Today's Bible Verse...

A Good Neighbor

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, dies. She's 127 years old. (Read it in the Bible at Genesis 23:1-3.) Weeping, Abraham mourns her passing. But then, where is he to bury his beloved spouse, who bore their one and only son, Isaac, in their ripe old age?

Recognizing himself a stranger and a foreigner living among the Hittites, Abraham bargains with them to buy a plot of land to “lay his wife to rest”. The Hittites recognize Abraham’s good reputation among them, so they’re willing to give Abraham the land. Abraham nevertheless pays the agreed-on price of 400 pieces of silver for the land at Machpelah, near Mamre (also called Hebron).

("An investment of time and money in serving God often earns a pleasant return – a good reputation and respect of others [in being a good neighbor]," notes the Life Application Study Bible.)



Centuries later, New Testament times, we see Jesus being asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies with a parable. (Read it in the Bible at Luke 10:25-37.) Here summarized: A Jewish man, “traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho,” is beaten and robbed, and left for dead. A priest comes by and sees the man, but, perhaps muttering, “I have no time for this,” he ignores him and continues on his way. Later, a Temple assistant (Greek: a Levite) comes along. He too passes on by. 

Lastly, a despised Samaritan sees the hurt Jewish man. Moved with compassion, even though Jews and Samaritans don’t get along (John 4:9), the Samaritan stops and cares for that one in need.

Jesus concludes by asking, "Who was the good neighbor? Was it not the stranger and foreigner with compassion? Go and do likewise.”




Henry Appenzeller
Continue journeying we come to the 19th Century and meet Henry Appenzeller. He arrives at Inchon, Korea, on Easter morning, 1885, one of the first ordained Methodist missionaries there. Reared in a German Reformed church in Pennsylvania, at age of 21 he joins the Methodist Church. And as Horace Allen will say of Appenzeller, he becomes “a most ardent Methodist of the John Wesley type. In Korea, Appenzeller serves God, being a stranger and a foreigner in a foreign land. In less than a year of his arrival he opens a liberal arts boys’ school. But, his calling is preaching, not teaching. Therefore he sees evangelism as the school’s purpose, even though proselytizing is officially banned in Korea.


Horace Allen

Ruth A. Tucker writes, “More than anyone else, Appenzeller laid the foundation for Methodism in Korea.” Read more on Henry Appenzeller in Tucker’s work From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya.


Christ-followers today reside in a world that is fast making them more and more foreigners and strangers in it. Nevertheless, as the apostle Peter admonishes (as we read at 1 Peter 2:12), “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors....” We're to remain faithful to our “calling” as Christ’s ambassadors. (See 2 Corinthians 5:20-21.) As Jesus commanded us, “Go into all the world…” Mark 16:15.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1, NKJV


For Further study, consider

Leviticus 25:26
1 Chronicles 29:15
Psalm 39:12
Luke 2:52
Ephesians 2:19
Hebrews 11:9

Tested and Tried

Continued from Restored to Follow

Abraham faces his ultimate test, we see, as we join him at Genesis 22:2, “Take your son,” God says to him, “your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much … sacrifice him as a burnt offering….”

And, as we watch this historic event, Abraham is obedient to God’s call to him. But does he understand it? Does it come easily for him to obey God’s command, he and his wife Sarah having waited so long a time for their own son? Can we Christ-followers today understand the tests God sends our way? how long would He have us to wait? For what purpose? Yet, as the Life Application Study Bible notes, “not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity [toward obedience] … to develop his character. [Likewise,] God refines us through difficult circumstances [which may include waiting].”

As Abraham and Isaac are traveling to the place that God will show, the boy asks, “Father, I see we have the fire and wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide, my son,” Abraham answers. (See Genesis 22:7.)

And indeed God does provide – a ram caught in a thicket. His care, protection, and provision, just as He promises.

Ours is but to trust and obey.



Centuries later, and we're seeing another historic event: Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), knows to trust and obey. There in the Garden of Gethsemane He prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done,” (Luke 22:42)

“When the right time came, God sent his Son … to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his own children.” (Galatians 4:4-5, NLT.) God’s provision to rescue us from our evil, darkened nature; He, too, loved His own Son so very much.

