II. BETHEL—THE WORLD
(VERSES 2 THROUGH 3)
We now come to Bethel. What is the meaning of Bethel? We have to read the portion in the Bible which first mentions Bethel to determine its meaning. Please read Genesis 12:8. Bethel is the place where Abram built an altar. The altar is a place of fellowship and communication with God. It is the place where we consecrate ourselves to God, the place where we are totally given to Him.
Genesis 12:9-14 records Abram’s going down to Egypt. There was no altar in Egypt! His fellowship with God was discontinued and his heart of consecration to God was lost. This is the difference between Bethel and Egypt. Bethel and Egypt are opposites. What then is the meaning of Bethel? Bethel means the opposite of Egypt.
The record in Genesis 13:3-4 is very meaningful. "And he [Abram] went on his journeys from the south [Egypt was in the south] even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord." Abram did not have any fellowship with God in Egypt. Later, he returned to his original place, Bethel, and called on the name of the Lord. Only at Bethel will a person have fellowship with God and only there will he consecrate himself to God.
While Gilgal refers to the victory over the flesh, Bethel refers to the victory over the world, because Egypt signifies the world. Victory over the world is a condition for being raptured and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. Our living should be such that the world cannot touch our heart. Are we separated from the world? Does our manner of life indicate that we are a people who are separated from the world? Does our attitude and conversation indicate that we no longer belong to this world? What about our intentions? Do we still have a little secret craving for all the things in the world? Do we secretly delight in men’s praise? Do we secretly avoid men’s slandering? Whenever we experience some gain or loss, does it touch our feelings? How much difference is there between our feeling toward the world and the feelings that others have toward the world?
If our heart has not completely overcome the world and the people, affairs, and things of this world, and if these things have not lost their place in our heart, we will not be able to arrive at the goal before us. If a believer truly desires to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be raptured, he must pay the price to take the way of the Lord, which is to journey to a place where the Lord can give him His Spirit. We must forsake the world and learn to fellowship with God on the altar of total consecration. This kind of consecration and fellowship is indispensable.
There was no famine in Egypt. Even if there had been one, there was the relief of the old grain that had been stored. But in the land of Canaan, there were frequent famines. This tells us that there is no famine in the world. But, on the pathway of obedience to God, there are unavoidable times of famine. In the world there are no trials; but the pathway of obedience to God is full of trials. This is the road that must be traveled in order to be raptured and receive power. Nevertheless, no matter how great the trials, there always is a way out with God. We should be faithful, and we should be watchful. If we are not watchful, we will find ourselves in Egypt with one fall! In Egypt there is no consecration and no drawing near to God. Living temporarily in Egypt is sinning temporarily. Living permanently in Egypt is even more pitiful. Even though we can avoid trials in Egypt, there is no altar there.
Some are like Abraham, who did not immediately go down to Egypt, but first went to the land of the south. Their direction is toward Egypt, but they have not yet reached Egypt. This way of living in the land of the south is half with the world and half with God. However, in the land of the south, there is no altar and no fellowship. Bethel signifies a place absolutely separated. It is not the worldly Egypt, nor is it the land of the south, which is a place mixed up with the world.
There were two million people among the Israelites. In the exodus out of Egypt, God did not allow a single person to build an altar in Egypt. To serve God, they had to take a three-day journey from Egypt (Exo. 8:25-27). In Egypt they could have the Passover because God delivered them out of the punishment of sin, which is death. However, they had to leave Egypt to come under the Lord’s name and worship Him.
The passage which most clearly speaks of Jericho is in Joshua. In it we see an entire account of the subduing of the city of Jericho.
Joshua 6:26 says, "And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho." Thus, the name of this city means cursed. This portion of history speaks of the Israelites’ first victory over the enemies in Canaan. The Canaanites signify evil spirits, which are of the devil. They are the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies mentioned in Ephesians 6:12. We struggle against them.
We have overcome the flesh and the world; now we still must overcome the enemy. The only way to overcome the enemy is to believe in God’s Word, act according to His Word, and believe that we will receive the results of carrying out His Word. God has spoken, and it is sufficient. The men of Jericho said that they had a city; we say that we have God’s Word. The men of Jericho said that their city was as tall as heaven; we say that our God is in heaven. The men of Jericho said that every place surrounded by their city belonged to them; we say that God has promised us every place that the soles of our feet will tread upon.
Many know only of the struggle between the spirit and the flesh; they are ignorant of the struggle between the believers and the evil spirits. This is what is spoken of in Ephesians 6. The real spiritual warfare is the warfare between us and Satan with his evil spirits. Every mature believer should join in this warfare. God’s children on earth are often attacked by evil spirits. Some of these attacks are in the environment, some are in the physical body, mind, emotion, or spirit. At these end times, the evil spirits are particularly doubling their efforts to frustrate the believers from properly serving the Lord. In many matters, believers will experience great difficulties. They are not aware that they are being attacked by evil spirits. They do not know why everything is against them and everything is "messed up." They think that these things are just naturally that way and do not realize that they are being harassed by the evil spirits.
In these end times, it is crucial that the believers know their adversary and know how to struggle against him and overcome him. If we have overcome the flesh and the world without having overcome the work of the enemy, we will still not be able to go on.
It is not by power that Jericho fell, but by the Israelites’ relying on God’s Word and standing firm in their position. In order to overcome the attack of evil spirits, we first must disregard every situation and feeling and believe in God’s Word of promise. This will defeat the enemy. Second, we must stand in the position that Christ has given us, which is in the heavens, and must put down Satan and his evil spirits to their inferior position.
Without God’s Word and without exercising our faith to choose the position God has given, we cannot overcome the enemy.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 09: The Present Testimony (2), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)