Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The more I study the book of Exodus, the more I love it. Through my reading of this book, I have discovered that it is a book not only on the exodus, but also on God’s dwelling place. The title of the book—Exodus—was not given by Moses. It was given by others years later. This title is not all-inclusive, for it covers only part of the contents of the book of Exodus. In the first part of this book we are told how God redeemed His people and enabled them to make their exodus out of Egypt and thereby to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh and the slavery under the Egyptians. As far as the first part of the book is concerned, the title Exodus is comprehensive. But although this title is good, it can cause difficulty for many readers, because it may give them the impression that this book is merely concerned with coming out from under the tyranny of Satan. This title does not include the goal, or the consummation, of this book. Consummately, the second book of the Old Testament is on the building of God’s dwelling place on earth.
In this book many of today’s Christians care only for the exodus, not for the building of the tabernacle. In those places where the Scriptures are studied and expounded, can you hear a message concerning the building of God’s dwelling place on earth in this age? Many believers have the concept that the building of God is in the heavens and only in the future.
The book of Exodus has forty chapters, not only fourteen chapters. According to the title of this book, Exodus should conclude with chapter fourteen, after the exodus from Egypt was accomplished and the people were safely on the other side of the sea, dancing and praising the Lord. In the experience of many Christians, the book of Exodus does conclude with chapter fourteen. Before you came into the recovery, how many chapters, according to your experience, were there in the book of Exodus for you? Many Christians have gone only as far as chapter twelve; others, to chapter fourteen; and certain seeking Christians, all the way to chapter twenty-four. The more experienced believers have enjoyed the waters at Elim, the manna from heaven, and the living water from the cleft rock, they have engaged in the warfare against Amalek, and they have been brought into intimate fellowship with God at Mount Sinai. Some Christians do treasure Exodus 15 through 24 and have even written hymns to express their experience.
In this Life-study we have given many messages on chapters nineteen through twenty-four, chapters which present a complete view of the fellowship between God’s redeemed people and the redeeming God. At the beginning of this fellowship in chapter nineteen, there was a cloud of thick darkness. But in chapter twenty-four the atmosphere is changed, and the sky becomes clear. Exodus 24:10 says, “And they looked upon the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of transparent sapphire, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness.” Such a vision was unprecedented. Never before had anyone seen God under a clear and transparent heaven. Here we are told that those on the mountain with Moses not only saw the God of Israel, but that they even saw God’s feet.
At this point I wish to say that we should follow the pure word of the Bible and not the traditional, systematized teachings concerning the Trinity. We know from Genesis 18 that Abraham had a wonderful experience with God. God came to Abraham in the form of a man. Abraham served Him a meal and even washed His feet. How could God eat, and how was it possible for a man to wash God’s feet? Is God physical or spiritual? If you say that He is merely spiritual, I would ask how He could appear to Abraham in human form in such a way that Abraham could wash His feet. Some Christians have too much trust in their theological knowledge. Let them explain how God could walk physically on earth in Genesis 18. Many Christians know that God first took the form of man with the birth of the Lord Jesus. But how should we understand Genesis 18? Did God not appear to Abraham in the form of man? What Abraham saw was not a ghost or a phantom. He talked with a real man and even washed his feet and served him a meal.
The more we consider matters such as these, the more we realize that we are not able to understand thoroughly the revelation in the Bible concerning the Triune God. He is mysterious and wonderful. He is beyond our imagination and cannot be explained adequately by the traditional teachings concerning the Trinity. Instead of trying to systematize the biblical revelation of God, we should simply believe what the Bible says. Genesis 18 tells us that God came to Abraham in the form of man, and in Luke 2 we see that the Son of God was born in a manger at Bethlehem. We simply believe the Bible and in the God revealed in it.
In Exodus 24:10 we are told explicitly that Moses and those with him on the mountain saw the God of Israel. This sight was marvelous, beyond our ability to describe. They saw God under a transparent and clear sky.
We have pointed out that God’s people experienced different degrees of fellowship with the Lord at Mount Sinai. Moses was on the mountaintop under the glory of God; the elders were on the mountain where they beheld the God of Israel; and the majority of the people were at the foot of the mountain. Because of their immaturity, they were not allowed to ascend the mountain. However, God did not reject them. He brought them into His fellowship, but He required them to keep a certain distance. Only Moses entered into the glory and stayed with God under this glory for forty days and forty nights. What a wonderful fellowship Moses enjoyed with God!
