Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The book of Exodus presents a picture of God’s full salvation. In God’s salvation two matters are crucial. The first is that God wants to be everything to His chosen people. He wants to work Himself into those whom He has predestinated unto Himself. Second, since God wants to be everything to us, He does not want us to do anything. Rather, He wants to do everything for us.
As we apply these two matters to the book of Exodus, we see that it was God Himself who dealt with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God did not ask the children of Israel to fight in order to be released from Egyptian tyranny. God did everything to bring about the total defeat of the Egyptians. When Moses confronted Pharaoh, all he had was a rod, a dead stick. It was God who did everything for His people.
Consider what God did for His people within less than forty days. He sent the plagues upon the Egyptians, and on the night of the Passover He slew the firstborn. Then He delivered the children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh and brought them through the Red Sea, in which the Egyptian army was drowned. Furthermore, God brought the people to Marah, where He changed the bitter water into sweet water. Then He led them onward to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees.
According to 16:1, the children of Israel “came unto the wilderness of Sin...on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.” The Passover was on the fourteenth day of the first month. Therefore, the record of chapter sixteen describes what took place just thirty-one days after the Passover. When I first realized this, I was very surprised. During this short period of time, God’s people had seen a number of miracles. However, they were not adequately impressed with the Lord’s sufficiency. The Passover was a great event, and the crossing of the Red Sea was even greater. Furthermore, the experiences at Marah and at Elim were significant. Nevertheless, when the people came to the wilderness of Sin and murmured and lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt, it seems as if they had had no experience at all.
Not many readers of Exodus have given adequate attention to chapter sixteen. Actually this chapter is greater than either chapter twelve or chapter fourteen. In chapter twelve we have the Passover, in chapter fourteen the crossing of the Red Sea, and in chapter sixteen the eating of the manna. The eating of manna signifies that God’s people had reached the point where they had begun to be a heavenly people, a people whose nature had begun to be transformed with the heavenly element.
Many of the miracles in the Scriptures were carried out with the physical things of God’s creation. For example, the Lord Jesus fed the multitude with loaves and fishes (Matt. 14:19). But can we say that the manna in chapter sixteen was an item of God’s old creation? No scholar can tell us what was the substance or element of manna. Whatever the substance of manna was, surely it did not belong to the old creation. In God’s old creation there is no such thing as manna.
In chapter sixteen there are two miracles: the sending of the quails and the sending of manna. The quails belong to the old creation. A wind went forth from the Lord and brought quails (Num. 11:31). This was no doubt a miracle, but it made use of natural and physical things. The sending of the manna, however, was different. Manna came from heaven (Exo. 16:4). Although we know that manna came from heaven, we do not know what the element of manna was. We cannot say what was the essence of manna, but we do know that it was food of a category different from all earthly food. To partake of manna was to have a heavenly diet. This heavenly food did not belong to the old creation.
People invariably live according to what they eat. Dietitians tell us that we are what we eat. For example, if we eat a great deal of fish, we shall become a composition of fish. Day by day for a period of forty years, the children of Israel ate manna. As a result, they became constituted with manna. We may even say that they became manna. Although we do not know the essence of manna, we know that it was the kind of food that caused people to become heavenly. By eating such heavenly food we become heavenly people.
By giving His people manna to eat, God indicated that His intention was to change the nature of His people. He wanted to change their being, their very constitution. They had already undergone a change of location. Formerly they were in Egypt. Now they were with the Lord in the wilderness, a place of separation. However, it is not sufficient merely to have a change of location, for this is too outward and too objective. There must also be an inward, subjective change, a change of life and nature. The way for God to produce such a change in His people is by changing their diet. By eating Egyptian food God’s people had been constituted with the element of Egypt. The element of the world had become their composition. When they were in Egypt, they did not partake of anything heavenly, for everything they ate was according to the Egyptian diet and was Egyptian in nature. Although God’s people had been brought out of Egypt into the wilderness of separation, they were still constituted with the element of Egypt. Now God’s intention was to change their element by changing their diet. He did not want them to eat anything that came from a worldly source. They were no longer allowed to eat Egyptian food. God wanted to feed them with food from heaven in order to constitute them with the heavenly element. His desire was to fill them, to satisfy them, to saturate them with food from heaven, and thereby to make them a heavenly people.
