Life-Study of Leviticusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
We have seen that chapter eleven of Leviticus is concerned with the matter of diet, with the matter of eating. Now we need to see that this chapter is also very much concerned with death. In Leviticus 11 the word “carcass” is used at least thirteen times, and the word “dead” is used twice. Without death, there could not be any carcasses. A carcass actually denotes death. As long as there is a carcass, there is death.
The fact that this chapter speaks of death in relation to diet indicates that our diet, our eating, is a matter of life or death. If we contact clean things, we get life. But if we contact unclean things, we get death.
In this chapter the words “abomination” and “detestable” also refer to uncleanness. We should detest uncleanness, hate it to the uttermost, because it brings us death. Whenever we touch something that is unclean, we touch death. In Leviticus 11 uncleanness is synonymous with death. Where there is uncleanness, there is death. Moreover, death consummates in a carcass. The carcasses even of the clean living creatures are unclean (vv. 39-40).
Death is an ugly, abominable thing. Therefore, we need to abstain from death. Apparently chapter eleven speaks of abstaining from uncleanness; actually this chapter tells us to abstain from death. The death from which we should abstain is not mainly physical death but spiritual death. Spiritual death is more prevailing on earth than physical death. Spiritual death is everywhere. Not only sinful, worldly places but even the most moral, ethical places are full of spiritual death. Chapter eleven of Leviticus warns us to abstain from spiritual death.
As a help to understanding what spiritual death is, let us consider the significance of the two trees in the garden of Eden—the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
After God created man, He placed him before these two trees (Gen. 2:8-9). The tree of life is simply, singly, purely, and absolutely of life. With this tree there are no complications. Instead, there is only one thing—life. The man created by God was thus in a situation where he was facing the tree of life.
In the Bible, God is signified, or illustrated, by a tree (e.g. Hosea 14:8). When God became incarnated and lived on earth, He said of Himself, “I am the vine” (John 15:5a). A vine grows by spreading and for this reason it is available to us. A pine, on the contrary, grows upward. We cannot reach the top of a fully-grown pine tree, but we easily have access to a vine. I am glad that the Lord said not that He was a pine but that He was a vine. Our God is high, yet He lowered Himself to become a vine, spreading Himself to reach the four corners of the earth.
This vine is the tree of life. We can prove this by putting John 15:5a together with John 14:6a, where the Lord says, “I am the life.” On the one hand, He is the vine, a tree; on the other hand, He is life. Therefore, He is the tree of life. Christ, the embodiment of the Triune God, is the tree of life.
The Bible not only begins with the tree of life in Genesis but also consummates with the tree of life in Revelation. Revelation 22:2a says, “On this side and on that side of the river was the tree of life.” Verse 14 of that chapter goes on to say, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life.” These verses speak of the tree of life in the New Jerusalem. What about today? In the church life today we may enjoy Christ as the tree of life. According to Revelation 2:7, the Lord has promised Himself to us as the tree of life for our enjoyment. “To him who overcomes, to him I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Today’s church life is a prefigure, a miniature, of the New Jerusalem, which is the paradise of God. In a very real sense, therefore, in the church life we are in the paradise of God enjoying Christ as our tree of life.
In Hosea 14:8 the Lord likens Himself to an evergreen tree. He is not only the tree of life—He is also the evergreen. As the tree of life, He is ever green.
In the garden of Eden there was not only the tree of life but also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life signifies God Himself as the totality and source of life. When God placed Adam in the garden, He knew that in this universe there was also another source—God’s enemy, Satan. There is not only one source—God as the source of life; there is also a second source—Satan as the source of death. Just as God is the totality and source of life, Satan is the totality and source of death. Therefore, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil signifies death.
Whereas life is pure and single, death is complicated. The tree that signifies death is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here we have three things which make death a complicated matter: knowledge, good, and evil. Since knowledge is related to death, the more knowledge we have, the more we are involved with death. Likewise, good is involved not with life but with death. Evil, of course, is an element of death. We all count evil with death, but we may count knowledge and good with life. In the Bible, however, life stands by itself, but both knowledge and good go with death. Eventually, knowledge, good, and evil all consummate in death.
In order to live a holy life, we need to abstain from anything that belongs to death. In particular, we need to abstain from the common practice of gossiping. Those who have the habit of gossiping may pretend to be concerned about others and their situation. Actually, due to their habit of gossiping, they are merely seeking more knowledge for the purpose of gossiping. The source of the habit of gossiping is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Through Adam’s fall this tree has been implanted into us. Even though we have been saved and have had God as the tree of life planted into our being, we still have the tree of the knowledge of good and evil within us. This means that each of us is a miniature garden of Eden. We have God within us as the tree of life and also Satan as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Gossiping has nothing to do with the tree of life, for gossiping never imparts life to the listeners. To gossip is to be involved with death; it is to spread death, which is of God’s enemy, to others. To abstain from gossip is to abstain from death. If we would live a holy life, a life that abstains from anything related to death, we must stay away from the source of death; that is, we must stay away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
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