Gather the People

Title: Gather the People

Bible Book: Deuteronomy 31 : 12

Author: J. Gerald Harris

Subject: Evangelism; Sunday School; Growth; Christian Living; Discipleship; Church



The curtain is about to be drawn on the life of Moses. He is coming to the end of the way. The time is at hand when he and the children of Israel must part. Moses had delivered them from Egypt. For forty years he had given them some semblance of leadership. During their struggles. In the wilderness. Now they have come to the brink of the Promised Land. The leadership must be undertaken by another.

In this 31st chapter of Deuteronomy there are two, things which are of great concern to Moses. First of all, he is concerned that the people reach their destination. He wants them to get to the Promised Land. He turns to Joshua and confirms him as the future leader. Notice verses 7 & 8 of Deuteronomy 31(read). Moses was handing the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Someone has wisely said, "God buries his ministers, but he carries on his work."

The second great concern of Moses was that the people should be continually instructed in the law of God. Now, there is no question in my mind as to the authorship of the Pentateuch. In verse 9 of our text the Bible says, "and Moses wrote this law and delivered it unto the priests, the sons of Levi." Moses had been the receiver, the transcriber, and the guardian of the law. But since the time of his departure was at hand, he commissions the priests to be the keepers and the teachers of the law. This written law, of course, was to be taught in the home. But there were also stated times when the people were to be gathered together and the law was to be read publicly. The people were to be instructed concerning the Law of God.

Folks, I don't know of anything that we need any more today than to gather the people together - all of the people. Gather the men and the women and the children and the stranger, so that they may hear and that they may learn and that they may fear the Lord, our God, and observe to do all the words of this book.

How can we best gather the people together and how can we instruct them in the word of God? Well I contend that the greatest instrument for reaching and teaching the people is the Sunday School. I further contend that the reason we are not baptizing more people in our churches is because we are not enrolling more lost people in our Sunday Schools.

In 1956, the Convention Press published a book by J.N. Barnette, entitled The Pull of the People. In that little book he tells about a little girl who became lost as she played from block to block on the streets in Louisville, Kentucky. When she realized she was lost she began to cry. A man found her and stopped to help her. He asked her, "What is your name, little girl?"

Through her tears the child replied, "Elizabeth."

Then the man inquired further, "What is your last name?"

To this the little girl answered, "I don't know."

Again the man asked, "Where do you live?"

Through her tears the child replied, "I don't know."

Finally, after much questioning on the part of the man, the little girl said to him, "Mister, if you can take me to my Sunday School I can find my way home."

Marvelous it is that multitudes of boys, girls, men and women have found their way to Jesus and then finally to a heavenly home because someone brought them to Sunday School.

All right, let's look at our text. I believe there are three major challenges offered to the Sunday School and the church in this passage of scripture.

First of all:

I. This Text Challenges Us To Invite Them

A. Who Shall We Invite

Notice what it says. It says, "Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates." We are to go out and invite people and bring people to our Sunday Schools and our churches where they can hear the teaching and the preaching of the Word of God. I want to say that I do not believe that the invitation should be extended only the preacher. Nor do I believe that it should be extended only by the Sunday School teachers - nor by the super Christian. I believe that it is the business of every Christian to reach people for Jesus Christ.

I heard years ago about this certain college football team that was playing a home team. It had been a dismal season and the home team was getting smeared again. The visiting team was ahead 72 to nothing. Someone on the sidelines kept yelling. “Give the ball to Calhoun. Give the ball to Calhoun.” They tried another play and again the home team was smeared, losing valuable yardage. Again came the cry, “Give the ball to Calhoun.” After this happened two or three more times the family cry rang out again, “Give the call to Calhoun.” A tall man raised up from the pile of human bodies on the field after the next play and responded, “Calhoun don’t want the ball.” I’m afraid this is true of many of us. There are those who simply will not carry the ball of outreach, but I believe reaching people for Bible study, reaching people for Christ, is every Christian’s job.

In fact, there is no way in the world that you can say that you are living in obedience to God if you are out of fellowship with God about reaching others, about carrying out the Great Commission. I don’t care how beautifully you sing, I don’t care how eloquently you teach, I don’t care how effectively you serve on that committee, I don’t care how earnestly you pray. If you are not endeavoring to reach people for Christ you are not right with God.

