Una Hedderman - Seek Ye First - Dumaresq - 1969

Yesterday morning we were asked, "What are we here for?"  That is a very serious question.  Some of the Brothers and Sisters in their testimonies have said they were asking themselves, before coming to Convention, "What am I going for? What am I seeking?"  There is a question, "What seekest thou?"  It is asked three times in the Bible and I have been reading about it there.  Those of whom it was asked could give a very satisfactory answer.  What are we seeking, not only here, but in life?  I would like to be able to give the same satisfactory answer.

The question was asked of Joseph, "Whom seekest thou?"  "I seek my brethren."  His father had asked him to go to see his brethren with the thought of knowing, "Is it all well with their flocks?"  He had gone in obedience to his father’s request and could say, "I seek the welfare of my brethren."  It would be lovely if that is the answer we could give.  We are not seeking our own, but seeking another’s wealth, as Paul said.  Our lives will be well spent if we give more room in our hearts for the welfare of our brethren.  We want to help others and we know the only way to help others is to keep right ourselves.  We can only lift another to our own level, no higher, so it behoves us all to keep our hearts pure and keep the standard in our own lives what it ought to be.

Someone else asked that question, "Whom seekest thou?"  Or rather, "What seek ye?"  Jesus asked that of two disciples who had left John and followed Him. They answered, "Master, where dwellest Thou?"  They wanted to know where Jesus dwelt so they could be with Him, and Jesus invited them to be with Him.  It would be lovely if that could be in our hearts every day that we live, that we are seeking the fellowship and companionship of Jesus.  Where He is, we want to dwell.

Mary Magdalene, on the first resurrection morning, was asked, "Woman, why weepest thou?  Whom seekest thou?"  "I seek my Lord." She could not leave that  sepulchre that morning.  Others had come and had seen that Jesus was not there any longer.  He had risen.  They had gone away but Mary could not go away. She waited until her Lord appeared to her.  If that is the answer we could give as we wait here, it will be a very good thing, and our time spent together will be all we could desire it to be, and all God could desire it to be.  We want to seek our Lord. We cannot live without Him.  Mary, as well as the disciples that day, would have sad feelings and wonderings, but when Jesus spoke to Mary she did not know Him as she saw Him through her tear-dimmed eyes, but she knew the voice, and when He said, “Mary,” she said, “My Lord.”

A line of a poem says, "My beloved speaks, and lo, the riot of my heart is still."  No matter what the riot of your soul might be, if only we seek the Lord long enough, He is sure to come to us and we hear His voice, and the riot of our soul is still.

In Matthew 5-7, we read of some of the things Jesus taught that must come first. An old hymn we used to sing puts it this way:

Seek ye first, not earthly pleasure,
Fading joy and fading treasure,
But the love that knows no measure,
Seek ye first, seek ye first.

Seek ye first not earth's aspirings,
Ceaseless longings, vain desirings,
But your precious souls requirings,
Seek ye first, seek ye first.

Seek ye first God's peace and blessings,
Ye have all if this possessing;
Come your need and sin confessing,
Seek Him first, seek Him first.

Seek Him first; then when forgiven,
Pardoned, made an heir of heaven,
Let your life to Him be given:
Seek this first, seek this first.

Seek the coming of His Kingdom;
Seek the souls around to win them,
Seek to Jesus Christ to bring them:
Seek this first, seek this first.

This hymn has very much appealed to me of the One I must seek first, and the things I must seek first.  Jesus spoke to His disciples on the mount and one thing He said was, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all else shall be added unto you."  That is one thing above all others that we should be seeking, not our own righteousness.  Paul prayed that he would not have his own righteousness but that he would be clothed with the righteousness of Christ which was from Heaven.  Christ is our righteousness.  Do you want to know what is right in the sight of God?  We have a wonderful standard in the life and teachings of Jesus, and this is what we are to seek first.

Jesus taught, "Before you lay your gift on the altar, first go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift."  That is something that may not be so easy to do at times, to take that first step to be reconciled to our brethren, but if there is anything there between us, we must first be reconciled to our Brother before we can expect God’s blessing.  An old Worker once told us that he had something in his heart against a certain Brother.  Both were sitting in a fellowship meeting and it came time for prayer.  They were all kneeling to pray but he had no liberty whatsoever to pray.  He wanted to take part in prayer but he had no liberty, so during the prayer time he went and asked that Brother for forgiveness then went back to his place and he could pray.  That appealed to my heart very much, because it is the teaching of Jesus, and it is good for us to come with the right spirit toward God and toward everyone who belongs to God.

Jesus told the Pharisees to first cleanse that which is within and then you will be able to cleanse that which is without.  They had found fault with Jesus and His disciples because they had not washed their hands before they had eaten.  The Pharisees were very particular about certain formalities, but were not so particular about having the right heart, mind, and spirit.  Those weightier matters they had omitted.  It is a sad thing to be taken up with lesser things rather than with judgement, mercy, and faith that means so much to our Lord.  Jesus said to first cleanse that which was within, and this is very good advice for us today.  It is what we are in our hearts, our thoughts, and in our spirits toward God that matters most.  They are the weightier matters.

If our heart, mind, and spirit is right with God, that is all that counts, and if the inside is clean, the outside will be also.  Some have said to us, "It is not so much what we are on the outside, or what we were on the outside, it is what we are in our hearts," but if we are cleansed first within we will be able to cleanse that which is without and it will soon be seen.

