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, another message on the “day” aspect of the law, we shall consider the function of God’s law as His living word to His loving seekers. If we would know how God’s law functions in this way, we must consider the law not only as regulations and commandments given by God, but even more as the word out of God’s mouth. Psalm 119:13 speaks of “the judgments of thy mouth,” verse 72 of “the law of thy mouth,” and verse 88 of “the testimony of thy mouth.” These verses indicate that the law came out of the mouth of God. As God’s living word, the law is the divine breath, the very breath of God.
Furthermore, if we would enjoy the function of God’s law as His living word, we need to be God’s loving seekers, those who seek Him out of love. If we do not regard God’s law as His breath and if we do not lovingly seek Him, we shall not experience the positive function of the law. We may read the words of the law, but we shall not be supplied with what God is by the law, and the law will not operate in us in a positive way. In other words, we shall not experience the function of God’s law as His living word.
Suppose you want to use a certain electrically powered machine. If the machine is to function, it must be plugged into an electrical outlet. It would be foolish to expect a machine to run if it has not been plugged in. When electricity flows into the machine, the machine will operate. Moreover, you need to be alert and pay attention to the machine. You should not turn it on and then go to sleep, expecting it to run on its own. In like manner, if we want the Word of God to function properly in our experience, we need to be “plugged in” to the divine current whenever we read it. We do this by taking the Word into us as the very breath of God. Also, we should not be sleepy or indifferent. We must be God’s genuine seekers. Then in our experience we shall have the functions of the Word of God.
When we speak of the function of the law as the living word of God, we are actually speaking of the function or operation of God Himself. The function of the Word of God is the operation of God. Because the Word of God is the breath of God, it is one with God. Just as it is not possible to separate the breath of a living person from the person himself, so we should not separate the Word of God from God Himself. This is the error made by many Jews in reading the Old Testament and by many Christians in reading the Bible as a whole. They read the Scriptures and study them, but in so doing they do not have direct contact with God. The result is that in their hands the Bible becomes a book of dead letters.
In John 5:39 and 40 the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is these that testify concerning Me; and you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Although the ancient religionists researched the Scriptures, they separated them from the Lord Himself and would not come to Him to receive eternal life. Eternal life is in Christ. If we read the Bible without contacting Him, we shall not receive life. Then in our experience the Bible will be a book of dead letters. Life is a living Person, Christ Himself. We should not separate the Scriptures from this living Person. The functions of the law as God’s living word are actually the moving and working of God Himself.
As God’s living word, the law gives man light (Psa. 119:105). Only God is light (1 John 1:5). In themselves the printed letters of the Bible are not light and cannot give us light. At most, the Bible in letters can give us knowledge. Light comes only from God Himself. Thus, if we would receive light from the Word of God, we must contact God as we read it. This indicates that the function of the Word of God is the function of God Himself, God’s own working. For this reason, we do not want to use the Bible to form a systematic theology. Our aim is to enjoy the Word with its living functions.
There is no doubt that in reading the Bible we need to exercise our mind to understand the words and terms of Scripture. Using reference books and concordances, we may spend hours to study a single word. From experience I can testify that such study is exhausting to the soul. Sometimes it even suppresses the spirit. However, this kind of study of the Word of God is useful if our aim is to experience and enjoy the living functions of the Word. On the one hand, we need to be exercised to study the Scriptures. On the other hand, there is a time to forget studying and exercise our spirit to pray with the Word and over the Word, seeking to contact the Lord in and through the Word. If we contact the Lord by praying with the Word, we shall receive life from the Word. Then the Word will not be dead letters, for through the exercise of our spirit we shall touch the living One in the Word.
Before I come to minister the Word to the saints, I need to spend a good period of time contacting the Lord in this way. Otherwise, I shall not have anything of life to share. I get ready for a message not only by studying the Word, but especially by breathing in the Lord and by praying, praising, and thanking the Lord. In my prayer to the Lord, I do not care about language, grammar, or composition. My only desire is to utter something to the Lord that I may contact Him in a living way. If we are concerned about composing our prayer, our spirit will be weakened. But if we forget composition and exercise our spirit in prayer, we shall contact the living One.
Again and again we need to come to the Word for the purpose of receiving nourishment and refreshment. This approach to the Bible is well expressed in a hymn on feeding on the Word:
My heart is hungry, my spirit doth thirst;
I come to Thee, Lord, to seek Thy supply;
All that I need is none other but Thee,
Thou canst my hunger and thirst satisfy.
Feed me, Lord Jesus, give me to drink,
Fill all my hunger, quench all my thirst;
Flood me with joy, be the strength of my life,
Fill all my hunger, quench all my thirst.
