Our Eighth Year

"9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant" (Gen 17:9-14).

We have come to the end of our Sabbath Year. Today is our 7th Anniversary. We are entering into our 8th year together as a branch of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have for a long time been intrigued with the number 8. No, it has nothing to do with the Cantonese superstition that the number will bring good luck and prosperity. It has to do, rather, with the way that the number is used in the Holy Scripture. Most prominently, under the Old Covenant, covenant infants were required to be circumcised when they were eight days’ old (Gen 17:12; Lev 12:3; etc). Less well-known are the facts that God’s people were required to give all the first born of their livestock unto the Lord when they were eight days’ old (Ex 22:30); that Aaron and his sons had to remain within the Tabernacle for seven full days for their consecration and were allowed only to emerge on the eighth day (Lev 8:33-9:1); and that at the Feast of Tabernacles, a holy convocation was appointed for the eighth day after a seven-days’ repetition of various sacrifices (Num 29:12-36; Lev 23:33-36).

What do these biblical instructions have to teach us that may be useful for our meditation as we enter into the eighth year? Allow me to share three.

1. A New Life In Christ

In the first place, we may learn something from the fact that infants in the old covenant were circumcised on the 8th day. Why were they to be circumcised on the 8th day? Some medical researchers have found that on the eighth day, the levels of Vitamin K and Prothrombin (which are necessary for blood coagulation) are at their peak in the baby’s bloodstream on the 8th day, and therefore it makes good medical sense for the child to be circumcised on that very day. But I believe there is another reason why circumcision was to be on the 8th day, for the number 8 symbolises a new beginning. God has appointed that we are to live according to cycles of 7 days. We are to labour for 6 days and then rest at the end of the week, on the 7th Day. The 8th day is the beginning of a new week. It is the first day of the new week. Christ rose again from the dead on the first day of the week, or the 8th day counting from the old week in the previous economy. As He rose from the dead, so all who are united to Him by faith rise from the dead in our regeneration (Jn 5:24) and in future, in our resurrection (Jn 5:28-29). This, I believe, is the theological reason why infants were required to be circumcised on the 8th day. Circumcision of the flesh pointed to circumcision of the heart which is regeneration, which is strictly speaking, a New Covenant privilege purchased by Christ’s dying on the Cross and secured by His rising from the dead (see Jer 31:31-33). Infants were circumcised on the 8th day to bear testimony of the new life that would come with the resurrection of the Lord on the first day of the week. "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps 118:22-24).

Today, we are entering our 8th year as a church. Shall, we not, as we understand the meaning of the 8th day, remind ourselves of the tremendous privilege we share as those united to Christ? In this 8th year, shall we not rededicate ourselves to the Lord and resolve to live worthily of our privileges? Shall we not live the new life as we should: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor 5:17)?

How have you been living your Christian life for the past 7 years, beloved brethren? Can your perspective and attitude towards life be described as being truly Christian? Or is it merely a worldly life with a Christian flavour? Has Christ and His glory been central in all your decisions? Has the use of your time been prioritised according to what brings the most glory to the name of your Lord? Shall we not resolve to walk anew with the Lord? Shall we not strive to encourage one another on, provoking one another unto faith and good works and exhorting one another daily while it is called today lest any of us be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin?

2. A Life of Grateful Response

Secondly, as we enter into the 8th year, let us remind ourselves to live a life of grateful response to the Lord. The children of God in the Old Covenant were essentially being reminded of how they must be grateful to the Lord each time they offer their firstborn lamb or calf on its 8th day unto the Lord.

The Messiah would die and He would rise again on the 8th day. By His death and resurrection, He would reconcile His people unto His Father. Were it not for what He would do, God’s people would have no confidence of receiving any blessing from the Father. Were it not for Christ, all the material gifts that we receive from the Father in this life will become curses unto us on the Last Day. In offering the first born of their sheep and cattle unto the Lord on their 8th day, our fathers were acknowledging that because of what would happen on the 8th Day, all that they receive from the Lord are His blessings.

