Sojourners in a Foreign Land

Time travel with me once again, this time back to those biblical days of Abram (later known as Abraham). From the Old Testament we read of Terah residing in Ur of the Chaldeans. 

The day came when Terah left Ur with his son Abram, daughter-in-law Sarai and grandson Lot. Together they set out for Canaan, but they settled in Haran (about 600 miles north of Ur). See Genesis 11:31.

After Terah died God commanded Abram to leave Haran and "... go ... where I will show you." God also gave Abram a promise, "... all peoples on earth will be blessed through you," (Genesis 12:1-3). 

Abram left as "the LORD had told him," not knowing where he was going, simply taking God at His word. He arrived in Canaan and became a "stranger (sojourner) in a foreign country," (Genesis 12:4-5).

God was with Abram as he traveled throughout Canaan. One day as Abram was scanning Canaan's vast horizon, God revealed to him: "To your offspring I will give this land," (Genesis 12:7).

Abram built an altar at Shechem and worshiped the LORD there, he then moved on towards Bethel. Between Bethel and Ai he built another altar, and then moved on further towards the Negev (desert in southern Canaan). See Genesis 12:8-9.



And at this point we, too, move on further through time, centuries beyond the days of Abram, and step into New Testament times to the days of Jesus. There on the shores of Lake Galilee (in modern-day Israel; Old Testament days, Canaan) we see Jesus challenging some fishermen, "Launch out into the deep water." 

"But Master," they responded wearily, "We labored all last night and caught nothing." Nevertheless, trusting Jesus' words they did as He told them, and were astonished at their great catch.

Smiling broadly at their trusting stance, Jesus challenged them again, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching people" 

Accepting the challenge, they left their nets and their boats and followed Jesus. As Jesus taught his disciples then, so He teaches us today how to pass on the blessing of Abraham to all peoples, confidently trusting in God's command to "Go,"   (See Luke 5:1-11; Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; John 1:40-42.) 


We now soar further through time. We arrive at the year A.D. 1858. We find ourselves viewing John G. Paton and his newly wedded wife, Mary Ann, leaving their native Scotland behind, being "launched out" to the South Pacific. During his 10 years of city mission work in Glasgow, Scotland, God so pained John Paton's heart with the thought of the New Hebrides islanders entering a Christless eternity.

In the New Hebrides on the island of Tanna, the Patons labored zealously for the cause of Christ. But it wasn't without struggles and hardships, including the death of Mary Ann just one year after they were married, and, at John's count, at least 50 times of imminent threat to his life.

Only after decades of hard labor and during a second term in the New Hebrides (today Vanuatuon the
island of Aniwa), did God show His handiwork through the Paton's labor. Two orphanages were built, a thriving church established, and schools set up; one was a girl's school where Paton's second wife, Margaret, taught. John G. Paton genuinely loved the people to whom God had sent him, serving wholeheartedly in his God-given task. He realized no other cause more worthy of his lifelong pursuit.

God continues to call other "John Patons" today, to give up their smaller ambitions for the greater -- to become fishers of people. He looks for those who are willing to become sojourners in a foreign land. Consider 1 Peter 2:10-12.

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