Jesus told them not to be quick to judge or criticize one another.  The first thing was to cast the beam out of your own eye, so that you can see clearly to cast the mote out of your brother's eye.  In us all there is a tendency to criticize and to talk about someone else’s faults and failures.  Jesus said, "Cast the beam out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to cast the mote out of your brother's eye," but maybe we won’t want to look for a mote in our brother's eye when the beam is cast out of our own eye.  It is good to try and think the best of everybody.  Love your Brothers and Sisters for what is in Christ in them.  Seek these things first and all will be well with our souls.

Paul spoke of some things that must come first, to the children of God, about a certain service he wanted them to render.  He spoke of how it would be acceptable.  If there be first a willing mind, it will be acceptable, and if there is not first a willing mind, no service will be acceptable.  In every age, God has asked for willingness.  The sacrifices of the Old Testament were to be voluntary, willingly given.  The children of Israel were asked to bring the material for the building of the tabernacle, so much was asked.  A great quantity was needed and all the very best quality, but only to be received from one class of people, the willing-hearted. Before that tabernacle was begun, there was enough material or more than was necessary.  Willingness had taken them the second mile.  They had done more than was required of them.  They had to be restrained from doing it.

How often I have had to be urged to do what was asked of me rather than be restrained from doing it.  It is not a very nice thought but it has probably been the experience of us all many times.  Paul speaking about these people, seemingly they had responded and he said they first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us.  They were giving themselves to the Lord so that their service would be acceptable.  It is a wonderful thing but it is not so easy to do, to just give ourselves wholly to God without reserve, keeping nothing back for ourselves.

There are two expressions in one of our hymns that are like a prayer:

Give me the grace of holy resignation.
Oh, to be wholly resigned to the will of God for us.

O Lord bestow the grace of self surrender.

They gave themselves first to the Lord.  Just handing our lives to God without reserve is the first thing that God desires and requires, and then be sure that our service is all that God desires and requires also with no part kept back.  It just needs the grace of self surrender.

There was an experience I had in Penang, in Malaysia.  A young Sister came and asked our advice concerning something she wanted to do.  There were many reasons why she should do this, and she said, "Isn't it lawful?"  I told her what the Bible said, "All things are lawful but all things are not expedient."  One rendering of this verse says, "All things do not help forward."  We do not want to justify ourselves by things that are lawful and right - if you do, you have fallen from grace. This girl is a true child of God, and her parents had tried to point it out to her.  She said, "I will obey for ninety percent, but for ten percent I am going to use my own discretion."

It was no use saying anything more to her and I went away to pray for her, and I believe she went away to pray for herself. Not many days later she came back. She was willing now for the whole-hearted surrender to the mind and will of God. She did not want to do anything that was foolish and would hinder her progress in the way of God, and she was willing for self-surrender, holy resignation to the will of God.  It is a hundred percent obedience that God wants; first give ourselves to God and all will be well.

That hymn says over and over again says, "Seek this first," or "Seek Him first."  Isaac had taken a journey at the word of God and it says that when he got to the place, he built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord.  Then he pitched his tent and dug a well.  He put first things first.  I wonder if his family or anyone else had thought he should have pitched his tent first, and made a little provision for them in that strange place, but he did not.  First he built the altar for the Lord, called upon Him, then came the tent and the well.  Making provision for himself was a secondary thing compared with the service he wanted to render to God.  I thought of Hezekiah.  In the first month of the first year of his reign he began to set things in order, Things were by no means in order when Hezekiah came to the throne.  Everything was out of order, and on the first day of the first month of the first year, he gathered the priests together and encouraged them to cleanse the temple, and those priests went in to the inner part of the temple to cleanse the inner part.  When they had brought out everything that was wrong, they did not just leave it at the door.  It was taken away and put in the brook Kidron, where it would not be able to enter again.

We have been hearing so much about this body of ours being a temple.  If we would make that our first concern, we would do it now, we would begin to cleanse the inner part of our lives, and don’t just leave what we take out of our lives close to us.  Seek to put it far away so that it will never return again.  This is what Hezekiah did.

In the days of Ezra, they knew how to put first things first, and all gathered together as one man.  They were all anxious to lay the foundation of that temple, but first they prepared their hearts by sacrifice.  That was the first thing to be done before the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  Except the work of God goes on in us, the work of God that is done through us cannot be a blessing, cannot be pleasing to God.  The all-important thing is the work of God in us which is more important than the work of God being done through us.

Probably sometimes we lay more stress on the latter than on the former, but if the work of God is not done in us, how can the work of God done through us be of any use to God?  Ezra and his people that day prepared their own hearts by sacrifice, then began to lay the foundation of the house of the Lord.

Mary Magdalene was at the sepulchre very early in the morning, before the break of day.  Others were with her.  First things were coming first and that is why she had that message.  She came early, she waited, then she had a message of the resurrected Christ to pass on to others.

There was no time in Jesus’s experience, no matter what He suffered, that He did not put first things first.  The will of the Father came first, His Father's business. Doing the things that pleased His Father was His first thought.  From a child of twelve years of age, to the man on the cross, it was the will of the Father continually and at the close He could pray, "Not My will but Thine be done."

In Revelation, the message to the angel of the church of the Ephesians was that they had left their first love.  That was a very sad condition.  I could never come back to this district without remembering my beginning with God and the love that possessed my heart as I began in the way of God.  It would be sad if we have left our first love.  In another place, of others, it was said that they had kept not their first estate.

God has given us all a place.  Do not lose it for anything or anyone.  Do not lose our first faith.  Do not anything cause you to cast it away or cast it off.  It will help you to please God.  What are we putting first?  If we have failed there is a remedy:  to repent and do the first works.