And God so loves us. “Even before he made the world … God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:4-5; John 1:12 –13; John 3:16.) How great is the Father’s love!

 “This is why we work hard,” writes the apostle Paul, “… for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”
(See 1 Timothy 4:10.)


Zooming still further ahead through history, we arrive at Horace Allen. Born in Delaware, Ohio, in 1858, he is educated at Ohio Wesleyan University, and Miami Medical School in Ohio.

He is appointed by the Presbyterian Church and first serves God’s
Kingdom with his wife Frances as a medical missionary to China. However, because they are bombarded through the night with calls from opium addicts, they soon become dissatisfied with being there.

“Sleep was quite impossible,” he declared.

Agreeing, his wife stated, “Life was made miserable.”



And so, serving less than a year in China, the Allen's are transferred to Korea. Yet, largely
Allen's residence in Seoul, in 1904, 
under armed guard.





due to Korea's way of relating to missionaries, Allen and his wife find no happiness there either. Though tested and tried, even amidst political strife, including Korea’s struggle with Japanese imperialism, the Allen's nevertheless keep at it.





After just a few months in Korea, and perhaps because of having saved the queen’s wounded nephew, Allen is invited by the royal couple to establish a hospital in Seoul. Later, at the request of the Korean king he serves as a diplomat representing Korean interests in America.  (Allen’s works Things Korean and A Chronological Index relate his life in Korea and his diplomatic experience.)



In some respects Horace Allen may have failed as a normal missionary, but as author Wi Jo Kang writes: “[He] left behind a rich legacy of Christian witness to political justice....” It was he, more than anyone else, Ruth A. Tucker writes, “Who paved the way for the long-term presence of Protestant missionaries in Korea.”


“When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing(James 1: 2-4, NLT.)



Information gathered from Ruth A. Tucker’s From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Second Edition, and WikipediA.

Restored to Follow

Previous, see Genesis chapter 20: Abraham, living in a land not his own, fears for his life. “Lest they kill me for you,” Abraham said to his wife Sarah, “say you are my sister.”

Abimelech does take Sarah for himself but commits nothing immoral with her, since God has given him a warning in a dream. So even though Abimelech is not a believer, God protects him from sinning (and of course protects Sarah as well).

Giving Abraham many gifts, and returning Sarah to Abraham, Abimelech sends them away, saying, “Let this compensate you for any wrong I may have done to you,” (Genesis 20:16.) Note, though, that Abraham also did wrong. (Should he have lied and deceived to save his own skin?) Abraham prays to God on behalf of Abimelech; God restores Abimelech and his household.

Now (Genesis 21:22-34), Abimelech visits Abraham again. “It’s obvious God is with you,” he says to Abraham, “Helping you in everything you do. Will you promise me that you will never deceive me, or my descendants? Be loyal to me and this country where you are living as a stranger.”

After settling a complaint Abraham held against Abimelech about a well that Abraham had dug (Genesis 21:24), the two agree together. They settle their differences, agreeing at the well-named Beersheba, “well of the oath".

Abraham had lived for a long time a foreigner in the country of the Philistines. Yet to come: Abraham is about to face his ultimate test…




Fast forwarding now to the New Testament era, when God walked the earth in the person of Jesus, the Son. He, too, was a stranger in the world, even that which He created. (See John 1:10-11.)  Even his own people rejected Him. (See Isaiah 53:3.) All who do accept Him, however, by God’s marvelous grace and love are born again into His family. (See John 1:12, 13; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9.) God calls them to share with the world the wondrous story. (See Matthew 4:18-19; Acts 1:8; Isaiah 6:8-9.)

Peter is one of those disciples, called – with his brother Andrew – out of his livelihood to become “fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:19-20.) Though denying three times that he ever knew Jesus, he repents; Jesus restores him – three times – and predicts how he will die. (See John 21:15-19.)

And so, in the Bible book that bears his name, Peter admonishes and warns, [We, too,] as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ [in this world should] keep away from worldly desires … [And] be careful to live properly among [our] unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse [us] of doing wrong, they will see [our] honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world…” (1 Peter 2:11-12.)

