In succession, we have seen Adam, Abel, Noah and Abraham come forth in us. These are: the old man, flesh and spirit, regeneration, and the life of faith. All these stages must be passed before that spirit of sonship is birthed within. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are types of the divine life in man, shown first in the spirit, in the understanding, and then in the body. Sonship is the bringing of the divine life into our understanding, and service (Jacob) is bringing it into our outward and bodily acts.
When Abraham's fleshly strengh is all gone, the promised seed can come forth. No longer does he try to bear fruit in self-will, for he is now "a hundred years of" and "as good as dead." His true relationship with Sarah is confessed--that is, that he shall not be fruitful except by spiritual principles. "Oh, what a long time it took to come to this place," we may each cry aloud with Abraham! Sarah is "barren" and "past age", yet God's promise is true, and Isaac--laughter and delight--shall come forth at last by God's divine power and not our own!
In the next step, Abraham circumcised Isaac, being eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised. Men of faith may walk for long years uncircumcised, without judging self, without "putting away the filth of the flesh" by inward circumcision. (And the world says, "If that's Christianity, I don't want it!") But, this pure life that is now coming forth must have the flesh cut off at the very first. Uncleanness is not allowed to be carried by Isaac, the son of promise who enters into "new beginnings" as an eighth-day" creation of God.
The next state we all know well: first, "weaning", then "mocking". When this new divine life comes forth, Sarah "gives her son suck"; he is fed pure food of spiritual truth. As long as this new life is young and is still drinking milk, he is accepted in the (church) family. The carnal see (Ishmael) does not trouble it. But the day comes when we become "weaned children" and can leave the milk of the Word and begin to partake of the table of revelation and truth that is spread for us by our Father, the carnal seed rises up to mock us. "The son of the bond-maid mocks the heir of promise. He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit." Their favorite words are: "Who do you think you are? You are just exalting yourself, thinking you are special to God."
Faith is now sees that its own fruit (a mixture of faith with law or self-will) is opposed to the purer spiritual life that is now coming forth. Sarah says the bondwoman and her son should be cast out, but Abraham has a hard time giving up that form of life which faith has produced out of self-will. God intervenes and tells Abraham to obey Sarah (spiritual principles), for neither bondage nor law can be heirs to the promises. They must both be dismissed.
Outwardly, we see that Ishmaels take with them some bread and water from men of faith and go forth into a dry land. Their water is soon spent, for it is only in bottles, or in forms and rituals. There is no wellspring of life flowing from within; such men cannot "drink from their own cisterns" for their supply of water is limited to what they have received from "men of faith".
Just when it seems that Ishmael would perish for lack of water, an angel (messenger) points out to Hagar that there is a well of water near at hand. Their eyes had not seen it, for they are not used to drawing for themselves. In countries behind the Iron Curtain the Christians grew strong, for they could not look to any man for water, but had to learn how to draw from that inexhaustible supply of the waters of life that are within, ready to be released by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
Isaac lives by the well "Lahai-roi"--"the well of the life to vision." He is noted for digging wells of spiritual understanding and revelation which the Philistines (worldly knowledge) strive with him over. They don't want the water; they just want to "throw dirt" in the well and cover it up so that men will not drink and be free!
If we have walked with the Lord for some length of time, we have experienced the same trials that we see in Isaac, the spirit of sonship. Have we not, at first, known the judgement of our flesh (circumcision of the heart), then weaning, then mocking? Each one of us could tell heart-rending accounts of what has happened to us, but we may count it all as "but a light thing", for an Isaac has, at last, been born in us! In those days we knew not that, as the image of Christ grew within us, we would have to face the fact that Isaac was born to be a sacrifice!
Ishmael, that "wild-ass" nature, is not offered, but cast out. Isaac's sacrifice is to be that cross of Christ whereby the world is crucified unto us, and we unto the world. It is required of us to surrender that meek life in us which has been formed by the divine power of God out of faith's nothingness. Rom. 8:17, "...if sons are heirs, if so be that we suffer with Him, that they may also be glorified together." The yielding up of Isaac is a more inward view of the cross than we have yet known. It is so much deeper than Abel's lamb or Noah's tree which takes us through the waters.
