May — June, 1968 Vol. 46, No. 3
IN our first time together we considered how Moses was one with God in His purpose, and because of that oneness he had a very wonderful authority for God. Then we considered how God wanted a people, His people Israel, to be one with Him in fulfilling His purpose, but they were so preoccupied with their own things and their own concern for deliverance that they hardly saw anything of the larger intention of God. God’s Word says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). The Fenton translation says: “Where a nation has no continuous revelation she fades”, and yet another translation says: “Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint.”
We ask the question: Why did Israel lack vision? Let us see this, not in a group of people, but in one man — Abraham. In the pathway of Abraham’s life we see unfolding revelation. In the beginning God gives him a little flower bud, but in each crisis through his life the flower bud blossoms more and more. I suppose Abraham thought he saw a lot when he had the first bud. It was all in the flower bud, but it had not blossomed. You pardon me, but I look back to the first time that the Lord seemed to speak to me and I saw a bit of purpose — and I thought I saw it all! You know, each petal of the flower looks so different when it opens. Well, we must see what is the controlling, or the governing thing behind revelation.
We will turn first to the book of Genesis, chapter 13, and here we will consider how God takes Abraham through various steps by which the fuller unfolding of God’s purpose is before him. There is one principle that we must get hold of. In this chapter we read that the herdsmen of Lot and the herdsmen of Abraham are quarrelling, for each wants the best watering places and the best grazing land. Abraham tells Lot that it is not right that there should be quarrelling among them. and in verse 9 he says:
“Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
Among Bible teachers in America we have what we call ‘the Law of First Mention’. This means that where a term, or word, is used the first time in Scripture it gives us the meaning it will have throughout all of the Scriptures. Now notice: Just as soon as Abraham turns and says to Lot: “Separate thyself”, we are going to see that immediately following the separation God gives revelation. It says in verse 11: “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from other” , and the word comes again in verse 14: “And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him”. This word ‘separation’ is used three times, but [50/51]immediately after separation God can give revelation. You see, this pictures ‘the Law of First Mention’. Now let us see how this works.
When Abraham said to Lot: “Is not the whole land before thee?” how much did Lot see? All Lot could see was the best watering-places and the best grazing land in the valley. Do you know who Lot was looking out for? Lot was looking out for Lot! That is why he chose the best, but he did not see the whole land. He only saw, out of his own appetite, what he wanted to see. People are so prone to say: ‘If I don’t look out for myself, who will?’, but I want you to see who looks out for Abraham now. Immediately after Lot is separated from Abraham, God says to Abraham: ‘Now, Abraham, you look out …’. “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward.” I think this is wonderful, for it did seem as though Abraham had given the very best to Lot, but, you see, Abraham and Sarah had moved up to the mountains and they had a higher viewpoint. Looking out through God’s eyes Abraham could see the whole land, in all four directions. It always works this way, but until there is a separating, we cannot see the fuller.
If we had a whole week on this we could see the seven separations in the life of Abraham, and how meaningful each one is. After he was separated from his family and country, God gave revelation. Separated then from his father, Terah, at Haran, God unveiled a little more. Was it not good of the Lord to allow Abraham to have Lot as a prop to lean upon for a little while? But there always comes a time when He must take away the thing we are leaning upon that we may learn to lean more upon Him. Oh, how often have I seen a group of saved young people together, but as soon as some of them begin to press further on to the thing that God wants, there is a separating. I want you to notice that Lot did not move all of a sudden down to Sodom; he just pitched his tent toward Sodom. There have been times when I have had to put my arm round a dear brother and say: ‘You are pitching your tent toward Sodom.’ He has not taken a big move away: he is just casting his eye a bit in that direction. Then after this separation from Lot we find Lot falling into captivity to the nations, or the tribes, down in the valley. When Abraham gets word of this he arms his household, goes down, and wins the battle to liberate Lot. On his way back he meets Melchizedek, and the king of Sodom, who says: ‘Give me all the people you have taken captive, but, Abraham, you take all the possessions.’ I like this separation now! “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.” In this separation we see that Abraham is not grasping for material things. Could mere things ever really satisfy him? Because of this separation, immediately, in chapter 15:1, we read of the revelation that God gives him: “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”
Do you see this? If Abraham could have been satisfied with the mere possessions, it would have meant nothing to him for the Lord to say: “I am thy exceeding great reward.” Oh, I have seen some of the Lord’s people have things taken away from them, only afterward to have them say: ‘Lord, You are so much more wonderful now!’