And as Jesus has called the twelve, so He calls us as strangers in this world, “Follow me.” Answering the call, we can be assured that

He will lead us all the way;
He will teach us what to say.
(See Exodus 4:11-12.)



Fast-forwarding now to the 18/19th Century we meet Henry Martyn “pioneer missionary to Muslims.” Previous: Born in Cornwall, England, in 1781. Graduated with top honors from Cambridge. Turned from God in his youth. But the death of his father, plus the influence of family, friends, and the writings of David Brainerd transformed him spiritually; and gave him a vision for Christ’s Kingdom work on earth.

Continuing: In his desire to glorify God, Martyn set out to practice self-denial. Also celibacy, seeing how the single life offered greater opportunities for “heavenly mindedness.” (See Colossians 3:1-4.) Later, however, he found himself distracted by affection for Lydia Grenfell, his cousin’s sister-in-law, six years older than him. But, convinced he can serve God most effectively unmarried (See 1 Corinthians 7:32.), he bids farewell to Lydia (though he will keep in touch by letters), and sails for India.

A deep confidence in Scripture, translating the New Testament is Martyn’s passion. But he is not unhindered by hostility (the evil one continually working to disrupt Christ’s Kingdom work on earth). Of such Martyn writes, “I wish a spirit of enquiry may be excited, but I lay not much stress upon clear arguments. The work of God is seldom wrought this way.”

Finally, frail in health he seeks rest and recuperation. At this time, he hopes to renew his relationship with Lydia. But before that can happen, he dies in Asia Minor, "a stranger in a strange land", in 1812. Upon his first arrival in India, Martyn had written, Now let me burn out for God.”

“… We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus [restored to follow], so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10.)

Do Not Be Afraid, God Cares

Continued from TRUSTING GOD: TURNING OUR WORRIES, DOUBTS, AND FEARS INTO LAUGHTER AND JOY. The Scripture for this post is  Genesis 21:8-21 and Matthew 1:18-25.


Time-traveling to the Old Testament era, we find Hagar in the wilderness with her son, Ishmael. Having been driven out by Abraham (because of Sarah's jealous demand); she is wandering and about to perish. Her water container (given to her by Abraham when he sent her away) is empty. Afraid, Hagar abandons her son; she doesn’t want to see him die. She weeps.




Flash back: “I heard you walking in the garden," Adam replied to the LORD God, “so I hid because I was afraid, being naked” (Genesis 3:10). And so fear enters the world of mankind, seemingly for the first time.

Before Genesis chapter three, however, Adam and his wife, Eve, walked with God in peace and harmony (hence, no need to be afraid). But then, since mankind’s disobedience, God has to remind His created beings, Do not be afraid.” And God continually reminds us through His Word that we have nothing to fear, but can trust in His care.


Returning to Hagar: (Genesis 21:17 – Hagar was Sarah's maidservant): Hearing her crying, God sends His angel to her: Do not be afraid, Hagar. God cares for you. Go back to the boy. Be assured of God’s promise: He will make a great nation from your son’s descendants.” (Genesis 21:18.) God provides a well full of water there in the wilderness. Hagar refills her container and gives her son a drink.

(This is not the first time, however, Hagar was driven from Abraham and Sarah’s presence. Earlier (Genesis 16 we saw Sarah’s impatience at not being able to have children. We also saw there God’s care for Hagar, the same care He has for all of mankind whom He created in His own image [even though that image was distorted through Adam and Eve’s one act of disobedience]. Thus, that one act sets up God’s continual plea to us, “Do not be afraid. I’m your God who cares for you.”)


Our "time machine" takes us now to the New Testament era, and to Joseph’s dream (Matthew 1:18-25) He is that Joseph who is engaged to Mary, the mother-to-be of the promised Messiah, Jesus.

Do not be afraid, Joseph, to take Mary as your wife,” the angel of the Lord says to him, For the child within her is of the Holy Spirit.”