God does not require this offering-up at Isaac's hand. No. It is the spirit of faith who is commanded by God to offer up that diving life that has been produced by God's strength alone. The Lord must show this feeble man that, should he offer up every blessed gift of God, and have ONLY HIM, HE WOULD BE SUFFICIENT. Abraham girds the ass, cleaves the wood and prepares to give up his Isaac "upon one of the mountains I will tell thee of." He can do this because in his heart he has the assurance that, as He gave it at the first, He will even now restore it again (a figure here of the resurrection).
Faith dare not choose its own cross, or its own method of sacrifice, thinking thereby to please God. No; it must be in the place and circumstance that He "will tell us of"; that He prepares for us. I call it our "Garden of Gethsemane" experience, or the "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" test. We have met many of God's precious ones in these "mountains" prepared for them and little did they realize the blessing that would come as a result of their surrender at that time!
Abraham leaves behind his servants and the ass, which speak of lesser thoughts which might oppose the sacrifice that God requires. Faith travels on to Mount Moriah which means "chosen of God." No self-chosen penances, or self-inflicted pains have any place on this ground, for God alone chooses the place and nature of the sacrifice. The spirit of sonship is bound on the altar and the knife is raised high in the air when intervention comes from heaven. "Lay not thine hand upon the lad...for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me." Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a ram caught in a thicket. Some animal nature, difficult to catch, is now bound before our eyes, and it is caught and offered. Only the animal in us dies when we sacrifice, and God's image in us is unhurt, and receives yet more blessing!
"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out
for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." All who have
walked with Him to Mount Moriah will admit that the sacrifice required
of them was a small thing compared to the eternal blessings that
were gained. Now the angel of the Lord calls out of heaven to us and tells
us that "...in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply
thy seed...and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. The
gate within that has long been held by our adversary shall now be kept
by the seed of faith and the enemy shall be driven out! "And in
thy seed shall all nations be blessed." Isaac's birth brought blessing
to the Philistine's land, and Nahor's line, afar off, was increased. Isaac's
sacrifice required of men of faith is God's won path that we follow. God
Himself sacrificed, not a mere creature, but His only-begotten Son. Because
He is Love, He cannot but sacrifice, for love involves sacrifice in its
very nature. Think it not strange if we must follow in His path!
The next step in Isaac's life is the death of Sarah, his mother. After this, Rebekah is sought for and brought into Sarah's tent and becomes Isaac's wife. To understand what this means, we have to recall that men are certain "minds", and women are the "affections" from which come spiritual principles or truths. Returning from our last long trip, I asked the Lord, "How do I return to normal living again?" His answer was, "You shall never return to normal living. You are set to search out the principles of the kingdom." In effect, He was telling me that the truth I had known in "the Sarah form" was dead, and to be fruitful, I must become one with a purer form of truth than I had ever known. And the shakings of the "in-part" mixture within proved that word to be true. It is for the spirit of sonship to be united with Rebekah, another form of truth.
To look at the story outwardly, Jesus (our heavenly Isaac) is the Heir for whom the Bride is sought by his servants out of "a far country". His faithful ministers (led by the Spirit) are as the servant. He goes to Mesopotamia where Abraham had come from years before, to his Father's people. They live between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates whose meanings tell us so much: "tradition" and "reasoning". Did not every man of faith live in that place where tradition and reasoning ruled in the in-part realm? How well we know it who have been delivered from it! And we are so thankful that His Spirit came to where we lived and told us of the glory and might of our heavenly Isaac so that we could take courage to follow Him and leave behind the tradition of men and the carnal reasoning mind and learn to walk in the Spirit.
The Bride is an "appointed" person, not chosen of man, but of the same family as Isaac. "Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same..." (to become part of the human family) Heb. 2:14. The servant finds Rebekah at a well. This simple statement is full of meaning. Jacob also, and Moses, found their brides at a well. Christ sat upon a well and taught of living waters. Isaac lives by a well called Lahai-roi called "the well of the life of vision". The soul who comes daily to draw from the well of life, crying for thirst, will meet the servant who will lead her to Isaac. And he will know her, for she will be freely sharing her water with those around her, for her vessel is full and she is willing to draw water for others to drink, even for "rough camels".
When she has proven willing to serve "the rough things", she is given one golden earring and two bracelets of gold, some of the precious things sent from Isaac. The earring speaks of her ear being opened to hear (and this comes gradually!) the words of her Beloved, that she might be willing to follow after Him. With Isaac's jewels upon her, she declares that there is room in her heart to receive His servant. The Lord always asks, "Is there room enough?" In some, the father's house (the outward man) is filled with other things. Again, at His birth, He found "no room at the inn", nor in the hearts of His people whom He came to redeem.
