At the last meeting, we fellowshipped about a very important topic. What’s the topic? Do you remember? Let Me repeat it again. The topic of the last fellowship is: God’s work, God’s disposition, and God Himself. Is this topic important to you? Which part is most important to you? God’s work, God’s disposition, or God Himself? Which aspect of the topic are you most interested in? Of God’s work, God’s disposition, and God Himself, which part is the topic you want to hear the most? I know it’s very difficult for you to answer this question. This is because in God’s work God’s disposition can be seen everywhere, God’s disposition is expressed in His work anytime and anywhere, and God’s disposition, in fact, represents God Himself; in God’s entire management plan, these three parts, God’s work, God’s disposition, and God Himself, are inseparable.
The contents of God’s work I fellowshipped last time are the events recorded in which happened long ago. All these events are stories about man and God, and they happened on man and there were also God’s participation and God’s expression in them, so these stories are of great value and significance to man’s knowing God. Right after God created mankind, He began to come into contact with mankind and speak to mankind, and God’s disposition began to be expressed to mankind. That is to say, since God had contact with mankind, He has begun to continuously make known to mankind what He has and is and His substance. No matter whether men of the past or men of today can see and understand them, it is a fact that God has been speaking to men and working among men, manifesting His disposition and expressing His substance, and this cannot be denied by anyone. In other words, God’s disposition, God’s substance, and what God has and is have been continuously expressed and manifested as God contacts mankind and does His work. He has never concealed anything or hidden anything from men, but has been releasing His disposition openly without reserve. That is to say, God hopes that men will know Him and know about His disposition and substance, and He does not want mankind to take His disposition and substance as eternal mysteries, nor does He want mankind to regard Him as an “enigma” that can never be unlocked. Only when mankind knows God can they know the direction to go forward and receive God’s leading. And only such mankind can truly live under God’s dominion, live in the light, and live in God’s blessing.
The word and the disposition God expresses and manifests represent His will and His substance. When God contacts men, no matter what word He speaks, what thing He does, and what disposition He manifests, and no matter what men see He has and is and what they see His substance is, all these represent His will for mankind. No matter how much mankind can experience, how much they can comprehend, and how much they can understand, these all represent —God’s will for mankind. This is beyond doubt! God’s will for mankind is God’s requirements for them on what kind of man they should be, how they should act and live, and what they should do to satisfy God’s heart’s desire. Aren’t these inseparable from God’s substance? That is to say, what disposition God has and what He has and is, He has expressed them while making requirements of man, without falseness, disguise, concealment, or packaging. But why is it that men cannot know and always fail to see God’s disposition clearly? Why is it that they always fail to realize God’s will? Although all that God manifests and expresses is what He has and is and various bits and aspects of His real disposition, why can’t men see them? Why can’t men know them clearly? There is a very important reason for that. What’s the reason? It is that since the creation of the world, men have never treated God as God. In the beginning, no matter what God did on men—the just-created men, they only treated God as a companion and an object to rely on and had no knowledge or understanding of God. That is, they did not know that such an object whom they could rely on and such a “companion” in their eyes expressed God’s substance, nor did they know He was the One who rules over all things. In a simple word, men at that time did not know God in the slightest, or know that the heavens and the earth and all things were created by God, or know where God came from, much less know what God is all about. Of course, at that time God did not require men to know Him, understand Him, understand His deeds, or know His will, because that was the very beginning when mankind was created. When God began to set out to do the work of the Age of Law, He did some things on men, and meanwhile, He began to make some requirements of men, telling them how to offer sacrifices and how to worship God. Only then did they have some simple concepts about God and know the difference between God and man and that God is the One who created mankind. When men knew that God is God and man is man, they had a certain distance from God. However, for God’s part, He still did not require men to have a high knowledge or a deep understanding of Him. Therefore, God makes different requirements of men according to the steps of His work and the situations of His work. What have you seen from this? What aspects of God’s disposition have you seen? Isn’t God very real? Aren’t God’s requirements for men very reasonable? In the earliest times mankind was created, when He did not do a conquering work or a perfecting work on men and did not speak so many words to men, His requirements for men were very low. No matter what men did and what behavior men had, even committing some offenses against Him, He could forgive and overlook them. Because God knew what He had given men and what men had, He knew what standard of requirement He should set for men. Although the standard at that time was very low, it doesn’t mean that God’s disposition is not great or that His wisdom and almightiness are an empty talk. However, for mankind to know God’s disposition and God Himself, there is only one way, that is, to follow God’s working footsteps of managing and saving mankind and receive God’s words to mankind. After men know what God has and is and God’s disposition, will they still ask God to reveal His real person to mankind? They will not and dare not. This is because when men know God’s disposition and what God has and is, they will have seen the real God Himself and God’s real person. This is the sure result to be achieved.
