Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
It is easy to read and understand the ordinances in Exodus 21 through 23 merely according to the letters in black and white. However, it is difficult to get into the depths of this portion of the Word and dig out the riches of the implications, indications, and significances of the ordinances of the law. In order to mine the riches hidden beneath the surface in these chapters, we should take certain crucial words and then trace their implications. For example, 22:18 says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” The crucial word in this verse is witch. If we trace the significance of this word and consider its implications, we shall see that this involves witchcraft and that witchcraft is related to demons. Hence, the single word witch implies the existence of both witchcraft and demons. By tracing the implications of a word in this way, we can get into the depths of the Bible and mine the precious things concealed beneath the surface.
Other important words in these chapters are murder and coveting. We can trace murder to the Devil, the founder, the source, of murder, the one who was “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). In the same principle, the word coveting leads us to the matter of indwelling sin described by Paul in Romans 7. In Romans 7 we see that indwelling sin refers primarily to the lust of coveting. Moreover, if we consider carefully the word in Exodus 23:1 about raising a false report, we shall see that this involves lying and that lying can be traced to Satan, the father of lies.
On the positive side, we need to consider the implications, indications, and significances of the words altar and sacrifice in 20:24 and 25. The altar points to the cross, and the sacrifices signify Christ. In like manner, the unleavened bread and the feasts also typify the riches of Christ. Actually, to trace the implications, indications, and significances of the crucial words in Exodus 21 through 23 is not a matter of allegorizing the Bible. Rather, it is to open the way for us to dig into the Word and to see what riches are found under the surface.
A number of Bible teachers have pointed out that the altar typifies the cross and that the sacrifices typify Christ. However, not many teachers have gone on to find out how Christ is typified by other items in chapters twenty-one through twenty-three of Exodus. If the altar typifies the cross and if the sacrifices typify Christ, it is logical to expect that the Sabbath day, the sabbatical year, and the feasts of unleavened bread, harvest, and ingathering also typify Christ. We also need to see what the fullness of the harvest and the tears of the presses typify. It is certainly necessary to consider further implications, indications, and significances of the ordinances of the law, especially as they point to Christ and our experience of Him.
In principle, every kind of law has a certain spirit and also presents a picture of something, usually of the one who made the law. For example, the Constitution of the United States has a spirit of democracy and freedom. It also is a portrait of the people in the United States and shows that they care for liberty and equality. Hence, the law of the United States is a picture of the citizens of the United States. God’s law also has a spirit and presents a picture. It is very important that we know what is the spirit of the law of God and what is the picture portrayed by God’s law with its many ordinances. We have pointed out that God’s law has God Himself as its spirit. A law always embodies the spirit of the lawgiver. Because the law of God was given by God, this law has a divine spirit. There can be no doubt that God the Spirit is the spirit of the law decreed by Him.
Students and teachers of the Bible pay a great deal of attention to the Ten Commandments. Some Christians are able to recite these commandments as easily as they recite the Lord’s prayer. I would make it emphatically clear that I by no means belittle the Ten Commandments or detract from them. Nevertheless, it is a fact that in these commandments it is very difficult to see Christ or the cross. Furthermore, in the Ten Commandments we cannot see the redemption of Christ, the things accomplished by Him on our behalf, or anything related to the enjoyment of Christ. The first commandment forbids having any god other than Jehovah God (20:3). Jehovah is our unique Husband, and we should not have another besides Him. The second commandment forbids making a graven image or the likeness of anything and bowing down to it (20:4-5). The third commandment declares, “Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain: for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (20:7, lit.). The fourth and fifth commandments are concerned respectively with remembering the Sabbath day and with honoring father and mother (20:8-12). The remaining five commandments forbid murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting (20:13-17). Do you see anything of Christ here? Do you see anything of the cross or of Christ’s redemption? Do you find anything of the experience of Christ or the enjoyment of Christ? The answer is that we cannot see Christ in the Ten Commandments. This is the reason for the ordinances in Exodus 21 through 23. In many of these ordinances Christ is portrayed. Either He is typified in a rather direct way or He is implied, indicated, or signified indirectly.