Arriving at the home of the bride, the servant would not "please himself" by eating the food set before him. It was more important to tell of the glory and greatness of his Master who sought a wife from His own people. Beholding Isaac's jewels upon their sister, the brothers knew that these fine gifts and graces proceeded from the Lord and acknowledged, "The thing proceedeth from the Lord." Even though they knew God was in it, they still sought to keep Rebekah from promptly obeying the Spirit and going forth to be made one with Isaac.
Again the servant bedeks Rebekah with Isaac's treasures, many "precious things of silver (redemption) and gold (the divine nature), and of fine raiment (the righteousness of the saints)". There is growth in grace in preparation for her to leave that in-part realm where tradition and reasoning rule. With Isaac's jewels upon her she is able to say to her brothers, "I will go with this man" when they would seek to detain her further. Leaving her kindred and her father's house (like Abraham, and all men of faith must do!) she "rode upon the camels", accepting rough things until she at last beholds Isaac and exchanges them for His love and for the secrets that are revealed at his well.
After Isaac has taken Rebekah to wife, Abraham, at 137 years of age, takes another wife. Though he was "as good as dead" in his hundredth year, now at 137 he begets six sons. (The more mature we are, the more fruit we bear). "Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah; and she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah." The first two wives, according to St. Paul, were spiritual principles, so this third wife must signify a different form of truth.
Keturah's name means "a savour of a sweet smell". Once Sarah passes into a higher sphere, men of faith may join themselves unto truth in the Keturah form. Keturah represents fruits of ascetic life. "Ascetic" means simply "practical". Paul's writings are full of exhortations that are not mere law, and are certainly not the promise; these are the third wife. They produce sweet fruits for a time, but may, in time, resist the inward life, as is shown in Midian who strove against Israel. Abraham made it very plain that his offspring from Keturah had not the same calling as Isaac. While he was yet alive, he settled the question of the inheritance. "And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived..." Gen. 25:6.
Isaac has but one wife. The spirit of sonship in us can never embrace anything other than the one true principle of the New Covenant! Besides Abraham leaving to Isaac "all that he had", he gave him a further blessing that was to be his highest blessing. "It came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac." His blessings were not in "houses and lands", but was a blessing above all that can be obtained from mere outward things. All who have had tastes of this "added blessing" will agree that it is so.
"He dwelt by the well Lahai-roi." This was his blessing. "Lahai-roi" means "the life of vision". The angel of the Lord had appeared at this well and had spoken and revealed Himself. The well represents the depth of the Word that we drink, for "the well of the living and seeing" is the spiritual sense of the Word opened unto us. All who are true Isaacs love this well; it is their highest blessing. The carnal Christian cares not to drink of such a well; in fact, if he could, he would "muddy the waters" of pure revelation that come forth from such a well.
Only the pure in heart may abide at Beer-Lahai-roi, for only the pure in heart may see God and understand His hidden things! As they behold His glory they are changed into His image and they begin to see all things as He sees them, in the light of heaven. Behold the progression here, from "men of faith", to sons who not only believe, but know, for faith is now lost in sight and in its place come the spirit of understanding. In John 8:31, 32, the Lord promised to "those who believe on Him", that "if they would continue in His word, they should KNOW THE TRUTH, and the truth should make them free."
Also, in I Cor. 15:3, 4 we see the same comparison concerning FAITH in Christ dead and risen again with his longing desire "to KNOW HIM, and the power of His resurrection". Keturah's sons were sons of faith and operated in the gifts of the Spirit, but they dwelt not where Isaac dwelt, in that inner KNOWING that comes from abiding by living waters.
How blessed it is to dwell at Beer-Lahai-roi! With Abraham, we enjoyed
worship and fellowship at Bethel and Hebron. We drank joyously from Beer-sheba,
the well of the oath, marvelling at the mighty word of His covenant. But
all of this pales into insignificance when we receive the blessing of abiding
at "the well of the life of vision", learning there, in His presence, the
things that belong to them who walk with God.
One would think that, with Isaac, once we are dwelling at the well of Lahai-roi and are seeing the plan of God as He has revealed it, and have come to spiritual understanding, that "we would live happily ever after". We possess all the riches of true faith and are blessed indeed. But, as his father before him, Isaac waits for long years before he becomes fruitful with Rebekah, that higher form of truth unto which he has joined himself. For twenty long years is Rebekah barren, and she becomes fruitful only through prayer and entreating the Lord (no Egyptian bond-slave is taken at this stage!).