Waking up, Joseph obeys the angel and lets stand his betrothal to Mary. She gives birth to her son on that blessed Christmas morn in the little town of Bethlehem – the city of David – south of Jerusalem (while she is still a virgin) Luke 2:8-11.
.
Then, the news rings out to the shepherds abiding in their fields. The angel of the Lord encourages them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people…” (Luke 2:10.)

Hurrying to the village, where they find Mary and Joseph, the shepherds’ faces brighten in seeing the baby Jesus lying in the manger. It was just as the angel had said to them about this child: “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today…” (Luke 2:11.)

Witnessing this great event in their lives, the shepherds return to their flocks, giving glory and praise to God, and telling everyone their story, to the astonishment of all those who heard (Luke 2:16-20).



Flash forward: The Jews in Corinth resist the Apostle Paul’s message to them about this Jesus, who was born their Messiah and Lord (Acts 18:1-11). Paul is discouraged. Then, while sleeping one night, in a vision the Lord encourages Paul – and Christ-followers today in sharing the Good News to their neighbors, co-workers, and the ‘nations’: “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city [and around the world] belong to me” (Acts 18:9-10.)

Ours is to Go, as Jesus commissioned, and find His people (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20)


  

We zoom ahead once more, now to the 18th Century, and meet Henry Martyn. As Ruth A. Tucker puts it in her work From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, he is “sometimes described as the pioneer Protestant missionary to Muslims.”

He is born in Cornwall, England, in 1781. Completing his formal education, he enters Cambridge University, graduating from there with top honors in mathematics.





Flash back: Martyn drifts from God in his youth. However, the death of his father, the
David Brainerd
influence of family and friends, and in particular the writings of David Brainerd, bring about his spiritual transformation and a vision for missions.

Of Brainerd, Martyn says, “I long to be like him. Let me forget about the world and be swallowed up in a desire to glorify God.”






And so in 1805 Martyn sails for India. He serves as a chaplain with the East India
Company. He then meets William Carey who recognizes Martyn’s brilliance, and encourages him to do Bible translation. This becomes the yearning of Martyn’s heart.

Martyn serves on military posts, preaches to Europeans and Indians, and establishes schools. He also finds time to work on translating the New Testament into Urdu, and later into Persian and Arabic; his closest assistant is a Muslim convert.

Henry Martyn persists in the work God has called him to despite difficulties (even hostility) and ill health; he is not afraid. At only 31 years of age Henry Martyn departs the physical realm (through death) from Asia Minor in the autumn of 1812.


As the apostle Paul encouraged young Timothy, so it is for Christ-followers today, as we labor in Christ’s cause for the ‘nations’: Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. [He’s your God who cares for you.] Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (2 Timothy 4:5.)

Trusting God: Turning Our Worries, Doubts, and Fears into Laughter and Joy

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14.) Absolutely nothing. He brought everything into being at His spoken command. He can do anything He desires to do with, through, and for His creation. He can do it in His way and in His time. He can make bread from bricks, dissolve pain with a gentle loving touch, cause the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk. He can dispel evil with the breath of His mouth. With Him there is no such thing as an impossible task.  What is my impossibility? I must give it all (my all) to Jesus.


He performs the impossible for His glory. And in the process, he gives us laughter and joy. This is what he does for Abraham and Sarah. He had promised them the impossible, and we read here in Genesis 21:1-7 of his delivery: Sarah gives birth to a son for Abraham in his old age (he's 100). This baby comes just as God had promised many years earlier (Genesis 21:2; cf. Romans 9:9). Abraham names his son Isaac.

Sarah too (at 99), is far beyond the age for child bearing. (Indeed, she was already far beyond childbearing many years earlier when God made the promise!) “God has brought me laughter,” Sarah declares.

Yet, why does Sarah laugh, being so surprised? If she had simply believed God in the first place, her worry, doubt, and fear would have dissolved and she'd have been relaxed in God’s peace; as we see, God does fulfill his promise, howbeit "in the fullness of time", according to God’s schedule, not ours.



Zooming ahead now, to the New Testament era: We hear of another birth to be (two, in fact) which comes just at the right time (See Galatians 4:4.) – according to God’s perfect plan, not ours.

