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 shall consider the change of diet implied in chapter sixteen. There is no matter in the whole book of Exodus more crucial than this. In the past we have seen the importance of the Passover in chapter twelve. The Passover implies redemption and regeneration, for with the Passover we have the blood of the lamb for redemption and the meat of the lamb for life. Hence, with the Passover we have redemption and life, two basic matters. In Exodus 12, however, we do not see the crucial matter of the change of diet. God’s intention is to change our constitution; that is, He intends to reconstitute us. Not many readers of this book have seen that the reconstitution of God’s people is implied in chapter sixteen. The main point in this chapter is that God intends to reconstitute His redeemed people by changing their diet.
Exodus presents a clear picture of God’s salvation, a picture that is not found in any other book of the Bible, including the Epistles of Paul. This picture shows us that in God’s salvation He desires to work Himself into us to be everything to us. God intends to be our everything so that we can be built up as His dwelling place on earth. To portray this, Exodus concludes with the setting up of the tabernacle as the dwelling place for God’s glory.
For the fulfillment of His purpose, God does not want His redeemed people to be anything or to do anything. In order that we may be His dwelling place, He wants to be everything to us and do everything for us. This indicates that we are to be nobody and to do nothing. Are you willing to be a nobody? Are you also willing to cease from your doing? I doubt that very many believers can answer these questions in a positive way. When we were living in the world, we had no heart for the Lord, and we did not care to do anything for Him. But after we came into the Lord’s recovery, we immediately had the desire to become something and to do something for the Lord. This is true of young and old alike. The older ones have many plans, and the young ones have a great deal of desire and energy. Although we want to be something and to do as much as possible, God would say, “I don’t want you to be anything, and I don’t want you to do anything. Let Me do everything for you and be everything to you.”
As we consider the picture of God’s salvation presented in Exodus, we see that the children of Israel were not to be anything or to do anything. Whenever they did something, the Lord was offended, even when they did something good. The Lord simply wanted the people to be in His hand so He could work Himself into them. If we have a clear understanding of this, we shall have a solid basis to understand the book of Exodus.
When we come to chapter sixteen, we see the importance of being reconstituted. In chapter twelve God’s people were redeemed, and in chapter fourteen they were delivered. But although they had been redeemed, saved, rescued, delivered, and freed, and although their needs had been supplied, there was still the need for them to be reconstituted. God’s people need a new constitution. The main point in chapter sixteen is not redemption, deliverance, or even supply. The focal point of this chapter is reconstitution through a change of diet.
Although the children of Israel had been redeemed and delivered, they were still Egyptian in their constitution. The cells and the fibers of their being were Egyptian in nature. As far as constitution is concerned, there was no difference between them and the Egyptians. The children of Israel had been saved, redeemed, rescued, and supplied, but their constitution was altogether the same as the Egyptians. God could never use such material for His heavenly dwelling place.
God’s desire is to use His people as the material for the building of His habitation on earth. However, although the people were no longer in Egypt, they were still Egyptian in their constitution. Their tissue was Egyptian. They were a composition of the Egyptian element, for they grew up in Egypt and were raised on the Egyptian diet of cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. Everything they ate was Egyptian. God’s intention is not to bring a number of redeemed Egyptians into the heavens. He may deliver from Egypt those who have an Egyptian constitution, but He will not bring such people into His dwelling place. In order to be the material for His habitation, His people must be reconstituted. Like the children of Israel, we today have been delivered out of Egypt, out of the world, but in our nature and constitution we are still worldly. Therefore, it is necessary for us to grasp the crucial point in chapter sixteen concerning the change of constitution.
By the time God brought His people into the wilderness, He was ready to change their constitution. This was the reason He did not immediately supply them with food. When they marched out of Egypt, they carried with them a certain amount of Egyptian foodstuffs. This food supply sustained them for about a month. When their Egyptian food was consumed, the people were in need. Although God knew their need, He did not act immediately to meet it. This is often God’s principle in dealing with us. He knows that He must do something for us. But He refrains from doing anything because He realizes that if He acted prematurely, we would not get exposed. Therefore, in Exodus 16 God waited quietly behind the scene until the children of Israel were exposed. After they had eaten the last of the Egyptian food and had nothing for the next meal, the people were troubled. They were bothered to such an extent that they forgot the miracles God had performed, and they murmured and complained to Moses and Aaron. As we have pointed out, in their murmuring they were very eloquent. But as they murmured and complained, they were exposed. Two things concerning them were exposed: that they were constituted of the Egyptian element, and that their appetite, hunger, thirst, and desire were still Egyptian. In their murmuring they expressed their desire for Egyptian food: “Would that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, and when we did eat bread to the full” (16:3, Heb.). This proves that their appetite was Egyptian.
