Life-Study of Genesisby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The Bible is an honest book. After Genesis 18 and 19, in which we see Abraham's high attainment in his experience of God, there is a record of his weakness in Genesis 20. Can you believe that after having such intimate fellowship with God and after making such a glorious intercession, Abraham could have the experience recorded in chapter twenty? It is difficult to believe and understand how Abraham could have shown such weakness. Once again we see that the Bible is not man-made. If it were of human manufacture, the writer would not have included this record of Abraham's weakness and shortcomings. But the Bible is honest and it has Genesis 20 as part of the divine record.
When I was young, I appreciated chapters eighteen, twenty-one, twenty-two, and twenty-four, but I had no interest in chapter twenty. In this chapter two main things are recorded: the hidden weakness and a shameful intercession. Abraham, a man of God, had a weakness hidden deep within him. While in chapter eighteen he made a glorious intercession, in chapter twenty we find the record of a shameful one.
Let us first consider Abraham's hidden weakness (20:1-16). In verse 1 we are told that "Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country." Abraham's journeying toward the south meant that he had left the standing of fellowship at the oaks of Mamre in Hebron. He should have remained in Hebron because there he had intimate fellowship with God. Nothing is better than this. It was not too long after he had intimate fellowship with God that he left Hebron and journeyed southward. Between the time the Lord spoke to Abraham regarding the birth of Isaac in 17:21 and 18:14 and the time of Isaac's birth in chapter twenty-one, there could not have been more than a year. Why did Abraham suddenly leave Hebron and journey toward the south during that year? In figure, south signifies easiness and north hardships. The south is warm and the north is cold, but God dwells in the north (Psa. 48:2; 75:6-7; Ezek. 1:4). In the north we have hardships with God's presence. In the south we have easiness, but without God's presence. There is no hint in Genesis 20 that God told Abraham to journey southward. In making this journey, Abraham acted on his own.
Abraham might have wanted to have a change and take a vacation. Although you may be enjoying the church life in Anaheim, one day you may feel that you need a change and desire to journey southward to Mexico City. The church life is marvelous and we all enjoy it very much. But some may become a little bored and want to take a trip to Las Vegas. If you go to Las Vegas and meet someone there who asks about what you do at home, you will find it difficult to give him an honest answer. On two occasions, when Abraham was in such a situation, he was not truthful (cf. 12:9-12). In chapter twelve Abraham journeyed southward because there was a famine in the land. That famine gave him an excuse for going southward to Egypt. But in this chapter Abraham had no excuse. He and his wife might have been bored and wanted a vacation. If they had remained by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, Abraham would have had no need to lie. His lying was due to his wrong position. We see by this that the proper standing means a great deal. I do not believe that any brother can pray-read or give a living testimony in a casino in Las Vegas. He would not have the standing there to do such a thing. In order to do anything for God, we must have the proper standing. When Abraham left the standing of intimate fellowship with God and journeyed southward, he lost God's presence. The Bible does not say that in the south country God appeared to Abraham, nor that Abraham erected an altar and called on the name of the Lord. He had altogether lost the proper standing on which he could have fellowship with God. Young people, you must see that you need to stay in the right position. If you stay in the church, you will be kept and preserved. But if you journey southward, you will forsake the proper standing and lose God's presence. Spontaneously, your old man will return.
Before chapter twenty Abraham was circumcised. In chapter twenty, he should have been a circumcised person, not a natural person, for he had truly been dealt with by God. Some Christians claim that once they have experienced a certain blessing, they can no longer be in the flesh. But look at the example of Abraham. Although he had been circumcised both physically and spiritually, when he left the proper standing of fellowship with God, he was in the flesh again. After having such a high attainment in his experience with God, Abraham, the father of faith, acted the same as he did in Genesis 12, more than twenty years before. By this we see that as long as we are still in the old creation we are capable of doing anything in the flesh. If we do not remain in fellowship with God, we can do the same things that the worldly people do. Do not say that because you have been regenerated, have experienced the baptism of the Spirit, or have had a second blessing, you can no longer be in the flesh. However many are the blessings that you have received from God, if you do not remain in fellowship with Him, you will be in the flesh. Your experience proves that this is true.
We should never have any confidence in our self. The self is absolutely untrustworthy. We must put our trust in the presence of the Lord, telling Him, "Lord, if You take Your presence away from me, I am just a dog. But I praise You that in Your presence I'm a saint, one of the people of God." How much God's presence means to us! When Abraham was bringing God on His way in chapter eighteen, he was a wonderful saint, a man who could stand before God and talk face to face with Him as with an intimate friend. But in chapter twenty this wonderful person became very mean. After he had left the standing of fellowship with God, he could lie at the sacrifice of his wife. It seems unbelievable, but he did it. If we consider our past experience, we shall find that at least a few times we have done the same kind of thing. This shows us the importance of remaining in the presence of God. Our protection is not our self; it is His presence.
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