At the same time, when Isaac is grieving over his barrenness, Ishmael, the son of Hagar, is increasing rapidly, breaking forth on the right hand and on the left until he consists of twelve princes. That carnal spirit proceeding from the union of faith and law within us, brings forth many forms of life. People make comparisons: "If you have so much truth (as you say) how come you don't have a big following, or at least a TV program? If you're of God, show yourself to the world!" And all the time, Isaac must watch others, even Ishmaels, going to the nations, and holding the most prominent places, and with all that, prospering largely.
The sons of God must acknowledge: "My time is not yet, but your time is always ready". And, "We are weak, but ye are strong; we are despised, but ye are honorable." Year by year they wait, passing through stage after stage of growth, all under the watchful eyes of the One Who is preparing them in the fiery furnace. Their only recourse is to pray and to seek the Lord, for as always, enlightenment and strength to go on is given at His feet, in His presence.
Oh, how this stage of growth finds a response in our own hearts! We see so much in the world to do, to restore, and to heal, but we are "shut up unto God in prayer". We must not seek to do any of these things before the time, else we would mar His workings, for it would not be done in His way. He is teaching us new spiritual principles of the kingdom of God, writing them deeply upon our hearts, for He is preparing us as "saviours (who) shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord's" Obadiah 1:21.
These saviours shall not be tempted by filthy lucre, neither shall they seek a name for themselves, but they shall minister in great simplicity and love as their Saviour did before them. In many years of bowing low at His feet, they have learned His nature and they go forth only at His bidding and do what He leads them to do. Little wonder that most of these Isaacs have hoary heads, for it takes a long time for Isaac to bring forth seed. And when, at last, Rebekah is fruitful, we find: "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manners of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shall be stronger that the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger".
This double seed is the two minds in us which are most unlike
each other. These "two" at each stage, are always flesh and spirit,
for: "that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural".
As we grow in grace, we see flesh and spirit showing forth in different
forms. We saw how the Adam man was destroyed and the regenerate
man was saved from the waters and developed into the man of faith.
Through many long trials, the man of faith developed into man possessing
the spirit of sonship and understanding. In like manner, the flesh
reappears in some new form at each stage; it is that we shall learn what
Jacob and Esau mean within us.
In the very nature of the Church there is always present a double seed. If any son of God has preached the truth in her midst he has been well aware that, in the same household of God, there is one seed that clings to the part of the truth which is outward; the other, to that which is more inward and spiritual. I first heard this explained by George Warnock, a mighty Bible teacher. He told how he was to minister in a certain church for a week. Sunday services brought out all "the regulars", most of whom decided he was rather dry because he didn't make "a fair show in the flesh". The attendance dropped off until midweek, only a small remnant attended. George recognized these as that spiritual seed to whom he had come to minister.
Looking inwardly, we see that Isaac, the spirit of sonship, brings forth a double seed, typified by Esau and Jacob. Some have made God "a respecter of persons" because He said "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated" before they were ever born ("Hated" in the original means "loved less"). If we understand in the spirit that God was speaking of the natures that would be portrayed here, we will understand that He hates the ways of the flesh! And if we love His ways, we will hate the workings of Esau in ourselves also. The account of their birth tells a lot. "The first came out red, all over like a hairy garment, and they called his name Esau; and after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel, and his name was called Jacob".
"Red" or ruddy, describes natural health and strength, in contrast to that weakness out of which Abraham and all the elect are made strong. The hair covering him all over is a figure of grace and strength. When the Lord described how Israel had grown, He said, "Thy hair was grown." "Well-set hair" contrasts to "baldness" as strength does to weakness. So Esau, depicting the flesh man at this new stage, is shown to be attractive and strong, but none of these qualities can help in obtaining heavenly things. The Lord's command to His priests to "shave all their flesh" at consecration speaks plainly to us that it is only in our weakness that we are made strong in His strength. Even the leper, in order to be cleansed, must "cut off all his hair, his beard, his eyebrows, even all his hair". This tells us that, in consecration or cleansing, the strength of the flesh is to be put away. Excessive hair shows wildness, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar whose hair grew "like eagle's feathers". And, in our day, the hippies grew excessive hair as a mark of rebellion to authority.