Suppose God had rained down manna before the children of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Sin, and it was there waiting for them. In that case, the people would not have been exposed. They would simply have eaten the manna, and the problem of their Egyptian constitution and appetite would not have come to light. Therefore, in His wisdom, God did not send the heavenly supply of manna until the people were exposed through the lack of nourishment.
Whenever we are undernourished, we are exposed. If we are always adequately nourished, many things will remain covered. But when we lack the proper nourishment, we are invariably exposed. When they are satisfied with good food, most people would not think of stealing. But if there is a severe shortage of food, many refined and cultured people will become thieves. They will be exposed by the lack of food. According to the record in Exodus 16, God did not give His people anything to eat until after they had been exposed. It was necessary for their Egyptian hunger, appetite, desire, and constitution to be brought to light.
After the people had been exposed, God came in to satisfy their lust by sending quails in the evening. According to 16:12, the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God” (Heb.).
We need to see the significance of God’s sending the quails and the manna. God sent the quails to satisfy the people’s Egyptian appetite, but He sent the manna to reconstitute them. Furthermore, with the sending of the quails, there was no regulation or restriction. God did not tell the people when to gather the quails or how to gather them. The quails were sent in an unrestricted way because the flesh does not want to have any restrictions. In other words, because the Egyptian diet is without restraint, the quails were sent in a way to match that diet, in a way without restraint or regulation. Those who ate the quails were not restricted or regulated in any way. The sending of manna, on the contrary, was accompanied by a number of regulations.
Some may be surprised to hear of regulations related to the sending of manna. According to their understanding, with grace there are no regulations. Actually, there are more regulations with grace than with the law. If a person lives apart from the divine life, he may be wild and unrestrained. God’s life, however, regulates and restricts. The more proper we are in life, the more regulated we shall be. Take the example of driving a car. If you drive a car without regulations, you risk being involved in a serious accident. You may even be killed.
The regulations concerning the sending of manna and the eating of manna can also be illustrated by the observance of table manners. I have learned that those of certain nationalities, the British and the Germans for example, pay much attention to proper table manners. Although we may not care for table manners as an end in themselves, we must have certain regulations in order to eat properly. It is very difficult to enjoy our food if we do not eat it in the correct way. For instance, can you have the full enjoyment of a steak if you try to cut it with a spoon? The more proper we are in eating steak, the more we shall enjoy it. We should not have the attitude that we can disregard eating regulations and care only for the food.
We have seen that the quails were sent in a way that was without regulation. The quails covered the camp, and the children of Israel gathered them in any way they wanted. The sending of manna, however, was different. In order to gather the manna, the people had to rise up early in the morning and collect it before the sun became hot. Furthermore, instead of collecting the manna in a greedy way, the people were restricted in the way they gathered it. In 16:16 we see that the Lord commanded, “Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.” This indicates that God wants us to cooperate with His regulations. When we do this, we are actually cooperating with God Himself and are one with Him. To obey God’s regulations means that we are like Him and according to Him.
We see another regulation concerning manna in 16:19, where Moses charged the people not to leave any manna until the morning. Those who disobeyed this regulation found that the manna “bred worms, and stank” (v. 20). Furthermore, the children of Israel were commanded to gather on the sixth day “twice as much bread, two omers for one man” (v. 22); they were not to gather it on the Sabbath. These regulations also indicate that to eat manna is to be according to God.
Eating quails makes people wild and unrestricted, but eating manna regulates them and causes them to be according to God. Those who are being reconstituted will be regulated. They will rise up to gather manna according to God’s timing, and they will collect it according to God’s way, not according to their greed. God does not allow us to be either lazy or greedy. We are to be diligent, but we are not to gather manna according to our greed. Those among the children of Israel who gathered more still did not receive more than one omer.
I hope that we all shall grasp the point that eating manna causes us to correspond to God. The more manna we eat, the more we correspond to Him and are identified with Him. Our behavior and all our actions are then according to God’s regulation. In this way we become those who live, act, behave, and walk according to what God is. The eating of quails, by contrast, corresponds to the Egyptian style, fashion, and manner. It is wild and without regulation. But the eating of manna makes our behavior identical to God’s behavior. It causes us to act just as God does.