As God’s work and His plan went forward continuously, God, after establishing the covenant with men with the rainbow as a token that He would no more destroy the world with a flood, had a more and more eager desire to gain people who can be of one heart and one mind with Him, became more and more eager to gain people who can carry out His will on earth, and even more wanted to gain a group of people who can break free from the forces of darkness and be free from Satan’s bondage and who can testify Him on earth. To gain such a group of people was what God had been expecting for a long time and was what He had been hoping for since the creation of the world. So, whether God destroyed the world with the flood or whether He established the covenant with men, His will had not changed, His heart had not changed, and His plan and His wish had not changed. What He wanted to do was what He had expected for a long time before His creation of the world, that is, He would gain among mankind those He wanted to gain, a group of people who can know His disposition and understand His will and who can worship Him. They are a group of people who can truly testify Him, and they can also be said to be His confidants.
Today, let’s continue to follow the footsteps of God and the pace of God’s work to explore God’s mind, God’s thoughts, and some bits and pieces about God, which have been “sealed up” for a long time, and know God’s disposition and God’s substance through these, so that God can enter everyone’s heart and everyone can gradually come near to God, thus shortening the distance with God.
Last time we talked about some things about why God established the covenant with men. This time we will continue to fellowship about the following verses in the Bible. Now read the scriptures.
1. God Promised to Bestow a Son to Abraham
(Gen 17:15-17) And God said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give you a son also of her: yes, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
(Gen 17:21-22) But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear to you at this set time in the next year. And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
2. Abraham Offered Up Isaac
(Gen 22:2-3) And he said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him.
(Gen 22:9-10) And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar on the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
Here, you have all heard the story about Abraham. He was a man God chose after the destruction of the world by the flood. His name was Abraham. When he was one hundred years old and his wife Sarah was ninety years old, God’s promise came to him. What promise did God want to give him? That was what the scripture says, “And I will bless her, and give you a son also of her.” When God promised to give him a son, what was his background at that time? The scriptures record as follows: Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? That is to say, the old couple were unable to give birth at such ages. What did Abraham do with God’s promise? He fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old?” Abraham thought it an impossible thing. The implication was that he thought God’s promise to him was just a joke. In man’s eyes, that was a thing beyond man’s capacity, and likewise it was also a thing God could not do or fulfill. Maybe to Abraham, it was a very funny thing: God created man, but He does not even know whether a man at such an old age can beget a child or not, and He even lets me beget a child, saying that He will bestow to me a son. That is something impossible! So, when Abraham fell on his face, he laughed and said to himself, “It’s impossible. God is joking with me. This cannot be true!” He did not take seriously. Then what kind of man was Abraham in God’s eyes? (A righteous man.) Where does it say that he was a righteous man? You think that anyone who is called by God is a righteous man, a perfect man, and a man who walks with God. You are simply copying mechanically! You need to see this clearly. God does not define a man casually. Here, God did not say that Abraham was a righteous man. In His heart, He has a criterion for judging each man. Although God did not say what kind of man Abraham was, as far as Abraham’s manifestation in this matter was concerned, how was his belief in God? Wasn’t it somewhat vague? Was his faith great? No. His laughter and his thought already represented him. So, your viewing him as a righteous man is purely an imagination, a blind, mechanical copying, and an irresponsible estimation. Did God see and know Abraham’s laughter and his petty movement? God knew that. But would God change what He had determined to do? No, He wouldn’t. When God had planned and determined to choose him, the thing had already been accomplished. No matter what he thought and how he behaved, God would not be affected or disturbed