By Titus Chu
Almost all Christians who love the Lord should recognize in their own experience the three stages represented by Moses’s life. This is how we learn who our God is. First, like Moses in Egypt, they should see God’s sovereignty in arranging for their salvation and in giving them a desire to serve Him, even if this service proves later to be not so spiritual. Second, like Moses in the wilderness of Midian, they should learn to trust in God as their habitation and to have no confidence in themselves. Only then are they qualified to meet God at the burning bush and receive Him as their divine commitment.
Stage 1: Excitement and Zeal
Those in the first stage are characterized by excitement and zeal. They are always busy planning this and that, and running here and there. They are burdened for this one and that one, but for some reason never grow themselves. They know how to serve the Lord, yet experience Him very little. They know how to labor for the Lord but they do not know the purpose for all things they do.
Some brothers labor so much when asked to prepare a message for the church, but they do not know the goal of their message. They are more than zealous and full of excitement as they labor in the Word, but their secret goal is to get loud amens of appreciation. If no amens come, they feel so discouraged. They do not even know to ask if the goal of the church was furthered, or if anyone was helped. Many spend years like this, and some never move on.
Some young people have told me that they want to labor in Africa for a few weeks for their enlargement. Africa is a genuine frontier, wide open to be developed for the Lord and the church, and they know the brothers there would more than welcome them. It seems much more exciting than to labor on some dead campus in the U.S. But the question is, why go? There are already many missionaries in Africa. Is God sending us? What would be the goal or purpose of our going? If we cannot answer, then our going is just out of excitement.
We can labor to get a big increase in numbers, but many congregations already have thousands in their membership. Why not just join them? We can labor in the Bible so that we can present the truth to others, but many congregations already attract people with Bible studies that present the truth, so why not just join them? We cannot just do things because we think they will please the Lord. Such loyalty may not satisfy Him at all. The Lord desires us to be very purposeful, matching His purpose.
Stage 2: Mingling with the Lord
The Lord desires to gain a group of people who not only love him, but also experience being mingled with Him in nature. This mingling is an unspeakably sweet experience. It is like the experience of a young couple who fall in love, marry, and live together for many years. At first they surprise each other with their differences. But as the years go by the differences begin to disappear. Eventually they smile the same, talk the same, and like the same foods. This is because they have become mingled and infused with each other. This happens normally and sweetly by spending so much time together in love. This is what the Lord desires. He wants to mingle His person into us. What an unspeakably sweet experience! We who are wild become mingled with the tender being of the Lord, and thus become exactly what He wants.
Once we may have been ambitious to become another Watchman Nee or some other spiritual model. Such ambition is rarely realized, so we are doomed to disappointment until we learn to rest in the Lord’s desire. Then a spiritual buoyancy rises up in us. We drop our ambition and are content with God. Instead of aspiring to grand accomplishments, we are mingled with the self denying life of the Lord. We no longer even care if the Lord uses us. We only care that He loves us. This takes time and is not an easy lesson to learn.
After 40 years of shepherding sheep in the wilderness, Moses became a very tender person. He lost all his ambition to do things for God and simply wanted to abide in Him as his habitation. It was at this time the Lord appeared to him at the burning bush and showed him Himself. This tender, unambitious Moses was now useful to God. He and God went together to Egypt and brought the people out, eventually bringing them back to the very mountain where God first appeared to Moses.
Stage 3: Living in Oneness with the Lord
Once at the mountain, God gave the people what are commonly called the Ten Commandments (Exo. 20:1–17). If we simply look at these as rules we must keep or things we must do, we miss God’s real intention. God did not give these to bring us into failure and condemnation, but to show us who He is and to bring us into a sweet relationship with Him.
The First Commandment
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exo. 20:2–3).
God first wants us to know who He is. There is only one God, and once we know Him, He will become our focus and desire. Nothing can replace Him. We could never have another God.
The Second Commandment
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exo. 20:4–6).
Since we know God, we could never worship anything else. This commandment is not simply talking about statues. Most statues are simply pieces of art that no one worships. This is talking about anything that replaces God in our heart.
Many people unwittingly worship their electronics, their careers, their religious success, or any number of other things. But God is jealous for us, exercising His sovereignty to win us back. He visits our iniquity when necessary, and shows mercy when helpful. He will use our environment and prod us inwardly to win us back. Once God becomes our Lord, nothing else can occupy us. We are happy to surrender ourselves to His sovereignty and let Him control our life.
The Third Commandment
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exo. 20:7).
To take the Lord’s name in vain is to use it not believing He is right there with you. I would be insulted if I was in a room with others who talked about me and used my name as though I was not there to hear them. Our Lord is real to us, and we can never talk about Him or use His name in such a vain way.
We should, however, call on the Lord’s name to touch Him. This is never in vain because He is right in our spirit waiting to answer. He is our lover, so how can we not call His name? This is the simplest, purest, and sweetest prayer possible. Like those in the church in Corinth, we can “in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2).
The Fourth Commandment
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exo. 20:8–11).
Based on our experience of the first three commandments, we are brought into a sabbath rest. This is not so much a command as it is a way of life. We are restful in our God, knowing His sovereignty and His intimate presence. Our restfulness is not based on our environment, which outwardly can sometimes be in turmoil, but on the confidence we have in God’s love and care.
The Fifth Commandment
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you (Exo. 20:12).
The remaining commandments describe what our living should be as we experience our sabbath rest in the Lord. The first aspect of such a living is that we should honor our parents. God is our source spiritually, but our parents are our source physically. In this respect they are like God to us, and deserve the same honor.
Young people can honor their parents simply by calling them to say that they love them. Most parents long to hear such a thing. I have seen grown men break down in tears after their children gave them such a call. Do something that shows you care. Giving our parents honor is the first evidence that we are enjoying a real sabbath rest.
The Remaining Commandments
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exo. 20:13–17).
Our enjoyment of the sabbath rest produces all the riches of a proper and godly human life. These are therefore not so much commandments as they are fruit of knowing God, experiencing His sovereignty, knowing His nearness, and resting in Him. The first of these fruits is that we honor our parents, but it does not stop there.
It’s very hard to believe that when we are resting in the Lord’s presence, we can think of stealing something, much less of killing someone. We cannot covet while we are calling our Lord’s name. Rather we will be very happy and satisfied with what God has supplied us. We are simply resting in God.