Life-Study of Exodus

Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0397-9
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 61 of 185 Section 1 of 2

LIFE-STUDY OF EXODUS

MESSAGE SIXTY-ONE

THE NEGATIVE ASPECT OF THE GIVING
OF THE LAW AND OF ITS FUNCTION

(1)

Scripture Reading: Exo. 19:1-25; 20:18-22; 24:1-18; 32:1-35; 33:1-6; 34:1-4, 29-35; 3:1, 12; 4:27; 18:5; Gal. 4:24-25; Heb. 12:18-21

After several messages on the “day” aspect of the law, we come in this message to the “night” aspect. According to the divine revelation in the Bible, whenever God comes to have contact with man, there are always two aspects of this contact. The reason for this is that such contact involves both God and man. Before the fall of man in Genesis 3, man was wholly on God’s side. He had been created in God’s image and after God’s likeness. In Genesis 1 we see that God created the plants and animals each according to its own kind. Although man, of course, is not divine, he was created according to God’s kind, not according to his own kind, as was the case with everything else. Man was made in the image of God and after the likeness of God. This indicates that man was created according to God’s kind. Therefore, at the time of creation, man was on God’s side and was one with Him. Concerning God and man at the time of creation, there were not two kinds. Because man was made according to God’s kind, there was just one kind, and that was God’s kind.

In Genesis 3 we see that in his subtlety the serpent injected his evil thought into the mind of the woman. The question he asked her and the words he spoke to her were the embodiment of the Devil’s thought. When Eve spoke to the serpent and responded to his question, she received devilish concepts into her mind. This means that before she ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, satanic thoughts had already been planted into her. Man’s fall took place first through the acceptance of devilish thoughts, then through the physical act of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. First the human mind took sides with the Devil; then man acted according to the Devil’s thought and word by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. As a result, the nature of the Devil entered into man’s flesh. The consequence of this was that the devilish thought and nature separated man from God so that man was no longer on God’s side or after His kind. As the Bible indicates, every sinner is a serpent, the very offspring of vipers (Matt. 23:33). In 1 John 3:10 we are even told that fallen people are children of the Devil. Fallen man has become a creature after the Devil’s kind. He is no longer after God’s kind. For this reason, in rebuking Peter the Lord Jesus called him Satan. Furthermore, one day the Lord Jesus plainly said that Judas, the one who would betray Him, was a devil (John 6:70). The fact that the Lord could call one of His intimate disciples Satan and refer to a false disciple as a devil indicates that fallen man is now according to Satan’s kind. The fall has caused man to become another kind of creature, a creature no longer according to God’s kind.

At the time God brought the children of Israel to Mount Sinai, were they after God’s kind or after Satan’s kind? We should be careful in answering this question. In Exodus 19:3 God refers to both the house of Jacob and the children of Israel. The house of Jacob and the children of Israel are two different kinds of people. (This distinction cannot be explained away as an instance of the parallelism common to Hebrew poetry.) In the eyes of God the house of Jacob is different from the children of Israel. According to whose kind was Jacob? Was he according to God’s kind? Surely Jacob, a supplanter, was according to the Devil’s kind, for he was a fallen person. Like us, Jacob was after the Devil’s kind. Hence, the expression “the house of Jacob” is the title of the people who are after the Devil’s kind. The expression “the children of Israel” denotes a people who are according to God’s kind. They are descendants of Israel, the prince of God. Now we can see that when God brought the Israelites to Mount Sinai, they were in His eyes two peoples: the house of Jacob according to Satan’s kind and the children of Israel according to God’s kind.

It is rather difficult to say how many were among the house of Jacob and how many belonged to the children of Israel. Moses, no doubt, was among the children of Israel, for he was according to God’s kind. It is not easy to say where Aaron was. Aaron seemed to be among both the house of Jacob and the children of Israel. Our experience is often the same. In the morning, we may be numbered among the children of Israel, but at the end of a day’s work, we may act like a Jacob. According to 24:1, Aaron, along with Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, was told to come up unto the Lord. However, Aaron later showed that he did not have the ability to overcome the opinion of the religious congregation when they said to him, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us” (32:1). The congregation is rightly called a religious congregation because they had the intention to worship something, even though that thing was an idol. Aaron knew that the people’s request was sinful, but he was too timid to withstand them. In a very real sense, Aaron was on both sides, sometimes on God’s side and at other times, on the side of the religious congregation.

