RESTRICTED BY GOD’S CHOICE
If we had been there at the time, we might have taken sides with those who sacrificed at the "high places." Those who went to the "high places" might have argued that it was inconvenient to travel the long distance to Jerusalem three times a year. Christians still use this kind of excuse today. It seems that for every division in Christianity an excuse is offered to justify it. Nevertheless, in Old Testament times the Lord would not accept anything offered to Him at the "high places." He regarded any sacrifice offered there as an abomination in His sight, for it was presented in a place of division, in a place that opened the door for the indulgence of lust and gave opportunity for the pursuit of ambition. Only the worship, the offerings, and the incense at the place of God’s unique choice were regarded as genuine. That place killed lust and gave no opportunity for ambition. Even to present a genuine offering in a place other than the unique place of God’s choice creates an opportunity for the indulgence of selfish desire. Any "high place," even those at which genuine sacrifices are offered, causes damage to the ground of oneness. Those "high places" are used by people in their lust and ambition for the fulfillment of their own purpose.
From my experience in the Lord’s recovery on the mainland of China, I can testify that the unique place of God’s choice leaves no opportunity for the indulgence of lust or for the exercise of our ambition. During all the years in China, I was under the direction of Brother Nee’s ministry. In all my preaching I was the same as he. All the "high places" were torn down, and therefore there was no room for the indulgence of lust or the carrying out of selfish ambition. The same is true among us today. We care only to exalt Christ. If we maintain the ground of oneness, God’s unique choice, without elevating anything other than Christ, it will not be possible to have division. In the Lord’s recovery we elevate Christ and Christ alone. We may talk a great deal about life, but we do not even elevate life to the point of making it a "high place." Certain brothers among us are very keen and have a good deal of natural ability. But their keenness and ability must be restricted by the ground of God’s choice. This restriction will keep them from elevating something in place of Christ. We in the Lord’s recovery can testify that, in contrast to today’s Christianity, we have no "high places." In Christianity "high places" are found everywhere. Each denomination and independent group is an elevation, a "high place." As we have pointed out repeatedly, these elevations are all related to lust or ambition.
CARRIED AWAY INTO CAPTIVITY
According to the Old Testament record, after the ground of oneness was damaged, it was actually lost. Israel, the northern kingdom, was conquered by the Assyrians, and Judah, the southern kingdom, was conquered by the Babylonians. Because of the sin of Jeroboam in setting up the high places, the nation of Israel was led into captivity by the Assyrians. In His wrath, God chose to cast them out of the holy land. Second Kings 17:22 and 23 say, "For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight." When the Israelites were in the holy land, they were in the Lord’s presence. But when they were carried away to Assyria, they were cast out of the presence of the Lord.
Israel’s captivity should have been a warning to Judah. The kingdom of Judah, however, did not heed this warning. As 2 Kings 17:19 says, "Also Judah kept not the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made." Those in Judah built up more high places and gave more opportunity for evil to come in. This forced the Lord to send in Pharaoh-nechoh (2 Kings 23:29-35). Pharaoh-nechoh removed Jehoahaz from the kingship and made Eliakim king, changing his name to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34). Jehoahaz was taken to Egypt, where he died. Because Judah would not remove the high places, the Lord eventually sent in the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar. Eventually, the temple was destroyed, and a great many of the people were carried away into captivity.
Formerly, all the children of Israel were in the good land. They were one people with a unique center of worship in Jerusalem. Firstly, they damaged this oneness by setting up high places throughout the land. But eventually they went on to lose this oneness through the invasion of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Having been cast out of the good land, God’s people became Egyptian Jews, Assyrian Jews, or Babylonian Jews. The ground of oneness had been lost absolutely.
Psalm 137:1-6 is a description of their plight in Babylon. God’s people were in a strange land, and they could not sing the Lord’s song. Instead, by the rivers of Babylon they sat down and wept when they remembered Zion. What a picture of the situation of Christians today! The vast majority of Christians have been carried away into captivity. The ground of oneness has not only been damaged—it has been fully lost. Very few Christians have any realization of what the ground of oneness is. As a result of their captivity, many of the children of Israel even forgot their language. They eventually became Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. This is a vivid portrait of today’s Christianity. May the Holy Spirit speak more to us concerning the damage and loss of the ground of oneness.
(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)