Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to the experiences of Christ for the church life (13:8-15). Before I come to this matter, however, I am burdened to say a further word about the way, the race, and the paths, particularly about the one race becoming the many paths.
By looking at the arrangement of the furniture in the tabernacle, we can see how Christ is the way and the race, and how the one race becomes many paths. As we have seen, the altar and the laver are in the outer court; the showbread table, the lampstand, and the incense altar are in the Holy Place; and the ark, containing the golden pot, the budding rod, and the table of the testimony, is in the Holy of Holies. The altar, laver, incense altar, and ark form a line, and the showbread table and the lampstand form an intersecting line. These two lines form a cross. Each of these items signifies an aspect of Christ.
Consider the experience of a sinner who comes to Christ. Firstly, he comes to the altar where he kneels down, makes confession, and takes Christ as his substitute, Redeemer, and Savior. Here at the altar he begins to enjoy Christ. After experiencing Christ at the altar, he goes to the laver, which signifies that the Redeemer has become the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b; 2 Cor. 3:17), and there he experiences the washing of the living water. The washing of the water in the laver is different from the washing of the blood at the altar. The blood at the altar washes away our sins; the water of the laver washes away the earthly dirt.
While many Christians go back and forth between the altar and the laver, the laver and the altar, we need to take a straight path into the Holy Place. Once we are in the Holy Place, we make a right turn to the showbread table where we enjoy Christ as the bread of life. Before coming into the church, we never heard that Christ was eatable. But the Lord Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” and “He who eats Me shall also live because of Me” (John 6:48, 57, Recovery Version). Now, after coming into the church, we have been helped to eat Christ, to feed on Him, and even to masticate Him. After feeding on Christ at the showbread table, we must make an about-face and take a straight path to the lampstand. Here at the lampstand we are enlightened by the light of life (John 1:4), that is, by the light which comes from feeding on Christ. At the lampstand we make another about-face to the central line, and then make a left turn and go to the incense altar to experience Christ in resurrection as the sweet fragrance by which we are accepted of God. This experience of the incense altar will then usher us directly into the Holy of Holies. In the tabernacle we can see several paths: the path from the cross to the laver, from the laver to the showbread table, from the showbread table to the lampstand, from the lampstand to the incense altar, and from the incense altar to the ark in the Holy of Holies. Once we are in the Holy of Holies, we are in the shekinah glory. But we should not stop there. We must proceed even further and experience all the contents of the ark, feeding upon Christ as the hidden manna, partaking of Him as the budding rod, and experiencing the working of the law of life. As we have seen, the working of the law of life will make us the corporate reproduction of God’s standard model for the fulfillment of His eternal purpose. All the paths from the altar in the outer court to the ark in the Holy of Holies are the way for us to have the fulfillment of God’s economy and the enjoyment of the birthright. Ultimately, it is the way into perfection, glorification, and the full taste of God. Everything we need is on this way.
Once we are on this way, we should not linger or hesitate. We must run the race, forgetting Judaism, Christianity, and every other religion. As soon as we start to run on the way, it becomes a race composed of many paths. The path from the altar to the laver, from the laver to the showbread table, from the showbread table to the lampstand, from the lampstand to the incense altar, and from the incense altar to the ark—these are the paths which compose God’s unique way.
Why do we need so many turns in Christ as the way? Because we need the cross to eliminate all the negative things in us. I have already pointed out that the arrangement of the furniture in the tabernacle forms the symbol of the cross. The way in Christ is in the shape of a cross. In fact, the way even is the cross. When we begin at the altar in the outer court, we are filled with many negative things, such as sin, the world, the flesh, lusts, and Satan. But as we move along the paths, making all the turns, these negative things are crossed out. Once we reach the ark in the Holy of Holies we are a purified person. I say again that all the negative things are crossed out by the turns which form the paths. What remains after making all these turns is a resurrected, uplifted humanity which is suitable to be mingled with divinity. How marvelous this is! Only God could have designed it.
Now we may come to the experiences of Christ in 13:8-15. Since so many things have been covered in the first twelve chapters of Hebrews, why does the writer include the experiences of Christ found in chapter thirteen? Because the Judaizers were using a certain aspect of their religious ceremonies—the eating of the festival food—to attract the Hebrew believers. According to the Old Testament, the children of Israel came to Jerusalem three times a year for the worship of God in their annual feasts, coming together to feast for several days. In these feasts they ate the festival food. This eating together, which was a very attractive thing, is the background of verse 9, which says, “Do not be carried away with various and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be confirmed by grace, not by foods, in which those who walked were not profited.” The word “food” mentioned here is in contrast with “grace” and refers to the foods of the ceremonial observances of the old covenant (9:10; Col. 2:16) which the Judaizers used in their attempts to carry away the Hebrew believers from the enjoyment of grace, which is the participation in Christ in the new covenant.
At the time of their festivals, all the Israelites were excited, much more excited than Americans and Europeans are at Christmas time. It was very difficult for the seekers of Christ to stay away from such a charming attraction. The Judaizers might have come to the Hebrew believers, saying, “In a few days the feast of tabernacles will begin. If you don’t go, you will lose all the enjoyment. Where will you be while we are singing, dwelling together, and enjoying all the riches of the good land? You will be assembling with that church in a little house. What will you have to eat there? If you go there, you will lose the right to kill the sacrifices for your eating. If you want to eat, you must go with us to the temple. But you have given up our precious feast. This means that you so-called Christians have lost all this enjoyment.” If you were a Jew and had been there at the time, could you have withstood this attraction? Most of us would have been unable to resist. Then a fellow believer might have come to the Hebrew Christians, saying, “Don’t go back to the temple. If you do, you will fall away from the grace of God. Don’t listen to the strange teachings about the food in our old religion. Christ is the reality. He is everything.” In the midst of such a dilemma, the Hebrew believers did not know what to do. Because of this, the writer gave them a strong word in chapter thirteen.
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