“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.’”
Here God 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.”
Noah had a family of eight, including three sons named Ham, Shem, and Japheth. All human beings in this world descended from these three sons of Noah. Shem, Ham, and Japheth each bore children, and these children continued to multiply.
Before the flood of Noah, the average lifespan for human beings was around 900 years. But the life expectancy fell sharply after the flood, from about 900 years to around 200 years, as we can glimpse from the fact that Abraham passed away at the age of 175. In contrast, it wasn’t until Noah was 500 years old that he began to build the ark, and it wasn’t until he turned 600 years that the rain came down for 40 days and nights to inundate the whole world. After the water receded, Noah and his family disembarked from the ark and the human race began to multiply again through his three sons. The people in those days still lived for a long time, so it was common for several generations to live in the same house. In other words, the whole clan lived next to one another.
Shem begot Arphaxad at the age of 100. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived for 500 years and begot more sons and daughters. And nine generations down the road from Shem, Abraham was born. Abraham’s father was Terah, a descendant of Shem, and therefore Abraham was also Shem’s descendant. It’s written in Genesis 11:10-13: “This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.” Like this, Genesis chapter 11 records Shem’s genealogy for ten generations, up until Abram, Nahor, and Haran, the three sons of Terah. But we see here that although Shem begot Arphaxad at the age of 100, his descendants begot their first child in their early 30s. It took about 290 years for Shem’s descendants to reach their tenth generation. In my calculation, using the generational gap between Shem’s firstborn son and his descendants, it took about 290 years to reach the tenth generation.
But Shem lived for 600 years. He begot Arphaxad at the age of 100, two years after the flood, and he lived for another 500 years and begot more children. Yet, while Shem lived for 600 years, it only took around 290 years before he saw his tenth-generation grandchildren. This means that Shem lived long enough to actually spend some time with his descendants all the way down to the tenth generation. So, by the time the tenth generation was born, Shem was still alive. Since Shem begot his first son at the age of 100, adding 290 years would make him 390 years old; and since Shem lived for 600 years, he was still in his middle ages when the tenth generation was born. In other words, Shem was still in the prime of his life. Seeing this, I came to recognize how the faith of the forefathers in the ancient age was transmitted to their posterity.
Shem was Noah’s son. He had seen his father Noah building the ark, he had actually boarded the ark, and he had actually witnessed the judgment of God with his own two eyes. Shem was therefore able to inherit his father’s faith intact as well as pass it onto his descendants as a living witness of Noah’s faith. We can imagine Shem having his grandchildren of many generations sit on his lap and telling them about what had happened with the flood.
In Korea, when the elderly tell stories about their past to their grandchildren, they often tell them about the grinding poverty and hunger that they had endured. The grandchildren cannot fully understand this as they are now living in a prosperous era, so they wonder why their grandfathers didn’t just have some instant noodles. But back then, there weren’t any instant noodles. I am old enough to remember the first president of South Korea. I have lived through every presidency and witnessed the tumultuous modern history of South Korea, from its very foundation to the heydays of industrialization and the difficult transition to democracy. I know how things were under President Lee, the first president, and how things were under President Park who presided over Korea’s industrialization.
Poverty was deep and widespread under the Lee administration. In those days most Korean people were so poor that having three square meals a day was considered a luxury. Rice was so scarce that a lot of people ate grass roots and tree bark. That is how desperately poor South Korea was under the first presidency. It wasn’t until the Park administration that large amounts of flour and powder milk were supplied as aid. I still remember getting caught after sneaking into the kitchen and eating the powder milk raw. I got so startled that I nearly choked. In those days, rice was too expensive for most Koreans to afford, so they had to rely on flour and corn instead.
Later on, instant noodles were introduced. Of course, nowadays instant noodles are cheap and available everywhere, but back when I was a child, it was so expensive and rare that I used to pine for it. Even biscuits were hard to come by, something that most people could have only in the military. When a young married man was drafted into the military, his children would wait eagerly for their father to come home on leave so that he would bring them some army-supplied biscuits. That’s how poor Korea was back in those days. Even instant noodles were considered a luxury that only the rich could afford. I used to wonder if I could ever have as much instant noodles as I wanted. Later on, when instant noodles became very affordable, I once ate three packets of instant noodles all by myself. It had been my childhood wish to get stuffed for once, not from just drinking plain water to ease the pangs of hunger but from actually eating too much food. When instant noodles were introduced, I used to let the noodles be soaked in the soup so that it would expand and I would feel fuller in my stomach. Now, of course, South Korea is so much more prosperous today, but it wasn’t too long ago that poverty and hunger were widespread. The people of my generation are the living witnesses to this.
