Our 17th Anniversary 


We began as a congregation on 4th July 1999. We are therefore seventeen today! It has not been our habit or tradition to have a big celebration to mark the day. But it is a day of thanksgiving, of reflection, and of confession and covenant renewal. We thank the Lord for His covenant mercies by which He has sustained us as a branch the Lord Jesus Christ. We are humbled as we reflect on our failures and how despite our unworthiness, the Lord our King continued to lead us and to bless us.

With our beloved Captain of Salvation riding ahead, the Church has been marching on, the gates of hell not prevailing against her. And we as a little platoon in His great army has been given the privilege of playing a small part in the battles remaining of the war already won.

It has been seventeen years.

Seventeen is not a biblically significant number, but it appears a few times in Scripture in manners that provide us with, as it were, conversation-starters, to talk about the Lord’s mercies to us.

1. Joseph becomes 
Significant 

We are familiar with the story of Joseph. He was one of the most significant figures in the history of redemption. His story, from birth to death, is recorded in the book of Genesis. But what is remarkable for us is that apart from a brief mention of his birth (Gen 30:23-24), the first significant event recorded for us occurred when he was seventeen years old. We read:

“Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report” (Gen 37:2).

Many of us imagine that Joseph was a little boy innocently telling his father about the misbehaviour of his brothers. But no, Joseph was seventeen! He was a responsible young man who felt it necessary to tell his father about the sin of his brothers that peradventure, he might do something about it that God’s name be not blasphemed.

Like Joseph, PCC is seventeen. Like Joseph we are not exactly still a child who should keep his mouth shut for fear that he speaks unadvisedly. Like Joseph, we are our brothers’ keepers and ought indeed to raise the alarm out of love for our brethren if the Lord reveals to us some things that call for admonishment. But like Joseph, we will sometimes seen in negative light because we point out what we perceive to be errors in other churches. Like Joseph, our motive is not easily discerned even if it is the glory of the LORD we are concerned with. Like Joseph it is easy for us to fall into the sin of pride by failing to see our own faults and so thinking and portraying ourselves as better than others.

But brethren, let it not be. Let us seek grace and humility together as a church lest we take Christ’s name in vain, and He deems it necessary that we should suffer a season of chastisement such as was experienced by Joseph.

2. Years that Jacob lived 
in Egypt 

The second seventeen that appears in Scripture pertains to the years that Jacob spent in Egypt. We are told that “Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years” (Gen 47:28). This seventeen years does not seem to very significant apart from the fact that it indicates that Jacob survived the famine twelve years and that he was able to enjoy Joseph about the same number of years which he had with him before he was sold into Egypt.

Those two stretches of seventeen years would not seem to be a very long time for Jacob compared to his 147 years. Why? Because they were happy times! They were fairly uneventful times until punctuated by Joseph’s disappearance in the first instance and his own departure in the second. PCC has existed for seventeen years. Most of us have not been with the church for that length of time. But it seems like a long time for many of us. Why? Perhaps because these seventeen years have been somewhat tumultuous. It is, not all tumultuous, of course. There were quiet moments of growth. But each happy stretch is punctuated by departures. There have been those who moved to other churches for various reasons. There were bereavements, emigrations and excommunications. Each of these has been painful and unsettling to one degree or another. Under such a situation, some of us may be tempted to think in the way that some who left us did: “I have spent long enough here, things have not settled or improved, I will now take my leave to find myself a happier field to graze.”

But beloved, seventeen years is really not a long time. It was not long compared to Jacob’s 147 years. It is not long compared to the 430 years of captivity in Egypt. It is not long compared to the remaining of our pilgrimage for most of us. It is not long, especially when compared to eternity. Perhaps then, what is required of us is patience and a humble and peaceable waiting upon the Lord for better days rather than falling into the temptation of taking things into our own hands and jettisoning principles to seek temporal comfort for ourselves and our family. The Prophet Isaiah says it trenchantly when he addressed the restlessness of Israel that eventually led to their apostasy, “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not” (Isa 30:15). May the Lord grant us the strength to walk by faith in quietness and confidence as we rest upon His promises that if we seek first His kingdom and righteousness, we shall experience His blessings.

