The Vision of God's Building, by Witness Lee


In 1 Samuel 13:14, God told Saul: “Now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart.” The beginning of God’s recovery of His building was with David, a man after His own heart. If you are interested in the recovery and enlargement of God’s building, you by God’s mercy must be a man after His own heart.

The book of 1 Samuel portrays David as the man after God’s heart, but also as one who is inexperienced and young. David had to be worked upon and wrought through to become ripened and experienced. The only way he could be prepared was by suffering. Thus, God put David under the headship of Saul. David suffered much, undergoing many kinds of trials, afflictions, and ill treatment. He became a real student in suffering; he learned the lesson of suffering; he became completely successful in suffering. All the sufferings experienced by us deal with our nature, our self, our flesh. David was so tested; his flesh, his self, and his natural life were severely dealt with. To use the language of the New Testament, David learned the lessons of the cross. Abraham’s life was a life of faith, but David’s was a life of suffering under the lessons of the cross. If we mean business today for the proper church life, if we are really interested in the recovery and enlargement of God’s building, we must be continually willing and ready to be ill-treated and broken that we may learn the lessons of the cross. The many chapters of 1 Samuel stress this one point: that a man after God’s heart will be subjected to severe pressure that he may learn the lessons of the cross. The flesh, the self, and the natural life must be broken; the motives must be tested. David was subjected to the ill-treatment of Saul in order to be broken. Many young brothers today need such a Saul, a Saul who will continually deal with them, ill-treat them, and suppress them. We must be put into trials and broken.

Because David had successfully learned this lesson of suffering, he could enter into the kingdom. God took the kingdom from the hand of Saul and delivered it to David. David had passed the examination. But this was not yet the end: although he had successfully passed this test and gained the throne, he was still not adequate for the Lord’s recovery. He still had something hidden within him which must be exposed. Following his enthronement, he still found it in his power to do something for the Lord for which he could boast and take the credit. The Lord will never allow man to boast in such a way. David conceived to build a house for God; he desired to recover the tabernacle and enlarge it. Even Nathan the prophet, upon hearing of David’s desire, encouraged him in this project; he went along with David in a natural way. But the Lord immediately intervened. During the night He commanded Nathan to tell His servant David not to build Him a house, for David’s work at that time would afford him something of which to boast. God could not permit that. We have seen how David was told to wait until God built a house for him; then, from that house a son would come forth to build a house for God (2 Sam. 7:1-13). The meaning here is that man cannot glory in anyone but God. It is not what we can do for God, but what God can do for us.

Following this word of God to David, the Scriptures record two great failures. Firstly, David killed one of his own men, Uriah; and not only this, he took Uriah’s wife (2 Sam. 11). Could you imagine that a person like David would do such a shameful and sinful thing? If this incident were not recorded in Scripture, you would never believe it. David’s sinful deed was permitted by the Lord. The Lord undoubtedly could have interceded and frustrated David from doing this thing, but God withdrew His hand just a little from David so that his real condition could be brought to the surface and exposed. If we read only 1 Samuel, we may conceive that David was perfect and wonderful, but 2 Samuel exposes him.

We must see the issue and consequence of this failure. It is a real mercy and very meaningful. Out of David’s failure came his son, Solomon, the very one who would build God’s building! Solomon, the son of David, was born of the wife of Uriah! Again, could you imagine that one who would build God’s temple would be born out of such a match? And it is recorded in the genealogy of Matthew 1: David begat a son by the wife of another person (Matt. 1:6). The greatness of the Lord’s mercy shines forth in this incident, for David had been forgiven of that sin. Psalm 51 reveals David’s repentance and God’s forgiveness. Thus, after forgiving David, God gave him a son, Solomon, who eventually built the house of God (2 Sam. 12:24-25). The mercy of God to man could alone be the testimony regarding such a house.

Now let us see David’s second failure, a failure which exposed him to the uttermost. David was first exposed in the case of Uriah that he might learn the lesson of humility. However, he was still so proud that he tried one day to count the total number of Israel (2 Sam. 24), thus manifesting not only his hidden pride, but also his unbelief in the Lord. The Lord intervened and judged David. But the issue, the consequence, of this second failure was indeed strange and marvelous. A piece of land gained because of this failure became the very site for the building of the temple (1 Chron. 21:18; 2 Chron. 3:1). The issue of his first failure was a son born to build the building, and the issue of the second failure was the obtaining of the land for the building. Such positive results from such negative failures are beyond our human understanding!

After reading 1 and 2 Samuel, we must bow before the Lord and say, “Lord, I have nothing to say; it is all Thy mercy!” Even so today, the finished building will not be a testimony of how much we can do for God, but of how much God has done for us. Oh, we must learn to be a man after God’s heart, a man who has learned the lessons of the cross, who knows how sinful he is and how absolutely unsuitable he is to do anything for the Lord. We must learn the lesson of humility. Regardless of how much we are after God’s heart or how much we have learned the lessons of the cross, we still must be humble. No matter how careful we have been in the past or how careful we may be in the future, sooner or later the Lord will allow us to fail that He might expose us and humble us. Then we will realize that it is not we but the Lord, that it is not our attributes but the Lord’s mercy, the Lord’s grace. We must learn all these lessons. Never suppose that since you love the Lord and are continually learning the lessons of the cross that you must be the right person to build up His house. No! We are not the right person! What is within us must be exposed; our failures must be realized. We do not realize how sinful we are. When everything hidden within us is exposed, then we will be different. Then the Lord will use us, but the glory will not go to us, but to Him.

If David were here today and we began to praise him, he would stop us short and say, “Brother, don’t praise me. Read the story of Uriah’s wife; read about the numbering of the people. It is not my goodness, but the Lord’s mercy. Oh, it is His forgiveness, His mercy, His grace! It is all because of this that I received a son and a plot of land for the building up of the temple.”

David had learned the lessons of the cross; he had been exposed and humbled to the uttermost. He had no more trust, no more boast in himself, but deeply realized God’s mercy and grace. This was the man after God’s own heart, the man who fought the battles, gained the victories, prepared all the materials for God’s building, brought forth a son to build the house, and obtained the site for the building. In addition to all this, David also received the pattern for the temple. God had granted the builder, the site, the materials, and the blueprints. All that remained to be accomplished was the actual building.

It is through a life like David’s that all the needful things for the building up of the church are prepared. If the church is to be built up today, we must have a life after God’s heart, a life willing to learn the lessons of the cross, a life fully exposed and humbled, a life which knows the mercy and grace of God, and which has no trust, no boast, in its own human nature. It is through such a life that the building, the site, the material, and the pattern for God’s building are prepared. If we are serious concerning the church life, we must apply all these principles to ourselves. The main reason this group of six long, Old Testament books are given to us is that we might learn such lessons and see God’s way for the recovery and enlargement of His building.

During the past years, by the Lord’s mercy, I have experienced and observed these principles in action. On the other hand, I have seen so many dear seeking Christians who supposed that all they needed for the recovery of the church life was the acquisition of some Pentecostal gifts. While observing many cases, I have never seen one who succeeded in this way. The church life can never be recovered merely by Pentecostal gifts. It requires a life that has learned all the lessons of David. With such a person there is the possibility of the recovery of the church life. All these incidents are not simply a record of history, but types which indicate the way for the recovery of God’s building today.

(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)