in the slightest. God would not change His plan lightly, nor would He change and break His plan lightly because of man’s behavior, even ignorant behavior. So, what does it say in Genesis 17:21-22? “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear to you at this set time in the next year. And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.” God did not pay any attention to what Abraham thought and said. Why did He pay no attention? Because at that time God did not require man to have a great faith or have a high knowledge of Him, much less require man to understand what He did and spoke. So, what He determined to do, what kind of man He determined to choose, and what principles He had in doing things, God did not require man to fully understand, because man’s stature totally fell short of that. At that time, whatever Abraham did and however he behaved, it was very normal in God’s eyes, and God did not condemn or rebuke him but only said, “…Isaac, which Sarah shall bear to you at this set time in the next year.” On God’s part, the thing was being gradually fulfilled as His words came forth. And in His eyes, what He planned to accomplish had been done. After God arranged the matter, He left. No matter what man did, what man thought, how man understood, or how man planned, it had nothing to do with God. Everything continued to develop according to the time and the steps set by God and according to God’s plan. This is God’s working principle. No matter what man thought and how man understood, God did not interfere. But He would not give up His plan or His work because of man’s disbelief and incomprehension. The fact was accomplished according to God’s plan and God’s thought. This is what we have seen in the Bible. God let Isaac be born at the time He set. Did man’s deeds and manifestations hinder God’s work, as proved by the fact? No. Did man’s little faith and his notions and imaginations about God affect God’s work? No. Not at all! God’s management plan cannot be affected by anyone, anything, or any circumstance, and everything He has determined to do will be accomplished and fulfilled on time according to His plan. His work cannot be hindered by anyone. As to some foolishness and ignorance of man and even some resistance and notions of man against God, God pays no attention to them, but does the work He wants to do without any hesitation. This is God’s disposition and is the manifestation of His omnipotence.
God bestowed to Abraham a son, and the word He spoke to Abraham was fulfilled. This did not mean that God’s plan came to a stop here. On the contrary, God’s grand plan of managing and saving mankind had just started. And God’s bestowing to Abraham a son just raised the curtain on His entire management plan. At the very moment, no one knew that the war between God and Satan began to be on the stage secretly from the matter of “Abraham offering up Isaac.”
Next, let’s go on to see what God did on Abraham. In the words of Genesis 22:2, God told Abraham: “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.” God’s meaning was very clear, that is, He told Abraham to offer up his only son, his beloved Isaac, as a burnt offering. From the viewpoint of today, isn’t this thing God did still discordant with man’s notion? Yes. The thing God did at that time was greatly discordant with man’s notion and was incomprehensible to man. Men think in their notion: God bestowed to a man a son when he disbelieved it and thought it was impossible. Yet after he had the son, he was asked to offer him up. It was really inconceivable! What exactly did God want to do? What exactly was God’s intention? God bestowed to Abraham a son unconditionally, but He required him to offer up the son unconditionally. Did it go too far? From the standpoint of the third party, it not only went too far but was somewhat “making trouble willfully.” However, Abraham himself did not think it went too far. Although he had some petty thoughts and had some small suspicions about God, he was still ready to offer up Isaac. What thing do you see here that could prove Abraham was willing to offer up his son? How was it put? It was put this way in the text: And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him. (Gen 22:3) And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar on the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. (Gen 22:9-10) When Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, did God see the whole action? God saw it. In the whole course from God’s requiring Abraham to offer up Isaac to Abraham’s lifting the knife to really slay his son, God saw Abraham’s heart. Whether he was foolish or ignorant or misunderstood God before that, his heart for God at that time was genuine and sincere, and he truly wanted to return to God his son—Isaac, whom God bestowed to him. God saw in him his obedience, and that was what God wanted.