Like Moses, Joshua belonged absolutely on God’s side. He was very faithful and stood with God as a person after His kind. However, it is difficult to locate where Joshua was physically with respect to Moses at the time the law was decreed on the mount. No clear word is given regarding Joshua’s whereabouts.

From the time of the fall, man’s condition determines whether or not God’s contact with him will be in the “day” or in the “night.” The deciding factor is on man’s side, not on God’s side. On God’s side there is no night, for God is light (1 John 1:5). It is impossible for there to be night with God. Genesis 1 speaks first of evening and then of morning. Night is referred to first because of the fall of the original creation in the age before Adam when Satan and certain angels and other creatures rebelled against God. This fall brought in night (Gen. 1:2). When God came in to restore the fallen creation, His work of restoration brought in day once again. The fact that Genesis 1 speaks of evening and morning indicates that night is related to the original fall in the universe, whereas day is related to God’s work of restoration. Therefore, in the restored universe day follows night.

Our Christian experience also goes from night to day. We were brought out of the night and entered into the day. Because of our fallen condition, we were in the night. But God’s salvation has brought us a new day. When we received this salvation, we entered into day.

Many Christians have a hope that their spiritual experience will be an everlasting day. But not until we are in the New Jerusalem will there be no more night, only day. Concerning the New Jerusalem it is said, “Night shall not be there” (Rev. 21:25). In our present experience, our night is usually longer than our day. In other words, we may be “down” more than we are “up.” In our experience night and day will continue until we enter the New Jerusalem, which will be illumined by the glory of God and where there will be no more night.

To repeat, whether God’s contact with us is in the “day” aspect or in the “night” aspect depends on our condition. With Moses, there was no darkness. Therefore, in his case the giving of the law was wholly a matter in the “day.” The same was true concerning the function of the law. However, for those in the house of Jacob, both the giving of the law and the function of the law were in the negative aspect, in the aspect of “night.”

In giving us the holy Word, the Bible, God did not intend for there to be a “night” side as well as a “day” side. His intention was strictly related to the “day” side. However, the majority of genuine blood-washed, Spirit-regenerated Christians, even those who are seeking God, are in the “night” in their reading of the Scriptures. Although they are genuine believers in Christ, they remain in their fallen condition and status. This is a very serious matter. Whenever we come to the Bible, we must drop everything related to our negative background. This means that we must set aside our fallen background, our natural background, and our religious background. All Christians have such a threefold background. After we were saved and began to seek the Lord, we were still under the influence of this threefold background when we came to the Bible. This is the reason that most Christians are in the “night” when they read the Word. They are like the house of Jacob, for whom the giving of the law was an experience in the “night,” rather than being like Moses, for whom it was an experience in the “day.” For some Christians, the Bible is a book of “day,” but for many more, it is a book of “night.” The factor that determines whether the Word of God is in our experience “day” or “night” is our condition in coming to it. Years ago, I loved the Bible very much, but for me there was nearly no “day” in it, mainly “night.” But through the years, the Bible has become to me a book wholly of the “day.” By the Lord’s mercy, I have been rescued from my threefold background.

We need to realize the crucial importance of our condition when we come to the Word and seek the Lord’s countenance. We may make our contact with God a “day” or turn it into a “night.” It all depends on our condition, status, standing, and situation. For the house of Jacob at the bottom of the mountain, the giving of the law was in the “night.” But for Moses on the mountaintop, it was in the “day.” It is a basic principle of spiritual experience that our condition determines whether our contact with God is in the “day” or in the “night.”

The principle is the same with listening to messages. Whether a message is “day” or “night” to you depends not on the speaker, but on you. If you are in the “night,” the message will be “night” to you. But if you are in the “day,” for you the message will be full of light.