The situation of the children of Israel at Mount Sinai is a portrait of our situation as believers today. We have been redeemed through the Passover, we have made our exodus from Egypt, and we have crossed the Red Sea. We have also had the experiences at Marah and Elim. In the wilderness we have enjoyed the manna and have drunk the living water from the cleft rock. Furthermore, we have engaged in the warfare with Amalek. Many of us can testify that we have been brought to the mountain of God and have entered into fellowship with the Lord. No longer are we in Exodus 19 or even in Exodus 20 through 23, with the Ten Commandments and the ordinances, which reveal God’s economy. We are enjoying the fellowship with God described in chapter twenty-four. However, we need to ask ourselves where we are in this fellowship. Are we with the majority of the people at the foot of the mountain, with the elders on the mountain beholding the Lord under a clear sky, or with Moses on the mountaintop under the glory of God?
We have pointed out in a foregoing message that the situation of God’s people at Mount Sinai can be compared to the tabernacle with the outer court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. The people could be in the outer court, but only the priests were permitted access to the Holy Place. Furthermore, only the high priest was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies to be in the shekinah glory of God and receive His speaking, His revelation. The principle is the same in Exodus 24. The majority of the people were at the foot of the mountain. This can be compared to the outer court of the tabernacle. The elders were on the mountain. This can be compared to the Holy Place. Moses, who was truly functioning as a high priest, was on the mountaintop. This can be compared to the Holy of Holies. During the forty days and forty nights he stayed under God’s glory, Moses received God’s revelation.
Our understanding of the typology of the tabernacle is dependent upon the writings of those who have preceded us. We owe much to them and we are thankful for them. But because we are on their shoulders, we are able to see more than they did, especially concerning the experiential aspect of the tabernacle.
Before the children of Israel could receive God’s revelation, they had to leave Egypt, cross the Red Sea, and have the experiences at Marah and Elim and of the manna, the living water from the cleft rock, and the warfare with Amalek. As a result of all these experiences, they were brought into fellowship with God. They had the position with the right angle to receive the revelation concerning God’s dwelling place. We should consider the typology of the tabernacle and its furnishings not only from the point of view of doctrine, but also from the perspective of spiritual experience. In all these messages on the tabernacle, we shall place particular emphasis on the significance of the tabernacle for Christian experience. Yes, we care for the doctrinal points, but we care even more for experience.
In the previous message we began to consider the materials used for the building of God’s dwelling place. We saw that all the materials refer to the virtues of Christ’s Person and work and that all were offered to God as a heave offering. The materials were not only created by God and prepared by Him; they were also gained, possessed, enjoyed, and experienced by God’s chosen people. First God had to create all the materials and prepare them. Then the people had to gain them, experience them, and offer them to God as a heave offering.
Although most versions do not adopt the rendering “heave offering” in 25:2, the Hebrew word definitely denotes a heave offering. We have seen that the heave offering refers to Christ in ascension, to the ascended Christ, and that it is always accompanied by a wave offering, which signifies Christ in resurrection, the resurrected Christ. The wave offering comes first and then the heave offering. The wave offering is a type of Christ in resurrection. In resurrection, Christ is able to move, to “wave.” Christ was buried, but the grave could not hold Him. In resurrection He became the “waving” One and emerged from the tomb. When we offer to God the resurrected Christ, the “waving” One, we offer Him as the wave offering. We know from the book of Leviticus that certain parts of an animal, a breast or a thigh, were often waved before the Lord as a wave offering. Other parts were heaved up to Him as a heave offering. Christ is not only the wave offering but also the heave offering, not only the resurrected One, but the ascended One, the One who has ascended to the heavens, far above all. We need to possess Christ, gain Christ, enjoy Christ, and experience Christ both as the resurrected One and as the ascended One. On the one hand, we need to know Christ in resurrection. Like Paul, we should aspire to know Christ and “the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10). On the other hand, we must experience Christ in ascension. Paul speaks of the ascended Christ in Ephesians 1:20 and 21, where he says that God raised Christ from among the dead and seated Him “at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and lordship, and every name that is named.” The more we experience the ascended Christ, Christ in the heavenlies, the more He becomes our possession. He becomes our particular treasure, which we then offer to God as material for the building up of His dwelling place. This is to offer the materials as a heave offering.
We need to be impressed with the fact that the heave offering in 25:2 implies spiritual experience. We should not offer the materials to God in an objective way, in a way without experience. To repeat, first the materials must become our possession and enjoyment. Once they belong to us, they become our possession, and we may keep them, or we may willingly offer them to God. We should say, “Lord, because we love You, we want to offer up our precious treasure and possessions as a heave offering for the building of Your dwelling place.”
The materials listed in 25:1-9 are twelve in number and of three categories: minerals, plants, and animals. We have seen that the plants refer to the generating life, the animals to the redeeming life, and the minerals to the building life.
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