Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we need to see the complete view of God’s call of Moses. According to chapters three and four of Exodus, this call covers five points: the burning thorn-bush, the revelation of who God is and of what God is, the purpose of God’s calling, the three signs, and Aaron’s matching and Zipporah’s cutting. We shall consider the purpose of God’s calling in the next message; in this message we shall look at the other four aspects of God’s calling.
Firstly, Moses saw the vision of a thorn-bush that burned without being consumed. Such a vision was unique. After Moses beheld the burning thorn-bush, God revealed Himself to him. The unveiling of God’s name was actually the revelation of God Himself. No other portion of the Word affords us as clear and profound a revelation of the divine name as the third chapter of Exodus. God said to Moses that His name was “I AM THAT I AM.” This indicates that God’s name here is a form of the verb to be. Revelation 1:8 says that the Lord God is “He who is, and who was, and who is coming.” Furthermore, God told Moses that He was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This title reveals that God is not only the God of being, of existence, but that He is also the God of resurrection.
In chapter four Moses was given three signs: the sign of the rod becoming a serpent, the sign of the hand becoming leprous, and the sign of the water becoming blood. Toward the end of this chapter he received the male help and the female help. The male help, afforded by Aaron, was the matching, and the female help, provided by Zipporah, was the cutting. This cutting caused Moses to be a “bloody husband,” a man under the sentence of death. Only after Moses had received these two kinds of help was God’s calling of him complete. By then Moses was useful to the Lord and was fully prepared to carry out God’s commission. If we see this complete view of God’s calling, a view that reaches from the vision of the burning thorn-bush to Zipporah’s cutting, we shall be deeply impressed.
When Moses was called by God, he saw the great sight of a burning thorn-bush. We have pointed out that the burning thorn-bush refers to God’s redeemed people. Once we were thorns under the curse in Genesis 3, but in Exodus 3 we are a redeemed thorn-bush. Now God is burning within us and upon us. This burning thorn-bush is both the children of Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament. In the church today there are still “thorns”; the church is not yet precious stone. Nevertheless, we praise the Lord that we are undergoing the process of transformation.
In Deuteronomy 33:16 Moses spoke of God as the One who dwelt in the thorn-bush. This word was uttered when Moses was one hundred twenty years of age, forty years after he had seen the vision of the burning thorn-bush. Moses never forgot that vision, even after the tabernacle had been built and God had come to dwell in it. In Deuteronomy 33:16 why did not Moses speak of the good will of “Him who dwelt in the tabernacle”? I believe that for Moses to speak of God dwelling in the tabernacle would not have been as sweet as it was for him to speak of God dwelling in the thorn-bush. I believe that even when we are in the New Jerusalem we shall recall how we once were a thorn-bush indwelt by God. How marvelous that a thorn-bush can be God’s dwelling place on earth today!
All the way from Exodus 3 through Revelation 21 we can trace the line concerning God’s dwelling place. God’s ultimate goal is to obtain a dwelling place. This means that God’s eternal purpose is to build up His habitation. In Genesis we have the revelation of the house of God at Bethel, but we do not have the actual building of the house of God. At the beginning of Exodus God dwelt in the thorn-bush, but at the end of the book He dwelt in the tabernacle. The tabernacle with the ark thus became the focal point of the history of the children of Israel. Eventually, the tabernacle was enlarged into the temple.
The Lord Jesus came both as God’s tabernacle (John 1:14) and as God’s temple (John 2:19). The church today is also the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16). Ultimately, this temple will consummate in the New Jerusalem, which will be God’s temple in eternity.
In the beginning God’s dwelling place was a redeemed thorn-bush, but gradually this thorn-bush is being sanctified, transformed, conformed, and even glorified. The tabernacle is an illustration of transformation. In the tabernacle there was acacia wood overlaid with gold and also linen embroidered with golden thread. Both the acacia wood and the linen signify humanity, and the gold signifies divinity. Such an overlaid and embroidered humanity is a transformed humanity. In Exodus 3 God’s dwelling was a thorn-bush, but in Exodus 40 His dwelling was the tabernacle made of humanity overlaid by and interwoven with divinity.
