The Building Work of God, by Witness Lee

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What then is God building? What is the purpose of God’s building work? The Scriptures provide a clear explanation of this matter. We may not be so clear when we read the first few chapters of Genesis; however, when we come to the story of Jacob, the light shines forth, and we can see a little concerning God’s building.

Although Jacob had been chosen by God, he never thought much about God when he was young. He considered only his own welfare and how to take advantage of others by his craftiness. He was altogether a selfish man. However, his craftiness caused a big problem that forced him to leave home. While fleeing from his brother, he came to a certain place in the wilderness and spent the night there, because the sun had set. He took a stone as his pillow and went to sleep (Gen. 28:11). At this time he was really a wanderer, a homeless person. In this situation of wandering, God came to him. The God whom he did not care about came. The blessings that he wanted had all fled from him while the God whom he did not want came to him. That night while he was sleeping, he saw a vision in his dream. In this vision there was a ladder set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven. On the ladder the angels of God were ascending and descending (v. 12). This vision impressed him deeply. I believe that the Holy Spirit enabled him to have some understanding of the meaning of this dream, which is that the God in heaven desires to enter into man on earth so that the earth and heaven may be joined and that man and God may dwell and live together. Therefore, after Jacob awoke, he did a marvelous thing. He rose up early in the morning, took the stone that he had used as a pillow, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil upon it. Furthermore, he said that this stone, this place, was Bethel (vv. 18-19, 22). In Hebrew, el means “God” and beth means “house.” Therefore, what Jacob meant when he said this was, “One day this stone which I set up as a pillar will become a house and a temple. This place is the house of God.”

The marvelous thing is that Jacob did not say, “This is my house.” Instead, he said, “This is the house of God.” This picture corresponds to the picture in John 4. In John 4 we see a thirsty Savior asking for water to drink and a thirsty sinner coming to draw water to drink. You see the thirst on two sides. Man is thirsty, and the incarnated God is also thirsty. Both God and man want to drink water. This is the picture in John 4. What does the picture in Genesis 28 tell us? On the surface we see a homeless man, a man wandering with no home and a man who has no resting place. When we read this chapter carefully, however, we get the feeling that there was not only a homeless man but also a homeless God. Man was not the only one who did not have a home. God also did not have a home on earth. At that time all that God and man had was a pillar of stone. Man was not able to live in it, neither could God dwell in it.

Therefore, the picture in Genesis 28 is the same as the picture in John 4. In John 4 we see that both God and man were thirsty. In Genesis 28 we see that both God and man were homeless. On earth there was a homeless man, and in heaven there was a homeless God. You could say that they both faced the same hardship and thus could have sympathy for one another. In John 4 the Lord Jesus had much feeling for the thirst of the Samaritan woman, and the Samaritan woman also could sympathize with the thirst of the Lord Jesus. Here in Genesis 28 you see that God felt for this wandering, homeless man on earth, and at the same time this homeless man probably also could sympathize with the homeless God in heaven. Of course, I do not believe that at that time Jacob was as clear as we are today. Yet, even though he was not fully clear, under the authority of the Holy Spirit he spoke some very clear and intelligible words. He said that the stone that he had set up as a pillar would become the house of God.

I do not know how Jacob was able to speak the way that he did on that day. It is really a marvelous thing. Jacob also prayed that if God would give him bread to eat and garments to put on and would bring him back to his father’s house in peace, then he would take God as his God (vv. 20-21). Actually he was bargaining with God here. He seemed to be saying, “If You take care of my food and clothing and if You give me peace, then I will consider You to be my God.” In other words, “If You do not feed or clothe me well and if You do not guarantee peace for me, then I will not take You as my God.” We may laugh at Jacob’s prayer, but we must realize that today there are too many Christians who are like Jacob. Please consider: how many of your prayers are like Jacob’s prayer? I am afraid that in much of your prayer you also are asking for food, clothing, and safety.

Nevertheless, it is marvelous that such a selfish Jacob, who did not care for God but only for his own interest, after making such a selfish prayer, uttered such a good word. He said that if what he had asked for would happen, then the stone, which he had used as a pillow, would become God’s temple, God’s house.

(The Building Work of God, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)