David's Empty Seat
Bible students are aware that King Saul desired for David to be killed (1 Sa. 18:9). His desire for such was the result of jealousy as recorded in 1 Samuel 18:5-8. The day before a particular occasion when the King and others were to come together to eat, in what seems to be an observance of the new moon, David had made plans to be absent. To this Jonathan, Saul's son, stated: "To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty" (1 Sam. 20:18). David was absent from the King's table the following day, the King noticed, and his anger was kindled. Much can be learned from this incident and each would do well to read the event.
Most folks come to services and sit in the same seats week after week. When their seat is empty they are missed. There may be things indicated by their empty seat. Let's notice some. Their empty seat may indicate:
When someone is not present, it may indicate that person is sick. Often sickness comes upon individuals unexpectedly making it not possible for them to attend. These bodies are made from the dust of the ground and will return to such (Gn. 2:7,3:19; Ps. 103:14; Ecc. 12:6-7). Sometimes sickness can be temporary with a quick recovery and other times it can be prolonged causing individuals to be absent on a long-term basis. Sometimes members miss due to caring for sick family members. It is important, as we have opportunity, to visit those who are on their beds of affliction. Such is expected of those who will be saved (Mt. 25:31-46). Also, we might give them a call or send them a card or note of encouragement. When the sick cannot be here, their seat is empty and they are missed.
Not Realizing Importance Of Attending
Members not attending can also be the result of not realizing the importance of coming to all the services. Sometimes folks feel they fulfill their obligation by coming on Sunday morning only. Such is not the case. When the church assembles together, and one has opportunity to be present, one then has the obligation to be present. Consider this: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb. 10:25). Part of our coming together has to do with provoking one another unto love and good works (Heb. 10:24). When one chooses to absent themselves from the assembly, it is willful sin (v. 26). Being present for all the services says much about our attitude toward the work of this congregation. Also, each member has the responsibility to grow (2 Pt. 3:18) and therefore every opportunity to do so should be taken advantage of. When individuals choose not to come, it leaves their seat empty, and they are missed.
A member's empty seat may indicate they are struggling. Life can be difficult. Sometimes individuals simply need an encouraging word from their brothers and sisters. They may have a heavy load others are not aware of. What do we need to do in such cases? Carry it! Listen: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Ga. 6:2).
Leaving The Fold
The Devil is "as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pt. 5:8). Leaving the fold many times takes place gradually. Individuals may miss here and there and before long they are not attending at all. For this we must be observant as such may indicate one is leaving the fold.
The church is made up of many members (1 Cor. 12:14,20) and each one is important. Jesus spoke of the importance of each one when he discussed a man having 100 sheep, one goes astray, and he leaves the secure to find the straying. Having found the astray, the man rejoiced. Jesus said: "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Mt. 18:12-14).
Paul penned: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Ga. 6:1). James recorded: "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (Ja. 5:20). The seats of erring members are noticed, we miss them, and we need to try to quickly restore them!
- Donnie Oliver