The ordinances in Exodus actually begin not with chapter twenty-one, but with 20:22-26. These verses may be regarded as a preliminary word concerning the ordinances. They are the door, or the gateway, into the ordinances in the following chapters. This door provides the way for fallen man to contact God and worship Him. The only way fallen man can contact God in worship is through the altar and by the sacrifices. This indicates that man can worship God only through the cross and by Christ. It is very significant that before giving us the various ordinances God presents a preliminary ordinance which opens the way for the other ordinances. In this preliminary ordinance we see a clear picture of Christ and His redemption according to God’s economy. In the ordinances we can see Christ and also Christ’s redemption accomplished fully according to the economy of God. As we shall see, in chapters twenty-one through twenty-three we have Christ, redemption, and the economy of God. If we would enter into God’s economy, we need a gate, a way, for sinners to contact God. We would emphasize repeatedly that the unique way is the altar and the sacrifices, the cross and Christ. If we are clear concerning this, we shall want to bow before the Lord and worship Him.
Both on the positive side and on the negative side, the ordinances of the law are rich in their implications, indications, and significances. In the foregoing message we pointed out that the ordinances portray a black and bleak picture of fallen man. Man is fallen and continues to live in the fall. He is filled with sins: idolatry, fornication, murder, stealing, lying, coveting, and witchcraft. Furthermore, fallen man has not only sins outwardly, but sin, the lustful nature of Satan, dwelling in him. Actually, the sin of covetousness which dwells in us is Satan’s nature. Furthermore, lying and murder point to the Devil, the source of murder and the father of lies, working in fallen man. Both in outward sins and indwelling sin man is related to Satan and even to demons. Witchcraft involves contact with demons. How terrible is the situation of fallen man! He not only sins against God, but he is joined to Satan, involved with demons, and enslaved to sin.
On the positive side, the ordinances present a marvelous portrait of Christ. Christ Himself became a slave, entering into the condition of fallen man in slavery. Furthermore, He was delivered by God into the hands of fallen men in order to be killed. In this way, He became the sacrifice. Christ is not only the sacrifice offered to God; He is also the city of refuge into which we may flee. The ordinances concerning livestock belonging to an enemy or to one who hates us show that Christ has brought back all the things of life which we sinners, His enemies, had lost and also helped us, who hated Him, to be released from our heavy burdens. Fallen sinners who flee into Christ may thus take Him as their Sabbath, their rest. In Christ we enjoy rest and freedom. What a tremendous gospel this is!
The ordinances in this portion of Exodus first open the gate for us to contact God and come into His economy. Furthermore, they present a vivid picture of fallen man living in the fall, filled with sins, involved with Satan, related to demons, and fully enslaved. However, there is One who came to man in his fallen and enslaved condition, becoming a slave Himself. After He was delivered by God to be a sacrifice for fallen man, He restored the matters of life, released us from our burdens, and became our refuge. Now we, fallen sinners, may flee into Him and take Him as our rest and freedom. This is a summary of what we have covered thus far concerning the implications, indications, and significances of the ordinances of the law. In this message and in the message following, we shall consider what is implied, indicated, and signified by these ordinances concerning how to live in Christ and how to enjoy Him.
In 22:29-31 there are four ordinances related to how we should live in Christ. The first of these ordinances says, “Thou shalt not delay to offer thy fullness and thy tears” (v. 29, lit.). This means to offer the fullness of the harvest and the outflow of the wine and oil presses. The fullness here refers to the fullness of the harvest of the produce in the good land, and the tears refer to the outflowing of wine and oil from grapes and olives that have been pressed. This is the way to live in Christ. Having fled into Christ and having come to enjoy Him as our rest and freedom, we need to live in Him by having the harvest and the tears. Furthermore, we need to offer to Him the firstborn both of man and of cattle. We also need to be holy men and to be those who do not eat the flesh of animals torn by wild beasts. We need a proper interpretation of these ordinances to know their indications, implications, and significances. We have seen that the altar signifies the cross, and that the sacrifices signify Christ. Now we need to ask what the fullness of the harvest and the flow of wine and oil from the presses signify. We should not have the attitude that there is no need for us to understand these things. What does it mean to offer to the Lord the firstborn of man and beast? What does it mean to be a holy man, and what is the significance of eating flesh torn by wild beasts? All these matters are related to living in Christ, into whom we have fled for rest and freedom.
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