Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
As far as composition is concerned, the book of Exodus is a continuation of Genesis. This is proved by the way Exodus begins: “Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, which came into Egypt” (1:1, Heb.). Genesis has a wonderful beginning but a poor conclusion. It opens with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Heb.). But it ends with the statement, “So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (Gen. 50:26). Thus, Genesis concludes with a dead man in a coffin in Egypt. This indicates that God’s chosen people were in a situation of death.
Exodus 1 is a further exposure of the condition of God’s people in Egypt. Although they were in death, they were not inactive, for they were living and active in death. This is Paul’s thought in Ephesians 2, where we are told that those who are dead in trespasses and sins walk according to the age of the world, behave in the lusts of the flesh, and carry out the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts. Those who are spiritually dead still have their works, but they are dead works, works of death.
Chapter one of Exodus is a detailed record of the activities of God’s people in their situation of death in Egypt. Forced to labor as slaves of Pharaoh, they were already in death and yet they were daily being killed. It may sound strange to say that the dead are being killed, but this is true in spiritual experience. Although the worldly people are already spiritually dead, they are continuously being killed. The situation among the worldly people today, like that among God’s people in Exodus 1, is characterized by slavery and death. People are firstly enslaved by the world and then they are deadened and killed by it. People may think that human culture is progressing in a positive way, but in the eyes of God there is more slavery and death on earth today than ever before. Before we came to Christ and were saved, we also were enslaved and deadened. Furthermore, before we came into the church life in the Lord’s recovery, many of us continued to be enslaved and deadened, even after we had been saved. We all need to be on the alert lest we be enslaved and deadened once more.
The book of Genesis has a good beginning but ends with a poor situation, whereas Exodus begins with a poor situation but ends gloriously. We have pointed out that Genesis begins with God’s creation but ends with a dead man in a coffin in Egypt. Exodus, on the contrary, opens with a picture of God’s people being enslaved and in death, but concludes with the ark in the tabernacle that is filled with the glory of God. What a tremendous difference between the end of Genesis and the end of Exodus! Where do you prefer to be—in a coffin in Egypt or with the ark in the tabernacle that is filled with God’s glory?
In this message we shall consider the slavery of the children of Israel. The Israelites were born in Canaan. Because of a food shortage, they were forced to go down to Egypt, where they eventually were enslaved. By this we see that people become enslaved primarily out of the need to maintain their livelihood, out of the need to make a living. Worldly people are drawn to various entertainments because they desire a better living. Likewise, people today pursue higher education or technical training in order to secure a good living, even the best living. Throughout the world, whether in developed nations or in backward countries, people are enslaved due to the need to earn a living. This was also the situation with the children of Israel in Egypt.
According to the Bible, the world has at least three aspects: the aspect of rebellion and idolatry, signified by Babel; the aspect of sinfulness, signified by Sodom; and the aspect of enjoyment and pleasure, signified by Egypt. Rebellion is related to idolatry, the worship of anything other than God. Because those who worship idols are in rebellion against God, idol worship signifies rebellion. In the Bible Babel is a symbol of the rebellious and idolatrous world. On earth today there are idols everywhere, even in Christian countries.
Abraham was called out of the land of Babel, that is, out of the world of rebellion and idolatry. God’s calling Abraham out of the land of Babel symbolizes our being called out of the rebellious and idolatrous world. But as we have pointed out, the calling of Abraham represents just one aspect of our salvation from the world.
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