The Hebrew Man
Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.”
Genesis 12:1 NKJV
As I said to you yesterday, when God appeared and spoke to Abraham, He did not do so by touching Abraham’s heart but actually appeared to him and led him. The first word God gave him was this: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” At that time, Abraham did not know where he was going. Even at the moment that Abraham left his country, he did not know where he was going. Why? Because He was leading him, he just went as he was told without knowing where he was going. Nothing is more frustrating and scarier than that. You need to know where you are going in order to leave. Otherwise, how can you leave? But our God deemed his faith- what he did – as righteous.
To leave his country, family and father’s house demonstrates what kind of god our God is. If a god suddenly appears in front of you and says, “Follow me,” how can you follow when you don’t know who he is? There are so many gods in the world, so how do you know which one he is that you should follow him? The act of just following him does not make it all okay.
But the God was different from other gods. The gods of this world like to bind people in one place. They restrict people to a certain area so that they cannot freely move. Those gods, the demons have their territory where they are active. So, they are powerful only within those boundaries. Thus, they prevent people from leaving that area. They grip people with fear. In doing so, people are led to take physical things that cannot move as the object of their faith – for example, rocks, large rocks, and old trees. People are induced to put their faith in such things and become attached to them. Since they have a god that protects them, which might be a tree or a rock, how can they possibly leave their town? That is why they can never leave that town but have to live there all their life. They are unable to move far away because of fear.
Why don’t those gods let the people move out of the area? If their children start moving out of the area, what would happen? It is not as though they had cars or airplanes as we do now. So, once they move away, they would not be able to visit as often, maybe only in the New Year or Full Moon Festival. So, who is going to feed them? In other words, who is going to perform the ancestral rites? In order for the demons to be well served, they would keep their descendants in one place so that they would not be scattered. And the descendants would live there all their life in fear while diligently worshiping their ancestors for generations.
For this reason, there are very distinct regional characteristics and features. Thus, in countries that have a strong practice of idolatry, the development of public transportation is difficult. This is because they have strong traditions and customs, even in each village.
Countries like India supposedly have more than ten million gods. This is because each region and village have their own gods. No matter how big their land might be, people are all bound within their villages, unable to get away and live like slaves. The reason for this is that their gods are not omnipresent. Hence, they are restricted to their own territorial space.
A demon that was in Korea somehow got in the wrong car and entered a person who happened to be on his way to the US. And unwillingly, the demon ended up in the US. In that case, the demon does not say, “Oh, I love the states!” How hard would it be for that demon being amongst US demons that are much bigger than itself and being discriminated racially? They would be very defensive of their territory and mean to foreigners. The demon would not find anybody to go into. While trying to go into a white American, other demons might demand, “Who are you?” Then, it cannot go in. So, that demon would just feel lost and in torment. As a demon, that would be torture. It is not getting fed; none of the food there is appetizing because it wants kimchi, but kimchi is hard to get in the US. Demons eat kimchi too. They go into people that eat kimchi so that they can get a taste of kimchi through them.
Once there was a sister who I knew that suddenly lost so much weight. And I asked how she lost weight in just 6 months, and she said it was after having the demon cast out that she slimmed down. When the demon manifested, it was apparently an American demon that loved hamburgers. This sister regularly visited the US Army base, and a demon that loves hamburgers had gone into her. So, once the demon was cast out, she no longer craved hamburgers. And that is how she slimmed down. In this way, demons would go into people in order to eat the foods they like. Demons that love alcohol would go into people that love drinking; demons that want to smoke would go into people who smoke. In that sense, what would a Korean demon do overseas, for example, all the way in Africa? For them, it is better that they stay in their own region to be served by their children. Hence, it is a tough generation, even for demons to live.
Demons are restricted by their surrounding region. But our God is strange. He said to Abraham, “Leave your country, from your family and from your father’s house.” He said, “Go to the land I will show you.” This God definitely transcends place. He is able to exercise His power regardless of place. That is what Abraham realized. He figured out that God is this omnipresent God. Because Abraham believed that this God would be with him, he was able to leave his country.