The angel Gabriel comes to a virgin named Mary and says, “Don’t be afraid, Mary … for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31.)

But before this, Gabriel had already appeared to Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. Elizabeth is, like Sarah of old, advanced in age, beyond the age of child bearing.

Zechariah is shaking in fear at Gabriel's appearance. Gabriel assures him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! …Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.” Gabriel goes on, “At his birth you will have great joy and gladness. Many others also will rejoice” (Luke 1:12-14).

Yet, it is the birth of Mary’s baby, Jesus, which will mean greater joy for all ‘nations’ (peoples of the earth), as the baby within her is of the Holy Spirit, the child of the promise – God Himself becoming one of us to set us free from the curse of the Law. (Luke 1:35; John 1:14; Galatians 4:21-31.) (Indeed, the baby who was bringing such joy to Elizabeth and Zechariah, this yet-to-be born baby himself, leaped with joy at Mary's news of the coming Savior of the World!)

And herein is our laughter and joy – we who believe – as Elizabeth proclaims concerning Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed … you are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said” (Luke 1:42, 45.)

And we are blessed who take God at His word – the God of the impossible – and proclaim this Good News of great joy to the ‘nations’ (peoples of the earth).



Moving forward now to the Nineteenth Century and to the South Pacific islands as  we look in on Florence Young, a native of Sydney, Australia. She is teaching a Bible class to the South Seas plantation laborers.

Having studied the Bible since early childhood suits Young well for her teaching ministry now. Thus, she finds her niche in God’s will for her life. Her first class of ten men, meeting on Sunday, soon grows to eighty, about half that number come to her class each evening during the week.

The men have been imported from the islands through trickery and kidnapping – "blackbirding” – to work on the plantations. Even though laboring long hours in the scorching sun, they “sacrifice their hours of rest to come [to Young’s Bible class] and hear the gospel” (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth A. Tucker). No impossible task with God. He works even through that blackbirding business to open doors in the Solomon Islands for the spread of His Good News.

So overwhelmed and encouraged at the response, trusting God, Young branches out to other plantations on Queensland, where some 10,000 laborers live. Receiving a monetary gift from George Mueller she begins the Queensland Kanaka (importedlaborers) Mission. With the help of other missionaries, thousands of laborers enroll in classes. Some eventually carry the message of God’s love back to their own people.

God performs His work: Through His people. Yielded to His cause (regardless of the works of man – good or bad). And, there are no worries, doubts, or fears in our walk and work of faith. Let this be our endeavor, therefore, in proclaiming God’s love to the ‘nations’ (all peoples of the earth): Simply take God at His word – trust Him – and relax in the laughter, joy, and peace He gives, implementing 1 Peter 3:15!

“We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the LORD has done for them’” (Psalm 126:2.)

Trusting God through Weakness—Faults, Frailties, Failures, Hardships

God is worthy of our trust, always, including in our weakness -- faults, frailties, failures, and hardships. We all are weak; we all have faults and frailties; we all fail at times, and we all suffer hardships.


The same was true of Abraham, as we read in Genesis chapter 20. Here, fearing for his life, Abraham does it again, what he had done before to protect himself (See Genesis 12:11-13.) -- he lies. (But was it a total lie, or a “little white lie;” a half truth? Is there a difference?) 

Abimelech, king of Gerar, having discovered the deception, asks Abraham, “Whatever possessed you to lie to me, letting me believe that your wife Sarah is your sister. Something grave could have happened to me and my people.”

Abraham answers Abimelech, “I was afraid for my own life. Thinking this was a godless place you may have killed me to get my wife.

“But, it’s not totally untrue,” Abraham adds, “We have the same father but different mothers, so she really is my sister and I her brother.”

Abimelech and Abraham make amends, and Abraham prays to God that Abimelech and his people would be spared. God hears and answers; He is worthy of our total, unwavering trust. As we will see later on, God has indeed kept His promise to Abraham, that Abraham will have a son through his wife Sarah. And through that son of promise all ‘nations’ (peoples) will be blessed.