“Get Out of Your Country, from Your Family and from Your Father’s House, to a Land That I Will Show You.”
God said to Abraham,
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.” God did not say anything to Abraham here about faith or the flood. Since Shem lived for 600 years, he was still alive in Abraham’s days. Shem was actually alive. Although Terah lived only for 70 years, when we do some calculation we can see that Shem was still alive in the days of Abraham. Terah was born as the ninth generation of Shem’s descendants, and he begot three sons including Abraham. This genealogy of Shem should not be overlooked, as it shows us that Shem’s faith was passed down to his descendants from one generation to the next. It wasn’t just the flesh and the way of life that were passed down, but spiritual faith was also passed down directly from their forefathers. So, as Shem’s faith was passed directly down to his descendants and they lived as a family, Abraham was able to follow God by faith.
The same is true for this present age. In this age also, there are those who are ahead spiritually and there are those who are following. And the predecessors of faith who have received the remission of sins first are passing their faith and spiritual experiences to their followers, who are their spiritual descendants. Whenever young saints struggle with problems, their predecessors of faith teach them what to do. For example, new saints often find it hard to deal with their fleshly desires. It’s because even the saints, despite the fact that they have been born again, still have two kinds of desires in their hearts. They would not become confused if they only had one desire, but because they have two kinds of desires, they want to do different things apart from the Church. As these young saints still have strong desires of the flesh, they often wonder why they are not allowed to do certain things. The dilemma is that we have two kinds of desires; one is of the flesh and another is of the Spirit. However, the mature spiritual saints are able to deal with both these desires.
It’s precisely for this reason that the predecessors of faith share fellowship with the younger saints. As the former have gone through the experience of grappling with both types of desires, they know which one is beneficial. This is why they sternly admonish these newly redeemed brothers and sisters in the Church not to follow the desire of the flesh. In other words, your predecessors of faith have already gone through what you are going through now, so they know what is good for you; and that is why they admonish you to do certain things but not other things.
What would Shem have said to Abraham if he were to sit down with him and talk to him? Shem had been on the ark along with his father Noah, and so he had seen the flood with his own eyes and knew all about it. He would have therefore told Abraham to have faith, taught him how he ought to live, admonished him to follow the Word of God, and counselled him to never do anything according to his own fleshly desires. That’s because Shem, as someone who had walked before Abraham, knew all about what had happened in the days of Noah, and so he would have taught Abraham the right way to live. The saints who have received the remission of sins just recently are still grappling with this desire of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit, and yet they do not know which desire is the right desire to follow. Of course, once their faith grows and they follow God, God will give them the wisdom to discern the right desire, bless them with material blessings also, and guide them in both body and spirit. However, because so many new believers do not realize this, they still want to have the things of the flesh, and when God forbids these things, they think mistakenly that God is somehow not reasonable and they even become resentful of Him. But the young believers must realize that this is the desire of the flesh. Once their faith grows in the Church, they will realize one by one from their own experiences that the guidance of their church leaders is right. God always wants what is good for you; He never wants anything bad for you.
The redeemed saints are to gather together to form God’s Church. It is absolutely important for those who have received the remission of sins to dwell together in God’s Church. From the grandfather to the grandchildren everyone is living as a single family. This is none other than the body of God’s Church. All of you gathered here in the Church form the same family, regardless of how old or young you are. In fact, just as Shem and his descendants down to the tenth generation including Abraham lived together as one family, the same is true for this Church. The younger saints ought to listen to their predecessors of faith, see them in action, and follow them by faith.
In the old days, the predecessors of faith lived as a single family. They passed on their faith to their descendants. When we turn to today’s Scripture passage, we see God saying to Abraham, “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.” Here God told Abraham to leave his own country, his own family, and his own father’s house and go to a land that God would show him. Abraham had lived all his life in his country with his extended family, but now God was commanding him to leave everything and everyone behind and go to a land that He would show him.
Noah’s three sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Of the descendants of these three sons of Noah, God called Abraham, a descendant of Shem. Terah was Shem’s descendant, and he begot Nahor, Haran, and Abraham. But God told only one of these sons to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house and go to a land that God would show him. In other words, of the three sons of Noah, God chose Shem, and of the three sons of Terah, a descendant of Shem, God spoke to Abraham.
