Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The book of Exodus was not written according to doctrine, but according to experience. After the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, the Lord led them to Marah. There the people murmured because the waters were bitter. Instead of being angry with the people for their murmuring, the Lord showed Moses a healing tree that changed the bitterness into sweetness. Just three days earlier, God’s people had experienced His salvation at the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army had been destroyed, and the people had been rejoicing with praises to the Lord. However, at Marah it seems that the people forgot their experience at the Red Sea. Nevertheless, realizing that His people were children and that this was the first instance of their murmuring, the Lord did not punish them. Instead, He changed the bitter waters into sweet waters.
From Marah, the people were led by the Lord to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water flowing and seventy palm trees growing. The experience of God’s people at Elim must have been very exciting. Whenever we come to an Elim in our spiritual experience, we also are very excited. After their wonderful experience at Elim, the children of Israel “took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai” (16:1). As we shall see, after experiencing the flowing and growing life at Elim, they were led into a different situation, one which was rather difficult for them.
According to God’s ordination, there is day, and there is also night. On the one hand, after day there is night. On the other hand, after night there is a new day. In our experience with the Lord we need both the day and the night. We need the experience at the Red Sea, and we also need the bitterness at Marah. We need the exciting experience at Elim, and we also need the experience in the wilderness of Sin.
God’s people came to the wilderness of Sin “on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt” (16:1), approximately a month after the Passover in Egypt. The Passover and the experiences at the Red Sea and at Elim all were wonderful. But after all these wonderful experiences, the people were led by the pillar of cloud into the wilderness.
Exodus 16:2 says, “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” Here we see three parties: those who murmured, those against whom the murmuring was directed, and the Lord, who overheard the murmurings. According to verse 8, Moses said to the people, “Jehovah heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against Jehovah” (Heb.). Moses was very displeased with the people because of their murmurings. He was much more displeased than the Lord Himself was. The Lord charged Moses to tell the people that they would see His glory in the morning (v. 7). He also promised to “rain bread from heaven” for them (v. 4).
Although this message is entitled “The Experience of Manna,” my burden actually is not on manna itself. My burden is to point out that after the marvelous experience at Elim, the flesh of the children of Israel still remained. The same is true with us in our spiritual experience. After having an exciting experience at Elim with the twelve flowing springs and the seventy growing palms, we still are troubled by the flesh. The living water at Elim does not wash away the flesh. This is the reason that the so-called Pentecostal experiences do not deliver us from the flesh. Believers may experience the baptism of the Spirit or the so-called second blessing, but they still have the problem with the flesh. Even the genuine experience of the baptism of the Spirit is nothing more than the experience at Elim. As the record in chapter sixteen indicates, the experience at Elim does not solve the problem with the flesh.
By this we see, once again, that the book of Exodus is not written according to doctrine, but is written according to spiritual experience. According to doctrinal understanding, the experience of the twelve flowing springs and seventy growing palm trees at Elim should cause us to become mature saints. But the exciting experiences at Elim never have this result. The murmuring of the children of Israel in chapter sixteen proves this. They had been redeemed and delivered from Egypt, they had experienced the healing of the waters at Marah, and they had enjoyed the springs and the palms at Elim. But after all these experiences they could still exhibit the behavior shown in chapter sixteen. If we view this from the perspective of doctrine, we shall find it difficult to understand. But if we look at it from the viewpoint of our experience, we shall find chapter sixteen easy to understand. According to our spiritual experience, we realize that the exciting times at Elim never cause the believers to become mature saints.
After we have an experience at Elim, the Lord will expose the flesh of our natural being. This is the reason that even after we have the exciting experience of the twelve springs flowing and the seventy palm trees growing, we find that we are still living according to the flesh. The twelve springs quench the thirst in our spirit, but they do not cause our flesh to be put to death. In fact, the more we experience the flowing springs, the more our flesh will be exposed. If your intention is to conceal your flesh, you will have to avoid the experience of the springs and the palms at Elim. The experience of the twelve springs at Elim is always followed by an exposure of the flesh.
Years ago, I read some books that talked about the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of the so-called second blessing. These books claimed that once a believer had such an experience, all his problems would be solved. Certain books went so far as to say that sin would even be eradicated. However, our actual experience proves that these claims are false. After we enjoy the living water at Elim, our flesh is exposed. It has no place to hide. In our experience, there is inevitably the turn from day to night. We are powerless to lengthen the day or to keep the night from coming.
It is important for us to see through the superficiality of today’s Christianity. Many Christians talk about the experience of the baptism of the Spirit. But even those genuine experiences of the baptism of the Spirit at most are the experience at Elim. We have pointed out that these experiences may quench our thirst, but they do not deal with our flesh. To the contrary, they actually cause the flesh to be exposed all the more. This was the reason that after their experience at Elim, the flesh of the children of Israel remained and was exposed. It had not changed in any way.
In like manner, although we may have exciting experiences of the twelve springs at Elim, we shall soon discover that we ourselves are unchanged. To quench the thirst in our spirit is one thing, but to deal with the fleshly aspect of our natural being is another. Do not expect the twelve springs at Elim to change what you are in the flesh. I am burdened that we be deeply impressed with this crucial point. If we are clear about this, we shall be freed from the influence of the erroneous concept that prevails in Christianity today.
Because our flesh remains after the experience at Elim, we need to be led on by the Lord from Elim into the wilderness described in Exodus 16. This wilderness is not a specific place. We are simply told that it was the wilderness between Elim and Sinai. This indicates that after we drink of the living water at Elim, we shall be brought into a situation which is indefinite. In this kind of indefinite place our flesh will be exposed.
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