What has Abraham done here? He's depended upon himself, and has used his own way to try to accomplish what God was leading him to. Just as he has done before.



Fast-forward to the New Testament era
(John 5:1-15), we see Jesus -- the blessing of promise for all ‘nations’ (peoples) -- returning to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. At the pool of Bethesda He sees crowds of sick people -- blind, lame, and paralyzed -- waiting for the stirring of the waters so they can get into the pool and get well.  

Jesus approaches one man lying there. With seemingly no hope and without help to get him into those healing waters, he has remained ill for 38 years.

Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be well?”

“Of course I do,” the man answers, “but there’s no one here to help me get into the water.”

Jesus simply says to him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.”

Standing up, he rolls up his mat, and walks away. After 38 years of the man wishing for healing by his own way (being lifted by men into the pool), suddenly he's completely healed!

Jesus is willing and able to help us in our weakness, whatever it may be, in our frailties, faults, and failures, and through hardships and difficult circumstances we may face. He is strong and ever faithful. The Apostle Paul saw this; recognizing his own weakness – his “thorn in the flesh”, he found God's grace to be all-sufficient (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

“My grace is all you need,” the Lord said to Paul, and so He says to us.

Thus, as Paul responded, so should we: “So now [let us be] glad to boast about [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through us [for the ‘nations' (peoples), and the glory of the Father]”.



Again flashing ahead, we come now to eighteenth-century North America and meet Paul Le Jeune, Jesuit missionary, with a degree in theology and philosophy from the University of Paris. (Information gathered from Ruth A. Tucker’s book From Jerusalem toIrian Jaya.)

Jesuit work among the Huron peopleof Canada has been underway for seven years when Le Jeune arrives. Yet, other than a school established for native children, there is little to show for their work.

Nearly forty years old when he arrives (in 1732), Le Jeune seems ill suited to meet the task before him. He is also unprepared for the hardships he will encounter – climactic conditions such as bitter cold winters, hot, humid, and bug-infested summers. Nevertheless, he sets out on his assignment of translating the Scriptures.

“I thought nothing of coming to Canada when I was sent here,” he confesses. “I felt no particular affection for the Savages, but the duty of obedience was binding."

Should we not also have that committed mindset: obeying the call to go into a world of darkness, shining the light of God’s eternal truth among the ‘nations’ (peoples), our neighbors, co-workers, family?

Seven years after Le Jeune began his work, and with ten resident Jesuits, fewer than 100 Hurons in a tribe of about 10,000 will have been converted to Christianity. Two decades later, however, with further increases in missionary workers, half the tribe will have been converted.

And the call for workers continues today. “So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields [who are willing to obey and go]” (Matthew 9:37-38.)

Trusting God Through Desperate Times

Continued from NOW IS THE TIME. This post focuses on, Scripturally, Genesis 19:30-38; Matthew 9:18-38; and historically, missionary William Carey.

Lot has left the city of Zoar, because he feared the people there. We find him now living in the mountains, alone with his two daughters.

The daughters suddenly realize their situation and get desperate. “Hey,” the older says to her younger sister, “There are no men around here – anywhere – for us to marry so we can have children to preserve our family line!”

A worried concern wrinkles the women’s brows. In extreme anxiety, the older sister proposes an idea to the younger; she agrees.

On consecutive nights the daughters of Lot get their father drunk with wine. The first night the older daughter sleeps with her father. The younger sister does the same the next night.


Each sister, pregnant by her father, bears a son. The older sister gives birth to Moab, father of the
Moab mountain range viewed
from 
Jordan Valley
Moabites. The younger gives birth to Ben-ammi, father of the Ammonites.
Ammon and its neighbors,
around 830 BC
[citation needed]

Two nations, products of incest, become Israel’s greatest enemies, whom Israel never defeats. Yet, despite the sinful act by the desperate daughters of Lot, the blessing of Abraham for all ‘nations’ (peoples) is not defeated: From Moab comes Ruth, the great-grandmother of Israel’s great king David. From David ultimately comes Jesus, God’s Son, who displayed such great love for all ‘nations’ (peoples) despite their sin.


