One of Israel’s great crimes—maybe her cardinal crime—was to forget. See how this is stressed in the book of Deuteronomy. Eight times (8) they are warned not to “forget”. Fourteen times (14) they are called to “remember”. The tragedy of the book of Judges is spelled out in 2:10. After Joshua “a generation arose who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” In Deuteronomy 7:17-18 God’s cure for any fear of strong enemies (if they were to be cured) was to “look back”—remember. “You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” And see Deuteronomy 32:7.
Hand-wringing worry about “dwindling numbers” is no cure for dwindling church numbers. We are not to whimper about such things. A very strong case can be made for the view that our dwindling numbers is precisely because we haven’t looked back at what the Lord our God did at the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. The truth is, neither Israel nor the New Testament People have an identity without what has happened in the past! Forget that and we don’t know who we are! Our strength, if we are to have strength in the face of entrenched and intimidating enemies, is to take God’s advice and look back at who our God is and what he has done for His people of any era. But it’s GOD we are to look back to! And if we are to find vibrant hope and assurance in leaders today it will be leaders who will focus our eyes on a GOD who is “a tried stone, a precious cornerstone” (God Himself) and if we do that, “those that believe will not panic.” Isaiah 28:16.
Judah was scared witless when the news came that Assyria was on the march to world conquest. Syria and Israel was in Assyria’s path and they were in panic so they first pleaded for an alliance with Judah and when that didn’t work they conspired to set a king on the throne of Judah to gain a triple alliance. Isaiah urged Judah’s king Ahaz to trust in God but the trustless king wouldn’t and thought that worshiping new gods would fix the problem. But that was precisely the central crime of Israel. In Deuteronomy 32:15-18 God tells us, “He forsook God who made him…They sacrificed…not to God (but) to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not revere…Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful and have forgotten the God who Fathered you.”
They thought they would preserve the nation by spending money, by shrewd tactics and adopting the ways of the world (see 2 King 16:5-29; 2 Chronicles 28; Isaiah 28:14-22; 31:1-9. But the prophet had told them (7:1-9), “Except you believe you will not be established.”
This is more than a word for the 8th century BC. If people, young and old are walking away from God it is because they have grown tired of the old God (the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus Christ!) it’s because they don’t know Him and they gone looking and bowing before new gods. Leaders old or new are worth nothing unless they lead our People to the God of baptism, the God of the life, death and resurrection of the past that makes the present bearable and the future assured. And the God of the Supper where we “remember” the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus who gives us our identity, our very existence as a People and who is coming back!
Have nothing to do with this hand-wringing, bleating that requires new messages from God! One Lord is enough, one thrilling throbbing gospel of God is enough. If that God can’t keep His People from obliteration and if His 2,000 year old gospel fervently offered by our leaders doesn’t give us life, empower and thrill us then no gimmicks, no shrewd schemes, no mega-church aims will resurrect us.
See what’s there in front of us, acknowledge pain or loss or apparent defeats! We don’t need to deny that the enemies are real. They’ve always been real! So is God! So is the Lord Jesus. The invisible hosts of wickedness are real but so is the invisible Spirit of the Lord God! A pox on this whimpering about the future of the Body of Christ, the Nation of God, the Temple in which He dwells by His Spirit! Jesus Himself has assured us that the Gates of Hell (Death) cannot prevail against it! All that can be shaken will be shaken but the Kingdom of God can’t and won’t be (Hebrews 12:7-28) and the Head of the Church is the LORD JESUS!
A People doesn’t carry its God. See Isaiah 46 and God’s 8th century BC message to His 21st Century people.