GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE
In the previous message we saw that God told Jacob to go up to Bethel (Gen. 35:1). Ultimately, the New Jerusalem will be the eternal Bethel. Jacob never built anything, but his descendants firstly built the tabernacle and then the temple. The book of Revelation says that the New Jerusalem is God’s tabernacle and that there God Himself and the Lamb are the temple (Rev. 21:22). This is Bethel. God’s eternal purpose is to have this dwelling place, and He is working on it today. Even during Jacob’s lifetime God was working on Jacob for His dwelling place, for Bethel.
We must be enlightened by and fully saturated with the thought that in this universe God is doing only one thing—building His eternal habitation. He is not interested in anything else. Creation and salvation are both for this purpose. Whatever blessings He has bestowed upon us are also for this purpose. However, many Christians have made other things the goal, things like salvation, spirituality, holiness, and victory. But these are merely individualistic, personal houses, not God’s building. Spirituality is an individualistic, personal house. If you do not care for God’s goal, even your salvation may become a personal home. If we had a clear view of God’s goal, we would feel sorrowful about today’s situation. Nearly every Christian is building his own little house. For some, tongue speaking is a cottage; for others, holiness is a house; and for still others, spirituality is a shed. Today, hardly any Christians care for God’s building. Because of this, we have the boldness to say that we in the Lord’s recovery are the unique Christians caring for God’s building. If we all cared for God’s building, God would have done a great thing among us. Nevertheless, I am concerned that after reading this message some may still say, "I’m not interested in this. I want to have peace and joy. I wish Brother Lee would give more messages on the Lord’s mercy and grace, and tell us how the Lord wants to give us His joy and bestow His blessings on us." It is possible for even joy, peace, and blessings to be drugs. Most of the teachings given out week after week in the chapels and cathedrals are drugs. When you were there, you were drugged. You did not hear a clear word to sober your mind. I hope that through this message all our minds will be sobered and that we will be bold to declare, "I only care for God’s building. I don’t care for my salvation, my joy, my peace, my holiness, or my spirituality." As long as you care for God’s building, everything, including salvation, holiness, victory, and spirituality, peace, and joy, will be yours.
A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
We need to have a bird’s-eye view of God’s building as it is unfolded in the Bible. The Bible is a large book containing thousands of items. If we do not have a bird’s-eye view, we can easily get lost. We need to see the major points in the Bible. After working with the race of Adam, God came in to have a new start by calling out Abraham to be the father of another race, the called race. God was no longer working with the created race but with the called race. Abraham was followed by Isaac and Jacob. If we do not have the bird’s-eye view, we shall neither understand God’s purpose in calling Abraham nor His purpose with Isaac or with Jacob, the supplanter. As Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau, he had a dream (28:10-22). After waking from that dream, he spoke some words which were a wonderful prophecy. Jacob called the name of the place Bethel and even set up the stone that he had used for a pillow to become a pillar. Hence, Bethel was not merely a place but also a pillar with oil poured upon it. This is the greatest prophecy in the Bible because it governs the entire Bible. After uttering this prophecy, Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house" (28:20-22). God was faithful and brought him back safely. However, Jacob did not fulfill his vow. Rather, he settled down in two places, firstly in Succoth and secondly in Shechem. Eventually, a turmoil arose, and Jacob lost his safety and peace. At that precise moment, God intervened and spoke to him, saying, "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there" (35:1). Jacob did not have the actual Bethel during his lifetime. He never saw the house of God. It was not until Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and erected the tabernacle that Bethel was realized among the children of Israel. Later, the tabernacle was replaced by the temple prepared by David and built by Solomon. At that time, Bethel was established on earth.
Prior to the building of the tabernacle, however, there was the house of Israel, which was nearly the equivalent of the house of God, for in the name Israel the name God appears. The last two letters of the word Israel—el—are a Hebrew word for God. When Israel was multiplied into the house of Israel, it is implied that this house was a house for God. Therefore, the house of Israel was the house of God. The only difference was that the house of Israel was not as definitely formed as the tabernacle or the temple. Nevertheless, as long as Jacob’s family had become the house of Israel, in the eyes of God it was equal to the house of God. Eventually, among the house of Israel, there was the tabernacle and, following that, the temple, both of which were symbols of the house of Israel as God’s dwelling place. This is a history of Bethel. Later, the temple was destroyed by the Babylonian army, and the children of Israel were held in captivity seventy years. Then a decree was issued to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-3). Hence, from the beginning of the Old Testament until the end, we have just a few main things: Jacob, his house, the tabernacle, the temple, and the rebuilding of the temple. This is a bird’s-eye view of the Old Testament.
(Life-Study of Genesis, Chapter 77, by Witness Lee)