In man’s eyes, many things God does are incomprehensible and even inconceivable. When God wants to orchestrate a man, this “orchestration” in many cases is discordant with his notions and incomprehensible to him. But this “discordant with his notions” and “incomprehensible to him” is exactly God’s trial and test to him. However, Abraham could show obedience to God, and this is the most basic condition for his being able to satisfy God’s requirement. Only at that time, that is, only when Abraham could obey God’s requirement—offering up Isaac, did God have true trust and true approval in the human being, that is, Abraham whom He chose. He was sure that the man He chose was an indispensable leading one who could bear His promise and undertake His management plan that followed. Although this thing was only a trial and test, God already felt gratified, felt the love man gave Him, and also felt the unprecedented comfort from man. At the instant when Abraham lifted the knife to kill Isaac, didn’t God stop Abraham’s action? God did not let Abraham offer up Isaac, because He did not intend to take away Isaac’s life at all. So God stopped Abraham’s action in time. In God’s eyes, Abraham’s obedience already stood the test, and what he did was enough; God already saw the result in what He wanted to do. Was this result satisfactory to God? It can be said that this result was satisfactory to God and was what He wanted and what He hoped to see. Wasn’t it real? Although God tests everyone in different ways against different backgrounds, in Abraham He saw what He wanted and saw that Abraham’s heart was genuine and his obedience was unconditional. This “unconditional” is just what God wants. Some people often say: I have offered this and have abandoned that. Why is God still not satisfied with me? Why does God still try me continually? Why does God still test me continually? This shows a fact: God has not seen your heart or gained your heart. That is, God has not seen such a true heart in you as that of Abraham, who could take the knife to personally kill his son and offer him up to God. He has not seen your unconditional obedience to Him. He has not derived comfort from you. Of course, He tries you continually. Isn’t this real? Well, that’s all for this topic. Now read the next passage “God’s promise to Abraham.”
3. God’s Promise to Abraham
(Gen 22:16-18) By myself have I sworn, said the LORD, for because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son: That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.
This is an exact record about God’s blessing Abraham. Although it is brief in words, it is quite rich in content. It contains the reason, background, and content of God’s blessing Abraham. And it also embodies God’s pleasure and excitement in His saying these words and God’s eagerness in “His hoping to gain those who can listen to His word.” Here, we see God’s treasuring and cherishing of those who listen to His word and obey His command, also see the price God has paid for gaining man and God’s thoughtful kind intention, and even more see the bitterness and suffering God has borne alone behind this work of management plan, which are clearly shown in the scripture “By myself have I sworn.” This is a passage of words worth pondering and also a passage of words which has extraordinary significance and far-reaching influence on later generations.
Was God’s blessing to Abraham great, as seen from here? How great was it? Here a crucial word “And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” can show that Abraham received the blessing which no one had ever received and which no one would receive. When Abraham returned his only son—his beloved only son—to God (Note: Here we cannot say “offered” but should say “returned” to God) according to God’s requirement, God not only did not let Abraham offer up Isaac but instead would bless him. What promise did God bless him with? He would multiply his descendants. To what extent would He multiply them? The scriptures record as follows: “…as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Against what background did God say these words? In other words, how did Abraham receive the blessing from God? Just as God said in the scripture “because you have obeyed my voice.” That is, because Abraham obeyed God’s command and without any complaints did as God said, required, and commanded, God gave him such a promise. In this promise, there is a crucial word that concerns God’s mind at that time. Have you seen this crucial word? Maybe you have not noticed it. God said, “By myself have I sworn.” This word means that when God said those words, He swore by Himself. By what do people generally swear? They all swear by heaven, that is, swear to God, speak an oath to God. As to this “phenomenon” that God swore by Himself, you may not understand it. But when I give you a correct explanation, you will understand it. Facing a man who could only hear His word but could not understand His heart, God once again felt lonely and “at a loss.” “In a moment of anxiousness” or “subconsciously,” God made a very natural action; that is, He put His hand over His heart and said to Himself that He would give Abraham such a promise. Thus, men heard this word of God “By myself have I sworn.” From this action of God, you may associate it with yourself. When you speak to yourself with your hand over your heart, don’t you know very clearly what you are saying? Isn’t your attitude very sincere? Aren’t you saying what you say very earnestly with your heart? So, we see here that God’s attitude was sincere and genuine when He spoke to Abraham. When God spoke to Abraham and gave him the promise, He was also speaking to Himself. He was telling Himself: I will bless Abraham and multiply his descendants as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand on the sea shore, because he has obeyed My word and he is the man I have chosen. When God said the word “By myself have I sworn,” He had determined to produce His chosen people in Israel from Abraham and then lead these chosen people to go forward in step with His work. In other words, God would let the descendants of Abraham undertake God’s management work. He would start His work and His expression from Abraham and continue them on the descendants of Abraham and thereby fulfill His wish of saving man. Do you think it is a blessed thing? For mankind, there is no greater blessing than this, and it can be said to be the most blessed thing. The “blessing” Abraham received did not lie in that his descendants would multiply, but that God would accomplish His management, His commission, and His work on the descendants of Abraham. This means that the blessing Abraham received was not temporary but would go on with the advancement of God’s management plan. When God said this word, when God swore by Himself, He had made the decision. Isn’t the course of God’s making the decision very real? Isn’t it very practical? God decided that from that moment on, He would give His painstaking effort, His price, what He has and is, His everything, and even His life to Abraham and his descendants, and He also decided to start revealing His deeds on this portion of people, letting man see His wisdom, His authority, and His power.