God is concerned for much more than the physical. His greatest concern is for the desperate condition of fallen humanity (broken fellowship) – desiring much more to restore the relationship between Him and mankind.


We zoom centuries ahead in time to the New Testament era, and see Jesus confronting desperate people:

A leader of a synagogue whose little girl has died; yet, he believes that Jesus can bring the child to life again.

A woman who has suffered from a hemorrhage (constant bleeding) for twelve years; but still, she believes, “If I can touch [the fringe of] his robe, I will be healed."

Two blind men who believe Jesus can give them sight.

A demon-possessed man who is brought to Jesus; Jesus casts out the demon, to the amazement of the crowd (yet to the scorn of the Pharisees – not all people will see a miracle as a blessing from God).

Indeed, Jesus meets them all in their desperation – their distress – healing their physical infirmities. He, the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), is able to meet us in our desperate circumstances as well, whatever they may be.

However, Jesus is concerned for much more than the physical. His compassion is for the restoration of fallen humanity (broken fellowship) to a right relationship, a "holy love affair," with the holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is Jesus as He sees the crowds (of His day and ours) “confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).



Once again zooming ahead – to Northampton, England. Born here in 1761 is William Carey (see

Ruth A. Tucker: From Jerusalem toIrian Jaya). He, too, is to become a man who has to trust God through desperate times – through struggles and distressing circumstances.

Son of a weaver, Carey works on a loom in his family quarters. Problems with allergies prevent him from pursuing his dream of becoming a gardener. At 16 years of age he is apprenticed to a shoemaker. Through the witness of another apprentice he is converted to Christianity, and actively associates himself with the Baptist Dissenters. He devotes his leisure time to Bible study and lay ministries.

Before the age of 20 Carey marries his master’s sister-in-law, Dorothy. She is more than five years older then he and illiterate. A “mismatched marriage,” as Tucker puts it, is met with hardship and poverty. Carey nevertheless continues his studies and lay preaching, pastoring two small Baptist churches while continuing to make shoes.

Carey reads Jonathan Edwards account on the life of David Brainerd (see SATISFACTION GUARANTEED) and the journals of explorer James Cook. His heart is stirred toward the biblical mandate of spreading the GoodNews of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Yet, even while he is presenting this idea before a group of ministers, it is rejected. “Sit down,” they respond. “When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.”

Undaunted, Carey continues presenting his case for worldwide missions, challenging audiences from Isaiah 54:2-3, he challenges them with his now famous quote, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

Eventually, with the formation of the Baptist MissionarySociety, Carey offers himself for missionary service. In March of 1793, he sails for India, accompanying the Society’s first appointee, John Thomas, and Thomas’ wife and daughter. Carey’s eight-year-old son, Felix, journeys with them.

In India William Carey faithfully pursues the task that God had “planned for [him].” And He does so for all who put their trust in Him. As the apostle Paul has written: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago [even through desperate times – struggles and distressing circumstances]”  (Ephesians 2:10; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4.)

“[Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘the harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest [and who delights in our participation with Him in His cause for the peoples of the world]; ask him to send more workers into his fields.’”
(Matthew 9:36-38.)

Now is the Time

In the evening the two men (angels sent from God) arrive in Sodom. [See previous day, His Call Keeps Ringing.] Lot is sitting in the gateway (the entrance) of the city. Welcoming the men, Lot invites them to come to his house as his guests.

“Oh no,” they reply. “We’ll just spend the night out here in the city square” (Genesis 19:2.)

But the two men yield to Lot's insistence, and go with him to his house, where Lot prepares for them a feast.

Shortly before they settle down for the night, a noisy clamor rises outside. Stepping outside, Lot notices the men of Sodom surrounding the house.

“Where are the men who came to spend the night with you?” they shout. “Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” (Genesis 19:5.)

“Please, my brothers,” Lot begs, “don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish…” (Genesis 19:7, 8.)

But the men of Sodom won't hear it. Pressing hard against Lot, they attempt to break down the door. Lot's guests pull Lot back inside the house and strike the men of Sodom with blindness. Wearily, they stumble about trying to find the door.

