LIVING IN BEER-LAHAI-ROI
Although enjoyment is our destiny, we must still take care of the place where we have the enjoyment. Let us consider the names of the places where Isaac had enjoyment. Firstly, we have Beer-lahai-roi, which means “the well of the living One who sees me” or “the One who reveals Himself” (24:62; 25:11). At Beer-lahai-roi God visits us and reveals Himself to us. Secondly, Isaac had some enjoyment at the well named Esek, which means contention. Esek was a place of contention, fighting, and quarreling. The third place was Sitnah (26:21). Sitnah means enmity, hatred, or opposition. The fourth place was called Rehoboth. Rehoboth has a positive meaning—“broad places” or “broad ways.” The last place was called Sheba, which means an oath (26:22-33). Hence, Beer-sheba means the well of an oath. Isaac enjoyed grace at each of these five places.
Before we consider the significance of these places, we must see where Isaac was grown up. He was grown up in Beer-sheba beside the well and the tamarisk tree. Before he was married, he left Beer-sheba and went to the south country (24:62). As we have seen, in the Bible to go southward means to go downward. I do not believe that Abraham left Beer-sheba or Hebron when Isaac did. He remained either in Beer-sheba or in Hebron. After his mother had died and his servant had left, Isaac went downward to the south country. Then he returned. The King James Version says, he “came from the way of Lahai-roi.” In Hebrew, it says he “came from going to Lahai-roi,” meaning that he returned from Lahai-roi. As he returned from going to Lahai-roi, he gained a wife. If he had stayed in Lahai-roi, not returning to Beer-sheba or Hebron, he would have missed that meeting with Rebekah. When he came back from going to Lahai-roi, Rebekah came. Abraham’s servant did not know that Isaac had left the place where Abraham was. It was of the Lord that Isaac return from his downward way. He returned because he was destined for the enjoyment.
We all have had similar experiences. After going downward, we suddenly said, “Oh, I must go back.” The time of our return was the exact time that Rebekah came. I have experienced this a number of times. I have gone downward and then suddenly said to myself, “I must go back.” As soon as I returned, the enjoyment came.
As soon as Isaac had returned from going away, the enjoyment came. By coming back to the proper standing, he obtained a wife. However, after his marriage, he and his wife journeyed southward again. Genesis 25:11 says that after the death of Abraham, Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi. As a result of going downward, he found himself at enmity with the Philistines.
We need to see a clear picture of Isaac’s record. He did not go downward as far as Egypt. He went southward to Philistia, to the land of the Philistines. According to the record in Genesis, God’s people have difficulties whenever they go southward. Abraham had trouble in Egypt and in the land of the Philistines. His son Isaac also had trouble when he went to Philistia, for he had contention and enmity with the Philistines. Although he enjoyed the broad ways, the widening, at Rehoboth, he did not have the Lord’s appearing there. In Lahai-roi, Esek, Sitnah, and Rehoboth there was no appearing of the Lord. The Lord did not appear to Isaac until he went up to Beer-sheba. The very night that Isaac went up from Rehoboth to Beer-sheba the Lord appeared unto him (26:23-24).
Here we must see a crucial point, a point about which many Christians are not clear. As Christians, we are destined for some enjoyment. Wherever we are and whether or not we are right or wrong, we have been destined for enjoyment. Even when Isaac went downward to Lahai-roi, he still enjoyed a well, the well of the living One who sees us and reveals Himself to us. Some might say, “This is wonderful. As long as I have the living One and He sees me and reveals Himself to me, that is good enough.” In reading the Bible, however, we must keep the principle of the first mention. Lahai-roi, which is first mentioned in 16:14, was the place where Hagar went after fleeing from Sarah. Since Sarah represents grace, Hagar’s fleeing from her meant that she had left the standing of grace. In the wilderness, in a place of suffering, God visited her. Hence, Lahai-roi was a place where one who had left the standing of grace could still have some enjoyment of God’s visitation.
