Our Sixteenth Anniversary

We are sixteen today! We have gathered without fail as a congregation every Lord’s Day since, 4th July 1999. It is therefore with deep gratitude in our heart that we were celebrating our 16th Thanksgiving Anniversary as a branch of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For some reasons, sixteen is a very significant number in modern popular culture. Just do a Google search and you will find a large number of songs revolving around the theme of the so-called, “Sweet Sixteen.” Likewise, sixteen is also a significant age in many legislatures around the world. For example, in Singapore, as in most countries in the world, one who is sixteen and above may be regarded as an adult as far as employment is concerned.

The number sixteen, however, is not very significant in  the Scriptures. But it reminds me of two very important things, which we would do well to reflect on, on this our 16th Anniversary. I am referring to obedience and love.

The Importance of 
Obedience

Uzziah (also known as Azariah) became king of Judah at the young age of sixteen (2 Chr 26:1; 2 Kgs 15:2). He had the second longest reign of 52 years (792-740 B.C). This was longer than the reign of any ruler in Judah or Israel apart from Manasseh, who tyrannised in unparallel wickedness for 55 years.

Uzziah was well-known for his building efforts and focus on technology and military might. He built fortified towers for defence in Jerusalem, and converted desert land into pastureland by digging wells and raising towers for the protection of the flocks. He established vineyards on the side of the mountains (2 Chr 26:10). He had a powerful, well-equipped and well-armed army (2 Chr 26:11-14). He even made war machines to shoot arrows and to hurl large stones at the enemies (2 Chr 26:15). Under his reign the Philistines, Arabian and Ammonites became tributaries (2 Chr 26:7-8a). “And his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly” (2 Chr 26:8b).

Best of all, Uzziah was a good king, for we are told “He did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did” (2 Chr 26:4; 2 Kgs 15:3). At least he did what was right for the most part of his reign when he was under the godly influence of an earlier Prophet Zechariah (2 Chr 26:5). The only blemish which he shared with all the good kings of Judah apart from Hezekiah and Josiah was that he did not remove the high places (2 Kgs 15:4).

Sadly, moreover, in the later part of his reign, Uzziah became proud. Perhaps his successes got into his head. For some reason, he entered into the temple of the LORD, and proceeded to burn incense upon the altar of incense. Eighty courageous priests of the Lord withstood him. It was unlawful for him to enter into the sanctuary, not to mention to offer incense. God had clearly appointed that only the Aaronic Priests might enter into the sanctuary and only the priest might offer incense. But rather than being repentant, Uzziah was indignant when confronted. And so the LORD struck him with leprosy right before the eyes of the priests and they had to drive him out of the sanctuary rather unceremoniously. Indeed, we told that he himself hasted to get out because he knew that he was being chastised by the LORD (2 Chr 26:16-20). Uzziah remained a leper for the rest of his days (2 Chr 26:21), a very sad conclusion to a very illustrious career.

What has Uzziah got to do with us on this our 16th Thanksgiving Anniversary? Well, he was 16 when he started to rule and we are 16 today! We are clearly at a different juncture in our lives, but the legacy of Uzziah is timeless. As a church, we have come somewhat of age, and ahead of us lies great possibilities. Uzziah did much in the half-century of his reign. We could potentially do much in the same amount of time if we set our heart and our knees to it. But we must take heed not to fall in the same way as did Uzziah. Uzziah failed to remove the high place; we have, as a congregation, set out to remove the high places of will-worship and holy days. Will these things come back to haunt us? Even if they do not, will pride overcome us as it did Uzziah? We have not have much reasons to be proud of in terms of ecclesiastical growth and projects hitherto. But if the Lord blesses us as He did Uzziah, will we remain humble and reliant upon Him? Oh may the Lord grant that it be so. Let us, therefore, beloved brethren, remind ourselves of Uzziah, each time the Lord grant us reasons to rejoice that we have been used of Him for His glory.

But when we have much good work to boast about, let us also not forget…

The Centrality 
of Love

We are sixteen, and in the famous treatise on love of the apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 13, Paul enumerates sixteen qualities of love (1 Cor 13:4-8).

In the first place, love suffers long. She is patient and does not give up easily. As Christ does not give up with us despite our repeated failures, so those who love as He does, do not easily give up with those they profess to love.

Secondly, love is kind. She is gentle, tender-hearted and considerate. As Christ deals with us kindly, taking care not to break the bruise reed or snuff out the smothering wick, so those who love as Christ loves seek always to strengthen and encourage rather than discourage in what is good.