The next morning, having heeded the angels' warning, Lot, his wife, and his two daughters flee Sodom, escaping to the city of Zoar – the angels having granted Lot’s request to spare that little village. (Genesis 19:21.)

(A thought to ponder: For the righteous remnant, the LORD is merciful.)

The Destruction of Sodom and GomorrahJohn Martin, 1852
In Zoar, Lot and his family find refuge from the fire and brimstone the LORD rains on Sodom and Gomorrah. “He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain...”  (Genesis 19:25.)

“But Lot’s wife looked back [to where she had come from], and she turned into a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26; cf. Matthew 6:24.)

Rising early, Abraham “hurried out to the place where he had stood in the Lord’s presence.” Looking toward those cities of the plain he saw the smoke ascending “like smoke from a furnace.” (Genesis 19:27, 28.) Granting Abraham’s request (See Genesis 18:23-32), the LORD “kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain” (Genesis 19:29.)



We now flash ahead through time to the New Testament era, just in time to hear Jesus answering the Pharisees' question, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”

“The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs,” Jesus answers. “For the Kingdom of God is already among you” (Luke 17:20-21).

(“The kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom with geographical boundaries,” as noted in the Life Application Study Bible – LASB. “Instead, it begins with the work of God's Spirit in people's lives...”)

Later, with His disciples, Jesus speaks again of this, and of His return.

It will happen quickly – when we least expect it. And many will not be aware of it. For as in the days of Noah, many will be buying, selling, planting – going about their earthly business and pleasure as usual. As in the days of Noah, when he entered the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. And when Lot went out from Sodom “…fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:29).

Jesus concludes with a warning, as the LASB notes, “against false security. We are to abandon the values and attachments of this world to be ready, for Christ's return...” seeking first Christ's Kingdom on earth, (See Matthew 6:33.) in peoples’ lives.

“Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!” Jesus declares, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go [for the cause of Christ], you will save it” (Luke 17:32, 33).



We zoom ahead once again in time, to the closing days of the 19th Century. We arrive in China to find Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth fleeing for their lives, escaping the ravages of the Boxer Rebellion– in brief, according to Wikipedia.org, “a … movement by the 'Righteous Harmony Society' … opposing foreign imperialism and Christianity...”

Jonathan Goforth
Born in western Ontario, Canada, in 1859 Jonathan Goforth had given his life to the cause of Christ after reading the Memoirs ofRobert Murray M’Cheyne. Then, hearing a missionary powerfully appealing for workers in China, Goforth had sensed his call to missions.

“As I listened to these words,” Goforth would later say, “I was overwhelmed with shame…. From that hour I became a missionary.”


Graduating from Knox College, Goforth had worked for a while in city missions in Toronto where he had met Rosalind Smith, who later had become his wife.

Rosalind Goforth
Presbyterian students from Knox College had raised funds, and the Goforths had set sail for China in 1888. Answering the call, the Goforths had labored for Christ’s Kingdom in China’s Honan province, sharing their eternal hope with the Chinese via “open-house” evangelism.

That is to say, the European interior design of the Goforth’s home had aroused the curiosity of the Chinese, who all wanted to see it. Before giving a tour of the house, however, Jonathan would share the Good News of Jesus Christ with his guests.

Until forced to flee.

But the Boxer Rebellion ends, and as peace returns, the Goforths are able to return to China.

Jonathan relates his new plan to propagate the Gospel. “[It] is,” he says to his wife, “To … rent a suitable place in a large center for us to live … [we] stay a month … [and] carry on intensive evangelism…”

Jonathan, with his men, shares in villages or on the street, while Rosalind ministers to the women in the courtyard of their home. At month’s end they move to another place, leaving behind one who is able to teach the new believers.

In later years, new missionaries arrive on the field, steeped in “higher criticism” arousing confrontations and friction. Yet, relentlessly committed to the clear Gospel message, Jonathan continues to “preach … salvation through the cross of Calvary and demonstrate its power.”

God continues His search today for other “Jonathan and Rosalind Goforths,” who will realize that the time is now, as never before, to answer the call, and send the Good News of God’s eternal hope to all peoples.