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 Genesis can be summarized by two phrases: God’s creation and man’s fall. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created....” Genesis concludes in the following way: “So Joseph...was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26). Thus, Genesis opens with a word about God’s creation and concludes with a word about Joseph put in a coffin in Egypt. God’s creation, of course, is very positive, but man’s fall is extremely negative. Therefore, the summary of Genesis involves the positive matter of God’s creation and the negative matter of man’s fall.
We may say that the book of Exodus has one main point: God’s redemption and salvation. Because man had fallen, God came in to redeem and save. Fallen man needs both God’s redemption and His salvation. Exodus reveals the all-inclusive salvation of God, a salvation which includes God’s redemption. According to the book of Exodus, God first redeemed His people and then saved them.
Christians may not realize that the entire book of Exodus concerns God’s salvation. According to many, the last sixteen chapters of Exodus, chapters twenty-five through forty, are not related to God’s salvation, but are concerned with the vision and the building of the tabernacle. However, the building of the tabernacle as God’s dwelling place is also part of God’s all-inclusive salvation. This means that the salvation of God revealed in the book of Exodus begins with redemption and continues through the building of God’s habitation, the tabernacle. If we have been redeemed and experience God’s salvation to a certain extent but are not in God’s building, God’s dwelling place, then we have not yet participated in God’s salvation in full. God’s complete salvation includes the building up of His redeemed people to become His habitation on earth.
Among the millions of today’s Christians, the genuinely redeemed and saved people, not many enjoy the experience of having become God’s habitation. In the experience of some, the book of Exodus seems to have only twelve or fourteen chapters. They have experienced the redemption of the Passover lamb and perhaps have been delivered from Egypt, but they do not experience the building of God’s dwelling place. Actually, many of today’s Christians are still in Egypt, the world. Although they have experienced God’s redemption, they have not crossed the Red Sea. This means that they have not been saved from the world and from enslavement to Pharaoh. Some Christians have crossed the Red Sea and have been saved from the world, but they have not progressed in their experience to the mount of God and they have not become God’s tabernacle.
In Exodus, Mount Sinai is called the mount of God. Here God’s redeemed people were brought into direct fellowship with Him. This is a great matter. It was not until twenty-five centuries after the creation of man that the children of Israel were brought into such fellowship with God. Prior to that time, there were no people on earth who had face-to-face fellowship with God. On the one hand, at Mount Sinai the people were brought into fellowship with God; on the other hand, God came down to speak with them. In Genesis 11 God came down not to have fellowship with the people, but to judge them. In Exodus God came down not to judge, but to have fellowship with His people. At Mount Sinai the children of Israel were feasting with God. This also is included in God’s all-inclusive salvation revealed in Exodus.
At Mount Sinai God did not meet with His people merely for a day. Rather, the people remained with Him there for many months (Exo. 19:1; 40:2, 17; Num. 10:11-13). God considered His redeemed people His “personal possession” (19:5, lit.), His precious treasure. Because His people were so precious to Him, He came down to visit them. According to the Old Testament, God’s meeting with His people lasted more than a thousand years. It did not end until the glory of the Lord departed from the temple (Ezek. 10:18).
With this message we come to the ordinances of the law. The law in the Old Testament not only includes the Ten Commandments, but also includes many ordinances. These ordinances are found in the remaining chapters of Exodus, in the entire book of Leviticus, and in parts of Numbers and Deuteronomy. Many Christians think that the law includes only the Ten Commandments. This was my concept when I was young. However, I was bothered by the fact that in the Bible Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are all regarded as part of the law. Furthermore, according to Psalm 119, the law includes ordinances as well as commandments. This indicates that the law has two sections: the Ten Commandments and all the ordinances. Thus, it is a mistake to consider only the Ten Commandments to be the law. No, the law includes much more than just the Ten Commandments. If we see that the law includes the ordinances as well as the commandments, we shall then find it easy to understand Psalm 119.
The ordinances are a supplementary part of the law and add details to the Ten Commandments. It is correct to regard the Ten Commandments as the main section of the law. But this main section needs to be supplemented and spelled out in detail. In the second part of Exodus and in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy we have the supplement to the law and the details of the law. In this message, the first on the ordinances of the law, we shall consider the ordinances concerning the worship of God. In other messages we shall consider ordinances concerning the relationships between people.
In 20:22-26 God unveils to His redeemed people how they should worship Him. This had not been revealed previously, not even to Abraham, one who was called the friend of God. Only after His people had been brought into face-to-face fellowship with Him at the mountain of God did God reveal the way for them to worship Him. If we get into the depths of these verses, we shall see that they give us the main points of how we should worship God. The revelation here is in keeping with that found not only in the rest of the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. Here we have a revelation of the cross and of Christ. Furthermore, according to these verses, we see that both man’s work and man’s way are excluded. These verses even refer to idols of gold and silver.
Exodus 20:22 says, “And Jehovah said unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven” (lit.). Here we see that God spoke to His people from heaven. Even this verse is related to the worship of God, for here we have an indication that the God whom we worship is the living and the speaking God.
Verse 23 continues, “Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.” Here we have a supplement to the first two commandments and also details related to these commandments. In the first two of the commandments we are told not to have any gods other than God and also not to make idols. The phrase “with me” in verse 23 is significant. It indicates that the people were not to worship God and yet have another god with Him. This would be like a woman who had one husband, but also had another man with him. Just as a woman should have only one husband, so the children of Israel were to have only the Lord as their unique God.
Exodus 20:23 specifically mentions idols of gold and silver. Nothing is said here of idols made of wood or stone. From the book of Isaiah we know that God’s people later did have idols of gold and silver (2:20; 30:22; 31:7). The first time they made an idol of gold was when Moses was on Mount Sinai with the Lord. While Moses was on the mountaintop fellowshipping with God, the people at the foot of the mountain charged Aaron to make them a golden calf. Then they said of it, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Exo. 32:4). By making a god of gold the people had another god with the true God. But God forbids His people to have another god with Him. In verse 23 it seems as if God is saying, “If you want to reject Me or forsake Me, you may do so. But don’t have Me on the one hand and then make with Me gods of gold and silver on the other hand. That is fornication. You must take Me as your unique Husband. Do not have any other gods with Me.”
Verse 24 is very important: “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I make my name to be remembered I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee” (lit.). Here we read of the altar, the sacrifices, the name of God being remembered, and God coming to visit His people and bless them. According to verses 24 and 25, an altar could be made either of earth or stone. However, the people were forbidden to build an altar of hewn stone. An altar could be erected only with materials created by God. The people were not to add their work to God’s work. They could use earth or natural stone, but not hewn stone. Furthermore, we see from verse 26 that the people were not to “go up by steps” unto the Lord’s altar, lest their nakedness be exposed.
Verse 24 mentions two of the five basic offerings: the burnt offering and the peace offering. There is no mention of the meal offering, the sin offering, or the trespass offering. The reason for this is that the concept here is not redemption; it is fellowship between God and His redeemed people.
Verse 24 also speaks of God’s name being remembered. Whenever we meet to worship God, we must remember the name of the Lord. His name is the unique name we should remember in our gatherings for worship.
If we have the altar and the sacrifices, and if we remember the Lord’s name, we shall experience God’s visitation and blessing. God Himself will come to us and bless us.
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