Our text challenges us to invite them. Jesus said that we are to go. We are to put the “go” in the gospel. We are to invite them to Bible study. We are to invite them to accept Christ. Jesus told a parable about this man and he said, “ …a certain man made a great supper and bade (invited) many.” Let’s go get them. Let’s go out where they are and bring them in to where we are.”

Perhaps you have some questions about this. Your first question may be, “Whom shall we invite?” Our text suggests that we are to invite the men and the women and the children and the stranger. When mark recorded the Great Commission he put it down like this: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Whom shall we invite? Every creature! Who is it that we are to bring into God’s house - into God’s kingdom? Every creature!

We are to invite the poor people like Bartimaeus, the rich people like Zacchaeus, the religious people like Nicodemus, the sick people like the impotent man, the wicked people like the woman at the well, the working people like James and John who were mending their nets, the political leaders like King Agrippa, the social people like Lydia, and the little people like the children that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 19.

In fact, if we don’t reach them, if we don’t invite them to come with us, the pornographer will invite them to go with him. They will be courted by the atheist and the humanist and the cynic and the materialist and the dope pusher and the pimp and the procurer and the subculture.

The story is told of the little girl who came running home from church one day saying, “Mommie, Mommie, my name is in the Bible. My name is in the Bible.”

The mother answered the child and said, “Edith, honey, your name is not in the Bible.”

The little girl persisted, “Yes it is mother the preacher said, 'Jesus receiveth sinners and Edith with them.'"

What a blessing to know that not only Edith's name is in the Bible, but so is yours and mine. It is a “whosoever will” proposition. Who shall we get who shall we invite? Every creature every kindred, every tribe, every tongue. The men, the women, the children and the stranger that is within our gates.

B. When Shall We Invite

Secondly, when shall we invite them? Jesus said, “Say not ye there are yet four months and then cometh harvest. Behold I say unto you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

When shall we go? When shall we invite them? Now is the time. We must not wait. Men are dying. Souls are perishing. There is nothing. Absolutely nothing under heaven more urgent than winning others to Jesus Christ.

Clement stone, the famous multi-millionaire who edits “Success” magazine, recently wrote an article called "Do It Now." He pointed out that the sales world was losing billions of dollars because of procrastination in the lives of salesmen. He recommended that through a process of psycho cybernetics men could repeat out loud every morning "do it now" fifty times (and) at night fifty times more. After a week or ten days the little phrase would be so imbedded in the subconscious mind that it would go against the grain to put anything off that needed to be done.

I tell you, my sweet friend, that when you begin to realize that your lost neighbor may die before morning and when you begin to realize that the Lord Jesus may come before sundown, then you’ll begin to see the urgency of this matter of gathering the people unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

You say, “Preacher, I don’t know how to get people to Sunday School and church. I don’t know how to witness. I’ve never had a soul-winning course. I’ve never been to the seminary. I don’t know how.”

Listen, if the truth were known, I don’t think that would be the real hold up. The real reason most of us do not witness and the reason most of us do not invite the lost to come to church is because the commitment is not there. The desire to reach people is not there. Do you remember that story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well? This immoral woman received Christ right there on the spot. Without a Sunday school conference, without an outreach workshop, without a Sunday School lesson, without a soul-winning sermon, without attending a soul-winning conference, without anything, the first thing she did was run into town and say, "Come see a man that told me all that I ever did. Is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29). So when do we need to invite them? We need to invite them Now.

C. Where Shall We Invite

But the next question is "where shall we go to invite them?'' In Matthew

28:19, Jesus says, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations..." But in Acts 1:8; he said that we are to begin in Jerusalem. We must start at home. In our text we are told to “gather the people together, men and women and children and thy stranger that is within thy gates.” One translation has it, “the alien who is in our town.”

There is not a person here who does not have his own little Jerusalem - that little world in which you live - that circle of friends - those relatives - those business associates - those people in your neighborhood. Begin right there where you live. Invite the people that you rub elbows with every day. Tell them about what the Lord can do for them.

D. Why Shall We Invite

The question is not only whom shall we invite and when shall we invite the, but the questions is why shall we invite them? I want to ask you to turn to 2 Corinthians 5 and in this chapter from God’s word we’ll find at least five reasons for reaching out to those who need the Lord. In this chapter Paul mentions five things that sent him forth, things that caused him to spend and be spent for the cause of Christ.

