TWO EGYPTIAN CITIES VERSUS GOD’S TABERNACLE
We have seen how Abraham was separated from Babel, the city of idols, and was kept from Sodom, the city of sin. However, his descendants, Jacob’s children, were not kept from falling into another counterfeit of Satan. They drifted into Egypt and were eventually forced into slavery. They were compelled to build two cities of treasure for Pharaoh (Exo. 1:11). They were forced to use building materials of mud and hay for bricks. This is indeed meaningful. Later we will see that the Israelites, freed from Egyptian bondage, were asked in the wilderness to bring forth materials for God’s building. Those materials included gold and precious stones; onyx stones, the very stones mentioned in Genesis 2, were included. Here is the third contrast. Two cities, built up with straw and mud bricks in Egypt, are in opposition to the Lord’s tabernacle, built up with materials which included gold and precious stones, in the wilderness.
We now have seen three of Satan’s counterfeits in contrast to God’s building. These counterfeits comprised four cities, or in principle, three kinds of worlds—a world of idols, a world of sin, and a world of enjoyment. It is easy for most Christians to be separated from the world of idols. With some, perhaps, it is also easy to be kept from the world of sin. However, it is not so easy for any of us to be protected from the world of enjoyment. We may not be found in Babel or in Sodom, but I fear that many of us are still in Egypt, the world of enjoyment and wealth. American Christians especially know the meaning of enjoyment. Here is a real danger for the Lord’s children. Christians must have nothing to do with idols or with sin, but neither should we be entangled by the world of enjoyment. If so, we are cheated and deceived by Pharaoh; we are taken captive. If so, we must labor strenuously for the treasure cities. If you ask some Christians why they do not attend the meetings of the church, they will reply that they do not have time. This is because all their time is spent in labor for the treasure cities. Is this your occupation? With so many of us, Satan, the prince of this world, is forcing us to labor in mud, brick and straw. As long as we are working on earthly things, there will never be anything of a heavenly nature about us. As long as we are in Egypt, working for the treasure cities, we have nothing to do with God’s building. Day by day we will be busy laboring for the world of enjoyment. Praise God that we have been separated from idol worship and kept from sin. But are we still in the fallen state of the treasure cities? May God deliver us from this also into His building.
When the people of Israel were delivered out of the work of those cities and brought to Mount Sinai, they were completely free. They were free from Babel, from Sodom, and from the treasure cities of Pharaoh. Their hands were then free to do the work of God’s building. All their possessions, indeed everything, was freed for God’s building! The tabernacle was erected, and for forty years Israel did nothing but continuously deal with that tabernacle. More than two million people did nothing but busy themselves with the tabernacle! Whenever they tarried on their journey, they erected the tabernacle and worshipped. Whenever they traveled, they carried the tabernacle with them. All their activities were with that tabernacle. They were completely free from any other kind of occupation and entanglement. They offered themselves and all they had for the building of the Lord. They no longer labored in mud, brick and straw, but rather with gold and precious stones to build up a dwelling place for God.
We have previously mentioned that we must know how to exercise our spirit to contact Christ that we may enjoy Him as the flowing life within us and thus be transformed into precious materials for God’s building. This is all necessary; but if we are still in one of these three cities—the city of idolatry, sin, or enjoyment—we cannot possibly share in God’s building. To share in the building of God we must be separated from Babel, the city of idols; we must be kept from Sodom, the city of sin; and we must be delivered out of the two Egyptian cities of treasure and enjoyment. Then we will be in a liberated position, completely available to share in God’s building. We must have nothing to do with idols, with sin, or with worldly enjoyment.
Look at the situation of Christianity today: so many are still in Babel, others are in Sodom, and a great number of dear Christians are enslaved in the treasure cities. They are under forced labor, toiling for the building of those cities, for enjoyment and security. There are not many, sorry to say, who are for God’s building today. We have traveled quite extensively in this country, yet we have seen few Christians who are really out of Egypt. There are some who have come out of Babel and Sodom, but so many are still entangled by the treasures of this world, by the lust for security and enjoyment. It is difficult to find many Christians who are standing in the position of freedom and availability for God’s building. Some indeed know the teaching concerning the exercise of the human spirit to contact Christ as life; yet they are still in the treasure cities. In that position they can surely contact the treasure of worldly enjoyment, but they must give up these cities if they would contact Christ. This is exactly why so many Christians today have such a problem exercising their spirit to contact Christ. So many messages on this subject have very little effect on certain people, because they are still in the treasure cities, they are still entangled in Egypt. They are quick to say, “Look, I’m not in Babel, I have nothing to do with idols. I’m not in Sodom either, I have nothing to do with sin.” But can we say that we are not in Egypt, that we are not entangled by the world of security and enjoyment?
Peter, in Acts 3:6, could say, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” What Peter had was the mighty name of Jesus. Not many Christians could say this today. Yes, they will confess the Lord’s name, but the power of that name for them has been lost. They cannot say, “Silver and gold have I none.” They can afford a considerable amount of silver and gold. If we would share in the building of God, we must be delivered out of all these cities. If we would exercise our spirit to contact Christ, we must be disentangled from the enjoyment of the world; otherwise, our spiritual exercise will be of no avail.
We must always be on the alert, for we are endangered by these three fronts: Babel, Sodom, and the cities of Egypt. When we are delivered from these, our hands are free for God’s building. When we are delivered, Christ is so dear and precious to us. It is then that we know how to exercise our spirit to contact Christ. We can never enjoy Christ as our manna if we are still in Egypt. We can never enjoy Christ as the living water, continuously flowing to quench our thirst, if we are still in Egypt. When we are separated from these cities, we are in a position to share in the building of God.
The Scriptures are a record of God’s building and of the contrasts to God’s building. Satan, God’s enemy, is doing his best to build up the counterfeits: Babel (idols), Sodom (sin), and the treasure cities (enjoyment). When Christians are delivered from these counterfeits, they are free to partake in God’s building. Oh, may we know such freedom for God’s central desire!
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)