Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
As we consider the giving of the law recorded in 20:1-17, we need to realize that this event took place on the mountain of God, where God’s people had been brought to have fellowship with Him.
When I was young, I was influenced by certain books of systematic theology to consider the law as something negative. Concerning the law, a negative impression was made not only on my mind but on my whole being. For many years thereafter, I thought of the law in a negative way. As a person under God’s grace, not under the law, I did not care for the law. As far as I was concerned, the law in the Bible was not positive. However, I gradually came to realize, especially from reading the book of Exodus, that nothing that is of God or from God could ever be negative. On the contrary, everything that comes out from God must be positive. This is true, then, of the Ten Commandments recorded in 20:1-17.
If we consider the law only according to our mental knowledge, we shall view it in a negative way. But if we realize that the law was given in a positive situation, we shall see that the law is the living word of God which infuses His substance into His loving seekers. Paul says that the law was ordained through angels (Gal. 3:19). However, there is no mention of angels in Exodus 20. According to this chapter, the law was given directly by God Himself.
Concerning the giving of the law, verse 1 of Exodus 20 is of great significance: “And God spake all these words.” The conjunction “and” joins chapter twenty with chapter nineteen. We have seen that in Exodus 19 God brought His people to His mountain to have fellowship with Him. God had brought the people out of Egypt and had gathered them unto Himself at His mountain. This means that God came down from heaven to earth to have fellowship with His people. It was, of course, impossible for man to ascend to heaven, where God was. But in Exodus 19 God descended to a particular mountain, where He could meet with His people. At the very place where God was meeting with His people and where they were contacting Him in fellowship, the law was given. Some theologians may neglect such a picture of the giving of the law. They may have the tendency to exclude God and to concentrate on the law in a negative way. This was the reason that, as a youth, I was given the impression that God in heaven gave the law through the angels to His people on earth. According to this concept, God was far away from His people when the law was given, and they had no way to come into contact with Him. According to this view, the law-giving God did not contact the people, and the law-receiving people did not meet with God.
When I was young, I also was taught, according to John 1, that the law was given through Moses, but that God did not come to man until the time of Christ’s incarnation. However, in Exodus 19 and 20, we see that God did come down to meet with His people before Christ’s incarnation. Even prior to the time of Exodus 20, God had appeared to Abraham. But that appearing was on a very small scale. In Exodus 19 and 20, more than two million people were gathered at the mountain of God when God came down to visit them and to give them His law.
After God had brought the people out of Egypt to the mountain of God, He began to have fellowship with them and to speak with them. Exodus 31:18 indicates that He communed with them. There, at the mountain of God, God was talking, conversing, having communion, with man. According to 19:4-6, God said that He had borne them on eagles’ wings and had brought them to Himself. He also said that they would be His personal possession, His peculiar treasure, and would be unto Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These words were part of the very positive conversation between God and His people. Such a conversation was not the decree of certain laws; it was a time of fellowship in which God spoke to His people.
As 20:1 indicates, the giving of the Ten Commandments was the continuation of this conversation in fellowship. This verse does not say, “And God gave commandments to the people.” It says, “And God spake all these words.” What we have in chapter twenty is not merely a list of commandments. The fact that 20:1 says that “God spake all these words” shows that the Ten Commandments are God’s words. In 34:28 the commandments are even called “the ten words” (Heb.). According to 2 Timothy 3:16, all Scripture is God-breathed. This indicates that the Scriptures are God’s breath. God’s speaking is His breathing. Whenever God speaks, His breath conveys His element into the ones who receive His word.