Although God, when speaking to Himself, was also speaking to Abraham, could he understand God’s true will in all God’s words at that moment apart from hearing the blessing God gave him? No. So, at that time, when God swore by Himself, His heart was still lonely and still sorrowful. There was still no man who could understand or comprehend what He intended to do and what He planned. At that time, still no man, including Abraham, could talk with Him heart to heart, much less could anyone cooperate with Him to do the work He wanted to do. Outwardly, God gained Abraham and gained a man who could obey His word. Actually, his knowledge of God was almost zero. Although God blessed Abraham, God’s heart was still not satisfied. What does His “not satisfied” mean? It means that His management just began and means that the people whom He wanted to gain, whom He hoped to see, and whom He loved were still far away from Him, and that He needed time, needed to wait, and needed to be patient. For at that time, no one except God Himself knew what He needed, what He wanted to gain, and what He hoped for. So, when God felt very excited, He also felt very heavy. Yet He did not stop His footsteps and was still planning for the next step of work He would do.
What do you see from the matter of God’s promise to Abraham? Merely because Abraham obeyed God’s word, God gave him so great a blessing. Although outwardly it seems very normal and is also a natural thing, we see God’s heart from it: God greatly treasures man’s obedience to Him and values man’s understanding and sincerity toward Him. To what extent does God value such sincerity? You may not know to what extent God values it, and maybe no one can understand it. God bestowed to Abraham a son, and when the son grew up, God asked Abraham to offer up his son to Him. Abraham did exactly as God told him. He obeyed God’s word. His sincerity moved God and was also treasured by God. To what extent did God treasure it? For what reason did God treasure it? In the age when no one could understand what God said and no one could know God’s heart, Abraham did an “earth-shaking” thing, which made God feel unprecedented satisfaction and also made God feel the joy of gaining a man who could obey His word. The “satisfaction” and “joy” were from a created being God created with His own hands, and this was also the first most precious “offering” in God’s eyes which was offered by man to God since the creation of mankind. God had waited for such “offering” for so long. He took this “offering” as the first most important gift from the created mankind. From it, God saw the first fruit gained by His painstaking effort and price and also saw hope on mankind. After that, God’s heart expected more eagerly that there would be a group of such people accompanying Him and treating Him and caring for Him with a true heart. And God even wished that Abraham could live forever, because He hoped that such a heart could accompany Him, accompanying Him while He continued His management. No matter what God thought, it was just a wish and just a thought, because Abraham was only a man who could obey Him but who did not understand or know Him in the slightest. He fell far short of God’s required standard for man—knowing God, being able to testify God, and being of one heart and one mind with God, so he could not possibly walk with God. In the matter of Abraham’s offering up Isaac, God saw his true heart and his obedience and also saw that he withstood God’s test to him. Although God accepted his true heart and his obedience, he was still inadequate to be God’s confidant and to be a man who knows God, comprehends God, and understands God’s disposition, and he was also far from being of one heart and one mind with God and carrying out God’s will. So God’s heart was still lonely and still anxious. The more lonely and anxious God was, the more He needed to continue His management as quickly as possible and choose and gain a group of people as quickly as possible to accomplish His management plan and fulfill His will. This is God’s eager desire that has never changed from the beginning until now. Since the beginning when God created mankind, God has been expecting eagerly that there will be a group of overcomers, a group of people who can understand, comprehend, and know God’s disposition, walking with Him. This desire of God has never changed. No matter how long God still has to wait, how hard the journey ahead is, and how far the goal He hopes for is, His expectation of mankind has never been changed or given up. Now as I say these, do you have some understanding of God’s desire? You may not have a deep understanding of it. Take time to understand it.
from “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself (II)”
in A continuation of The Word Appears in the Flesh
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