If we come to the Bible in the spirit expressed in this hymn, we shall be nourished and refreshed. However, many times we do not come to the Word in this way. We neither pray nor aspire to contact the Lord. Instead, we just read the words of the Bible with our eyes and try to understand them with our mind. We have no heart or spirit to contact the Lord. In such a case, the more we read the Word, the more exhausted we become. We need to exercise our spirit in reading the Word, and we need to aspire to contact the Lord. Psalm 119 is filled with such an aspiration. This was the reason that to the psalmist the law was God’s living word. His way to contact the Word of God and God Himself was to exercise his whole being as an expression of his intimate sentiment and deep aspiration. As he read the Word, he cried out to God, earnestly seeking Him.
As we read the Word of God, we should not only pray, but also sing to the Lord. This is to read the Word by psalming. (In ancient times the Psalms were sung and not merely read or spoken.) Praying requires more exercise of the spirit than speaking, and singing requires even more exercise than praying. By singing we can truly get into our spirit. We need more singing both in the meetings and in our daily life.
The chorus of the well-known hymn “Blessed Assurance” says:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Many Christians have sung this hymn, but not many praise their Savior all the day long. What do you think would happen if we praised the Lord all day long? No doubt, we would be utterly immersed in the Lord.
Ephesians 6:17 and 18 say, “And receive the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, by means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in spirit.” Here Paul is not telling us to do two things—to receive the word of God and also to pray. Rather, as the grammatical construction clearly indicates, he is charging us to receive the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, by means of all prayer and petition. These verses refer to pray-reading, to the practice of taking the Word of God by means of prayer. How could we receive the Word by means of prayer if we did not pray with the Word and over it? To receive the Word by prayer obviously requires that we pray the Word.
Although we have often spoken about pray-reading, we have not emphasized adequately the matter of praying at every time in spirit. First Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Unceasingly pray.” We need to pray at every time, even when we are tempted to become angry with our wife or husband or to gossip about the saints. If we pray at such times, our prayer will kill these negative things. Praying is the best way to stop our gossiping tongue.
In Ephesians 6:18 Paul speaks of both prayer and petition. Prayer is general, whereas petition is particular. Not only should we have set times of prayer, but we should pray at every time. Are you tempted to quarrel with your wife or husband? Pray! Are you in danger of losing your temper? Pray! Are you about to criticize someone? Pray! Pray at every time. Pray no matter where you are or what you are doing. Praying at every time in spirit will kill all the “germs” and “pests” and bring in the rich supply of divine nourishment. It is crucial that we receive the Word by means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in spirit.
In Ephesians 5:18 and 19 Paul charges us to “be filled in spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalming with your heart to the Lord.” We should not only pray, but also sing and psalm. The Christians at the time of Paul probably sang the Old Testament psalms, perhaps using certain Jewish melodies. We today should pray-read, sing-read, and even psalm-read. We should psalm the verses of the Bible. Singing the Word is more inspiring than merely reading it. Psalming is a type of singing that includes musing. Singing itself does not include much musing, but in psalming we muse upon the Word. At such times we may worship the Lord, have fellowship with Him, or even converse with ourselves in the Lord’s presence. This is the way to receive nourishment from the Word. By taking the Bible in this way we receive the riches of God through the Word. The written Word then becomes the channel through which God’s riches are conveyed to us. But if we would receive these riches, we must have a living, organic, dynamic contact with God whenever we touch the Word of God.
If we are filled in spirit, we shall give thanks to the Lord and do everything in His name. For years, I could not understand what it meant to do everything in the name of the Lord. Of course, I was taught that this meant to do all things in oneness with Him. This, however, was mainly a doctrine, not an actual practice. Now I see that when we contact the Word in a living way, praying, singing, psalming, and thanking, we shall be saturated with the Lord and become one with Him. Then whatever we do in our daily living will be in the Lord’s name.
According to Ephesians 5, a wife’s submission to her husband and a husband’s love for his wife are the overflow of being filled in spirit. There is no need for a wife to strive to submit to her husband or for a husband to exert himself to love his wife. In ourselves we are not able to fulfill these requirements. If the wives are to submit to their husbands and if the husbands are to love their wives, they must be filled in spirit, singing, psalming and giving thanks to the Lord. If a brother does this, he will be saturated with the Lord and will automatically love his wife, no matter how she may treat him.
In the years 1969 to 1971 many of the saints in Elden Hall in Los Angeles practiced singing and praising the Lord in their daily life. In those days many families lived near the meeting hall, and often the sounds of singing, pray-reading, and praising could be heard coming from the dwellings of the saints. This singing and praising carried over into the meetings. Long before the scheduled time, the meetings would begin. Many times a meeting began on the street with the singing and praising of the saints as they walked to the meeting hall. Actually, the meetings began early in the day, as the saints contacted the Lord by singing, pray-reading, and praising. In recent years our tendency has been to drift back toward the habits of traditional religion. We may read the Word and pray at certain times and then come to the meeting at the scheduled time, but we lack a spontaneous daily life in spirit. But in those years in Elden Hall the saints had such a daily life.