You may study these separations for yourselves. There are at least seven of them, but there are that many unveilings of God’s purpose to Abraham. We see him being separated from Ishmael, a son whom he loved after the flesh, but it is after he takes Isaac up to the mount and is separated from him that the blossom seems to open the widest.
But I want you to see something else very wonderful. Every time Abraham has a fuller unveiling, or revelation, he builds something. In Genesis 13 we read in verses 14 to 17 about what Abraham sees, and then in verse 18 we read: “Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord. ” What is an altar for? Altars are always for worship. Let us see that revelation is never for itself, but is always unto something. Every crisis that the Lord takes us through, in which there is a separating, is His opportunity to reveal more of Himself to us. Oh, that we had time to follow through these earlier chapters where we see God revealing Himself in new names! Each new significant name flows out through some new unveiling of Himself. Did you ever meet someone and enjoy fellowship with them at first, but as you began to plumb the depth of their inner being you saw certain things that caused you to disdain? But with another person, the more you saw into the depth of their being the more you saw quality, character and virtue? The English word ‘worship’ is a combination of ‘worth-ship’. I am finding this difficult to explain, but the Lord must help you to see that He is bringing us to see how much more worthy He is than we ever realized. Each new separation brings a further revealing, that there might be a fuller worship unto the Lord. Remember that everything [51/52] in the Bible is working toward the Book of Revelation, and what is the one thing the people are doing there? They gather around the throne and, because they have had a revelation, they are saying: “Worthy is the Lamb!”
In earlier days, when I would see a group of people gathered in a meeting, I wanted to scold them because they could not worship better, but, you see, worship can only be a form unless we have had new separations, bringing new revelations, allowing fuller worship.
However, we must see that it is not merely outward separations that God is after, but inward separations. In the book of Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4, we have a picture of Israel and God’s longing for her to enter into His rest. You see, Israel lived in the plane where she saw the miraculous acts of the Lord, but Moses had been enrolled in God’s schoolroom and lived on the plane where he could see the ways of the Lord. Psalm 103 says: “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel” (verse 7). Some people think it is quite spiritual if they can see the acts of God. If He were to put a pillar of fire over this room, or let manna fall, this morning, we would have a big crowd tonight! But tomorrow they would come back and say: ‘Lord, let us have two pillars!’ In America we have so many people who live on the ‘acts’ level, but I trust we have all been in Moses’ schoolroom, learning the ways of the Lord.
We read in Hebrews 3:8: “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works (or acts) forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with this generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.” We saw last time how Israel wanted just to be at ease, but they did not enter into real rest.
Now in chapter 4 we will see this work of separating which is so necessary. In verses 11 and 12 we read: “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
First, we have the separation, or the dividing, of soul and spirit. There are so many people who think they are worshipping God, but it is only with their mentality. They try to think themselves, or feel themselves, or will themselves, into the presence of God. That is merely of the soul. I must confess that for many years, when I came to the Lord’s Table, I did not know how to worship in spirit. It was not just new thoughts about the Lord that I needed, but a further unveiling of Himself by the Spirit. Do you see how this separating of soul from spirit can help bring about real revelation? And then the High Priest takes His knife, as though to cut down and sever joint from marrow. Can you see that a mere knife could never get the marrow out of the joints? Doctors tell me that the marrow is so in the bone that it can only be boiled out. But there is something much more wonderful than that here, for all the blood is made by, or in the marrow. The marrow is the factory of the blood. Now the joint is always moving for activity, but because all the life is in the blood, there is something else that should be the source of activity. I see so many people who are bundles of busy, busy activity. What they need to have revealed is the real life source that should control the joint. Activity of itself is mere motion, but God sits in the marrow to control the joints from there. The Lord will have to reveal that to you!
But there is a third separating here. It says that the word “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. Here is my thought, but hidden at the back of it is the real purpose, or the intention. Have you ever had the Holy Spirit take His knife, after you have said one thing, and say: ‘But you meant something else’? Only God can reveal, or help us to see the difference between this thought and this intent. I have sensed through the years in meetings that there is sometimes a strange and wonderful cutting, separating, dividing power which can never be accomplished by the natural man.
I must close, but what we must remember is that it is not merely separation from. Separation from things is only that we might move unto the Lord more fully. You can always tell a separation from, for the person is talking about: ‘Poor me! How much I have had to give up!’ But the one who has been separated unto has seen something, and he can only say: ‘Oh! How wonderful!’ What did Abraham lose to Lot? Nothing! God just lifted him up to the larger viewpoint where he could see in all four directions. DeV. F. [52/53]