Today's Bible Verse...

Obeying the Highest Priority

God refreshes Abraham with His covenant. This time, He details Abraham’s obligations of the covenant, which he is to obey in order to receive God’s blessing and fulfill the blessing for all peoples of the earth. Twice before God has made His covenant known to Abraham, and twice before Abraham has obeyed.

In the first instance, God told Abraham (then known as Abram) to “leave your country … and go to the land that I will show you.” And at 75 years of age Abraham obeyed God and went, and arrived in Canaan. (Genesis 12:1-7; cf. Galatians 3:8-9.)

Years later, in calming Abraham’s fears, God revealed to Abraham that his descendants would be numerous—“too many to count." Abraham “believed the LORD, and the LORD declared him righteous because of his faith.” (Genesis 15:5; cf. Romans 4:3, 9, 20-22.)

And now Abraham is 99 years old, and God is again instructing him. Abraham obeys God and meets his covenant obligations, “exactly as God had told him” (Genesis 17:23.) Abraham is circumcised, along with his 13-year-old son Ishmael.

Abraham is declared right with God not through the ceremonial act of circumcision, but through his faith that led to his obedience. And so are all peoples, who have “the same kind of faith Abraham had”— trusting in God’s promise and obeying His command. (Genesis 17:10-11; cf. Romans 4:11-12.)

(A thought to ponder for comment: Imagine what would have resulted if Abraham had not obeyed his part of the agreement (covenant). Would we have been utterly cut off from God? Abraham was the man of God’s choice through whom a better covenant would come, initiating the highest priority to be obeyed for the blessing of all peoples of the earth.)

Time-traveling, we again meet the I AM, Jesus, the Christ (the Anointed One), who here declares, proclaiming His divinity, “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was born” (John 8:58).

Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem teaching about Himself. To the Jews He says, “When you have lifted up the Son of man on the cross”— predicting the kind of death He is to die —“then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak what the Father taught me” (John 8:28).

At hearing Him, many in the crowd believe in him (John 8:30). Yet many, namely the Jewish leaders and the teachers of the Law, find it difficult to grasp what Jesus is teaching.

“Our father is Abraham,” they declare.

“No,” Jesus counters. “If you were children of Abraham, you would follow his good example [of faith and obedience].” (John 8:39; cf. Galatians 3:7, 14, 29.)

“Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it [through the eyes of faith] and was glad” (John 8:56; Genesis 22:17-18.)

Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. Jesus, because he will obey God even unto death, is the blessing for all peoples of the earth. This is why He was sent, and so sends us (John 20:21). Clearly stating the highest priority, then, for all believers to obey, Jesus proclaims, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News [of His coming, death, resurrection, and eternal life] to everyone, everywhere” (Mark 16:15; cf. Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8.)

Continuing through time, to 17th Century America, we meet the Mayhew family, arriving from England in the 1630's. They’re among those who have believed, and have accepted Jesus’s call to the highest priority.

Yet, contrasting the adage “like father, like son,” perhaps the story of the Mayhew’s obedience can be recorded as "like son, like father.”

Thomas Mayhew, Sr., arrives in America not first as a pastor or even a missionary, but for social and economic purposes—a temporal, lower priority. He purchases proprietary rights soon after his arrival in the new world, settles on Martha’s Vineyard, and becomes its governor.

The younger Mayhew, Thomas, Jr., is first to heed the call to the highest priority. He studies abroad, and is ordained for the ministry in his early 20s. Returning to Martha’s Vineyard, he primarily ministers to white settlers. Later, he launches a mission work among the Pokanauket tribe of the Wampanoag people His first convert is Hiacoomes, who becomes an interpreter and evangelist. In less than ten years there are nearly 300 Pokanauket believers in Christ.

Thomas Mayhew, Jr., pursues his God-ordained task with little heed to his personal needs. As Thomas, Sr., will put it, his son labored in the highest priority "when 'twas bare with him for food and rayment, and when indeede there was nothing in sight any waies but Gods promises."

In a call for more workers, Thomas, Jr., in his early 30s, sails for England, yet the ship is lost at sea. Being taken from the physical realm at so early an age, he leaves behind his wife and young children.

Searching but in vain for someone to replace his son in the mission endeavor, Thomas, Sr., himself nearly 70 years of age, assumes his son’s duties, serving as a missionary for about 22 years. His grandson, John Mayhew, joins him in the work. After Thomas, Sr.’s death, Experience Mayhew, of the 4th generation of Mayhews, continues pursuing the highest priority for yet another 32 years, proclaiming Christ’s coming, death, resurrection, and eternal life to the peoples of Martha’s Vineyard.

Four generations of obeying God's call.