Ephesians 5:20 speaks of giving thanks at all times, and 6:18, of praying at every time. We should pray not only at certain set times, but at every time. Furthermore, we should give thanks to God at all times and for all things. This is the way to receive the Word of God.
The Word of God is not merely letters in black and white; it is the very breath of God, even God’s breathing. Only when we have continual, personal, living, and intimate contact with the Lord all day long do we truly live by breathing Him. Our physical life depends on breathing. When a person stops breathing, he dies. Likewise, we live Christ by breathing Him.
But where is Christ that we may breathe Him in? He is in the Spirit, and the Spirit is embodied in the Word. Whenever we come to the Word in a living way, in the way of breathing the Lord and not just of studying the Bible in letters, we become organically connected to Him. Then all that He is. His life and His riches, will be channeled into us. As a result, in our daily living we are saturated with Him, and He and we become one. Because we are one with Him in such a way, whatever we do, we shall do in Him.
My burden in this message is related to the crucial matter that in handling the law of God the psalmists opened themselves to the Lord, considered the law as the living word of God, and contacted God Himself. The psalms are full of the spirit of prayer, full of aspiration and cries to God. In their praying and psalming, the psalmists mused upon the Word of God. Automatically God’s element was transfused into them, and they were saturated and permeated with it. To them, the law was not just a number of requirements, commandments, and regulations, but a means by which they could receive the divine life supply. Because the psalmists were loving seekers of the Lord, they were saturated with the divine Person. Then everything they did was done in the name of God. Through their dealing with the Word of God, they became one with God and experienced the functions of His Word.
All the various functions of the Word are the actions of a living Person. For example, the Word comforts us, strengthens us, and upholds us. These are the actions of God Himself as He upholds, comforts, strengthens, and fills us. All the functions of the law as God’s living word as revealed in Psalm 119 are the acts and activities of a living Person. But if we fail to contact the Lord as we read the Word, the Word will not function this way in our experience. Actually, it is not the Word that has these functions; it is God Himself who operates in certain ways. We contact this living One through the Word and are infused with Him and saturated with Him so that He becomes our life and our very being. In our experience He functions to give us life and light and to uphold us, strengthen us, and comfort us.
The church meetings should be a continuation of our daily life. We should sing and praise in our daily life and then continue our singing and praising in the meetings. But if we praise the Lord in the meetings without praising Him in our daily life, our meetings will be a performance, and we shall be actors. We should come to the meetings not to perform, but to express what we are in our daily life.
Recently we pointed out that to live Christ day by day we need to pray in all that we do. To pray without ceasing means to breathe in the Lord continually. In everything we do—in eating, clothing ourselves, talking to others, and all the details of our daily living—we need to pray. According to Ephesians, we need to give thanks at all times and to pray at every time. Then we shall do everything in the name of the Lord. This is to live Christ. Colossians 3:17 says, “And in everything, whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” In order to do everything in the name of the Lord we need to be those who are continually singing, psalming, praising, and thanking.
We also need to be those who join ourselves to the Triune God through the Word. The Word is a means through which we can contact the Lord and receive His supply. Without using the Word, you may find it difficult to compose a prayer or praise. But it is easy to pray and praise when we use the Bible. Use the verses of Scripture as material for your praying, praising, singing, and psalming. By means of such an exercise with the Word, you will be saturated with the Triune God. Then you will do everything in the Lord’s name. As we sing and psalm the Word, the Triune God is brought into us, and we are ushered into Him. This is the way to allow the Word to function in our experience.
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The Greek word rendered dwell means to inhabit. In order for the word of Christ to inhabit us, the word must be a Person. It is not possible for something that is not living to inhabit us. Only a living organism can dwell in us. For the word of Christ to inhabit us richly means that it permeates us and is assimilated into our inner being.
In Colossians 3:16 the word richly modifies dwell, or inhabit. When the word of Christ inhabits us richly, it permeates, saturates, and sustains every part of our inner being. Christ is unsearchably rich, and His riches are embodied in His Word. Thus, when His Word inhabits us, lives in us, and moves in us, it causes us to be saturated with His riches.
The way to let the word of Christ inhabit us richly is “in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace” in our hearts to God (Col. 3:16). We should be those who not only read the Bible, but who also pray, sing, and psalm the Bible and even give thanks to God with the words of the Bible. As we take the Word of God in this way, God will operate through the Word.
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