While manna was the only food provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, the produce of the good land was varied. It was “a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness” (Deut. 8:8-9). Not only was there this assortment of vegetables and fruits, but they had herds and flocks as well (12:6). It reminds me of what is offered in an American supermarket—the great variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats.
THE EATING OF THE COMMON PRODUCE
From chapters twelve, fourteen, and sixteen of Deuteronomy it is clear that there were two kinds of eating in the good land. All the increase, whether from the field or from their flocks and herds, had to be divided into two parts. Ninety percent of it was the portion which belonged to the Israelites and could be eaten within their gates (Deut. 12:15). This we may call the common eating.
THE TOP PORTION
The other ten percent, the tithe, had restrictions upon where it could be eaten. “Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock.…But thou must eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose” (12:17-18).
Suppose, for example, I am an Israelite with a herd of cows. When one of them has its first calf, I am not free to kill it and make a feast for my family, even though the herd belongs to me. I must save it until the time of the feast of tabernacles, the fifteenth day of the seventh month. If this same cow has a second calf, though, we are free to fatten it up, kill it, and make a feast for all our relatives.
The firstborn calf, along with the firstlings of all my flocks and herds and the tithe of my produce, I must take to the place “which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand” (Deut. 12:11). “In the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days” (Lev. 23:39).
COMMON VS. SPECIAL ENJOYMENT
The common eating within the gates is a type of the common enjoyment of Christ. We can feast on Him at home alone, or on the campus, or even meeting with a few others. This enjoyment of Christ may be precious, but, as many of you can testify, our highest enjoyment of Christ occurs in the church meetings. It is only here that we enjoy the top portion of Christ. This is the place where He has chosen to set His name and build His habitation. However good your home meeting or little fellowship group may be, it is not where God dwells. The habitation of God today is the church, and Mount Zion is today’s church meeting, where the tithes and offerings are to be presented.
NOT IN EVERY PLACE
Eating Christ in the third stage involves not only His riches but also the matter of the oneness of God’s people. Once the children of Israel occupied the good land, it would have been easy for them to be separate from each other. What kept them in oneness was this requirement: “Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee” (Deut. 12:13-14). All the males had to appear before the Lord three times a year in the place of His choosing (16:16) to celebrate the feasts with the rich produce of the land.
Suppose two neighbors had a disagreement and were no longer on speaking terms. Though most of the time they avoided each other, the day would come when they would both have to make the journey back to Jerusalem. By coming together on the highway to Zion they could settle their differences and join the others in declaring, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psa. 133:1). This was one of the songs of degrees that the Israelites chanted as they came together and ascended Mount Zion to present their offerings and to keep the feasts.
As we eat Christ, we shall find that we are brought into oneness with all the saints. We may be unhappy with certain brothers or sisters and decide to discontinue attending the church meetings. We may say that God’s presence is everywhere and that we can enjoy Christ at home. But the extra portion of the enjoyment of Christ cannot be ours apart from the church meetings. If we try to have both the common and the particular portions of Christ in the place where we choose, the oneness is damaged. However disgruntled we may feel about things in the church, we must meet with the saints. The habitation of God is the church, not our little fellowship group. We must all meet in the place where God has chosen to cause His name to dwell.
(Life Messages, Vol. 1 (#1-41), Chapter 28, by Witness Lee)