And God continues His search today for others who, like the Mayhew family of 17th Century America, will obey the highest priority among the peoples of the earth.

An Everlasting Possession

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I am God Almighty…” (Genesis 18:1-2)

At hearing God speak to him, being refreshed with God’s promise, Abram fell on his face before God.

(A thought to ponder: How do we respond in the presence of the great I AM? We are in His presence all the time – morning, noon, and night – even our sleeping hours.  "24/7". How comforting the thought that He never sleeps, never slumbers; He’s ever awake watching over us – Psalm 121:3-4.)

Twice before, God had made known His covenant (promise) to Abram, as seen in Genesis chapters 12 and 15. Now He is bringing it into clear focus. As a part of this, God changes Abram’s name. No longer is he called Abram, but Abraham (father of a multitude), as nations and kings will come from him.

“Take a look at this land of your sojourning, in which you are an alien,” God said to Abraham, “All of Canaan. As My covenant is an everlasting covenant, so I am giving this land to you and your descendants after you as an everlasting possession, and as I am yours, so I will be their God."

(A thought to ponder: How long is everlasting? What God gives cannot be lost, nor can it be taken away.)

Fast forwarding now, we meet the I am of the New Testament – Jesus, the Christ (the Anointed One). Here He declares, “I am the good shepherd,” John 10:14-15 (the One as in the days of Abraham – Genesis 48:15 and 49:24, and of whom the psalmist has written about as well – Psalm 23:1 and 80:1).

“I am the door,” Jesus also declares. “Through Me if anyone enters, he will be saved and will find green pastures. All others who have come before Me [and after, to this very day] are thieves and robbers, only to kill, and destroy, and deceive” (Paraphrased from John 10:7-13; cf Psalm 23:1.).

“I give them eternal life [an everlasting possession] and they shall never perish. And no one can snatch them out My hand, nor out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28, 29).

Declaring His divinity, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30, 31) But to the dismay of the unbelieving, he says, "All who do believe, however, and receive Him, are born anew by God’s Spirit and become His children." (John 1:12, 13)

 At another place Jesus declares in another way, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The reason why He was sent: To show us the Father. And the reason why He sends us (John 20:21): To declare His glory among the ‘nations’ (all peoples of the earth).

We now travel forward in time to the 17th Century, at the beginning of the English exploration of the New World. It’s also a time of expansion of Christianity in the West. As appearing in the Virginia charter of 1606, the king offers his blessing to the colonists “in propagating the Christian religion to such a people who yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance.”

(A thought to ponder: From a seed that sprouted in Israel, God blossoms His love for the ‘nations’--peoples--throughout His world. As the hymnist has written, “This is my Father’s world, oh let me ne'er forget...”)

In England is born John Eliot, who later becomes known in the New World as “the apostle to the Indians.” He is educated for the ministry at Cambridge, graduating from there in 1622. Serving as a schoolteacher for a time, he then sets sail for Massachusetts in 1631. A year later his three brothers, three sisters, and fiancĂ©e, Hanna Mumford, join him. In October of 1632 he and Hanna marry.

John Eliot pastors a congregation in the small frontier settlement of Roxbury, just outside Boston. And in 1644, at 40 years of age, simply availing him self to the need, he begins his missionary work among the Algonquin Indians.

He first studies the language, an arduous task, as the Algonquin tongue is an unwritten language. Cochenoe, a young Algonquin, who travels with Eliot as his interpreter and assistant, aids him in learning the language. After several years the Algonquin Bible is finally completed – the New Testament in 1661, the Old Testament in 1663 – it is the first Bible printed in America.
With the passing of time, fruit sprouts from Eliot’s labor among the Algonquins. Soon, Eliot realizes the need to separate the new Algonquin Christians from those who show no interest in the gospel. He makes an appeal to the General Court of Massachusetts, and several thousand acres are granted 18 miles southwest of Boston. The settlement of Natick is established. Later, more land is granted and by 1671 over 1100 Algonquin Christians are gathered into 14 settlements.
And God continues His search today for other “John Eliots,” who will likewise, in seeing the need, avail their lives to sharing God’s everlasting possession among the peoples of the world.

Let us pray: Father, in all that our hands find to do, may it be done for Your glory, and not for our own gratification. And may we always be ready to answer everyone who may ask us a reason for the hope we possess, yet with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). In Jesus' name.

Read more about John Eliot and his work:

Purposely Driven

Abram at 99 years of age: God speaks to him saying, “Walk before Me and be blameless”  (Genesis 17:1). And it’s for Christ followers today as well – for the child, the adolescent, the mature, the aged – as it was also with God’s servant Job (Job 1:1)

As the psalmist has written, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked … but his delight is in the law of the LORD” (Psalm 1)

As God has established His covenant with Abram, so with us He has a plan and a purpose for our being a special pursuit for each one of us, desiring our participation with Him in His work on earth.