This is very important. There are countless people of various races and ethnicities living in this world. Yet, of all these countless people living in this world, it is only the few of us who have been selected by God. We have been chosen. We have been chosen by God from countless people to live by faith and receive the blessing of becoming God’s own children. Chosen by God in Christ, we have been blessed to become God’s children and the people of His Kingdom. This is a tremendous blessing. God did not speak to Nahor or Haran, but He spoke only to Abraham. It’s specifically to Abraham that the Lord God said, “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.” Just like Abraham, all of us who have received the remission of sins are also God’s blessed people chosen in Christ. In other words, of all the countless people in this world, it is we who have been chosen by God as His spiritual people just like Abraham and Shem.
You Should Know How Blessed You Are Thanks to God’s Church
To grasp this fully, you must mature in your faith. When your faith matures, you can realize that you have been saved through God’s Church and that you are now living out your faith in His Church. When you realize just how blessed you are in God’s Chursh, you cannot thank God enough for His Church and your church leaders. In contrast, if your faith remains immature, then you are likely to be annoyed by the admonishment of the Church, wondering if you really have to follow its guidance. Even though Terah actually had three sons, God spoke only to Abraham. It is only Abraham and his descendants whom God had blessed.
The same is true for us as well. As we have been chosen in Jesus Christ, it’s we who have become the blessed as God’s precious people and children. God told Abraham to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house. God also told him to go to a land that He would show him. Would it have been easy for Abraham to leave his father, his country, and his family? I’ve already told you that the people in those days all lived together in one big extended family. The whole clan lived in close proximity. Though they probably lived in different houses, they all lived in the same town or community. So, it was no ordinary thing for Abraham to hear God commanding him to leave his hometown. Yet God told him to do so and go to a land that He would show him.
Where is the land that God directed Abraham to go? Where did Abraham and his descendants settle down eventually? Where did Abraham go? It was to the land of Canaan. Later on, Abraham’s descendants left Egypt and entered the land of Canaan once again. Egypt here refers to this world and the land of Canaan refers to the Kingdom of Heaven. After living as slaves in Egypt for 400 years, Abraham’s descendants crossed the Jordan River, the river of death, and entered the land of Canaan under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. They lived there, and they are still living there even now.
What is God saying to us, we who have received the same blessings as those received by Abraham? God is saying to you and me to get out of our country, our family, and our father’s house to a land that He would show us. Where is this land? It is the Kingdom of Heaven, and God is telling us to go to this land shown by Him. This means that even though we are still living on this earth, we should never let our hearts become joyous or disappointed by this world. Of the descendants of Shem, it is Abraham upon whom God bestowed His blessings; it’s Abraham whom God commanded to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house; and it’s Abraham whom God instructed to enter the land of Canaan. Today, all of us ought to realize that God is saying the same thing to us as well.
The Land That the Lord Is Showing Us
It’s absolutely imperative for all of us to realize where this God-shown land is. Where is this land? It is none other than the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not this world, but a new heaven and a new earth, God’s Kingdom. To us, we the spiritual descendants of Abraham chosen in Christ, God is saying that He would give us the land of Canaan. He is saying to us that He would give us the Kingdom of Heaven.
What kind of land is this land of Canaan, the Kingdom of Heaven? Where is this land that God is showing us to enter? Let’s turn to the Book of Revelation here:
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:1-4).
It’s also written in Revelation 22:1-5: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”
The land that God ordered Abraham to go was the land of Canaan. Likewise, God is also telling us to leave our country, our family, and our father’s house to a land that He would show us, and this land is none other than the Kingdom of Heaven. Even though we are still living on this earth right now, God is saying to us that He will give us His Kingdom, and He is commanding us to go to this land. God is showing us a new heaven and a new earth. Where is the land that God is telling us to go? This land shown by God is not on this earth, but it is the Kingdom of Heaven. This land where we will enter and live is the Kingdom of Heaven. God is showing us the Kingdom of Heaven. With His Word He is telling us that this is where we will enter and live.
It’s then absolutely important for us to obey God. It’s also imperative for us to listen attentively to God’s servants. I cannot emphasize this enough just how important it is for all our saints to discern the will of the Lord while living on this earth. All of us ought to not only realize that we have received the remission of sins, but we ought to also be mindful of the fact that we have been commanded by God to go to His promised land. God is saying to us to leave this earth and head toward His Kingdom. Put differently, our hearts should be set on this Kingdom of Heaven where we will enter and live forever in the future. You and I are the very people who will live in that kingdom.
