XI. THE STATIONS OF THE JOURNEY
A. In Total, Forty-two Stations,
from the Land of Slavery to the Land of Rest
In this message I would also like to say a word concerning the stations of the journey made by the children of Israel. According to Numbers 33:1-49, there were a total of forty-two stations, from the land of slavery to the land of rest.
The record of these forty-two stations does not mention anything about the failures of the people. If we had only the record in Numbers 33, we would think that in their journey the children of Israel were altogether aggressive, positive, and successful, going from one station to another until they reached their goal—the land of rest. As a result of our reading of Numbers 1 through 33, we may have the opinion that there was nothing good with the children of Israel. But chapter thirty-three shows us that in the eyes of God the record regarding them is positive. This indicates that, in His view, God always considers His people in a positive way. God looks at His people not from the angle of the bad but from the angle of the good.
You need to be mindful of this whenever you are tempted to criticize a particular local church. Whether the church is marvelous or pitiful actually does not depend on what the church is; rather, it depends on what you are. If you have a negative attitude and view the church from a negative angle, you will not see anything good in the church. If you have a positive attitude and view the church from a positive angle, you will say that the church is marvelous. Concerning the church life in our locality, we should not be defeated or disappointed, and we should not lose heart. We need to view the churches in a heavenly way and realize that all the local churches are parts of the coming New Jerusalem.
From our study of the book of Numbers, we need to learn that the way we look at God’s people is a serious matter. Perhaps in your eyes God’s people are not very good. But God sees them as chosen, redeemed, saved from the bondage of the fall, enjoying Christ, being built up with the Triune God, formed into an army to fight for God, and prepared by God to possess the all-inclusive Christ as the good land. If we see God’s people in this way, we will not lose heart or be discouraged concerning the church life.
B. Typifying Forty-two Generations,
from Abraham to Christ
The forty-two stations in chapter thirty-three typify forty-two generations, from Abraham to Christ (Matt. 1:17). At the conclusion of the journey of God’s people in the Old Testament, there is a record of the forty-two stations. At the beginning of the New Testament, there is a record of the forty-two generations. The goal of the forty-two stations was the good land, and the goal of the forty-two generations was Christ. The correspondence here indicates that God’s intention is to bring all His people to the good land as the goal. Today Christ is our good land, our land of rest.
In the Old Testament the goal was at the end, but in the New Testament the goal is at the beginning. This means that we, the believers in Christ, begin from the goal. This may be compared to the significance of the Sabbath in Genesis. The Sabbath was the result of God’s work. He worked for six days, attained His goal, and rested on the seventh day. This means that for God the Sabbath came as the result of His work. But man’s relation to the Sabbath is very different. For man, the Sabbath is not an ending but a beginning. Man was created on the sixth day, probably late in the afternoon. This means that soon after man came from the creating hand of God, the day became the Sabbath, and this day signified not the ending of man’s work but the beginning of his enjoyment. Therefore, to the working God the Sabbath is a result, but to the enjoying man the Sabbath is a beginning. The principle is the same with God’s goal of bringing us into Christ as the good land. For us today, this goal is not a result—it is a beginning. Where are you—in the result or in the beginning? The best way to answer this question is to say we are in the result which, for us, is the beginning.
This principle applies to everything in the spiritual field. To God, the goal is the result; to us, the goal is the beginning. We do not make a long journey to reach the goal. Instead, we begin at the goal and then go forward in our Christian walk.
The forty-two stations in Numbers 33 correspond to the forty-two generations in Matthew 1. The end of both is Christ. The end of the forty-two stations was the good land, which typifies Christ, and the end of the forty-two generations is Christ Himself. Christ to us is the reality of the good land. In the Old Testament God’s people journeyed and then arrived at the goal. But in the New Testament we, the believers, are already in the goal, we are enjoying the goal, and our enjoyment of the goal becomes our supply as we walk along the way.
The New Testament was written in such a way as to show us, in Matthew 1, that the goal, the result, is attained only after a long journey lasting forty-two generations. The result—Christ—is here today. There is no need to wait for the future to reach the goal, to enter into the result. No, we begin with the result. When we were baptized into Christ, we were baptized into the result. Everything has been completed, and everything concerning our enjoyment of Christ has been prepared and is now on the "table." We simply need to come and dine and enter into the enjoyment of Christ.
(Life-Study of Numbers, Chapter 31, by Witness Lee)