FOLLOWING WHAT LIGHT THEY HAD

In 1795 Lieutenant Colonel Michael Symes wrote An Account of an Embassy to the Kingdom of Ava in the Year 1795, published 32 years later in Edinburgh Scotland.

It told the story of how an English diplomat and his Burmese guide met a delegation of Karen tribesmen in their village near Rangoon, Burma. These tribesmen had never seen a white face before, and, utterly fascinated, they surrounded the diplomat, trying to touch his arms and cheeks. The guide told him that these Karener’s were so electrified at seeing a white man because their tribe had passed on a legend from time immemorial that one day “a white brother” would come to bring them a book, a book just like their forefathers had lost long ago. The book’s author was supposed to have been Y’wa the Supreme God. The white man bearing the book was to set them free from all their oppressors. The diplomat, unnerved, told them, “tell them they’re mistaken. I have no acquaintence with this god called Y’wa. Nor do I have the slightest idea who their “white brother”could be.” The villagers, utterly disappointed, had simply repeated in all sincerity a tradition which had haunted them as a people since antiquity, and they turned away in despair. “Could our forefathers have been mistaken?” asked a young Karen. “Don’t worry,” responded an elder, “one day he will come. Other prophecies may fail, but not this one!”

Colonel Symes’ report was ignored for 175 years. In 1816 a Muslim traveler passing through the area left another band of Karen tribesmen a book which he said contained writings about the true God. The tribesmen gave the book to an elderly Karen sage, who wrapped it in muslin and put it into a special basket. Gradually the people developed rituals for venerating the sacred volume. The sage adorned himself with ornate garments befitting his role as keeper of the book. He carried a special cudgel as a symbol of his spiritual authority. He and his people kept constant vigil for the teacher who would one day come to the village and open the contents of the sacred book to their understanding.

In 1817 an American Baptist missionary named Adoniram Judson came to Rangoon. He worked among the natives and finally after seven agonizing years led his first Buddhist Burmese convert to Christ. In fact, his disappointment in the evangelism side of his work made him spend time translating the Bible into Burmese.

One day a tough-looking Karen man came to town looking for work. This man, Ko Thah-byu, had a violent temper, and had killed 30 men in his former career as a robber. Judson helped him find employment, and witnessed to him. When he heard the gospel, after asking many curious questions about the origins of this message and the book which contained it, he was gloriously saved.

Around the same time a newly recruited missionary couple, George & Sarah Boardman, arrived in Rangoon to assist Judson. Boardman opened a school for illiterate converts. They took Ko Thah-Byu under their wing and taught him the Scriptures.

KoThah-Byu was unusually intense for a new convert. Why? Because one day he realized that he was the very first amongst the Karen people to learn that the “lost book” had arrived in Burma! His excitement was intense. When the Boardman’s announced their intention to begin a new mission to the city of Tavoy, Ko Thah-byu begged to go with them. As they went, he went on ahead and began to share the gospel with the people living in the many hill villages of southern Burma.

The Karen tribesmen responded in droves! The Boardmans were soon besieged by a flood of requests that they come to teach them more of “the Book of Y’wa” . And Ko Thah-Byu pressed on further into the countryside― fording rivers, crossing ranges of hills, braving monsoon storms and bandits like those with whom he himself once roamed.

Then one day KoThah-Byu found the village which, 12 years before, had received the book which the Muslim traveler had left. Ko Thah-Byu urged Boardman to come to the village to see the long-revered volume― to see if it really was a book about God. A book [1]about the event, published in 1859, describes what happened when Boardman arrived in the village:

“With a long train of followers, the chief appeared, bringing with him the sacred relic. The basket was opened, the muslin unrolled, and taking from its folds an old, tattered, worn-out volume, he reverently presented it to Mr. Boardman.

It proved to be the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalms, of an edition printed in Oxford. “It is a good book”, said Mr. Boardman, “It teaches that there is a God in heaven, whom alone we should worship. You have been ignorantly worshipping this book. That is not good. I will teach you to worship the God whom the book reveals.”

“Every Karen countenance was alternately lighted up with smiles of joy, and cast down with inward convictions of having erred in worshipping a book instead of the God whom it reveals….[After hearing Mr. Boardman’s subsequent teaching] the aged sorcerer who had been the keeper of the book for 12 years …perceived that his office was at an end. He relinquished the fantastical dress he had worn, and the cudgel which for so long had been the badge of his spiritual authority, and subsequently became a humble believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Mr. Boardman visited the Karen in village after village, they received him with joy and respect, and hailed him as the one who, they believed, would show them to a more excellent way. From this time on we find constantly in his journals entries like the following: ‘A good number of Karens are now reading with us, and Ko Thah-Byu spends night and day in reading and explaining to them the words of life. It seems as though the time for favoring this people [has] come.’ Alleluia!”   [2]

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

How much light have you had?

How many times have you heard the Gospel explained? How many Bibles are lying around in your house? How many sermons have you heard? How often have you been to church? How many tracts have you read?

There are people in this world who have not heard so much as a smidgen of what you have heard in your lifetime, and yet many of them will be in heaven because they trusted GOD to save them. You, on the other hand, may be sitting on the fence, waiting for some miracle to supposedly convince you that God wants you saved and in heaven.

Don’t take any more chances. This may have been the last sermon you will ever hear, or the last tract you will ever read. Why don’t you follow the LIGHT you’ve been given and pray for God to save you:

“Dear God, I know that I’m a sinner, and I will never be good enough to be allowed into heaven. I understand Jesus Christ died for me, to pay for my sins, and right now I ask Jesus to forgive me all my sin and save my soul. Jesus, come into my life and teach me how to live pleasing to God. Amen”

If you prayed this prayer, let us know so that we can help you get started in your new CHRISTIAN life!

ANALOGYMAN/ john.idems@rogers.com

[1] Mrs. Macleod Wylie, The Gospel in Burma (London: W.H. Dalton, 1859

[2] Extensive selection from the chapter, Peoples of the Lost Book― from the book Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson ã 1981 by Regal Books, A Division of Gospel Light, Ventura, California

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