Notice first of all verses 9 & 10 (read). Here he speaks of the judgment seat of Christ. Paul says that there is something called the judgment seat of Christ and all Christians are going to have to appear before it. Let me tell you that as a Christian, one day you are going to have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and you are going to hear the Lord say, "This was your life." We are never going to be judged for our sins, bless God. They are under the blood. They've been "'buried in the deepest sea. God has ‘cast them behind his back’ as far as the east is from the west.

But there is coming a time when we shall have to see our lives come past in review. When the Lord Jesus considers our works, we shall either receive a reward or we will experience a time of regret. It will become apparent in that day the number of people that we’ve gathered to Christ, those that we invited to come and sit under the teaching and the preaching of the word of God, those whom we have won to the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust that on that day you will hear the Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Now, the second reason, which the Apostle Paul mentions, is in verse 11. He says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” Why should we get people under the influence of the teaching of the word of God? Why should we invite people to Sunday School and church? Why should we tell people about Jesus Christ? Because of the terror of the Lord.

The apostle Paul knew that God is a God of judgment. The apostle Paul knew that the Bible says, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” The apostle Paul knew that the Bible says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die.” He knew that the Bible says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell and every nation that forgetteth God.” We ought to be inviting people to Jesus Christ because there is a heaven for all those who are saved and there is a hell for all those who do not know Jesus Christ.

But look at Paul’s third reason for reaching people for Christ. In verse 14, he says that “…the love of Christ constrained him.” Listen. If Jesus Christ loved us enough to die for us, and if he gave up his rich, red, royal blood for our redemption, and asked us to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that his house may be filled, don’t you think we ought to do it? Shouldn’t the love of Jesus motivate us to point others to God?

Then in verse 17, Paul gives us another reason for reaching out to others and inviting them to come in to the fold of God. He says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold all things are become new." When you invite someone to come to Sunday School and church you may very Well have a part in that person coming to know Christ and having his life changed. You see, Jesus Christ has a way of making drunkards sober. He has a way of making harlots pure. He has a way of making thieves honest. He has a way of making wicked men gentle and tenderhearted. We ought to invite People to come to Christ because he has a way of making them new creations.

Then, we ought to invite them to come because. According to verse 20, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” We are representatives of Christ. God has called us to represent Christ to a lost and dying world.

So, let's invite the people to come. Let's “gather” the people together - the men and the women and the children and the stranger who is within our gates. This text challenges us to invite them. But also:

II. This Text Challenges Us To Instruct Them

Our text says that we are to “…gather the people together that they may hear.”

I want to speak to those of you who teach at this point and I want to say two things. Number one, you need to prepare your lesson that they will want to hear. The Sunday school teacher needs to live with his Bible in such a way that it may become the word of God to him and that he may become a living epistle, testifying to its truth.

A. Prepare Your Lesson

It was D.L. Moody who testified that he had greater passion for the word of God than any drunkard has for strong drink. When you begin to dig into the rich storehouse of the Bible and come up with spiritual treasure, you will find yourself wanting to do more and more of the same thing. It is a thrilling adventure to personally dig into the Word of God and begin to discover the precious jewels of truth that can be found therein.

I thank God for teachers of the word of God who will pray and study and read and meditate and prepare to teach the lesson.

Dr. Howard Hendricks tells of a professor who made an impact on his life. He passed his home many times early in the morning and late at night. Often he saw him pouring over his books. One day Dr. Hendricks asked him, "Doctor, I'd like to know, what is it that keeps you studying? You never cease to learn."

The professor answered by saying, “Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than from a stagnant pool.”

Dear teacher, let your students come and find you well prepared that they may drink from a running stream and that they may never have to drink from a stagnant pool.

B. Present Your Life

Not only must you prepare your lesson that they will want to hear, but you must also present your life that they will want to heed- that they will want to heed what you have to say. You know, there are some preachers and some teachers who have no credibility when they speak because their lifestyle is not becoming that of a preacher or a Sunday school teacher. Someone has well said that “A prepared messenger is more important than a prepared message.” I say, “Amen!”

There was a certain man who was called to pastor a church and the first Sunday that he was to preach he entered the pulpit and found a slip of paper on the pulpit with these words only, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

The pastor was hurt at first, but for days the words burned in his heart and because they did he began to meditate more and more upon the person of Christ. Jesus began to be so dramatically reflected in his life and in his preaching that hungry souls began to congregate and the church was revived. At length on another Sunday morning he again found a slip of paper on the pulpit. This time the message read, “…then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.”

