Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Not many Christians realize that concerning both the giving of the law and the function of the law, there are two aspects, the “day” aspect and the “night” aspect. Nevertheless, such a truth lies hidden in the Bible. If we get into the depths of the truth in the Bible and consider it in the light of our spiritual experience, we shall see that there are these two aspects related to the giving of the law and its function.
Christians should never have the attitude that the law of God is not good. In Romans 7:12 Paul says, “So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” In Romans 7:14 he goes so far as to say, “The law is spiritual.” The law is both good and also spiritual.
Paul’s use of the adjective “spiritual” with respect to the law indicates that the law is related to God the Spirit. Because the law is something of God and out of God and because it belongs to God, who is Spirit (John 4:24), the law is the same as God in essence and in nature. Whatever proceeds out from God must be the same in substance as He is. The word “spiritual” in Romans 7:14 points to this substance. Certain things are very good, but because their substance is not of the Spirit, they cannot be called spiritual. Because the law comes out of God and is the same as God in substance, it is both good and also spiritual.
Because God is both the source of the law and its substance, the law is very uplifted in its nature. We should never regard the law as something that is not good or spiritual. In speaking of the law in Romans 7, Paul was careful. He emphatically declared that the law is holy and also spiritual. The law remains good and spiritual no matter whether we are good or evil, spiritual or unspiritual. If we are evil, the law is still good. If we are not spiritual, the law is nonetheless spiritual. No matter what we are, the law is good and also spiritual.
Although in itself the law is always good and spiritual, to us the decree of the law may be either positive or negative, either “day” or “night,” depending on our spiritual condition. To one kind of person, the decree of the law may be very negative. But to another kind of person, it may be altogether positive.
These two aspects of the decree of the law, the “day” aspect and the “night” aspect can be seen on the same occasion—the giving of the law on the mountain. The mountain where the law was given was called both Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai. To Moses on the mountaintop, the mountain was Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. But to the people at the bottom of the mountain, it was Mount Sinai.
I am sure Moses never forgot that wonderful experience with the Lord on the mountaintop. When Peter, James, and John were with the Lord Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, they saw the Lord transfigured, but they were not transfigured themselves. But when Moses was on the mountaintop with the Lord, he himself was actually transfigured. When he came down after spending forty days with God on the mountain, the skin of his face was shining with the element of God which had been transfused into him. The light that radiated from Moses’ face was in fact the light of God Himself. If this light was not God’s light, then what other kind of light was it? For Moses, the mountain on which the law was given was not Mount Sinai; it was Mount Horeb, the mountain of God.
When Moses was on the mountaintop being infused with God, he was mingled with God. Just as Peter did not forget his experience on the mount of transfiguration but referred to it when he was old (2 Pet. 1:17), so Moses could not forget his experience on the mountain of God, where he beheld the Lord, was infused with His element, and was mingled with Him. In their ignorance and blindness, some people today oppose the truth that believers can be mingled with God. According to them, the teaching that we can be mingled with God is heretical. But if Moses had not been mingled with God, how shall we account for the shining of his face? What caused his face to shine so that the people could not bear to look at it? Moses was infused with God Himself and experienced a kind of transfiguration.
In the Bible we are told of only two people whose faces shone: Christ on the mount of transfiguration and Moses when he came down from Mount Horeb. When Christ was on the mount of transfiguration, His face was shining like the sun (Matt. 17:2). As we have pointed out, when Moses came down from the mountain after beholding the Lord for so many days, the skin of his face also was shining. Eventually, the believers will shine as the sun. In Matthew 13:43 the Lord Jesus said that “the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” If we wish to be those who shine as the sun, we need to be a Moses on the mountaintop beholding the Lord and being infused with Him.
Whether in our experience the decree of the law is positive or negative, “day” or “night,” depends on our condition, not on the law itself. If we are a Moses on the mountaintop, the decree of the law for us will be a wonderful experience. But if we are like the people trembling at the bottom of the mountain, the decree of the law in our experience will be dreadful and terrifying.
At the time the law was given, three categories of people were involved: Moses, and perhaps Joshua also, on the mountaintop, the people at the foot of the mountain, and those who were on the mountain worshipping afar off. As one on the mountaintop, Moses experienced God’s transfusion and infusion. The ones who were on the mountain, neither at the top or the bottom, worshipped afar off, and those at the foot of the mountain trembled. Where are you in your experience? Are you at the bottom of the mountain trembling, on the mountain worshipping afar off, or on the top of the mountain being infused with the element of God?
To Moses and possibly to Joshua as well, the decree of the law was a wonderful experience. But to those at the bottom of the mountain, it was very frightening. This was the reason they trembled with fear. The vital point here is that whether the giving of the law is positive or negative, “day” or “night,” to us is determined by our condition, not by the law. If our condition is positive, the giving of the law will also be positive. But if our condition is negative, the decree of the law will be negative.