At that time, the Mesopotamian region was the highest civilization with good public security, and it was also an agrarian society. But if Abraham had just crossed the river over to the Palestinian region, many nations would have been living as tribes, and their languages were all different, as well as their customs. Abraham was probably used to living in a brick home but had to start living in tents. How uncomfortable would it have been for him? He could not find wells there. It was the beginning of a tough journey. He did not know where to go with his family. It is really a hard situation. For us, just going to Mongsampo for camp is an ordeal because we need to sleep outdoors for three nights.
Yet, for Abraham with his whole family, he did not know until when he would need to journey and where he was to go in that very hot region. Without faith that this God would lead him, he could not possibly do that. From then on, he did become a traveler. Once he crossed the river, he could not go back; he became a traveler, a stranger. The word Hebrew means the one who crossed the river. It also means stranger. Since then, his way of life completely changed. From then, he started to live a life that depended on God daily. It would be very tense because he could not know what would happen each day.
People who are led by God are like this. They need the Lord’s guidance every single day. They are the ones who can follow wherever the Lord leads them day after day. Thus, when it was asked, “Who can take part in the first resurrection?” it said, “The ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” If these people had a fixed life already, they could not follow because of their own life. But the travelers are able to. They can go wherever that might be.
Personally, my life was far from such a living up until I went to China. As my father is a teacher, I was brought up in a comfortably living family. After finishing elementary school, I did not need to worry about what to do next. I just had to go to junior high school. After junior high school, I did not have to worry about whether I should go to a commercial high school or a technical high school. It was obvious that I should go to an academic high school. And then, what do I do after graduating? There was no need to think twice about it. I simply had to go to university, a university in Seoul. So, I did. After graduating from university, what did I have to do? Again, I did not need to worry. I got a job according to my major at a social welfare centre. Once I got a job, what was I to do next? It was obvious. Find the right timing and start postgraduate studies. There was no question about it. Because that was the path that all the people ahead of us took, after that, I would get a Ph.D., then become the manager, and then head of the department and then, if I do well, the director. After that, I would die. It was plain obvious.
But one day, I attended the church camp, and this person from China was saying, “We need workers. Come!” From that moment, my heart started to flutter, and I could not focus on work. It was as though those words from God were poured on me and shaking my heart. I thought hard about it whether the word was from God. And the moment someone taught me, saying that I should not even be worrying about such things but that those words were given for me to fulfil, there was no need to think any more about it. But my biggest fear at that time was what I was going to do once I go to China? What is going to happen to my life? After so many months in China, what is my life going to become? Say, I study for two years. After that, I will not have any money, and no one’s going to pay me. So, what will it be after that?
Thus, when Pastor Jameson had come, and after the first night of his lecture, I went to see him. I was interested and hence went to see him, and my questions were all regarding these things. If I do go over there, who will pay for my living expenses? But I did not get a clear answer. The next question was, for how long would I need to do this work? I could not possibly keep going around on evangelism trips without even a home. Until when would I need to do that? And still, he did not give an answer. Will I get to stay with my wife all the time? He said we may need to stay separately. So, I asked for how long? In this way, I could not get a clear picture. I kept asking about what my life would become later on. If I was to have a child, I would need a house, so what about that? Will I get a house at some point? My questions were all about those matters.
On the first night, I did not receive any answers. And I was quite shocked. ‘The world those people are living in is totally different from the world I’ve been living in. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it. These people don’t even consider these secular questions.’ Trying to process all of this was very difficult. And because he would not answer, I could not ask any more questions. But I still had questions. ‘What would I do? What would I do?’ I needed to know in order to go. What would happen to me in ten years time? What would I be doing then? What am I going to do once I go to China? But I did not even know these things because he would not tell me. It was not as though I was going to preach sermons at that time. I did not even know where I would be going in China. If I was to go and study the language, which school and which area should I go to study? I had no idea and felt frustrated.