Before God sent manna from heaven, He sent the quails (16:13). The quails caused the people to be even more fleshly. The nature and substance of the quails corresponded to the nature and substance of the children of Israel. Manna, however, did not, for it was of another category, of another kingdom and realm. Thus, by sending manna God showed that His intention was to change the composition of His people. He is not satisfied with a mere change of place. There must also be a change of constitution. We, God’s people today, are a composition of earthly things, a composition of the Egyptian element. Hence, God’s goal is not simply to change our behavior; it is to change our inward being, the very inner fabric of our constitution. Although we have been constituted with the substance of Egypt, God intends to constitute us with a heavenly element. It is vital for all of us to see this.
God knew that the children of Israel were in need of food. If they had had faith in the Lord, they would have encouraged one another simply to rest in Him. They would have said, “Our God knows our need. There is no need to murmur or complain. Let us trust in Him and be at rest. Remember what the Lord has done for us in recent days. He dealt with Pharaoh, He slew the firstborn, He defeated the Egyptians, He brought us through the Red Sea, and He has supplied our every need.” But instead of exercising faith in the Lord, the children of Israel seemingly forgot everything the Lord had done for them. Instead of praising Him and thanking Him for what He had done, they murmured and complained. Their words were sharp and ugly as they spoke to Moses: “Would that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into the wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (16:3, Heb.). Even Moses was touched by the people’s murmuring. This is proved by the fact that Moses said, “What are we, that ye murmur against us?” (16:7). In uttering this word, Moses was not victorious. To the contrary, this was a sign that he had been defeated, having been touched by the murmurings of the people. If I had been Moses, I would have spoken a much stronger word. I might have said, “Have you forgotten everything I have done for you? You remember the fleshpots, but you don’t recall the tyranny, the labor, and the sufferings in Egypt. I brought you out of that tyranny. Why do you murmur against me?” Compared to us, Moses was victorious. Nevertheless, he was not victorious in an absolute way.
We have pointed out that in His salvation God intends to be everything to us and to do everything for us. He is real, living, faithful, and purposeful. Because God has a purpose in His salvation, there is no need for us to beg Him to have mercy upon us and to rescue us. God is working for us, and He knows all our needs. If we know the Lord and His ways, we shall not complain or murmur whenever we have a need. Instead, we shall say, “Praise the Lord! He knows our every need. If He wants us to miss a meal, then let us have a fast with praising and rejoicing before Him. Even if He withholds food for several days, we shall still rejoice. He knows our need, and He will send the supply at the right time. If He chooses for us to fast instead of feast, let us still praise Him. He knows what is best for us. Let us accept with rejoicing whatever He gives us.”
If this had been the attitude of the children of Israel, God would not have sent the quails. He would simply have sent manna early the next morning. His purpose in sending manna was to change the constitution of His people. Manna produces a metabolic change in which the Egyptian element is replaced by the heavenly element. Such a heavenly metabolism causes God’s people to be transformed. In name, the children of Israel were not Egyptians. But in nature and in composition they did not differ from the Egyptians in the least. By giving the people manna God seemed to be saying, “I have rescued you from Egypt positionally, but you have not yet been changed dispositionally. Now I shall change your constitution by changing your diet from an Egyptian diet to a heavenly diet. In this way I shall change your nature and your being, and I shall constitute you into a peculiar people. Because I want you to be heavenly, I shall not feed you with anything which has its source in the earth. Day by day, I shall send heavenly food, food from My dwelling place in heaven. This food will change your constitution.” May we all see that God’s intention in His salvation is to work Himself into us and to change our constitution by feeding us with heavenly food.
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