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  • Mike Plant

A new year a new verse for the year

Looking back for the past year our verse has been Acts 2: 42, ‘they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ We felt that was a particularly relevant verse for the church as we emerged from the trauma of lockdown. Sadly, in that our attendances on a Sunday morning have been down on pre-Covid levels, there is a degree of disappointment but generally we have recommitted ourselves at this time. I think one worrying trend in church life is the illusion that provided we have

good teaching we can continue faithfully as believers. That the Lord will faithfully provide for and keep Christians who cannot meet with other believers is of course true. I don’t believe this is a reassurance for Christians who are choosing to be disobedient to texts such as Hebrews 10: 24 + 25, ‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as we see the day drawing near.’ Mutually stirring one another up and encouraging one another requires meeting together and the decision not to do so regularly is damaging both the individual believer and to the church.

A New Emphasis as We Look Forward

Why the choice of, ‘Till now the LORD has helped us’?

The obvious emphasis in the text is that it is about looking back, and this is reflected in every translation (NIV/NKJV), ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us’ and the AV, ‘Hitherto hath the LORD helped us’. That is certainly a relevant thought for us as a church. In the Anniversary Year we have been surveying the history of the church which reveals how often the church might have drifted away from the gospel and into decline and closure. We are very aware that the Lord has been faithful and has preserved a gospel witness.

However, the verse for the year, read within the context in 1 Samuel, is not for the purpose of arousing a nostalgia that is backward looking and robs us of energy. The purpose of remembering, ‘Till now the LORD has helped us’ is to spur his people into the future with great confidence in the LORD who is a faithful covenant God who has committed himself to his people. The immediate context is a Philistine invasion which has terrified the people of Israel. They go to face the enemy with the confidence given by a God-ordained sacrifice and the intercession of Samuel on their behalf and are delivered and it is a lasting deliverance. I am sure that this quite deliberately is spelt out to focus the modern Christian on Christ’s sacrifice and intercession as the grounds of our confidence.

May the LORD remind of us his past faithfulness and strengthen us for faithful prayer and activity in the coming year.

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