MAINTAINING THE ONENESS OF GOD’S CHILDREN
Only in the place chosen, ordained, by God could the oneness of the children of Israel be kept and maintained. This means that when we enjoy Christ with God as our worship to God in the fellowship of His children, we have to be in the unique place ordained by God—the place of the oneness of God’s children. Hence, it is clear that for us to enjoy Christ personally is one thing, and for us to enjoy Christ with others as a worship to God is another thing. For thousands of years in their history, the children of Israel had never been divided in their worship of God because they had no right to choose any place according to their desire. They had only one place where they could go to worship God in fellowship with one another. Even when the nation was divided into two, they were not allowed to have two places to worship God; they had only one place.
In the thousands of years of Israel’s history throughout the generations, there have never been two temples built up for them to worship God. There has always been only one temple because there is only one place for the people to legitimately build the temple. One could not say, "You can build a temple in Jerusalem, so we can do the same thing in Babylon. Let us build the same thing with the same pattern, the same style, and the same materials, but in a different place." The temple in Jerusalem on the very piece of land appointed by God is right and acceptable to God. However, if one were to build exactly the same thing in another place, that would be wrong.
Suppose that after the children of Israel entered into the land of Canaan, there was not such a regulation about their worship to God. If they had had the freedom to choose any place for their worship to God, they would have been divided into many groups within a short time. The people of the tribe of Benjamin would have said, "We don’t like to have the people from the tribe of Judah." Then the people of the tribe of Dan in the north would have said, "Since we are too far from Jerusalem and it is simply too inconvenient, let us build another place in our territory." Eventually, other tribes would follow and build other places within their own territories. This is the reason that, according to God’s ordination, while they were free to enjoy the produce of the land for their personal enjoyment in any place, they were required to go to the unique place of God’s choice to enjoy the top produce of the good land for the worship of God in fellowship with God’s children. They had to keep the oneness of the people of God.
This signifies that for our personal enjoyment, we can enjoy Christ in any place at any time, but if we are going to enjoy Christ as our worship to God in fellowship with the other saints, we have to be careful because it affects our oneness. We do not have the freedom to do whatever is right in our eyes. If we disregard this, we will bring in divisions. There is only one place ordained, appointed, chosen, by God for His people to come together to share Christ with one another in the worship to the Father. This one place is the place of oneness. We have to keep the oneness in the worship to the Father in fellowship with one another. Otherwise, we will bring in divisions. I like the warning that is given in Deuteronomy 12:13: "Be careful that you do not offer up your burnt offerings in every place that you see." Brothers and sisters, be careful! This is a type which we must honor. We cannot apply other aspects concerning our experience of Christ and simply ignore this particular aspect. We have to apply this aspect too.
Suppose that I am a Hebrew in ancient times. For the whole year I labor diligently and have plenty of produce from the land for myself and my family to enjoy. For this we are really grateful to the Lord. Then I say to my wife and children, "Dear wife and children, you know the Lord is so good to us. We have to worship Him. Let us go to Jerusalem and have a feast before Jehovah." My wife agrees with me wholeheartedly, but the children are against our going to Jerusalem because it is too far. Then I say, "All right, maybe it is better if we just go to our farm which is only one mile away from our house." So we go to our farm and even invite some of our neighbors to join us. We say to ourselves, "How nice it is that we do not have to travel such a long distance to Jerusalem. We can just worship God right where we are since God is everywhere. Let us enjoy the tithes. Let us also set up an altar and put all the burnt offerings and the heave offerings on the altar. If they can build an altar in Jerusalem, why can we not do the same here in our place? This is very nice and very convenient."
(The Life and Way for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)