Thirdly, love envies not. She is never jealous of the good that another receives. As Christ thinks not of himself nor indulge in self-pity when unfairly treated, so those who love as Christ loves rejoice with those who are loved even when they are blessed undeservedly.

Fourthly, love vaunt not itself. She does not boast. As Christ boast not though He had every reason to boast, so those who love as He does, refuse to speak about their virtues and achievements.

Fifthly, love is not “puffed up.” She is not proud or arrogant. As Christ is lowly and humble, so those who love as Christ does, imitate His humility in their relationship with others.

Sixthly, love does not “behave itself unseemly,” that is to say, she is not rude. There are occasions in the ministry of Christ our Lord when He appears rude towards those He ministered to. But apart from His exalted position of authority, His supposed “rudeness” was always purposeful and designed to bring a point across didactically. As soon as the lesson is conveyed, we see the Lord speaking courteously and gently. A case in point would be the way He dealt with the Syrophoenician woman. So those who love as Christ loves seek always to be courteous, respectful and Christ-like in their interaction with those they love.

Seventhly, love seeks not her own. She is not self-seeking, narcissistic or insisting upon her own ways. As Christ laid down His life for those whom He loved despite their unworthiness, so those who love as Christ loves seeks the good of those they love out of an altruistic Christian spirit that covets not reciprocation.

Eighthly, love is not easily provoked. She is not irritable. She is meek. As Christ in His meekness reviled not in return when He was reviled (1 Pet 2:23), so those who love as Christ loves, keeps their passions under control when provoked.

Ninthly, love thinks no evil against others. She is not resentful or vengeful. As Christ committed Himself unto His Father when wronged, so those who love as He loves leaves all vindication to the Father and seeks rather to view the action of those they love as charitably as possible.

Tenthly, love rejoices not in iniquity. She does not close an eye to wrongdoing just because she loves the wrongdoer. Christ our Lord did not overlook the sin of those He loves: He died for them. So those who love as Christ loves admonishes in love when it is a fault that is too significant to be overlooked.

In the eleventh place, love rejoices in the truth. She is not afraid to tell the truth for fear of offending, nor does she love indiscriminately those who hate God. Christ our Lord loved in truth. So those who love as Christ loves, does not love at the expense of the truth.

In the twelfth place, love bears all things. She bears with the infirmities of others and seek to cover a multitude of sins by a forgiving spirit that refuses to broadcast the faults of others (cf. 1 Pet 4:8). This is how Christ loves us, for otherwise, we should have our sin exposed whenever our behavior or thoughts dishonour His name. So those who love as Christ loves refuse to repeat a matter not to mention slander.

In the thirteenth place, love believes all things. She is not suspicious of those she loves. She takes what is said at face value and refuses to read malice between the line without compelling evidence. So those who love as Christ loves would do unto others whatsoever they would that men do to them (Mt 7:12). As they want others not to view them with suspicion, so they will not view others with suspicion.

In the fourteenth place, love hopes all things. She hopes the best of all whom she loves. Since Christ is our hope, those who would love as Christ loves, have reason to hope well of all whom he loves.

In the fifteenth place, love endures all things. She does not allow inconvenience, afflictions, temptations, persecution or even death separate her from those she loves. As Christ will not allow anything to separate us from His love (Rom 8:35), so those who love as Christ loves will endure all things for the sake of love.

But finally, in the sixteenth place, love never fails. She will remain forever. She will forever exert her power. When faith gives way to sight and hope gives way to present enjoyment, love will remain. And when nothing else works, love will continue to work. So those who love as Christ loves will continue to love forever and will enjoy the power of love today and forever more.

Here are sixteen qualities of love which we would do well to remember and reflect on upon our sixteenth anniversary. Let us do so as especially as we confess that the bond of fellowship and love has not been particularly very strong in this our congregation. Were it very strong, I dare say, many who have left us for reasons that the judicious mind would consider secondary, might not have done so. Let us therefore repent our failure and seek the grace of the Lord to be more like Christ in His love in all sixteen facets.

Conclusion


Oh may the Lord grant us that we may learn from the failure of Uzziah to remain humbly obedience when the Lord gives us cause to rejoice. And may the Lord grant us that we may never leave our first love even if we become rich in good works (Rev 2:2-4). Indeed, may the Lord grant us that this year may be a year of love as we seek earnestly the help of the Spirit of Christ to deepen in love for Christ and for one another that we may not only be one in faith, but one in love. Amen..

—JJ Lim