Paul Sharp - Keeping Unity - Puchon, Korea

I'm very glad to be here in Korea again. Joshua 22 tells us a story of the time when some of the tribes passed over Jordan to where their inheritance was. That is, when the soldiers crossed, and I suppose their families were already there. They were afraid that maybe Jordan would separate them from the rest of Israel. They did something to try to guard against that kind of separation. I think what they did was something that God was pleased with, and Jordan did not separate them from their brethren. At the last of the chapter, it says that it would be a witness that the Lord is God.

Some years ago, one of the sister workers where I came from talked to us about Jordan. She told us it was something that could have divided the country, but instead it became a blessing. I have never forgotten that, and I am grateful that she told us that. I am sure that the river Jordan was a great blessing in that country because river valleys are often very fruitful places. But there was always the possibility that it could divide them. Now we are going to talk about some things that might be like the Jordan and about some people who learned how to be united where they might have been separated, and they were blessed because of that. Maybe I will start with the little church where I grew up. For some years, there were just two families. There were quite a few children in each family. The older children were professing so it made a nice little meeting.

I was among the younger children; there were many things that I just took for granted, and I didn't understand what a fortunate child I was. I did not see the Jordan then that could have separated the two families. I can see it a little bit now. I am so thankful that instead of being something that divided us, those things made fellowship richer. We have sometimes heard it said that when two of God's servants are united, they bring a wonderful blessing wherever they go. That is very true. You know it is nice when we get a companion that we like, and maybe they are kind of suited to us and there is not any "Jordan" to separate. That is all right, but I will tell you something much better. That is when there are two companions and they are not so suited to one another and there is a Jordan that could divide them. They learn how to turn that Jordan into a blessing. That is a witness that the Lord is God.

It is a wonderful blessing when the families who meet in the little church are united. The little children who grow up in the churches like that don't know until afterwards how blessed they were. There are always Jordans. In every little church, there are things that could divide those who meet in those little churches. So we will talk a little bit about some of the little things that could have been like Jordan in the church where I was. My father had a little problem with hay fever. When something stirred him emotionally, the hay fever was worse. My father would give his testimony in the meeting just like everyone else, but after two or three sentences he almost always had to blow his nose. My dad had a tender heart, and his heart would be touched in the meeting. Then when he tried to give his testimony, he had to blow his nose. That other family, they just had to put up with that. He was my dad, and it was no problem for me. but they loved him in spite of that. I would almost dare to say that it got to where they loved him because of that! Now that is not a big thing. But it is so easy for little things to produce separation. We had a Sunday morning meeting in our home. I did not know why that was, and I did not want to know. But we had a very poor home, especially to start with. The other family had a better home. There was not even a floor in our home at the start. I can remember my father on Sunday morning sprinkling water in the room so it would not be so dusty. Those other people could have thought, "We have a home which is better for the meeting so why isn't the meeting in our home?" But they did not think like that. They were just so glad to come to our home, They did have Wednesday meeting, and we were glad to go to their home. Now I thought they were rich people, but they just were not as poor as we. But that could have produced division. That does produce division in the churches in the world.

I read a book about churches, and the writer said that people divided according to their wealth, People on the same social level, they will get together no matter what church they belong to, and they don't want very much to do with people in their own denomination who do not have as much money or position as they have. That is a Jordan and it keeps them separated and they don't cross very much. We are just so glad it is not like that in God's Family. We were hearing this morning about the Jew and the Gentile. There was a great Jordan between the Jew and Gentile. An elder brother used to tell us that those Jews despised the Gentiles, and the Gentiles hated the Jews. We were hearing this morning about one of the important ways God used to help them to overcome that Jordan between them. The Jews became very, very poor as a nation, and I realize now that God wanted it that way. The Gentiles, some of them anyway, were prospering and God wanted it that way.

