Life-Study of Numbersby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The picture portrayed in Numbers chapter one shows us the entire New Testament, from the incarnation of the Triune God to be a man, living and dwelling among men, to the consummation of the incarnation, the New Jerusalem.
To see the incarnation of the Triune God in Numbers 1 is difficult, because we do not have such a concept. If we would see the incarnation of the Triune God in this chapter, we need to consider the matter of the tabernacle with the ark. Within the tabernacle was the ark, and within the ark was the law. The law is called "the testimony" (17:4, 10). The law is a testimony of God because it testifies, shows us, God. Thus, it is actually God who is the center. However, here we do not have God merely in Himself but God in an ark made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. This ark, being one entity of two elements, wood and gold, typifies Christ in His humanity with His divinity.
The word incarnation is not in Numbers chapter one, but the picture is here. In this picture of the tabernacle with the ark, we see the Triune God incarnated to be a man living among men. The tabernacle was built with forty-eight boards. First, the number forty-eight is composed of six multiplied by eight, which signifies man (six) in resurrection (eight). Second, forty-eight is composed of twelve multiplied by four, which signifies the Triune God (contained in the number twelve, composed of three multiplied by four) in His creature (four). Therefore, this picture shows the Triune God incarnated to be a man living among men. Here we see the Triune God, we see man, and we see the Triune God dwelling among men.
The picture of the New Jerusalem in Numbers 1 involves the encampment of the twelve tribes of Israel around the tabernacle. The New Jerusalem has twelve gates, three gates on each of the four sides, with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on them (Rev. 21:12-13). In Numbers, the twelve tribes were arranged into an array, which shows us a picture. In this array, three tribes, each tribe being an army, were encamped on each of the four sides of the tabernacle. On the east, toward the sunrise, was the camp of Judah, composed of the armies of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun (Num. 2:2-9). On the west, at the rear, was the camp of Ephraim, composed of the armies of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin (2:18-24). On the south was the camp of Reuben, composed of the armies of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad (2:10-16). On the north was the camp of Dan, composed of the armies of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali (2:25-31). This encamping of the twelve tribes is a picture of the New Jerusalem.
Now we can realize how Numbers 1 affords us a picture of the New Testament from the incarnation to the New Jerusalem. This is actually a summary of the history of the church, which began with the incarnation and will consummate with the New Jerusalem. In type, the history of Israel from Numbers through Malachi, which includes things that are both very good and encouraging and very poor and discouraging, portrays the history of the church.
In the picture in Numbers, God is in the center; that is, God is in the ark, in Christ. God is no longer just in the heavens; He is also on the earth, in a man who is His embodiment. This man who is the embodiment of God is Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9). Such a man is constituted with two elements, a golden element and a wooden element. He is a "gold-wood" man, a God-man.
Now this wonderful One, the Triune God incarnated to be embodied as a man, has been expanded, increased, and enlarged. In His expansion and enlargement, Christ has become the tabernacle, God's dwelling place. As such a tabernacle, He is enterable.
When God was in Christ only, no one could enter into Him. Without Christ's expansion, no one could enter into God. But now, in His expansion into a tabernacle, Christ is not only God's dwelling place but also the place where we can enter into God. Today we can enter into God, taking Christ as our life that He may be the meaning of our life. As He is our life to be the meaning of life to us, He is our testimony. We live Him, express Him, show Him, in every aspect and in every direction. Then He spontaneously becomes our center. Therefore, Christ today is our meaning of life, our testimony, and our center.
Christ, the embodiment of God, has been enlarged into a habitation in which God dwells and into which we enter. In this enlarged Body of Christ, God has a dwelling place, and we have a place where we can enter into God, meet with God, and even be mingled with God.
This God had no intention to come down, to be incarnated at Bethlehem, and then remain stationary. For almost two thousand years this dear One has been moving. Today He is here with us, moving. In His moving, He is the Leader. He is the unique Leader, for He alone is qualified to lead. Christ is our Leader, our way, and our goal. When we have Christ, we have leadership. When we follow Christ, we follow our Leader. When we follow Him directly, we become a leader. The leadership is with Him; the leadership is He. Christ is not only our Leader but also the way we take today. Our way is Christ, and our goal also is Christ. Bringing Christ to a certain place should be honored. But if we bring something other than Christ, that thing should be condemned.
Eventually, the picture in Numbers shows us God and His chosen people mingled together as one entity to conquer the enemy on earth. The enemy utilizes and usurps the entire earth, which God created for Himself and His purpose. How can God regain the earth? God will not regain the earth directly, by Himself as the mighty God, the Creator. In the New Testament economy, God would never do this by Himself. He had to be incarnated to become a man, Christ, and this Christ has to be ministered to sinners to make them all the enlargement of Christ. As a result, there is on earth the mingling of the Triune God with the tripartite man that God may move on earth and regain it. This move began from Jerusalem as the center, passed through Judea and Samaria, progressed to the uttermost part of the earth, and is here today. Now we are part of this, part of the Triune God incarnated to be a man, living among men to have Himself increased into His chosen people, causing all of them to be mingled with the processed Triune God. This is God's work of the new creation within the old creation. The ultimate consummation of this work will be the New Jerusalem, which is the processed Triune God mingled with the transformed tripartite man. This is Numbers chapter one.
Having such a picture before us, let us now begin to consider how God's people are formed into an army.
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