According to Exodus 3, Moses was on the mountain of God, Mount Horeb, when God called him (v. 1, 4). God said to him, “Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (v. 12). This word in the “day” was altogether fulfilled when God brought the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness to Mount Horeb, which is also Mount Sinai. There on the mountain God uttered more words in the “day”: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be my personal possession above all peoples: for all the earth is mine” (19:4-5, Heb.). These words are filled with bright light. In 19:6 we see God’s intention in bringing the people out of Egypt: “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Clearly it was not God’s intention to come to people in the “night.” He came to them in the “day” and spoke words full of light. He told the children of Israel that He carried them on eagles’ wings, brought them to Himself, took them as His personal possession, and wanted to make them a kingdom of priests. How wonderful!

In 19:7 Moses called for the elders of the people and presented to them all the words the Lord had spoken to him. Verse 8 says, “And all the people answered together, and said, All that Jehovah has spoken we will do” (Heb.). It seems that this was a very positive response. However, it was offensive to God, for it indicated that the people did not know themselves. They did not know what they were, and they did not take the proper standing before the Lord. Thus, when “Moses returned the words of the people unto Jehovah” (v. 8, Heb.), the Lord said that He would come in a thick cloud. The atmosphere changed from “day” to “night.” Verse 16 shows clearly this change of atmosphere: “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.” In the first part of chapter nineteen there was no smoke, fire, or trembling. Everything was pleasant, and God spoke to the people in a pleasant way of grace. However, because the people answered in a way that indicated that they did not know themselves, God was offended. They presumed that they could do whatever God required. They did not know that they were unable to fulfill His commandments and that they stood in need of His mercy. The people should have said, “O Lord, have mercy on us. You know we are a rebellious people. Lord, we thank You for bringing us to Yourself on the wings of a great eagle. We also thank You for Your selection. You have chosen us to be Your personal possession. But, Lord, we don’t trust in ourselves. We are not able to keep Your commandments. We look to You, Lord, for mercy.” If this had been the attitude of the people, the “day” would have been prolonged. But because they did not know themselves and responded in a foolish way, their “day” was changed to “night.”

Even before the decree of the law had been completed, the people fell into the sin of idolatry. They broke at least the first two commandments. When Moses was on the mountaintop with the Lord, the people were proved, tested, by Him (20:20). Exodus 32:1 says, “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him” (Heb.). No doubt, the fire must still have been burning on the mountaintop. However, the people probably grew accustomed to it. The sight of the fire had become common. After a period of weeks, they told Aaron to make gods for them. Aaron should have rebuked them severely. Instead, Aaron said, “Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me” (32:2). Then we are told that Aaron received the gold from the people and “fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (v. 4). Aaron then built an altar before it and proclaimed that the next day would be a feast to the Lord (v. 5). We are told that the people “rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings” (v. 6). They brought sacrifices to the golden calf Aaron had made. The people presented the right kind of sacrifices, but they offered them to an idol. What a mixture! The way to worship may have been right, but the object of worship was wrong. Such a mixture can be found among Christians today. Certain Christian leaders make “calves” and cause others to worship them.

Knowing the situation of the people at the bottom of the mountain, the Lord told Moses, “Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves” (32:7). Here the Lord says that Moses was the one who brought the people out of Egypt. The Lord also told Moses that He would consume the people and make of Moses a great nation (v. 10). The Lord could destroy the people and still fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because Moses was one of their descendants. Moses, however, argued with the Lord and said, “Why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?” (v. 11). Moses continued his conversation with the Lord by saying, “Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people” (v. 12).

At the Lord’s word, Moses went down the mountain with the two tables of the testimony in his hand (v. 15). When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he thought it was “a noise of war in the camp” (v. 17). But Moses said, “It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome; but the noise of them that sing do I hear” (v. 18). When Moses came into the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his “anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount” (v. 19). The breaking of the tables of the testimony indicates that the law had been broken. Before the decree of the law had been finished, the law had already been broken.

When Moses asked Aaron what he had done, Aaron told him a bold-faced lie. Aaron said that he cast the gold into the fire and “there came out this calf” (v. 24). Since the people, including Aaron, were in such a pitiful condition, how could the decree of the law have been anything other than a “night” to them? They were absolutely in the “night.” They did not know God, and they did not know God’s gracious dealing or mercy. Once again we see that although the giving of the law was in the “day” for Moses, it was in the “night” for those in the house of Jacob.


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