Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to 24:1-8. After the decree of the law with the ordinances, God charged Moses to bring the leaders of Israel up to the mountain to stay with Him for a particular thing: to receive the vision of the tabernacle which they were to build as His dwelling place on earth. As we have pointed out, the book of Exodus begins with God’s redemption and concludes with God’s dwelling place. God needs a people to be His dwelling place on earth. However, because the people God created became fallen, it was necessary for God to come in to accomplish redemption. God not only redeemed His people; He also rescued them, delivering them from their bondage in Egypt and bringing them to the wilderness to have intimate fellowship with Him. In the messages given on chapters nineteen through twenty-three, we have seen the intimate and thorough fellowship God had with His chosen and redeemed people. During the course of this intimate fellowship between God and His people, God revealed Himself to them. He made known what kind of God He is. Many Christians think that the giving of the Ten Commandments was merely a decree of the law. Apparently this is true; actually it is not entirely true. The giving of the law was the unveiling of what God is. This means that through the decree of the law God revealed Himself to His chosen and redeemed people.
We have pointed out that in the Old Testament the law is called the testimony (Exo. 31:18). This testimony is a portrait, a picture, a photograph, of God. The law with its ordinances shows us what kind of God our God is. By reading the Ten Commandments and all the ordinances of the law, we can realize what God is like.
Legislators or lawmakers are always revealed in the kind of laws they enact. In fact, the law made by a person is always a revelation of that person. In the same principle, the law in chapter twenty with the ordinances in chapters twenty-one through twenty-three provides a detailed portrait of God, showing us what He is. For this reason, we should not be satisfied simply with reciting the Ten Commandments. It is not adequate merely to know the commandments about not having another God, not making images and worshipping them, not using God’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath, honoring one’s parents, not committing murder or adultery, and not stealing, bearing false witness, or coveting. It is crucial to realize that the law is a portrait revealing what kind of God has chosen us, called us, and redeemed us. We are thankful to the Lord for the clear picture of Himself He has given in chapters twenty through twenty-three. Here we see that God is holy and righteous, that He is full of love and light. Because God is holy, with Him there is nothing common. Because He is righteous, with Him there is no injustice. Because He is love and light, with Him there is no hatred or darkness.
In the ordinances found in chapters twenty-one through twenty-three we see a clear view of God’s economy. We have pointed out that in these ordinances we have the cross, Christ, and Christ’s redemption. Therefore, through the law and the ordinances we have a revelation of God and His economy. How wonderful! May we be deeply impressed that the law and the ordinances decreed by God on Mount Sinai present a clear view of God and His economy.
After giving His people such a revelation of Himself and His economy, God’s intention was to reveal the desire of His heart. The desire of God’s heart is to have a dwelling place with man on earth. After a time of intimate fellowship with His redeemed people, God wanted to open His heart and make known to them that the desire of His heart is to have a dwelling place on earth.
It is unfortunate that today many of God’s redeemed people do not even have intimate fellowship with Him. A good number of Christians know God hardly at all, and they know nothing of His economy. However, by God’s mercy certain of the saints have entered into intimate fellowship with Him. In this fellowship they have come to know what God is and, at least to some extent, what God’s economy is. Nevertheless, rarely do we find Christians who have truly been brought into the desire of God’s heart to see that His desire is to have a dwelling place on earth.
In today’s Christian meetings, gatherings, and “services,” seldom, if ever, is there a message on God’s building, although messages are given on fellowship between God and man. Believers may be charged to spend time in the Lord’s presence to have fellowship with Him. But where are the messages on the building? Before you came into the Lord’s recovery, did you ever hear a message on God’s building? This matter is neglected by Christians today.
We praise the Lord that the book of Exodus has not only twenty-three or twenty-four chapters, but forty chapters. Chapter twenty-four is a bridge connecting the first twenty-three chapters with the last sixteen. In this message and in a few that follow, we shall walk on this bridge from one section of Exodus to the other. When we get to the other side, composed of chapters twenty-five through forty, we shall see the desire of God’s heart concerning His tabernacle built by His people on earth. Although we may be eager to get to the other side, we cannot do so without spending a certain amount of time on the bridge.
Exodus 24:1 and 2 say, “And he said unto Moses, Come up unto Jehovah, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near Jehovah: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him” (lit.). God had a particular purpose in wanting these leaders of Israel to come up on the mountain: it was to show them the vision, the design, the blueprint, of the tabernacle as His building. After Moses received this charge from God, he descended from the mountain. But before ascending the mountain again with the leaders of the people, Moses enacted the law. In verses 1 and 2, therefore, we have God’s charge that Moses bring up with him to the mountain certain leaders of the people so that they might have fellowship with God and that God might reveal to them the desire of His heart. Then in verses 3 through 8 we have Moses’ enactment of the law.
After the law was enacted, it became a covenant. Without such an enactment, the law simply would have remained the law; it could not have been a covenant. But as soon as the law was enacted, it became a covenant between God and His people.
