ISAAC BORN—CHRIST BROUGHT FORTH THROUGH US
In the first section we see the birth of Isaac (vv. 1-7). Isaac, whose name means “laughter” or “he will laugh” (vv. 3, 6), was born according to God’s promise (v. 1) at the appointed time, the time of life (v. 2; 17:21; 18:10, 14). As far as Abraham and Sarah were concerned, the birth of Isaac was a great matter. What is the spiritual significance of Isaac’s birth? This is easy to see from Paul’s allegory in Galatians 4. As Abraham was called by God, so we are God’s called ones today. In God’s calling us there is a goal, the same goal as there was with His calling Abraham—to bring forth the seed. God has called us to bring forth Christ. If you consider the experience of Abraham as recorded in chapters eleven through twenty and compare it with your own, you may be surprised to see that his experience is the same as yours and that his life is your biography. Our biography was written long before we were born. Whatever our age or generation may be, we all have the same biography. As Abraham was called to bring forth Isaac, so we have been called to bring forth Christ. We have not been called to produce good behavior. God’s goal is that we bring forth Christ.
All the difficulties Abraham encountered in bringing forth Isaac were on his side, not on Isaac’s. In like manner, it is easy for Christ to come through and out of us, but we have many problems. In fact, we ourselves are the problem. We simply are not the right persons to bring forth Christ. Although we can produce many things and have done so ever since we were saved, it is very difficult for us to bring forth Christ. I was a Christian for many years and still did not know how to bring forth Christ. I did not even know what it meant to bring Him forth. I am concerned that so many of us do not have the thought of bringing forth Christ. Some might even ask, “Hasn’t Christ been brought forth already? Why must we bring Him forth again?” Yes, Christ has been brought forth, but every saved person must still bring Him forth.
In order to bring Christ forth, we must be circumcised. Our natural life and strength and our self must be terminated. This termination opens the way for the very El-Shaddai, the all-sufficient One, to come into our being as the all-sufficient grace to bring forth Christ. Abraham experienced this. In Genesis 21, Abraham reached his goal and Isaac was born, having been brought forth through Abraham. Today Christ, the real Isaac, needs us to bring Him forth. Both the Christian life and the church life are simply the bringing forth of Christ. We must bring Christ forth in our meetings, daily life, home life, and on our jobs.
Isaac’s birth was not by Abraham’s natural strength nor according to Abraham’s time. It was by God’s work of grace and it was according to God’s time, the time of life appointed by God. Abraham was tested by this. His natural strength went ahead of God, trying to bring forth the seed God had promised. According to his natural strength, he had a time of expectation. But all that his natural strength produced was rejected by God. Before Abraham’s natural strength was dealt with and terminated, God would not and could not do anything to bring forth through him the very seed He desired to have for the fulfillment of His purpose. Hence, God had to wait. While God was waiting, Abraham was tested. It is the same with us in the matter of bringing forth Christ. Our natural strength always causes God to wait. God’s way and His timing are always a hard test to our natural life. God’s grace will never do anything to help our natural life to bring forth Christ. He must wait until our natural life has been dealt with and terminated. Then, according to His timing, He will come in as the strength of grace to bring forth through us what He desires to have. If we would fulfill the divine purpose of God’s calling, we all must learn this basic lesson. Never try to fulfill God’s purpose by your natural strength and according to the time of your expectation. God has His way and His time. Only by His way and at His time can we bring forth Christ for the fulfilling of His purpose.
ISAAC GROWN UP—CHRIST FORMED IN US
After the birth, there is the need of growth. Verse 8 says that “the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.” It is not sufficient simply to bring Christ forth. The very Christ whom we have brought forth must grow. In the past few years, many of us have brought forth Christ, but I wonder whether this Christ has grown up. Has there been the time of weaning? Isaac grew up and was weaned away from his mother’s nourishment, meaning that he was no longer a young child but had become a young boy. On the day of his weaning, Abraham made a great feast. We can understand the significance of this according to our experience. When in the church life we see that Christ has grown up in certain brothers and sisters, we all will be happy and have a great feast, a great enjoyment.
It is not easy to have either the birth of Isaac or his growth. Likewise, it is not easy to have Christ brought forth, nor to have Him grown up. In the church life we need to have both the bringing forth and the growth of Christ. I thank God that Christ has been brought forth among us, but I hesitate to say that we have had much of the growth of Christ. It is wonderful to see that Christ has been brought forth in a particular young brother, but we are still waiting to see in him the growth of Christ. We want to see that the Christ in him has been weaned and is no longer a baby. Although the Christ in that brother may not yet be a full-grown man, we want to see Him as a strong boy. Christ must be formed not only in us but also among us (Gal. 4:19). In both our daily life and the church life we need the expression of a formed Christ. Then we may have a great feast for the enjoyment of God’s grace.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)