We’ll examine God’s covenant with Abram more closely another day from Genesis chapter 17, reflecting upon God’s special purpose for Abram, but now....

We continue our journey through time to the New Testament era, to when Jesus walked the earth.  At this moment in Jesus’ life, it is the Feast of Booths (also called “Tabernacles,” or “Ingathering”), memorializing the Israelites' journey out of Egypt to Canaan – a time for giving of thanks for the productivity of the Promised Land.

Entering the small village of Bethany (on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem), Jesus visits His friends Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Martha is busy with all her preparations, while Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him.

Encumbered with all her tasks, Martha approaches Jesus, “Lord,” she says, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Please, tell her to help me.”

“Martha, Martha,” Jesus gently admonishes, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.”  Jesus is teaching Martha (and people today): Mary has chosen what is better – to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him (Luke 10:38-42). 
Purposely driven. Learning from Jesus. That's how Christ followers, too, will learn the purpose of their being in this temporal physical world.

We zoom ahead once again, to the Year of Our Lord 389. In the Roman province of Britain a boy is born, one who only late in life will realize his purpose for his earthly existence. His father is a deacon in the Celtic church; his grandfather, a priest. His parents name him Patrick.
In his mid-teens Irish plunderers invade Patrick’s hometown; they capture Patrick and many other young boys to be sold as slaves. Patrick, sold to a farmer of Slemish, works for six years at herding swine. It is during these years that Patrick gives thought to his spiritual condition. “The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelief,” he writes, “That I might remember my faults and turn to the Lord my God with all my heart.”

Escaping his captivity, he returns home, and (as he later relates in his Confession)
God calls him "in the depth of the night” – Patrick's “Macedonian call.” He is trained in ministry, ordained a deacon, and sets out for Ireland. He arrives there in 432, now past 40 years of age.
Purposely driven for the Lord. Through Patrick's ministry, some 200 churches are planted throughout Ireland and about 100,000 converts baptized. Ever aware of his own faults, for all his accomplishments Patrick credits God.

Prayer: Father, in all that my hands find to do, may it be done for Your glory, and not for my own gratification. And may I be ready to answer everyone who asks me a reason for the hope I possess, yet with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

Regarding the Disregarded

Harshly treated, Hagar flees from her mistress, Sarai. Yet, the LORD still has concern for Hagar, as He does for all peoples -- from the unborn to the aged. (Read Genesis 16:6-16.)

The Angel of the LORD finds Hagar in the wilderness near a spring of water that is on the way to Shur, and refreshes her with a promise.

"Where have you come from Hagar, and where are you going?" the Angel asks.

Hagar answers the Angel, "I'm running away from my mistress because she has treated me unfairly."

But, the Angel of the LORD tells her, "Go back, and submit to your mistress. I will so increase you that you will not be able to count them."

Seeing the One who sees her, Hagar returns to Sarai. She bears Abram a son, who names him "Ishmael" -- meaning God hears.

Moving through time, to the New Testament era, we see Jesus, the Christ (Messiah) -- the eternal King, as presented in Matthew's account of Jesus' life.

From the Mount of Olives Jesus speaks, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory ... He will sit on His throne. All nations [peoples] will be gathered before Him. He will then separate them one from another" (Read Matthew 9:36; 25:31-46) -- his obedient followers from pretenders and unbelievers*.

Continuing, Jesus recites a parable, "Then the King said, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me food; thirsty, and you gave Me drink; a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; sick, and you visited Me; in prison, and you came to Me.'"

The righteous then asked, "When did we see You in need such as this, and attended to You?'

"As much as you did it for the least of these," the King answered, "You did it to Me.

"Not so the unrighteous. They are sent into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."

We now travel to the 1800s and meet George Muller, a man of extra-ordinary faith and prayer. Seeing the need as God sees, Muller is on his knees, asking the eternal King for funds to build orphanages. With only two shillings (50 cents) in his pocket how is that possible, perhaps is his thought. Yet, convicted not to ask mankind for anything, he sees God provide over a million, four hundred thousand pounds ($7,000,000) for the building and maintaining of those orphan homes.

In all the years, the Lord continued to feed the orphans who were housed there. They never missed a meal.

Covering 13 acres on Ashley Down, in Bristol, England, those orphanages – five buildings capable of housing 2000 orphans -- stand today as monuments to this man of faith.

God continues His search today for other "George Mullers," who see as God sees, and are moved

with compassion for the need of the peoples of the world--
that they might realize their eternal inheritance in the Kingdom.

*From the Life Application Study Bible on Matthew 25:31-46)