People nowadays often speak of generational gaps. Someone once called me an old hat, while he insisted that he belonged to a new generation. Which generation do you think is better prepared to lead a proper life of faith, the old or the young? Is the new generation better positioned to lead a proper life of faith? In God’s sight, which generation is on the right footing? You need to know the right answer to this important question. You can put your hope on the Kingdom of Heaven only if you turn yourself into an old hat on this earth. Only then can you look toward the God-shown land in your life.
Let’s spend a moment and consider what exactly is meant by the so-called new generation. The people of the old generation had dreams and hopes while growing up. They had an ambition and a hope for their future, believing that they could accomplish anything if they worked hard enough. Because they had a dream, no one had to nag at them to study hard. They studied diligently into the wee hours, even in a time when there was no electric light. Have you ever used charcoal as a writing instrument? I actually used charcoal on the ground for writing in my childhood. It’s not because I was an extraordinarily diligent student, but it’s because I had a hope and a dream. I wanted to succeed, to break away from grinding poverty, and to escape from the constant hunger that I faced. So I worked hard and did my best to be diligent. This was true for my generation.
In contrast, the young people of today, the so-called new generation have no dreams. They have no hope, nor do they have any purpose for their lives. They know very well that nothing will change no matter how hard they work, and that the world is hopelessly doomed. They know what will happen to this world. They know that this world will come crashing down. And they know nothing they do has any meaning. This is why so many young people nowadays are living just for the moment and mindlessly chasing after fleeting pleasures, because they have no hope for the future no matter how hard they work. This is what defines this new generation. Far from having a more progressive outlook, the young people of this age and time have no dreams. They have nowhere to go. There is nothing but destruction awaiting them. So they live for the moment.
We must be old-fashioned. Although we have no hope in this world, we must hope for the God-shown Kingdom of Heaven in our lives. Even though we have no hope on this earth, we must still live every day with hope. We should never allow ourselves to become like the young people of this age. We should never turn into a hopeless generation. We the Christians must have a dream. We must live by faith, cherishing the hope that because we have received the remission of sins, we will go to the God-shown Kingdom of Heaven and live there in all glory.
Do you know how fleshly this young generation is? Every youngster wants to be tall nowadays. Some youngsters even go through a surgical procedure to increase their height, by cutting their leg bones and inserting metal rods in between to extend the length of their legs. That’s how vain this new generation is. They don’t care about the side effects that such a risky surgery would bring later on; all that they care about is that it makes them look better here and now. I once saw some celebrities on a TV talk show discussing their dating habits. When asked how long they wait before kissing their date, some of the celebrities said a few hours, others half an hour, and one celebrity said less than five minutes. This is the kind of values that today’s new generation has.
This sinful world is surely doomed. The Bible says that there will be wars and rumors of wars at the beginning of the age of sorrows. How long has it been since the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan? How many people were killed or injured by those terrible bombs? With nuclear proliferation, there are now a number of countries that possess nuclear weapons, and these nuclear weapons are thousands of times more destructive than the atomic bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The old atomic bombs pale in comparison to today’s thermonuclear weapons. Each nuclear state possesses nuclear weapons that are thousands of times more powerful. That’s why so many people oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The new generation knows this. Today’s young people know what a terrible world and what a hopeless age they are living in. Disasters loom everywhere, and no one can predict when and how they will strike. If cynicism seems to plague the new generation, it’s because the young people of today have neither any hope nor any dream in this world. I am not talking about just temporary trends and fads that are visible. Rather, I’m pointing out that people’s thoughts and faith have turned hopeless like today’s youth. The new generation cares about nothing but fleeting pleasures; their motto is “live today and die tomorrow,” precisely because they have no hope. This hopelessness plagues the whole wide world.
But we the believers should never be like this new generation. Far from it, we ought to hold onto our traditional values even if we are mocked for being old-fashioned. While being old-fashioned may not be good for other things, when it comes to faith, it is actually good to be old-fashioned. Our faith must be based on the Word of God and founded on His instruction. This faith has been passed down to us from our forefathers of faith. This kind of faith may seem out of date, but it is the only correct faith that leads us to the Kingdom of Heaven. God is instructing us to go to the Kingdom of Heaven. He is telling us to go the land that He would show us. So, rather than setting our hearts on this earth, we must set them on the Kingdom of Heaven; and while living on this earth, we ought to follow the footsteps of the old generation rather than the new generation. In both our lives of faith and our everyday walks, we ought to live like the old generation. The people of the old generation set their sight on the future. They lived for their future. They did not live for just the moment. We the believers must hope for the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives.
