III. THE ROCKY PLACE
Those with shallow earth may still have a desire for deep roots, but there are rocks that block the way. There are rocks where the roots are. They may outwardly look the same as other soil; just like others, they are filled with dust and mud. But within there are hidden sins and the self. Outwardly, they look the same as everyone else. They can listen as others listen and speak as others speak. But in hidden places, big rocks block the way. This is why they cannot be deep. What are the rocks? In the Bible, rocks have many meanings. I can only mention one today, the hardened heart. If you want to be spiritual, you must not have a hardened heart. Many people have never received a blow to their will; their self has never been broken before God. They can say a great deal about God’s will and provide many reasonings. They always have their own ideas about God’s will. They always say I think that something should be done this way or that way. God has not yet destroyed their wisdom, nor torn down their will. They are still scheming and planning, but there are rocks underneath, so they cannot go deep. Brothers and sisters, allow me to say an honest word: we cannot have real spiritual progress unless we allow ourselves to be broken by God. The cross is our only source of progress. If God does not break us, we will never become useful. He must break the rocks beneath us. Otherwise, we will never be deep. Only one kind of people will go all the way down to the depths; they are the ones who are as soft as a child. Only one kind of people can take firm roots; they are the ones who fear and tremble at God’s word. Unfortunately, a countless number of people have to think before they will make a decision concerning God’s command! They think that God’s command requires discernment and selection. Thank the Lord that there are also many here who have obeyed in a very simple way. Thank the Lord that there are many who only care "who" is giving the command and never question "why" before they obey. Brothers and sisters, a disobedient heart is a rock. May God shine His light on us, so that we may see the enormity of the rock within us.
The rocks are not only your self; they are your hidden sins. In your life there is always one sin which has not been removed because of the high price; it remains there, and you are reluctant to remove it. If you leave it there, you will never receive spiritual riches; you will never go deeper because of it. Therefore, you have to deal thoroughly with your sins. Even the hidden sins have to be dealt with thoroughly. If you have not dealt thoroughly with the hidden sins, and if the stubborn self is not thoroughly dealt with, your roots will never be deep.
Brothers and sisters, how many things has God pointed His finger at in you? Are you unwilling to look at Him? Are you fighting and refusing to surrender? Perhaps there is already a problem between you and God. Perhaps you have seen God’s will and are debating with Him. This is what the Lord wants to show you today. Brothers, if you really want to serve Him and acquire the truth before Him, the large rocks must be removed. Otherwise, the earth will always be shallow, and the roots will not be deep. If you cannot remove the hidden sins, the stubborn self, and the opinions that are expressed as "I don’t want to" and "I will not," you will never acquire any spiritual power. If there is a problem between you and God, it will be impossible for the earth to have any depth or the roots to be deep. Thank the Lord that in spite of this, He can still do His work. Your heart is hardened, but the Lord can change you. I know that many people here have been smitten by God before. But I also know that there are many here who are quite stubborn. However, if the Lord can break others, He can also break you. If the Lord was able to sit on a donkey that had never been sat on when He entered Jerusalem, He can sit on you as well. Anyone who has ever sat on a donkey knows that a donkey that has never been sat on is the most difficult kind. But the Lord could do it. He could very safely sit on that donkey and enter Jerusalem. In the same way, He can sit on you. Although you are very stubborn before God, the Lord can break you, no matter how stubborn you are. You should sincerely pray today, "Lord, I am really hard within. Many times I have held onto my own will and have insisted on my own opinions. That is why so many times, I have been a shallow person. Please break me." We do not know how shallow our life is before God. If we allow God to break our hardened heart, if we do not live by our feelings or the environment, and if we ask God to give us more of a hidden life, we will see forward progress. If we deal thoroughly with every cross that comes our way and take up the cross every time it comes, we will become deeper and deeper, moment by moment.
Although we have read two other passages of Scripture, I cannot cover them in detail today. I can only speak about them briefly because there is not much time left, and I have already covered much of what I wanted to speak. Let us cover these passages just a little to make up for what we have missed. In Hosea 14 Lebanon is mentioned three times. First, it is mentioned in contrast to the lily. Second, it is mentioned in contrast to the olive tree. Third, it is mentioned in contrast to the vine. Lebanon is repeatedly mentioned; there is Lebanon in contrast to the lily, Lebanon in contrast to the olive tree, and Lebanon in contrast to the vine. Lebanon is repeatedly mentioned because there is a kind of cedar tree in Lebanon. Cedar trees are tall trees with very deep roots. Very few trees have roots as deep as the cedar tree. The Bible considers the cedar trees of Lebanon to be the greatest trees in the world. They signify those who will take deep roots. Do not treasure what the world says to you, because the Bible shows that the Lord is only pleased with those who have roots that go downward.
