other words, it was by gathering together that they would be heartened to stand fast in the day of affliction; yet, in our day of affliction, we have instead opted to refrain from gathering together, which has resulted in many within the church becoming disheartened.
Furthermore, it was through the regular gathering together that the people would have the opportunity to stir each other up to love and good works. This is a critical point that we don’t want to miss. The rally cry for many during this COVID-19 catastrophe has been that we need to refrain from gathering together out of love for our brethren (i.e., love for neighbor). But verses 24 and 25 plainly state that the best way to love our brethren is through the weekly gathering together on the Lord’s Day! It is through the means of gathering together that we are able to stir each other up to love and good works, as well as encourage each other in the midst of affliction. In fact, the author of Hebrews uses a very strong word in the Greek to accentuate this point. The word that is translated “stir up” is paroxusmos (from which we get the English word, paroxysmal), which means stimulation or provocation. The basic idea that this word conveys is a provocation that jabs or cuts someone so that they must respond. The only other time this word is used in the New Testament is in Acts 15:39, “And there arose a sharp disagreement [paroxusmos], so that they [Paul and Barnabas] separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.” In the case of Paul and Barnabas, this word, paroxusmos, is being used in a negative connotation – an intense disagreement that resulted in division. But in Hebrews 10:24, the word is being used in a positive connotation – gathering together in corporate worship, especially in the midst of affliction, is a means of stimulating an intense love between the brethren, with the result of unity.
Note also that the Hebrew Christians are being exhorted to not forsake the gathering together – “all the more so as you see the Day drawing near.” What Day is being referred to here? The Second Coming of Christ. What is to precede this Day? Various forms of judgment, including war, famine, and disease/pestilence (Revelation 6:8). Though various forms of judgment/affliction are to precede and even initiate the Second Coming, Christ will still expect to find His church gathering together every Lord’s Day upon His return! Thus, affliction provides an even greater impetus to remain faithful in gathering together! This, I believe, is what the author of Hebrews had in mind when he says, “all the more so as your see the Day drawing near.”
Now, if the writer of Hebrews gave these Jewish believers the imperative to not forsake the regular gathering together of the local church in the midst of affliction, then why, during our current COVID-19 affliction, have churches throughout the nation(s) given their people the imperative to forsake the regular gathering together on the Lord’s Day? The writer of Hebrews, in the context of affliction, commands the people to continue gathering; but we, in the context of affliction, have commanded the people to stop continuing to gather. Is this not forbidding what God has clearly commanded?
We are to love most what God loves most
To reiterate, the greatest and first commandment is not loving your neighbor as yourself; it is loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In order to obey this greatest and first commandment, we obviously need to know what pleases God; if we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we need to love what He loves. When it comes to His worship, what does He love most? What is most pleasing in His sight?
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob (Psalm 87:2)
This verse is so unexpected! At first glance, it is counterintuitive to think that God loves the gathered Church more than the individual worshippers. While God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, He has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful, and He has a special delight in their devotions in their church capacity. The great festivals of the old covenant, when the crowds surrounded the temple gates, were most fair in the Lord’s eyes, as is the general assembly of the church under the new covenant. Undoubtedly, the Lord loves the dwelling places of Jacob; “He loves the persons that dwell in them, and what is done there in a right manner, as closet and family worship. But when these are put in competition with public worship, the latter is preferred to them because done by more, and more publicly. Zion and its gates, the church and its ordinances, are preferable to all the dwelling of Jacob put together.” (John Gill’s commentary on Psalm 87:2)
If, therefore, God loves when His people worship together as a body more than when they worship separately at home, why have we prevented this? Did God send this judgment of COVID-19 so that we would all respond by preventing what He loves most of all – corporate worship?
The heart of the true worshipper of Jehovah is seen in Psalm 84:
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, ever singing your praise! 10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere!
Here the psalmist exclaims his desire to be as one of the birds that had taken up a permanent residence within the temple, for then he could always be amongst the elect, praising God in chorus. True subjects love the courts of their King. This is the heart that most pleases the Lord – the soul that longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; the soul that desperately thirsts for the satisfaction that is only found in the corporate worship of God. From where does such thirst and longing for the courts of God come from? Is it not the Spirit who puts a thirst for the courts of the Lord within the people, to drive them to the fountain of living waters that are found within the gates of Zion? Does the Spirit only put such a longing and a thirst within the people during times of peace and security? Does the Spirit decrease or suspend such longing and thirsting within the hearts of the people during times of affliction, or do we find such longing and thirsting actually being intensified? Consider Psalm 27:1-6.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple. 5 For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
In the day of trouble, where did David seek to shelter in place? He desired more than anything else to dwell in the house of the Lord, to inquire in His temple, to offer sacrifices and to sing and make melody to the Lord in His tent. Thus, we learn from “the man after the Lord’s own heart” that in the day of trouble, the true worshipper runs to the temple to shelter in place; he does not run from the temple to shelter in place. Does this intensified passion to worship God in His house only apply if an army has encamped against us? Does it only apply when war arises, but not when a pestilence arises? Are we to keep the gates of Zion open at all times except for those times when we are encamped by a virus? Is disease sent by the Lord so that our thirst for His courts would go unquenched; so that we might experience spiritual syncope by closing the gates to His weekly fountain of refreshment until further notice from the CDC?
