By Mike Willis
Elsewhere in this issue of the paper, you will find a commentary regarding the life and death of Luther Blackmon. A few weeks earlier, a similar report concerning the life of Challen Dewey Plum (October 20, 1977) appeared. Not too many weeks before, we also reported the death of Frank Smith and another soldier of the Lord. Within the last few years, we have witnessed the passing of a number of dearly loved servants of the Lord. Many of them have served in the Lord’s kingdom for more years than I am old; and they served their Lord very well. As I have pondered the death of these spiritual giants, I am reminded of the death of Moses and the vacuum his passing created in Israel.
Upon Moses’ death, the children of Israel wept for an entire month on the plains of Moab (Deut. 34:8). The record says regarding Moses, “Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses” (34:10). Yet, God’s cause did not stop upon the death of Moses. After the month of mourning had ended, God spoke to Joshua saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel . . . . Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, to be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Josh. 1:2, 5-7).
There are a number of observations which I would like to make from the death of Moses and the appointment of Joshua as the new commander over Israel with the purpose of applying them to this present time when we see so many of those who have led the church in the fray against Satan dying in our midst. Consider these thoughts with me:
1. God’s work does not depend upon any one worker, even the greatest of them. When Moses died, there were probably some in Israel who thought that the possibility of conquering the land of Canaan had also died. Yet, God’s work did not die with Moses. He raised up Joshua to take Moses’ place and the work of the Lord continued.
Though these great warriors perfectly realized this truth, the falling of Franklin T. Puckett, Luther Blackmon, C.D. Plum and Frank L. Smith will not cause the work of the Lord to die. The work of the’ Lord must continue uninterrupted by the strokes of death. The man who thinks that God’s cause will die without his presence has an arrogant, conceited attitude toward himself. He is thinking more highly of himself than he ought to think. There are none of us who are indispensable. Though we will miss the sage advice and the brave leadership of those who have passed on, we recognize that the cause of Christ must continue undaunted.
We who remain alive need to carry on the great work which these men began. I am fearful that some of those who are compromising the truth in order to pussyfoot with the liberals have forgotten the heartaches which these great men endured to salvage some of the saints of God from the clutches of liberalism. We need new soldiers who will step into the footprints of those who have fallen, take up their sword, and wield it against the forces of Satan (institutionalism, Calvinism, etc.). We have no sympathy for those who are bent on throwing rocks at those who have fought the battles of the Lord in bygone years.
2. We must prepare ourselves for the new duties which have fallen upon us as a result of the death of these saints. Joshua found many responsibilities upon his shoulders as a result of the death of Moses which’ had not been there before. The same will be true of each of us. Prior to this time, we have been able to rely upon the aged men to do the most of the work. But, one by one our comrades are dying. More and more the duty of battle is falling upon our own shoulders. We must prepare ourselves for these new duties.
3. We must abide in the revelation of God. As Joshua took command of Israel, God told him, “. . . be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7). What a heritage Moses had left for Joshua. He had taught him the necessity of doing exactly the will of the Lord. He revealed the Lord’s warning, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). He left Joshua a good example of obedience in the manner in which he followed the Lord’s pattern in the construction of the tabernacle.
In a similar fashion, we have been given a rich heritage by those who have preceded us. They have insisted upon the Lord’s people steadfastly adhering to the word of God. They have taught us not to turn aside to the right hand or to the left. They have shown us the various apostasies from the Lord’s revelation in areas which we might otherwise not have seen them. They have opposed the sponsoring church concept of church organization, the support of human institutions from the church treasury, the perverting of the mission of the church in order to make it a recreational institution, etc.
And now as we must take over in the place of those who have fallen, we must not turn aside from the revelation of God. Frankly, I am worried about the compromises which some among us are making. Those who in past years stood opposed to institutionalism seem bent upon backing those who are now saying that we can have a unity-in-diversity with the liberals. They are defending the unity-in-diversity crowd; they are pushing their literature. In addition to this, they are doing everything they can to destroy the influence of those of us are opposing them. My brethren, we did not learn to act this way from those who have preceded us in death whose names have been mentioned in this article. They taught us to adhere to the revealed word of God and to not turn aside from it to the right or to the left. They did not teach us to uphold the hands of the liberals and throw rocks at those who are opposed to them. Rather, they taught us to cling to God’s word and lift up the hands of those who stand for His truth. We need to remember that we must abide in the revelation of God.
As we pause for a few moments to reflect upon the influence which these great men have had upon us, let us thank God for the influence of their lives. We anxiously await the time when we can gather together around the throne of God to continue our worship and adoration of God together. These great men would tell us, were they here to do so, to press on in our fight against the arch enemy of God’s people. Let us not be diverted from our work of expanding the borders of the kingdom through evangelism, edifying the saints, and defending the bulwarks from the digression which continues to occur.
Truth Magazine XXI: 48, pp. 755-756
December 8, 1977