A covenant involves two or more parties. Here the covenant was between God and His people. This making of a covenant was a tremendous matter. Using today’s words, this covenant was an agreement or a contract. The proper way for a contract to be enacted today is for the participating parties to sign it. A time is set, and an official document is prepared. Then all the parties concerned, perhaps accompanied by witnesses, sign this document. In some cases, the parties make an oath or a pledge. Without such an official enactment, the contract would exist as a written statement, but it would not be binding on either party.
Although the law had been decreed on the mountain of God, there was still the need for the law with its ordinances to be enacted. Thus, before Moses climbed the mountain again with the leaders to receive further revelation, he took care of enacting the law.
Here I wish to point out that the revelation Moses received on the mountain of God was of two parts: the first part was the decree of the law in intimate fellowship with God; the second was the revelation of the design of God’s building. Before the second part of the revelation was given, Moses was told to go down, call the leading ones, and bring them up to the mountain. This indicates that the second part of the revelation was even more crucial than the first. Moses was not to receive it alone; he had to bring with him Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders. Only then would God show him the plan of His building. Furthermore, the fact that Moses enacted the law before ascending the mountain again shows that this enactment was very important.
Although the enactment of the law was not mysterious, there was something rather secret about it. In the Bible there is no record of God commanding Moses to go down among the people to enact the law. Nevertheless, this is exactly what Moses did. Furthermore, the enactment of the law by which it became a covenant corresponds to the entire economy of God. This is a matter of great significance. If Moses had not received a command from the Lord to enact the law, how would he have known what to do? Also, God recognized what Moses did by enacting the law and making it a covenant. The book of Hebrews makes this clear (9:19-20). As we shall see, all the principles involved in the enactment of the law through Moses correspond to God’s economy.
We should not think that everything which took place during the time the law was decreed and enacted has been recorded in the Bible. Certain things took place, but there is no record of them in the Scriptures. No doubt, God must have told Moses to descend from the mountain and enact the law which He had decreed, and to enact it in a specific way. If such a commandment had not been given, why would Moses have enacted the law in the way he did, in a way which is altogether different from common human practice?
In ancient times, when two parties entered into a covenant, they usually used some kind of birds or animals as a sacrifice. Then they enacted the agreement or covenant. But with the enactment of the law through Moses, there are certain particular, uncommon points. First, there was an altar, and there were twelve pillars “according to the twelve tribes of Israel” (v. 4). Then two types of offerings were presented: burnt offerings and peace offerings (v. 5). There was no sin offering, trespass offering, or meal offering. Finally “Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar” (v. 6). Therefore, we have the altar, the pillars, the sacrifices, and the blood. Throughout the centuries of human history, no covenant has ever been enacted in this way. This shows that the enactment of the covenant in Exodus 24 is unique. In this covenant between God and man the enactment was through an altar and with twelve pillars, sacrifices of burnt offerings and peace offerings, and with the blood. We need to see the significance of all these things.
In order to understand the spiritual significance of the altar, the pillars, the sacrifices, and the blood, we need to realize that in decreeing the law it was not God’s intention to charge His chosen people to observe the law. However, most Christians think that because God gave the law to His people, His intention was for them to keep it. If God did not expect the people to observe the law, they say, what was the need for Him to give them the law? As a young Christian, I also held the concept that God gave the law to His people with the intention that they keep it. But if this had been God’s intention, He would have been acting in a most foolish manner. Expecting fallen people to keep the law of God may be compared to requiring a dog to fly like a bird. Suppose someone said to a dog, “Little dog, you must realize that from now on you belong to me. Thus, I issue the command for you to soar in the air like an eagle.” How foolish and absurd would be such a requirement! God could never be so foolish as to demand such a thing.
We must remember that the law is actually a portrait of an almighty, divine Person—God Himself. We have seen that the law reveals that, as the unique One, God is holy, perfect, altogether uncommon. Moreover, He is righteous and full of love and light. The laws decreed by Him are actually descriptions of His various virtues and attributes. In vivid contrast to God, who is holy and righteous and full of love and light, the people were fallen, sinful, rotten, and thoroughly corrupt. Their fallenness and corruption are exposed through the ordinances, especially those which refer to fornication, theft, and witchcraft. How could such a fallen people observe the divine law of a holy and righteous God? Impossible! Anyone who believes that such a thing is possible is very superficial or not sound in his thinking. God would never make the gross error of assuming that fallen man could observe His holy law. He did not give the law with this intention.
Humanly speaking, since there was to be a covenant between God and man, the law did function as the conditions or terms of this covenant. For the enactment of the covenant Moses served as the middle man. According to the natural concept, God should have required the people to make an oath, seal the oath with their blood, and then vow to keep the divine law under penalty of death. This may be the human way, but it was not the way followed by Moses. Moses did not say, “O children of Israel, I have just come down from the mountain where I received the holy law decreed by God. Now you must be faithful to keep the law. You must make an oath to this effect. I ask you to seal this pledge with your own blood.” This certainly was not the way the covenant was enacted through Moses.
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