I am usually a very cautious person; as the saying goes, look before you leap. So, I was at a loss trying to go on a journey I was not sure of. That is when a particular verse caught my eye. It was Hebrews 11:8, which says that Abraham went out not knowing where he was going. Why was he able to do that? Because he had faith. That is when I understood it. ‘Oh, this is what this word is saying.’ From then on, I entrusted everything to God and trusted that God is with me. So, from that day, I could not let a day go by without praying. I could not help but rely on the Lord every single day. And consequently, my life was completely changed. Prior to that, my life was just easy. I did not have to do anything, and everything was secure. Since I was living with my parents, even if I was sick, I had peace in my mind. Because I was with my parents, I did not have to worry.
But once I became a parent, everything changed, especially when my child got sick. When I was young, even though I might get sick physically, I still had that peace of mind. I never thought I would die because my parents would take care of everything. But after I became a parent, there was nothing I could do when my child got sick. So, I did not feel secure. Instead, I felt anxious. Hence, I could depend only on God, who is my head. When my child was unwell, I was not the same as I was before. My heart was pounding, I was anxious, and thus, I would pray and could rely only on God. That was what changed. Before then, I felt secure even if I did not know the future. But from then on, my life was changed to seek the Lord’s guidance day after day.
When we got to China and went on evangelism trips, we did not know where we were going. Once we finished in one place, we did not know where we would be going next or what might possibly happen. Yet, we kept going. We followed one step at a time, and there truly were incredible works of God. We never anticipated it, but once, the eyes of a blind man were opened, and others who witnessed that asked us to come to the neighbouring village. So we went, and there a crippled person was made well so that he could stand. Then, that news spread so that people came and took us to their village. Although we had not planned anything, we saw these works of God wherever we went. So, we were trained day by day, one step after another.
Before these things happened, if we went to a certain region, we unpacked our things there. And if we had to move to the next village, we left our belongings behind because it was a hassle to pack everything. Yet, after going through a lot of trial and error, we stopped doing that. We made sure our belongings stayed with us. Why? Once we moved to the next village, there was no guarantee that we would return back there. God’s sweeping force and working was unpredictable – we did not know where we might go. At first, we expected to return to the same place and left our belongings there. But we ended up in another place and had to ask someone else to bring our belongings over to us. And it happened too many times.
From then on, even if it might be a short trip, we made sure to take everything with us. We packed and took with us the heavy baggage. And rightly so, when we get to the place, something would happen so that we had to move again to another place. We could not predict what might happen the next day. I used to be the kind of person who saved the best food till the last. I would eat the food I did not like first and eat the ones I liked later. But I realized during that time that I did not have a guarantee that I would get to eat this food next time. So, I should eat it when I get the chance. Now, if there is something I like, I would eat that first. And the foods I do not like, I would leave for later. Then, I will not know whether I would get to eat that food later or not, but if I do have to leave suddenly, I can just leave the foods I do not like behind.
My habits changed as a result. Tomorrow was so uncertain. But what was certain was the fact that the Lord was with me and that He would lead me to the best path always. Even though I returned to Korea later on and am living in Korea right now, my attitude is completely different from the way I used to live in Korea before. In the past, my life was fixed. But now, I do not live a fixed life. Although I am in Korea, I am constantly on the move. The only thing is that my stay here is a long one. Yes, I may work here until I die. However, that does not mean I have settled in Korea; my journey here is a long one. That is the attitude I live with.
Previously when I was working, I took out insurance and did many other things, but now I try to keep things as simple as possible. I do not have insurance or similar things. My sole support is the Lord. I live like a traveler. I do get deluded sometimes, thinking that I have settled down. So, I buy one thing and then another. For example, if I buy a desk, I would also have to get a glass top, and to go on the glass top, I get a cover, and then a side cabinet to go with it and so on. My baggage keeps increasing. Yet, if we knew we were travelers, we would not do that.
Instead, we would always be ready to leave. That does not mean you are always ready to go overseas, but it means our hearts will be set on heaven so that we are ready to leave this earth and go to heaven at any time. Our hearts are not set on going overseas but in heaven. We do not regard this place as our home. It says that such people will be able to take part in the first resurrection. And they will always be led by the Lord. Let us pray that we can always be led by the Lord every day and never regard this earth as our final destination.
God our Father, help us to set our hope in heaven and live with the joy of entering the Father’s house as the Lord promised. Help us not to follow the ways of this world by setting our hopes on the earth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on August 7, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team