In the past we might have questioned whether our standing was right, feeling that we were somewhat removed from the standing of grace. Although we had this doubt within us, we still had some enjoyment and we comforted ourselves, saying, “If I were wrong, I would not have this enjoyment. But here I have the well of the living One who visits me. Since I have such an enjoyment, this place must be all right.” But it is not all right. On the one hand, we are destined for enjoyment, and wherever we are we shall have some measure of it. On the other hand, we may have this enjoyment on the wrong standing, not in the place where Abraham planted the tamarisk tree, but in the place where Hagar escaped from grace. Lahai-roi was the place of one who had escaped from grace but who still enjoyed something of God’s visitation. Nearly all of us have had this experience. We doubted our position, but we still had some enjoyment and felt confirmed by it. Do not take this enjoyment as a confirmation. Although the enjoyment is our destiny, we may have it on an improper ground, at Beer-lahai-roi, not at Beer-sheba.
A well signifies enjoyment and satisfaction. Throughout his entire life, Isaac never suffered thirst. Wherever he went, to a wrong place or to a right one, there was a well. His life was marked with a well. Some may argue with us, saying, “You say that I am wrong in my position, in my standing. Why then do I have a well here?” Your enjoyment of a well does not justify your standing, for the enjoyment is your destiny. In the past, many of us held the religious concept that if we are wrong, God will give us up and we shall not have any more enjoyment. But however wrong we may be, we are still children of our Father, and He will never give us up. I may be the most naughty child, but each day I continue to enjoy my father’s provision. This enjoyment is our destiny, our portion.
When some hear that Isaac had a well wherever he went, they may think that, since this enjoyment is also their destiny, they may go wherever they want. Do not think like this. You may have a well for your enjoyment, but you will miss the Lord’s appearing and be unable to fulfill God’s eternal purpose. Later we shall see that God’s purpose can never be fulfilled in Lahai-roi, Esek, Sitnah, or even in Rehoboth. It can only be fulfilled in Beer-sheba, and we must remain there. If we do, we shall experience the Lord’s appearing and have the ground to inherit the promises to fulfill God’s eternal purpose. Although we may have wells, even “a well of living water” (26:19, Heb.), in other places, those wells cannot enable us to fulfill God’s eternal purpose. His purpose can only be fulfilled at the well near the tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba.
Although Isaac had some enjoyment at every place where there was a well, God was not satisfied and used the environment to force Isaac to return to Beer-sheba. God seemed to say, “Isaac, you are settled, but you are not settled in the right place. I shall stir up contention that will force you to go back to Beer-sheba.” Isaac had been going down, but God used the circumstances to force him to come up from Beer-lahai-roi to Beer-sheba. Since Isaac did not have the heart to return, God had to force him to return to His place.
Some Christian teachers have encouraged the believers to follow the example of Isaac and not to strive with others. According to this teaching, when we dig a well and others take it, we should simply tolerate it and give it to them. If we go to another place and dig another well and others take it over, we should not fight for it but go to still another place. Eventually, we shall come to the third place, the place of broad ways. But this teaching does not see God’s purpose, which was to bring Isaac back to Beer-sheba, the place where God appeared to him. At Beer-sheba, after the Lord’s appearing, Isaac built an altar, called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent (26:24, 25). Isaac did not build an altar in any other place. The Lord’s appearing with His promise and the testimony were all at Beer-sheba. Only at this place did Isaac receive the promise for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose. He did not receive it at Beer-lahai-roi, the place of the living One who sees and reveals Himself; nor at Esek, the well of contention; nor at Sitnah, the well of enmity; nor even at Rehoboth, the well of the broad ways. Although Isaac had the enjoyment everywhere, he only had the Lord’s appearing (which is different from God’s mere visitation) in Beer-sheba. Only in the unique place, in Beer-sheba, could he inherit the promise and have a life of testimony for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. It is only at Beer-sheba, the well of the oath, that we can have the Lord’s appearing, inherit the promise, build an altar, call upon the name of the Lord, and pitch a tent as a testimony. Here and only here can we fulfill God’s eternal purpose.
The enjoyment which we may have everywhere because it is our destiny is not a confirmation or a justification of our standing. The correctness of our standing can only be determined by the Lord’s appearing, not merely by the enjoyment. In many places we have had the enjoyment, but when we were there, we had the deep sense that we did not have the Lord’s appearing. Moreover, in those places we did not have an altar or a tent, and we did not call upon the Lord’s name from deep within our spirit. Although we may have some enjoyment elsewhere, only in Beer-sheba can we fulfill God’s purpose.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 28, by Witness Lee)