The same principle applies in reading the Bible. In our experience, the Bible may be either a book of “day” or of “night.” Many hold to the superstition that the Bible affords only good things for those who read it. According to this superstitious belief, whenever a person comes to the Scriptures, he will receive something positive. However, many come to the Bible and do not receive any benefit whatever. Furthermore, both believers and unbelievers alike have actually been slain spiritually by the Bible. Those who take the Bible as a book of dead letters will be killed by it. This has been the experience of many Christians, including a good number of pastors and Bible students. People are slain by the Word not because there is anything wrong with the Bible, but because there is something wrong with those who read it. Like the law, the Bible is good and also spiritual. As a gift from God, the Bible cannot be wrong in any way. However, to those whose spiritual condition is a “night” the Bible becomes a book of “night.” Once again we see that whether the Bible is a book of “day” or “night” to us in our experience is not determined by the Bible itself: it is determined by our spiritual condition.
From the very beginning, it was not God’s intention to give man commandments to keep or to have man do things for Him. God’s eternal intention is to work Himself into us. When He comes to us and speaks with us, He does not do so with the intention of giving us a certain number of commandments for us to learn and keep. On the contrary, His desire is simply to be with us in order to infuse Himself into us. The longer we stay in God’s presence, the more we are infused with Him.
In north China where I was born, it is very cold in the winter. Years ago, we used a coal-burning stove to heat the room. On days when it was especially cold, I enjoyed standing close to the stove and absorbing the heat. When I went into another room after spending time by the stove, others could feel the heat coming out through my clothing. By standing near the stove I had been infused with the heat from the stove. This is an illustration of how we are infused with God by spending time with Him. God’s intention is to have a people who stay close to Him that He may transfuse His element into them.
When Moses was in Egypt, he saw how the children of Israel were mistreated by the Egyptians. Hence, he decided that he would do something to deliver God’s people from bondage in Egypt. Whether Moses was right or wrong in attempting to deliver the people, it is certain that he acted in a foolish way. When God later delivered the people out of Egypt, His intention was not merely to release them from captivity. If we have the heavenly vision, we shall see that God’s intention was to bring the people who had been separated from Him back to Himself so that they could be with Him.
After trying to rescue the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, Moses fled to the wilderness. He was deeply disappointed and discouraged. During his years in the wilderness, Moses was forced to give up the prospect of a great career. No matter what kind of ambition or intention a person may have, after forty years in the wilderness every trace of ambition will surely disappear. Moses was forty when he attempted to rescue the children of Israel. At the end of the next forty years, when he was eighty, he considered himself ready for death. According to Moses’ word in Psalm 90, even those who are strong should not expect to live beyond the age of eighty. By the time he reached the age of eighty and thought of himself as good for nothing but death, Moses had lost every trace of ambition. Every bit of his intention was gone. As far as he was concerned, he was finished. He may have said to the flock while he was shepherding them, “I am dying, flock, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here with you. Perhaps after a few days, I’ll be gone.” Suddenly one day Moses beheld a burning bush, a bush that burned without being consumed. When he turned aside to “see this great sight” and learn why the bush was not burnt (3:3), God called to him out of the midst of the bush (v. 4). No wonder that Moses later spoke of God as the One who dwelt in the bush (Deut. 33:16). God wanted Moses to forget about his own doing. Furthermore, God did not want Moses to be disappointed or discouraged. He had come to call him and to send him back to Egypt that he might bring the people out of bondage and lead them to the very place where God was. In 3:12 the Lord said to Moses, “When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” As this word indicates, God’s intention was not just to rescue the people from persecution in Egypt; it was to bring them to Himself on the mountain of God. It is important that we see this positive aspect of God’s salvation.
Not many Christians see God’s intention in His salvation. To them, salvation consists only in being delivered from hell. However, the Bible emphasizes the positive matter that God’s salvation is to bring His people back to Himself. According to the New Testament, in His salvation God brings His people not only to Himself, but also into Himself. Thus, God’s intention in His salvation is to bring His chosen people to Himself and even into Himself.
According to the picture in the book of Exodus, God did everything to bring His people out of bondage in Egypt and to lead them to Himself on the mountain of God in the wilderness. He brought them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness, where He provided water for drinking and food for eating. Eventually, God brought the children of Israel to the very place where He had appeared to Moses and called him. In 5:1 the Lord said to Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” In 10:9 Moses once again told Pharaoh, “We must hold a feast unto Jehovah” (lit.). God wanted His people to come to His mountain to feast with Him and unto Him. God did not say to Moses, “There are many things for the children of Israel to do. I want you to rescue them from Egypt so that they may do a great work for Me.” On the contrary, God told Moses to lead the people out of Egypt so that they could hold a feast unto Him. Eventually, in fulfillment of His word, God brought the people to His mountain.
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