Now, the Gentiles were able to help as regarding their material needs. When you have looked down on people, it is very difficult to accept kindness from them. Paul told those people, "Pray that the Jews will accept what we are trying to do." One thing that people on both sides of the Jordan would be doing was looking for crossing places. They would not have bridges in those days, but they looked for places where they could ford the river, and it always takes some work on both sides to find a suitable place and. to make it work. Now the Gentiles would be reaching out to try and cross the Jordan with the help they were bringing, and it would have been hard if there was not a landing place on the other side. My father was very independent. I don't know whether the other folk ever tried to give us a little help as far as material needs, but I do know it would have been hard for my father to give them a landing place if they had tried. What I am so glad for today is that on both sides, they were looking for crossing places, for fords.

We read about two of the tribes, Zebulon and Naphtali. They were sons of Jacob. But Jacob's sons were divided in two; there was a Jordan. One of his wives was Rachel and the other was Leah. One of those sons belonged to Rachel, and the other son belonged to Leah. They could have been divided, but they were almost always mentioned together. You read about them fighting the Lord's battles together. That something which could have divided them turned into a blessing. I think Zebulon made it easy for Naphtali to approach him because his father said, "Zebulon will be a haven for ships." He saw something in that young man that convinced him he was like that. This is not talking about commerce. It is talking about ships taking shelter from the storms. When a ship is in difficulty, there is nothing that is so wonderful as finding a safe haven, a harbor where there isn't any hidden rocks, a harbor where the light is kept burning because storms don't always come in the daylight. I think Zebulon was like that. Dale and I went for a walk a few days ago at Sampori and we were beside a hedge and we noticed the thorns and they were very long. That hedge was talking to us! It was saying, "If you come too close, you are going to get hurt." Neither one of us had any desire to get too close. We are talking again about crossing places over Jordan and making it easy for others to cross over and have fellowship with us.

When I was a boy, a friend and I wanted to cross the river not far from our home. We were riding horses that day, and we decided to let the horses swim and we would just hold on to their tails. So, of course we did not have anything on but swimming trunks and the rest of our clothing we tied on top of the horses' heads so they would be dry. It was flood time and we crossed where there was supposed to be a base across the river. My friend got along pretty well, and I suppose I did, too, because I got across, but the current had taken my horse down the stream. We did not reach the bank at the right place, and that horse had to struggle up a very steep place and I was glad I was holding on to its tail, but when we reached the top of the bank we were right in the middle of a patch of nettles and they were thick and very tall. I did not have any protection, and I did not feel like it was a very nice welcome!

We are telling you that we need to have crossing places ready on either side of Jordan. Because sometimes when people make an approach they don't always do it just the right way. It would be too bad if we met them with thorns or with nettles. But then suppose that does happen to us. What do we do? Do we say, "There's no use trying to get close to that person?" Oh, we do want to try again. Jesus said, "If someone smites you on the cheek, you turn the other cheek." The world has the expression, "Don't stick your neck out!" But Jesus said, "DO expose yourself. If you get hurt trying to do the right thing, then try to do it again." Because it is so important that we don't allow the Jordan to separate us from our brethren. I wonder what they say in Korean for the "generation gap?" That is a Jordan around us and it could be a Jordan among God's children but we are so glad we have seen that Jordan turned into a blessing over and over again.

I sometimes wish that young people could understand how much they mean to old people. If you are a young person, don't ever think that because you are young it would be a waste of time to go and visit someone who is old. Because it won't be a waste of time; they will be delighted to have you come. We read about David and Jonathan. Jonathan was heir to the throne that Saul had, but David was the one that God anointed to have the throne. Jonathan could have seen David as someone who was a threat to him. That is the way that Saul did see David. It is wonderful to read how Jonathan and David were united together, and Jonathan was the one who first ventured, you might say, to cross the Jordan. David was ready to receive him in the same spirit that Jonathan possessed. They found other crossing places, too. Their lives were blessed because they did not allow that Jordan to keep them separated. I have seen some of the bridges here in the Seoul area, and there are others probably I have not seen. I have never read a thing about the cost of your bridges, but I think I can say with some confidence that the last one that was built was the most expensive. We can wait too long in trying to get across the Jordan that separates us from others. We can wait until the cost becomes terribly high. And we might wait until there is no more opportunity to find a crossing place. We have a brother over in Canada that I respect very much.