Today, we are no longer required to observe this old commandment. However, the principle of gratitude should still be observed by us. How should this principle be observed? It should be observed first of all, by a recognition that all that we have really belong to God who has appointed us as His stewards and therefore we must be prepared to give unto the Lord as much as possible when by His providence He indicates that we should be giving above our tithes. The people of old had to give their firstborn lambs and calves—on the 8th day in recognition of the Messiah’s triumph over the curse of the Fall. Secondly, we should live with a clear recognition that we are not saved by obedience to the Law or by good works. We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and therefore whatever we do for the Lord, or whatever we give unto the Lord must be done or given out of love and gratitude unto the Lord. The people of old had to give their lambs and calves on their 8th day to signal their gratitude to the Messiah who would come to die and live for them.

Beloved brethren, think about your Christian life. Do you do all that you do and give all that you give unto the Lord because you are constraint by the love of Christ for you? Or do what you do what you do and give what you give only as a routine and without any thought about Christ?

Let us resolve as we enter into this 8th year as a church that Christ should be near to our lips and near to our hearts, so that we may engage in all the activities that we enjoy as a church, with the love of Christ (not a mere sense of duty, not pride, not convenience, not carnal pleasures), as the chief motivating factor. Oh how Christ would be magnified if only we would do so.

3. A Life of Service

Finally, as we enter into the 8th year let us remember how Aaron and his sons were 7 days in preparation before appearing to serve the Lord in the Tabernacle on the 8th day. Have we not likewise been in preparation to serve the Lord in a sense? These past seven years have been eventful. We have gone through much together as a church. But it has been a journey of learning and preparation for the church. And the Lord has blessed us much both spiritually and materially.

We have been, in a way, grounding ourselves in the doctrine and practice even as we worshipped the Lord these 7 years. But we have done little by way of missions and outreach. We were in a certain way restraining ourselves knowing that we must get our foundations right first.

But the time has come for us to place emphasis on reaching out that we may shine forth the more brightly for Christ to beckon the other sheep which Christ laid His life down for to come into the fold. The Lord has already opened the way in terms of local outreach by giving us this place and drawing numerous elderly folks from the neighbourhood to join us to seek the Lord in the evening. Shall we not resolve to do this ministry well? Shall we not all chip in the talents that the Lord has entrusted to our care? Much needs to be done in this work. There is need for members to befriend our visitors. There is a need to teach them; to translate the messages for them; to fetch them to and fro; to welcome and usher them when they arrive; to cook and to wash the pots and pans; and even to visit the needy when the situation calls for it. There is a lot to do! We thank God for the many who have laid down their lives and cheerfully serve in what ways they can as they are constrained by the love of Christ. But it is our earnest desire and prayer that more of us will step forward to share this joyful burden. Will you give of your time?

"Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" says our Lord. PCC is our Jerusalem. The Henderson estate is our Judaea. The rest of Singapore is our Samaria. We have been labouring in Jerusalem. We must labour as well in Judaea, and then be prepared to go to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth when the Lord deems us ready and calls us to go.

It is our 8th year. We must not remain in the Tabernacle. We must come out. We must be ready to give of ourselves to serve the Lord outside the Tabernacle. We must learn to lay down our lives that peradventure, through the Lord’s blessing, our meagre efforts may result in the salvation of other sheep which Christ laid His life down for. And when providence calls, we must not be reluctant to help out our less fortunate brethren in the surrounding nations. We must be prepared to take the risks that inevitably come with any mission work involving financial helps.

The Lord has blessed us and prepared us, shall we remain inward looking?

May the Lord help us this year to shine ever more brightly for Him, bearing witness of Him who rose from the dead for our justification on the 8th day, serving Him fervently, constrained by His love for us! Amen.

—JJ Lim