3. Reign of Rehoboam 

The third occurrence of seventeen brings us to the reign of Rehoboam: “Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there” (1 Kgs 14:21).

Rehoboam’s seventeen years was tumultuous and characterizes by civil wars and the separation between the Southern and the Northern kingdom. Specifically, it was Rehoboam’s refusal to take heed to the counsel of older and wiser men in his panel of royal advisers that led to the division. Of course, God had ordained it in response to Solomon’s idolatries (1 Kgs 11:9-13), but the immediate and instrumental cause was the foolishness of Rehoboam.

As we are brought providentially to think about Rehoboam on this our seventeenth year, should we not take warning? When Judah and Israel separated, they become as it were two denominations: one still seeking to worship in purity at least outwardly, the other choosing to worship Jehovah through means not appointed by Him. Today there are a plethora of denominations, but PCC stands almost alone in Singapore in taking Purity of Worship seriously. Of course, unlike in the case of Judah, we came out because of Purity of Worship; we did not become a remnant because of separation from us. What warning should we take then? Should we not take warning against the temptation to become complacent and to refuse counsel from wiser fathers of the faith, and to follow the advice of younger, more contemporaneous “experts.” It is remarkable how many contemporary “experts” portray themselves as students of the Reformers, when they differ from them in key emphasis such as worship and what it means to glorify God!

4. Price of Worthless Land 

The fourth reference of seventeen is not in terms of years, but in terms of silver pieces.

Jeremiah was in prison during the Babylonian siege against Jerusalem when Hanameel, his uncle’s son came to him to request for him to buy his field. Hanameel was taking advantage of a Mosaic statute which calls for a kinsman to redeem a property of an Israelite that has fallen into poverty so that the land may not leave the family (see Lev 25:25-28; Ruth 4:1-6).

Jeremiah, forewarned and instructed by the LORD, bought the land for “seventeen shekels of silver” (Jer 32:9). Ordinarily, this would be a paltry sum for a piece of land (cf. Gen 23:12-16), but then the size of the land is not known, and Jerusalem was under siege! Jeremiah could not enjoy the land at all! So essentially, he gave up what could have been helpful for his survival during the difficult days he was in for something that has no value him.

Why did he do so? Perhaps it was love for his nephew, even a love that was willing to be taken advantage of. But certainly, it was also obedience coupled with faith in the LORD and His promises. The LORD had promised that “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (Jer 32:15).

Would Jeremiah benefit from the land when the war was over? Probably not! Even if the restoration of the land occurred before the year of the Jubilee,[1] Jeremiah would probably not be around to enjoy it. So we can say that Jeremiah was obediently sacrificial. He did what he did, for the sake of the generation to come that they might be reminded that the Word of the Lord is sure: the land would be restored!

What shall we say by way of application to our situation? Jeremiah’s purchase of the worthless piece of land for seventeen pieces of silver is brought into the spotlight on this our seventeenth anniversary. As we are reminded of his sacrificial obedience to the Lord, shall we not be encouraged to cultivate the same attitude for the sake of our future generations!

It has been seventeen years, but some of us who come from backgrounds where worship is more lively, women are more involved and vocal, and people are less concerned with biblical rightness and so fellowship seems to be warmer, are still tempted cut back and return to some of these things. But beloved, let us remember if we do so, then we would have, in a way, paid seventeen years for a nothing! But if we imitate Jeremiah, nay, if we imitate our Saviour who sacrificed Himself for us, and deny ourselves and take up the Cross obediently and lovingly, we shall see His blessing unto a thousand generations (Ex 20:6; Jer 32:18).

Conclusion 

Oh may our seventeenth anniversary see us growing in unity of love and faith in Christ as we think of these things which the occasion of our years lead us providentially to. Oh may our heavenly Father be glorified; Christ our King be magnified; the Spirit fill our hearts with joy and gladness for another year! Amen. Ω

—JJ Lim 


[1] Commentators are not agreed on when the Jubilee Cycle ended, so its hard to know whether there was 1 more year, 3 more years or 49 more years before the land had to be return to the owner.