In this passage the Lord shows us three things. First, He made a contrast between the lily and Lebanon. Second, He made a contrast between the olive tree and Lebanon. Third, He made a contrast between the vine and Lebanon. Why does the Lord make a contrast between the lily and Lebanon? He makes the contrast because the lily is very attractive. Christians should not have flowers that are grown in gardens, but in the valley. Lilies grow in the wilderness, not in homes. They grow in the valley and do not need gardeners to cultivate them. Rather, they are sustained by water from heaven; they are fully cultivated and sustained by God. The beauty of the lily lies in the wilderness; it lies before God. Hosea 14:6 says also that Israel’s splendor shall be as the olive tree. According to my consideration, there is absolutely no beauty in the olive tree. It would be more plausible and real to say that its beauty shall be as the peony. Saying that its beauty shall be as the olive tree does not seem too appropriate. However, God’s beauty is not in appearance but in fruit. We know that the olive tree is a tree bearing fruit for oil; it is a tree that bears the fruit of the Spirit. The beauty of the olive tree lies in its fruit, which typifies the Spirit. This is something inward; it is not something that appears before men. Further on, it says that Israel shall grow as the vine. I do not know how many of you have seen blossoms on a vine. We have grown a vine in our home every year since my youth. But I have never seen anyone putting vine blossoms in a vase, and I have never seen vine blossoms. Unless you look for them carefully, you cannot find the blossoms; the blossoms are as small as specks of dust. Before they have fully blossomed, they become grapes. Why does it not say peach blossoms or plum blossoms instead of vine blossoms? The one reason is that our flower is not for beauty, but for fruit-bearing. There are three kinds of flowers in this world. One is for display only, like the chrysanthemum flower. Another is both for display and for fruit, like the plum blossom. The third is for fruit-bearing alone, like the blossoms on the vine. God has no intention that we be like the plum blossom or chrysanthemum flower, which are for display. God has only one requirement: we have to have roots that go downward. Lebanon is mentioned three times, and each time we are told to take care of the hidden life. This is very crucial. Perhaps a life that bears spiritual fruit does not look that good. The prayer life is not something that looks good. However, we are living to God and as long as God considers it to be good, that is enough.
A similar passage is found in the Song of Solomon 4:12, which says, "A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse;/a spring shut up, a fountain sealed." [The word spring is translated "well" in the Chinese Union Version.] A garden enclosed means that it is not a public garden; it is not a garden into which everyone can go. Rather, it is a garden enclosed, reserved for special ones. The flower in our garden is set apart for Christ and is not for anyone else. Not everyone can see it. "A well shut up." There is a difference between a well and fountain. A well is something man-made, while a fountain is something natural. Abraham always dug wells. Whenever his servants found a source, he dug a well. However, a fountain is natural and has not been worked on by man. The Lord says that we are a garden enclosed and that we are not open at any other time; the only time we are open is when we open to the Lord. We are also a well shut up. A well is for man’s use. However, even though it is for man’s use, it is still limited by the Lord and shut up for Him. The fountain signifies what we have received from God; it signifies the joy we have received from the Lord. The well is before man, while the fountain is before God. None of these can be shown to others purposely; they are all concealed. All of our experiences in prayer should be concealed and not made public. Even the part that is for man is concealed. In short, all the good things that we possess should be locked up for the Lord.
All of the speaking today concerns only one thing, that is, to go "down." We have no goal other than allowing the cross to do a deeper work in us. Brothers and sisters, there are too many superficial and shallow things. There are too many things growing outside, exposed on the surface, and seen only by man. What is lacking is a hidden part before God. What God is seeking today and the one thing that grips our heart, is a hidden life before Him, something invisible to man. The life that God wants is like the life of a sister, a life that is hidden in the background. God has no intention that we put everything on the outside and have nothing hidden and secret. May God grant us the grace to accept His demands and not be as we were before. May we ask and allow God to grant us a real breaking so that we can go on in the way ahead.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 11: The Present Testimony (4), Chapter 14, by Watchman Nee)