Of Jacob it is said, "his hand took hold of Esau's heel", whence his name was called Jacob. The name "Jacob" is formed from the Hebrew word for "heel", the fleshly part of Adam that was to be bruised. So, we see at the sonship stage, that the spiritual seed is at last taking hold of the fleshly part, to overcome it and subdue it in a way that we have not seen before. Jacob represents the divine working in the natural. He is the spirit of service which "takes hold with the hand", typifying untiring service to win over and bring into subjection things which up until now had been beyond its reach. For a long time this is done by much scheming and self-effort, but the Lord's disciplines show him his folly and turns him from that cunning, deceiving nature to being "a prince with God".
The greatest strife between these two natures is over the birthright.
Esau is "a cunning hunter, a man of the field"; a nature that likes to
strive, and enjoys living in the field, which is the world. Jacob, "a plain
man, dwelling in tents" reminds us of Abraham who journeyed with God. When
Esau came from the field and was faint (for there is no uplifting
there, no satisfying food), he asked for Jacob's red pottage. Jacob bargained
for Esau's birthright and because Esau "despised his birthright", he let
it go for a mess of pottage! He said, "What profit shall this birthright
do me?" showing real contempt for the blessing of God. To the Esau nature,
the looking for the kingdom of God, that inheritance that is reserved in
heaven for us, holds no attraction. For this reason the Lord calls him
"a profane person". Jacob may fail in many ways, but his heart is set on
obtaining the inheritance. Let us be a Jacob!
Have you ever noticed that you seem to be tried by the same thing over and over until you learn certain lessons? Then, when the lessons are learnt, you are tried in a different way. As Abraham, the man of faith, we have been tried by famine in our land. At times we have become dry and have gone back to Egypt, the realm of the natural senses, "to do our own thing" for a while. When the promises of God seems to fail to sustain us, we are tempted to "go down" and return to our own ways. Even though sonship has come, we may yet experience dry places, as shown by Isaac's test: "There was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham."
Isaac decided to go down to Egypt, but the Lord intervened and told him to go and dwell among the Philistines for a time. He had learned all the tests of Egypt and that sense realm held no more attraction for him. But, there was something he needed to be tested in, and that was in turning from trusting the Spirit to trusting in worldly knowledge. The Philistine represents "worldly knowledge".
Looking back upon my own life I see several times when I dwelt with the Philistines, or was tempted to do so. It seemed I couldn't fully trust the Lord to keep me (after my baby died on the mission field) and my heart said it would go back to running its own affairs because trusting the Lord fully was not a safe place to walk. Little did I know that one of the greatest experiences of my spiritual life was in progress, as the Lord taught me that mighty truth: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." These words were written upon the fleshy tables of my heart through the operation of the blessed Holy Spirit. He prevented me from going to dwell among the Philistines who order their lives from worldly knowledge. How I thank Him that He delivered me from that dry place and opened up His wells of living waters within so that I need not thirst again.
When Isaac dwelt among Philistines, he lost out on fellowship with God (no altar there!). He denied his true relationship with Rebekah (deeper spiritual truth), and his precious truth stood in danger of being defiled by men who, through mere knowledge, seek to enter into spiritual things. When the Lord blessed him with an 100-fold increase of his planting, the Philistines envied was noted his fruitfulness. When he dug wells, the herdsmen strove with him and filled up the wells with earth. The first "well of springing water" was called "contention" and the second one, "the well of anger" because the Philistines claimed the water as theirs.
About all Isaac was noted for was digging wells which stand for "The water which will give, shall be in you a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." Bread is the outward form of the word of truth; water is the quickening and refreshing spirit. The strife is always over the waters. Philistines count wells as evil--sheep (believers) may perish in them. So they fill them with earth--carnal, negative thoughts that strive angrily against any waters that would take the sheep away from the letter of the word.
When Isaac leaves this low ground and returns to the promised land,
the Lord's presence is restored and His oath comforts him. Abimelech acknowledges
that God is with him, and makes a covenant of peace with him and submits
himself to the one with spiritual understanding. (Abimelech is the
king of the Philistines.) A cross must be at every stage to purify
the elect from all evil as he passes on unto perfection. The path of sonship
is first mocking, then called to be a sacrifice, to give up its own will
in everything, to be as a lamb appointed unto death -- to find deliverance
only in the sacrifice of self. Then, when it begins to bear fruit, it grieves
to behold yet a double seed come forth. Both special blessing and
trials are in this path!