The conjunction “and” at the beginning of 20:1 is very important, for it connects chapter twenty to chapter nineteen. Chapter twenty is thus the continuation of God’s speaking in chapter nineteen. As we have seen, the Ten Commandments are God’s words and are even called the words of God. Have you ever heard that the Ten Commandments are the ten words? There is a big difference between words and commandments. Commandments are requirements that we must keep and fulfill. God’s words, however, are His breath, for God’s speaking is His breathing. By speaking, He breathes something out of Himself and into those who hear His word. The fact that the Ten Commandments are called ten words means that they are not simply laws for us to obey. These commandments are not just so many decrees of divine legislation. God did not merely give His people ten laws, ten commandments; in fellowship with them He uttered the ten words. If the commandments were nothing more than laws, God’s people could do nothing more than try their best to keep them. But since the Ten Commandments are also God’s words, the very breathing of God, it is possible for those who seek God in love to receive these words into them as God’s very breath.
In the light of this, I would ask you to consider Moses’ experience of spending forty days in communion with God on the mountain. When he came down from the mountain, he had something more than ten commandments inscribed on two tablets of stone. He was a man who had been thoroughly infused with God’s element. During those days of communion on the mountain Moses experienced a divine infusion, the infusion of God’s substance into his very being. However, this matter is not given its rightful place by Christians, who mainly say that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and that when Moses saw the children of Israel worshipping idols, he threw down the tables of stone in anger and broke them. The Bible indicates that Moses had received not only two tables of stone, but that the very element of God had been infused into him and caused his face to shine. Although Moses could cast down the two tablets and break them, he could not get rid of the transfusion he had received during his time of fellowship with God on the mountain.
In principle, this is also true in our experience with the Lord. Although we may not be able to keep the commandments, we cannot get rid of what is transfused into us when we hear God’s words in times of communion with Him.
In my ministry I have often told people that if we abide in the Lord according to John 15, we shall spontaneously live out the life of the vine tree. Certainly there is no need for the branches of a vine to strive to keep any commandments. They simply abide in the vine and live out the life of the vine. Although I have ministered along this line, I have wondered about John 14:21 and 23, two verses which seem very much like the commandments in Exodus 20. John 14:21 says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me,” and verse 23 says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” To a certain extent at least, these words of the Lord Jesus seem to be a repetition of the word in Exodus 20. The reason for this is that, as far as the basic principle of life is concerned, the Old Testament and the New Testament are the same. In ourselves, we are not able to keep the commandments of God in the Old Testament or of the Lord in the New. Regarding this matter, Paul said in Romans 7 that it is not possible for us to keep the law. In particular, Paul deals with the commandment concerning covetousness, a commandment which concerns not only our outward behavior, but also our inward condition. Although we in ourselves are not able to fulfill all the commandments, we can abide in the Lord and experience Him abiding in us that we may be infused with Him. Consider once again Moses’ experience on the mountain. Because he had received a marvelous transfusion from God, he could abide in God, and God could abide in him. As a result of such an infusion and mutual abiding, Moses could keep God’s commandments, not by his own efforts, but by the substance of God which had been infused into him.
At this point, I would like to call your attention to the title of this message: “The Law Being the Living Word of God Infusing His Substance into His Loving Seekers.” The law is not only a list of divine commandments; it is the living word of God which infuses God’s substance into those who lovingly seek Him. If we consider the Ten Commandments only as laws and then try to keep them, we are not proper in our approach to the law. We should not apply the Ten Commandments in this way. On the contrary, we should be those who love God and seek Him. In this matter, we should be like Paul in Philippians 3, one who was pursuing Christ out of love and even running after Him. Out of love for the Lord, we should pursue Him, contact Him, and abide in His presence, dwelling together with Him. If we do this, day by day we shall be infused with God. Then automatically we shall walk according to God’s law. We shall keep the requirements of the law, not by our own efforts, but with what has been infused into us of the Lord through our contact with Him. Once we have been thoroughly infused with God’s substance, He Himself from within us will keep His own law. We should remember that the law was given on the mountain of God, the place where God’s people could be infused with His substance. Thus, we should not regard the law simply as His commandments, but as the word of God and the testimony of God, which not only express Him, but also infuse His substance into those who seek Him in love.
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