We all know that it’s good to hear a sermon, but it’s better to see a sermon. It’s good to hear a Sunday school lesson taught, but it’s even better to see that lesson lived out in the life of the teacher as he walks with the Lord and as he expresses compassionate concern for those in his class.

So, out text challenges us to invite them. It challenges us to instruct them. Finally:

III. This Text Challenges Us To Inspire Them

A. Inspire them to Find the Lord

First of all it challenges us to inspire them to find the Lord. That speaks of salvation. Notice in verse 12 of Deuteronomy it says that we are to “…gather the people together that they may hear and that they may learn.” In the New Testament if someone had learned Christ they had accepted Christ. If they had not learned Christ they had not accepted Christ. Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. For I am meek and lowly at heart and ye shall find rest unto your soul.” To learn Christ is to find rest. It is to find peace. It is to be saved. In the New Testament the word “disciple” comes from the Greek word “Mathetes” which means “a learner.”

So, dear teacher, you are to instruct them. You are to teach them that they might be inspired to learn Christ that they might be saved. After all, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

We need to understand the necessity for all men to be saved. One of the objectives in our teaching should be that those who hear us will learn of Christ and be saved. George Whitefield, who carried the gospel up and down the New England Seaboard in the early years of this nation’s history preached on “Ye must be born again” over 3000 times. One day a friend asked, “Whitefield, why do you preach so often that text ‘you must be born again?”

“Because,” replied Whitefield, “you must be born again.”

That preacher had caught sight of the tremendous truth that the new birth is not a luxury, which some persons might have, but he recognized it as a necessity which all must have.

So, in our teaching we must inspire them to find the Lord and that is salvation.

B. Inspire them to Fear the Lord

But we must also inspire them to fear the Lord. I believe that is sanctification. Notice our text. We are to “…gather the people not only that they may hear and that they may learn, but that they fear the Lord.” In Deuteronomy 5:29, the Bible suggest that those who “fear the Lord keep all of his commandments.” In Deuteronomy 10, the Bible suggest that those who “fear the Lord walk in all of his ways and love him.” In Joshua 24, the Bible suggest that those who “fear the Lord serve him in sincerity and in truth.” In Proverbs 3:7, the Bible says that those who “fear the Lord depart from evil.” In Proverbs 8:13, the Bible says the “fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” In Proverbs 14:2, the Bible says, “he that walketh in uprightness feareth the Lord.” So, to fear the Lord is sanctification.

C. Inspire them to Follow the Lord

In our Sunday School classes we are to inspire people to live right. We are to teach the people in our churches that there ought to be a difference between the child of God and the child of the devil. We have too many church members who are like chameleons. A chameleon changes color according to his environment. There are a lot of people who name the name of Jesus Christ who change color according to their environment. But Christians are to be different. The Bible says that Christians are to “come out from the world and be separate.”

Years ago someone asked Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman about how he was to relate to the world. He said, “What do you consider a good rule of life?” Dr. Chapman said, “This rule governs my life – anything that dims my vision of Christ or takes away my taste for Bible study or cramps my prayer life or makes Christian work more difficult, is wrong for me and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.

So, I believe that our Sunday school classes in our churches must inspire our people to find the Lord and be saved, to fear the Lord and be sanctified, and finally, to follow the Lord and be of service. Notice what our text says. It says that we are to “gather the people together that they may hear and that they may learn and fear the Lord and observe to do all the words of this law.” We are to teach our folks not only to be hearers, but also to be doers of the word, to be involved in some kind of Christian service. We need to get our people out of the grandstands and on to the playing field. We need to inspire them to become involved. We need to teach them that every member of the body is important and that every member has a function – a job to fulfill.


I heard about this little girl who dearly loved Jesus and she wanted to serve him and she said, “How can I serve him? I am so little and weak.” One day she read a sentence in her church newsletter, which made her decide that she was going to render service to God. The sentence read, “An engine of one cat power working all the time can do more for Jesus than an engine of 200 horse power standing still.”

She said, “I will not have many chances to serve Jesus while I am small, but I will use the one cat power I have and serve him all I can.”

“Shamgar had an ox goad

Rahab had a string

Gideon had a trumpet

David had a sling

Samson had a jawbone

Moses had a rod

Dorcas had a needle

All were used of God"

Our Sunday schools, our churches, can inspire the people to find the

Lord - that's salvation. We can inspire them to fear the Lord - that sanctification. We can inspire them to follow the Lord - that's service.

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