Both the thorn-bush and the tabernacle are symbols. God’s actual dwelling place was neither the physical thorn-bush nor the tabernacle; it was His people. After the children of Israel had been dealt with by God, they became acacia wood overlaid with gold and also linen embroidered with golden thread. The church today is the fulfillment of this type. At present the church may be a redeemed thorn-bush. However, the day is coming when we shall be gold, pearl, and precious stone. Praise the Lord for the marvelous vision of God’s dwelling place! This vision covers God’s habitation from the initial stage, the stage of the thorn-bush, to the consummate stage, the stage of the New Jerusalem.
When Moses was called by God, he saw the holy fire burning within the thorn-bush. When Paul was called, he saw the same vision, at least in principle. He saw the Triune God burning within His redeemed ones. Through this divine burning, the holy fire was one with the thorn-bush, and the thorn-bush was one with the fire, which is the Triune God Himself. Today God the Father in the Son and the Son as the Spirit have come down upon us as fire. The Lord Jesus once said that He came to cast fire upon the earth (Luke 12:49). On the day of Pentecost the Spirit came in the form of tongues of fire. Today the Lord is still casting fire upon the earth. This holy fire, this divine burning, has captured us, and now we are part of the thorn-bush that is burning with the Triune God. The Triune God is burning within and upon the church He has chosen and redeemed. Thus, the church is the Triune God burning within a redeemed humanity. This is the divine economy (1 Tim. 1:4, Gk.).
This economy was revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:3-5, 9). It is, in fact, the focus of the divine revelation. Moses saw this in symbol, but Paul saw it in reality. How we praise the Lord that His economy has also been unveiled to us! We boldly proclaim that we have seen the vision of the burning thorn-bush. Every local church is a thorn-bush burning with the Triune God.
I have been asked why I am so persistent and unchanging concerning God’s economy and its accomplishment in the local churches today. The answer is that I have seen the heavenly vision. Moses and Paul could not forget the vision they had seen. Paul’s Epistles reveal that nothing, including imprisonment and martyrdom, could turn him from the vision. Paul was steadfast unto the end because he had been captured by the heavenly vision. The death of those martyred for the Lord can only cause the thorn-bush to burn more than ever.
Thousands of us today have seen the vision of the burning bush, and no one can change us. We cannot even change ourselves. If we try to turn away from the vision, the vision does not let us go. We have been “wrecked” by the vision we have seen. In these days I have become fully convinced that nothing can shake the saints in the Lord’s recovery. Shaking only makes them more absolute. Many have testified that they cannot turn away from the vision of the church in God’s economy. The opposers should realize that it is too late to stand against the Lord’s recovery because so many have seen the vision of the burning thorn-bush. Hallelujah for the vision of the Triune God burning within the church!
Every aspect of God’s calling of Moses can be found in the writings of Paul. In Paul’s Epistles we see the vision of the burning thorn-bush. In Ephesians 1 and 3 we have the divine economy, the dispensing of the Triune God into His redeemed people so that they may become His expression. This dispensation brings into being the church as the burning thorn-bush today. How glad I am to be part of this burning bush! Because we have seen this vision, we could never go back to religion. Rather, the vision causes us to press on. Even many of the young people can bear witness that they have seen the vision of the burning thorn-bush, the vision of God’s economy in today’s church.
This vision has been revealed into us. Even if we were to go back to the world, we could not eradicate the vision that has been burned into our being. Have you not seen the vision of the church? Have you not seen that the Triune God is dispensing Himself into His redeemed ones? Praise the Lord we have seen it! You may be weak or even backslidden, but this vision will not let you go. Even when you no longer want the vision, the vision will not leave you. You are part of the burning thorn-bush, and there is no way to escape. Hallelujah for the vision of the burning thorn-bush! This vision is the first aspect of God’s calling.
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