Last summer, while driving to Inje Discipleship Training Center from my house, I got stuck in a heavy traffic. The traffic was very heavy on my side as there were a lot of people heading to a nearby beach town for vacation, but in the opposite direction there were hardly any cars. So, while stuck in the traffic, I began to observe what kind of people were on vacation just to pass the time. They were all invariably young couples and families, and strangely, I did not see anyone that looked over 50 years of age. If the people were on a family vacation, you would expect to see at least some grandparents, but I didn’t see any. The people that I saw were all very happy; when I stopped at a service center, I saw how everyone was so delighted to be on vacation.
Like this, the world is following the mindset of the new generation, but how long would this pursuit of immediate gratification last? I wonder what it would take for today’s people to be completely ruined. When Samaria ran out of food while being besieged by the Syrian army (2 Kings 6:24-25), the people there starved to death. Likewise, even though we are living in an age of remarkable scientific advancements, all that it takes for the whole world to be destroyed is a widespread crop failure from some natural disaster. I’m sure that if something like this ever happens, the new generation won’t be able to sustain its lifestyle. It will be absolutely impossible. When there is no food, and food prices skyrocket, everything else, including science will be rendered obsolete. No matter how advanced science gets, no one can live without food. Some people might then think that genetic engineering would provide the solution. But there is a great deal of uncertainty and concern over the health implications of genetically modified crops and livestock. While such breakthroughs in genetic science may seem to hold a lot of promises, they are likely to bring about all kinds of side effects on the human body. Every soul in this world is living either in the way of the old generation or the new generation, but the latter will be destroyed without fail. In contrast to the old generation of faith that has the God-shown land to go to, those of the new generation eat and drink mindlessly enjoying their fleeting moment, only to face destruction. There is no tomorrow for them.
We ought to have the faith of the old generation and look toward the future even while living in the present. We must live with a dream. If you instead live in the moment preoccupied with only what to eat and drink and what to buy, then you will have no future. Setting your sight on the future, you must live every day by faith and be diligent in your everyday life also. Step by step, you must move towards the land of Canaan by faith. This is what God is instructing us all.
God told Abraham to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house and go to a land that He would show him. Where is God directing us then? He is directing us to the land of Canaan. He is pointing us to the Kingdom of Heaven. God chose Abraham. But God did not tell Abraham that he could squander his life away without any hope as so many young people are doing nowadays; rather, God told Abraham to live faithfully and look towards the future. In the end, our final destination is the Kingdom of Heaven. Realizing clearly that we will eventually go to and live in the Kingdom of Heaven, we ought to grasp what God is commanding us, cherish it, and obey it. And in our everyday lives we must live by faith.
None other than the Kingdom of Heaven is where God is directing us. God wants us all to receive the remission of sins so that we would all enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We were born on this earth for this purpose to enter the Kingdom of God. Our lives on this earth are not all that there is. If this were the case, then I’d be the first to say that we should just eat, drink, and enjoy ourselves until we perish. But we do have the Kingdom of Heaven waiting for us, and that is why we must preach the gospel in our lives while walking towards this land that God has told us to enter. I have every confidence that all of us who have received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit will go to the Kingdom of Heaven. If God is really in your heart, then I am absolutely certainly that you will enter the Kingdom of God. If, in contrast, you have only a vague understanding of the gospel of the water and the Spirit; if you neither have accepted it into your heart nor believed in it sincerely; or if you reject the faith of the old generation preferring the vanity of the new generation instead, then only destruction will await you. All of us must live by the faith of the old generation inherited from our spiritual forefathers.
For us to preach this faith of ours and enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must preach the gospel to all the lost souls in this world for the rest of our lives, and the Church must move in this direction unwaveringly. So let us all be faithful and diligent in every aspect of our lives, from our workplaces to our gospel ministry; let us preach the gospel; let us put our hopes and dreams on the Kingdom of Heaven; let us never compromise with the world but defend our faith and keep ourselves godly always; and, being mindful of the future of our souls and bodies, let us live diligently by faith.