The crucial point in chapter sixteen is God’s intention to reconstitute His redeemed people. After God has redeemed us, saved us, and delivered us from the world, He will change our diet in order to change our constitution. His aim is to eliminate every trace of the Egyptian constitution. Students of medicine know that a new diet causes our cells and fibers to be gradually changed. When I came to this country from the Far East many years ago, I had been constituted according to the Chinese diet. But through the years I have been reconstituted according to the American diet. This illustrates God’s desire to reconstitute His people by changing their diet. Through a change of diet, their tissues and fibers are reconstituted.
We have spoken many times of the Egyptian diet. Now we come to the important matter of what the Egyptian diet is and what it includes. The Egyptian diet denotes all the things we desire to feed on in order to find satisfaction. Such a diet may include television, sports, music, magazines, newspapers, or other forms of worldly entertainment. Some people cannot live without television or newspapers. This indicates that these things are part of their Egyptian diet. Still others feed on window-shopping. They may not care to buy anything, but they enjoy looking at things in the store windows. Through these illustrations we can readily understand that America is the leading country with respect to the Egyptian diet. In this country there is a modern Nile River bearing all manner of worldly supply.
Before we were saved, we all had an Egyptian diet. But after we are saved, we should change our diet. However, many Christians still live according to their old diet after they are saved. This means that they continue to hunger and thirst for the things of the world.
Some may think that in speaking of the Egyptian diet I am dealing with the matter of loving the world. This is a very superficial way of looking at the issue involved in the change of diet. The point here is that whatever we desire, hunger, and thirst after is the diet according to which our being has been constituted. Apart from those in the local churches, few Christians have been reconstituted through a change of diet. By staying in the homes of many Christians in the course of my travels, I have learned that the appetite of many believers is still for the things of Egypt. Not many have a genuine hunger and thirst for Christ.
In the wilderness God gave the children of Israel nothing except manna to eat. According to Numbers 11:6, the people complained, “But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, besides this manna, before our eyes.” How marvelous it was that God gave the people nothing except manna! This indicates that He gave them nothing except Christ. I thank the Lord that a good number of the church people do not have an appetite for anything other than Christ. Day by day, the hunger of many in the churches is for Christ and Christ alone. We thirst for Him and desire to contact Him, to read the Word, to call on His name, and to read the printed messages. Truly the Lord has changed our diet.
I can testify that I live on the Lord Jesus Christ, not on anything else. Frequently, I read a newspaper. But whenever a newspaper becomes part of my diet, I immediately repent, confess, and ask the Lord to forgive me for turning to something other than Him to satisfy my desire. Whenever we hunger and thirst for something other than Christ, we are wrong.
It is important to understand this message in a proper way. My burden is not to issue a charge to the saints about the love of the world. It is to point out the need for a change in our diet. May the Lord take away the desire and hunger for anything other than Christ! We need clothing and a proper dwelling place. However, our appetite, our desire, should not be for these things. Our appetite should be for Christ. We should not try to find satisfaction in clothing or in a better house. God has changed our diet from the things of Egypt to Christ alone.
This does not mean that we are to live as if we were monks or nuns. We are not to be like the Amish, who are allowed to wear only certain colors. The sisters need to dress in a suitable way, but they should not have an appetite for fashion or style. Instead, their appetite should be for Christ. We all need to say, “Lord Jesus, I love You. I want to breathe You, drink You, and eat You. Lord, I long to feast on You.” Our hunger, thirst, desire, and appetite should be for Christ as the heavenly manna.
Over a period of forty years, God gave the children of Israel nothing to eat except manna. As we have already mentioned, no one knows the essence or element of manna. We only know that it daily came from the heavens. From John 6 we also know that this heavenly manna is a type of Christ. Christ came from God to be our diet. We need to eat Him, drink Him, and breathe Him. We need a change in our inward constitution, not merely a change in our outward behavior. If we would have such an inward change, we need to have a change of food supply, for the food we eat is the source of our constitution. Dietitians tell us that we are what we eat. The food we eat enters into us organically and becomes our constitution. As God’s people today, we need to be reconstituted with Christ as our very element. In this way, we shall become Christ as far as our constitution is concerned. Through the change of diet, we receive the heavenly essence that reconstitutes us with Christ. This change of constitution through a change of diet is altogether different from the methods of self-improvement practiced in religion.
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