PERFECTION REQUIRED BY GOD’S ALL-SUFFICIENCY
Genesis 17:1 says, “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the all-sufficient God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Heb.). Here we see that God charged Abraham with two things—that Abraham had to walk before the all-sufficient God and that he had to be perfect. In chapter sixteen, Abraham did not walk before God; he walked before Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael. Since he had not walked before God, God came and told him to walk before Him and to be perfect. God’s telling Abraham to be perfect indicates that before that time he was not perfect. In chapter sixteen, Abraham was imperfect; he lacked something.
Before we consider further what it means to walk before God and to be perfect, we need to learn the meaning of the title of God in 17:1, the all-sufficient God. In Hebrew this title is El-Shaddai. El means the Strong One, the Mighty One, and Shaddai, implying the meaning of breast, udder, means all-sufficient. El-Shaddai is the Mighty One with an udder, the Mighty One who has the all-sufficient supply. An udder produces milk, and milk is the all-sufficient supply, having water, minerals, and many vitamins in it and containing all that we need for our daily living. So El-Shaddai means the all-sufficient Mighty One.
When Abraham did things by his natural self, he forgot the source of his supply. In other words, he forgot God as his all-sufficient source of supply. Therefore, God came to Abraham and seemed to say, “I am the Mighty One with an udder. Are you lacking something? Why don’t you come to this udder? Are you hungry or thirsty? Come to this udder. The source of your supply is not your natural self, but I, the Mighty One with an udder. I am the all-sufficient One who can supply everything you need for your living and everything you need for the fulfillment of My eternal purpose. I am the source. You are not the source. You should not live on your own or by yourself. You have to live by Me as the source of your supply.”
In chapter seventeen it is not a matter of the Most High God or of the Possessor of heaven and earth as in chapter fourteen; it is absolutely a matter of the Mighty One with an udder. When Abraham was afraid of his enemies, God came in and said, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (15:1). At that time God seemed to say to Abraham, “You don’t need to be afraid of your enemies. I am your shield and protection.” But after Abraham had done something of his own natural self to fulfill God’s purpose, doing something that was against God Himself, God came in and seemed to say, “I am El-Shaddai, the Mighty One with an udder. You should not do anything on your own or by yourself. You must realize that I am your supply.” An udder does not give us weapons with which to kill people but milk that comes into us as our supply. God’s supply must come into us as milk. God does not want you to energize your strength to produce a seed for the fulfillment of His purpose; He wants you to drink of His milk, to take something of Himself into you so that you might produce a seed. If we did not have the New Testament, we could never understand adequately this title of God, but now we can understand this title adequately. Today we may constantly live by taking the supply of the Mighty One with an udder. Are you receiving the supply from the divine udder day by day? This is not the protection of the shield against the enemy; it is the supply of the udder for producing the seed. This is not a matter of receiving a good job in place of a poor one but of rendering us the supply which, when taken into us, will become the very constituent to produce a child for the fulfilling of God’s eternal purpose. What supply are you receiving day after day? We are receiving the supply from the Mighty One with His divine udder. Day by day we are under His udder and have the all-sufficient supply. God is such an all-sufficient Mighty One to us.
In 17:1 God told Abraham to walk before Him. What does this mean? It means to enjoy the Lord. Walking before the Lord means that we constantly enjoy Him and the supply of His udder. Will you walk before Him, enjoying the all-sufficient supply of His divine udder? To walk before God does not mean that we walk before Him fearfully as before the Holy One. No, the Mighty One with the all-sufficient udder supplies all of our daily need. As we are enjoying His supply, we are walking in His presence.
God also told Abraham to be perfect. What does it mean to be perfect? For Abraham to be imperfect did not mean that he was not good; it meant that he was short of God. None of us can be perfected without God. Without God, there is no perfection. Without Him we are always lacking something. Regardless of how perfect we may be in ourselves, we are still short of God and need to be perfected by and with God. If your home life is without God, your home life is not perfect. If God is not in your married life, your married life is imperfect. There is no perfection without God. Suppose your hand had only four fingers. Although it might be a good hand, since it did not have the thumb, it would not be perfect. Your hand would need to be perfected by the addition of the thumb. If one day the thumb would come to be added to your hand, your hand would be perfect. Hence, to be perfect means that we need God to be added to us. To walk before God means to enjoy Him, and to be perfected means to have God added to us. Have you ever realized that your perfection is God Himself? Have you ever realized that regardless of how good you are or how perfect you are in human eyes, without God you are short of something? We do not have the perfecting factor in ourselves, for the perfecting factor is God Himself. God must be added into our lives. If He is not added into our lives, our lives will remain imperfect.
Why did God require Abraham to be perfect? Because God was and still is the all-sufficient Mighty One. Since He is the all-sufficient Mighty One, there is no reason or excuse for us to be imperfect. Whatever we lack, God is. Do you lack strength? God is strength. Do you need energy? God is energy. God is whatever we need. Thus, God’s all-sufficiency requires us to be perfect. There is no reason for us to be poor; we have a large deposit in the heavenly bank.
Practically speaking, to be perfect means that we do not rely upon the strength of the flesh but trust in the all-sufficient Mighty One for our life and work. We should not rely upon the exercise of our natural self or upon the energy of our flesh. We must always trust in God’s all-sufficiency for everything. Many of us, for example, are troubled by our temper. Why do we lose our temper at certain times? Because at those times we do not trust in God. The losing of our temper should force us to learn one lesson—never to stay away from God but to trust in Him every moment. Do not try to overcome your temper. If you forget your temper and trust in God every moment, your temper will be overcome. Every imperfection is due to one thing: that we keep ourselves away from the all-sufficient Mighty One. When we keep ourselves away from Him, we are like an electrical appliance that will not work because it is cut off from the supply of electricity. We all must learn to keep ourselves constantly in God. This is the way to be perfect.
When as a young Christian I read 17:1, I realized that I was not perfect. I lacked kindness, humility, patience, love, and many other virtues and attributes. Therefore, in my prayer I made the decision that with the help of the Lord I would have love, patience, humility, kindness, and the other virtues that I lacked. But I must tell you that I never succeeded. Whenever I read 17:1 I could not understand what it meant to be perfect. Eventually I saw that the perfecting factor in our life is God Himself and that I needed to have God added into me. The most that we have is four fingers; we do not have the thumb. Regardless of how much we might train our four fingers to do things, they will still be imperfect because they are without the thumb. We need the thumb to be added to our hand to make it perfect.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)