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 come to the court of the tabernacle. It seems that the court would be easy to understand. Actually, this is not the case. If we try merely to understand the dimensions and materials of the court, we shall not have difficulty. But if we seek to know the spiritual significance of the court of the tabernacle, we shall find that this is not easy to understand.
As a help to understanding the spiritual significance of the court of the tabernacle, I would like to point out a few matters. First, we need to realize that in the building of the tabernacle, the furniture, and the outer court, there are three main categories of materials. The first category is metal, minerals. Gold, silver, and bronze are all of metal. The second category is plants. The minerals are not related to life, but plants certainly are of life. Both the acacia wood and the linen are of the plant life. The third category of materials is that derived from the animal life. Some of the materials, such as the rams’ skin and the goats’ hair, come from land animals, but the porpoise skins come from sea animals. The materials taken from animals are also related to life. As we have pointed out elsewhere, the plant life is for generation, for production and propagation, and the animal life is for redemption.
The main metals used in the tabernacle were gold, silver, and bronze. According to the sequence of the record in Exodus, gold is mentioned first, then silver, and then bronze. From the inside to the outside, the sequence is gold, silver, and bronze. But from the outside to the inside, the sequence is bronze, silver, and gold. God’s view is from the inside to the outside, but our view is from the outside to the inside. Therefore, with God the sequence is gold, silver, and bronze. But with us the sequence is bronze, silver, and gold.
Regarding materials taken from the plant life, the record first mentions acacia wood and then linen. However, with the tabernacle and the furnishings, the acacia wood was not visible. It was overlaid by either gold or bronze. The linen, of course, was visible.
If we consider the tabernacle, the furniture, and the outer court as a whole, we shall see that the entire situation indicates two important matters: righteousness and holiness. You may think that you know the meaning of righteousness and holiness in the Bible. Christians often talk about holiness, and many Christians desire to be holy. They may not talk as much about righteousness. However, in the Bible righteousness is mentioned not less than holiness. In some verses righteousness and holiness are put together. For example, Ephesians 4:24 says that the new man was created in “righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Here we have righteousness and holiness together with truth. According to Colossians 3:10, the new man is being renewed unto full knowledge according to the image of God. The image of God is related to righteousness and holiness. At this point, we need to ask a crucial question: How can righteousness and holiness be related to the image of God? We should not take what the Bible says concerning righteousness and holiness for granted, or assume that we understand these matters because we have been reading the Bible for years. It is very significant that the new man is being renewed according to the image of God and that this image is related to righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Let us consider some verses which help us to see the significance of righteousness. In 2 Corinthians 3:8 and 9 Paul says that the ministry of the new covenant is a ministry of the Spirit and also a ministry of righteousness. The ministry of the old covenant was of death and condemnation. Death is versus the Spirit, and condemnation is versus justification. However, here Paul does not say that the new covenant ministry is a ministry of justification. He says that it is a ministry of righteousness. The new covenant ministry is a ministry of the Spirit for life and of righteousness for justification. We need to ask what it means to say that this ministry is a ministry of righteousness.
In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul first says that the ministry of the old covenant was of death and then, that it was of condemnation. But in our thinking condemnation comes first and death follows. Paul, however, mentions death before condemnation. In the New Testament we have righteousness unto life, and also life issuing in righteousness. On the one hand, righteousness may come first and be followed by life; on the other hand, life may precede righteousness and issue in righteousness. Hence, regarding righteousness and life there are two sides: the side of righteousness unto life, and the side of life unto righteousness. In the same principle, in the Bible we have condemnation unto death, and death resulting in condemnation.
When a sinner comes to God, that sinner is condemned, and this condemnation issues in death. This is condemnation unto death. This is one side. The other side is that we may be in a condition of death, and this condition issues in condemnation. This is death unto condemnation. From one side there is condemnation unto death; on the other side, there is death unto condemnation. In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul is speaking from the standpoint of the second side, that is, of a condition, a state, of death resulting in condemnation.
Before we were saved, everything we were and everything we did were in death. That was our condition. The result of such a condition was condemnation. God condemns every aspect of our past. Even today, if we continue to live in the old creation, we shall be in a condition of death, a condition which is under God’s condemnation. The entire old creation is under the condemnation of God. But the new covenant ministry comes to impart the Spirit into us, that is, to regenerate us and make us living. Therefore, the Spirit who imparts life issues in righteousness.
Suppose a sinner repents and believes in the Lord Jesus. Immediately he is justified. No longer is he condemned, for God’s righteousness is given to him. This is righteousness unto life. Because such a repentant sinner receives God’s righteousness and is justified, he has life. This is one side. Now that he has life, if he lives by this life, the result will be righteousness. This is the other side, the side of life unto righteousness. The new covenant ministry not only brings us to God so that we may be justified; it brings us into a state, a condition, to have a living of righteousness. This means that the ministry of the New Testament ministers the Spirit to us so that we may have a living of righteousness. The Spirit is the life supply, and righteousness is the expression of God.
The Bible speaks often concerning the righteousness of the law. What is the righteousness of the law? In order to answer this question, we need to know what the law is. In this Life-study of Exodus we have strongly emphasized the fact that the law, the Ten Commandments, is a portrait of what God is. The Ten Commandments are of two categories. The first four commandments are of one category, and the last six commandments are of another category. The first four commandments are concerned with God: not to have any god other than God Himself, not to make images or idols, not to take the name of the Lord in vain, and to keep the Sabbath day as a sign of belonging to the Lord. These four commandments are related to God’s holy nature. Thus, the first four commandments are concerned with God’s holiness.
The last six commandments are concerned with honoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting. According to these commandments, we must have a good relationship with our parents, we must not murder, we must not commit adultery, we must not steal, we must not give a false testimony, and we must not covet. These six commandments are related to God’s deeds, which are a matter of righteousness. Therefore, the first four commandments are related to God’s holiness, and the last six commandments are related to God’s righteousness. As to His nature, God is holy. As to His deeds, He is righteous. This will help us to understand why the new man must be in the image of God with respect to righteousness and holiness. From God’s side, we need holiness and then righteousness. But from our side, we first have righteousness and then holiness. Ephesians 4:24 speaks from our side, saying that the new man is according to righteousness and holiness.
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