Why does the church exist?
Having considered the first and greatest commandment and the heart of the true worshipper of God, let us now contemplate why the church exists. The church exists for three reasons: for the exultation of God, for the edification of the saints, and for the evangelism of the lost. But the foremost reason for the church’s existence is to worship and exalt the Lord.
He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6)
God appointed us (the church) for salvation so that we would be to the praise of His glorious grace. Paul reiterates this purpose for the church in verse 12, “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory,” and again in verses 13-14 – in Christ we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, “to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:12,14)
The church primarily exists to praise God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); to worship and honor His great and holy name in sincere heartfelt worship. Worshipping God is not an aspect of our lives among many others, it is the central feature as to why we exist. You and I exist to exalt God, and when we gather together as a body of believers in Jesus Christ with this singular purpose in mind, the praise of His glory is multiplied exponentially. The praise of His glory is what defines, orients, unifies, and sustains the body of Christ; thus, in so far as the body of Christ fails to gather together for the praise of His glory, it shall find its purpose, orientation, unity, and sustenance declining in direct proportion.
God sought us out in salvation in order to make us a worshipping community – a people who would worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). It is not our primary function to consider what the world thinks about us; it is not our function at all to please the world with what we do, or to say the things that the world wants us to say. Politicians, “academics”, “experts”, the media, etc. – are constantly trying to tell the church what to think, what to do, what to say, and what to be. But it is not their place to give any such directions to the church. We respond vertically to the God who saved us, we respond to the Word of God where He has revealed His purposes for us, and that is the only thing that we care about. It is a matter of great indifference what the world thinks about us, so long as we are being faithful to our primary purpose – that we exist to exalt God. We must get this through our minds or we are wasting the time that the Lord has given to us to be together.
We are not to capitulate to the demands and the desires of the world. We do not exist to carry out the demands and the desires of the world; we exist to carry out the demands and the desires of Jehovah, foremost of which is to gather together for the praise of His glory. The world did not seek us out to redeem us, the world seeks us out to enslave us; the world did not shed its blood to purchase us, the world would rather shed our blood; the world is not Lord of the Sabbath, Christ is Lord of the Sabbath.
Earlier we referenced Acts 5:11-42 as an example of when it is right to not submit to governmental authority. We saw that when the apostles were forbidden to do what God had commanded (i.e., to no longer teach and preach in the name of Jesus), the response of Peter and the apostles was, “We must obey God rather than men.” As a result of this, the apostles were beaten by the council and were once again charged to no longer speak in the name of Jesus. And how did the apostles respond to being beaten by the council? They rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ.
The apostles were not trying to be inflammatory; they were not acting as provocateurs. They were simply being obedient to observe what God had commanded them to do. I firmly believe that we had an opportunity to follow the example of the apostles during this COVID-19 crisis, but we missed it. We could have dug our heals in from day 1 and respectfully declined the government’s request that we forbid that which God has commanded. Would we have suffered scorn and ridicule from the world, and possibly even persecution from the government? No doubt. But this would have been cause for rejoicing in that we were worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ. We’re not to go looking to pick a fight with the world, but when the world would have us stop congregating to worship our God on His day as He has commanded, well, “them’s fightin words.”
Moreover, had the church taken a stand against the government dictating what does and does not constitute “essential business”, perhaps others (e.g., small businesses) would have followed the church’s lead, and fewer people would have lost their jobs. However, by not speaking up or offering any resistance whatsoever, the church only emboldened the government to abuse its powers to the extreme. Will the church never learn that when you give the government an inch, it will take 10,000 miles every single time? It is worthy of note that as of the time of the writing of this essay, the state of California has placed churches on the non-essential list of businesses that cannot open their doors until the “3rd Phase”, estimated to be 3-6 months down the road.
Closing church doors across the nation(s) for an indefinite period of time comes straight out of Satan’s playbook, not from Scripture. Satan has been dancing in the ether for these past several weeks. He has caused cacophony by completely disrupting the 1-in-7 cycle; he has persuaded us that we must submit to the government even when the government forbids what God has commanded; he has deceived us into disobeying the first and greatest commandment by overstressing the command to love our neighbor (desiring a good thing, but wrongly ordered); he has convinced us that in the COVID-19 risk-benefit ratio, the risk of death far outweighs the blessings that come with keeping the Sabbath day holy; he has swayed us into thinking that congregating weekly to worship our God is not to be considered “essential business”; that we need not love what God loves most if a virus is in town; that under certain circumstances, it is okay to usurp the authority of the Lord of the Sabbath.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psalm 133)
 Carol Stock Kranowitz, The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, pg. 162.