He was telling us one time about some situation in his past life. Something had created a barrier between him and another. I don't know what happened, but I think that other brother must have died. I heard my fellow worker say these words, "I would gladly crawl on my knees for half a mile for the privilege of apologizing to him, but that privilege was gone and never to be recalled." We sometimes say we should live each day as if it was our last day. It might be a good thing to also live as if it was the last day for our brothers and sisters. If there is anything that is separating us, let us try to make the crossing today, because the price will be higher tomorrow. The privilege might be gone tomorrow to make the crossing.

We were hearing about that wall in Nehemiah's day. There were many people building at the same time. A group here and a group there and a group further along, and they were all building very, very well, and they were all building in the right place. They were building on the foundation or the place where the wall used to be. Something else was badly needed, and that was that where their work joined together, it would be strong. It was strong. The enemy knows any weak place and that is where he will attack. We have been talking about unity between families in the church. That is important, unity between companions as they labour. Those are some of the joining places, and the enemy will be watching those places. Then there is field to field within a country, and the enemy will be watching that, too, and country to country. Many different spaces where this wall needs to be solidly built together. If we haven't been successful, we may try to ignore it, but the enemy won't and that is where he will be trying to make his attack.

I thought about some sad times when there was an attempt to make a crossing and there was no landing place and they were not received. Maybe the one I thought about most was David and King Saul. I don't know how many times David tried to make the approach to Saul, and he never was successful. Saul was possessed by jealousy. God tried to approach Saul many times also after he was possessed with that jealousy, but He never was received. At last Saul said, "God doesn't talk to me anymore; I don't have any visions or dreams that come from God any more. He doesn't send His prophets to me with His word any more." The Lord said, "Because I called and you would not answer, you called and I will not answer."

I thought about the mighty Jordan that separates us from God, but the Jordan which we can do nothing about crossing. God has provided a crossing for us, but we are responsible to receive Him. We read about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. He wept because He was trying to reach them with His love, but there was no landing place. He came unto His own, but His own received Him not.

Maybe I could mention Andrew, one of the twelve. We should have mentioned him earlier. He was very much like Zebulon. Someone has said that every time we read of him, he was bringing someone to Jesus, and that is saying that every time we read about him, he is involved with others. When he met Jesus, he thought about his brother, Peter, and he brought him to Jesus. But two other occasions I noticed particularly. One of them was the time Jesus fed the multitude. A little boy came there and brought his lunch, but that little boy saw what was going on there. He saw there were a lot of hungry people there and he was willing for his lunch to feed people who needed it worse than he did, but he did not know how to go about it. Those workers were there, and I suppose he was a little scared of them because he was a little boy and I think he was like some little boys in this meeting and some little girls, too. But he met Andrew and he wasn't as scared of him. I don't know what secret Andrew had, but the little boy was able to go to him and say, "Here is my lunch if it can be of any use," and Andrew took it. He took it to Jesus and that lunch fed the multitude. Oh, I would like to have a little of that something that Andrew had that made it easy for a little child to go to him. The Jordan that separated them was crossed so easily as a result. Another time, some Greeks wanted to meet Jesus. They went to Philip and he had a Greek name and maybe that is why.

He was not quite sure what to do, and he took them to Andrew. This time it was one of Andrew's fellow workers, but it was very easy for him to approach Andrew. Those people were brought to Jesus. We read about people who lived beyond the Jordan. There are still people like that. If we are keeping crossing places over Jordan, it will make it easier for them to find their way to Jesus. I will tell you about Barnabas. Remember after Saul, later called Paul, who had persecuted the Christians, professed, he went back to Jerusalem and they would not receive him, but Barnabas received him. Then because Barnabas received him, others received him also someone told us once about repairing the gears on a washing machine. He said there was a gear in there and he could not understand what it was for. It wasn't turning anything, but then he realized it was picking up oil to pour on the other gears. Then those other gears were able to do their work without any trouble. He said Barnabas was like that. I hope that God will help us to ford our Jordan’s so we can turn them into blessings.