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Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (8)

By Titus Chu

 

The Covering of Badgers’ Skin

According to Exodus 26:1, the main covering of the tabernacle was the fine twisted linen. “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen”. This verse seems to say that the entire tabernacle was to be made of this linen, making it the main item. But the verses that follow indicate three additional layers that were to be placed on top of the linen covering:

“Then you shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle….You shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of porpoise skins above” (Exo. 26:7, 14).

The goats’ hair covering lay directly on the fine twisted linen, followed by the rams’ skin dyed red, and, on the very top, the porpoise skins, often translated badgers’ skins.

These four layers represent four conditions in our spiritual life. We can consider them from the inside out as Exodus 26 does, or from the outside in which is more according to our experience. Since the ark of God is in the holy of holies, God’s view starts from the linen covering on the inside. Since the people of God stood in the outer court and beyond, our view starts from the badgers’ skin on the outside.

 

Ugly in Appearance

The first thing that impresses everyone about badgers’ skin is how ugly it is. It is dark, rough, and seems to have nothing to appreciate. We have to wonder why God would choose such material for the outside of His tabernacle where everyone would see it. Why would He not choose to make it glorious using precious materials such as in Saint Peter’s Cathedral? In contrast, God hid all the glory on the inside, and made the outside of something men would despise.

When I was a young Christian I read, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday” (Psa. 37:6). I was so happy. My life, I thought, was going to get brighter and brighter until I would eventually shine like the noonday sun and everyone would appreciate how spiritual I had become. But for some reason, as time went on, I became uglier and uglier and many bad things have been said about me. Instead of becoming bright and golden, I had become badgers’ skin.

A government official in a country I was visiting once said to me, “Oh, Mr. Chu, you’re very famous. I went to the Internet. There are so many articles about you.” I dared not ask him if the articles said good things or bad things. If they were good, I would be very embarrassed. If they were bad, they would insult my dignity. When anyone begins to admire or appreciate me a little, I get a bit nervous. If I’m a spiritual man, I should give people a feeling that I am ugly badgers’ skin. This doesn’t go with our concept.

Badgers’ skin represents the outward appearance of Christ. The Bible describes Him in this way:

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isa. 53:2-3).

Those who saw Him thought He looked far older than His years. Though He was in His early thirty’s, they thought He was close to fifty (John 8:57).

Eventually, almost nobody liked Him. He was not as handsome as many think or as many artists have painted. Of course, He was not necessarily ugly, but He was common. There was nothing outwardly attractive about Him that would cause others to admire Him. This was true of Christ, and it is just as true of the church and of those who serve Christ according to the picture of the tabernacle. Those who want to follow the Lord and give their lives to Him should be prepared to become despised badgers’ skin in the eyes of others.

 

Durable in Function

The outer covering of badgers’ skin served a valuable function to the tabernacle. It was tough and could endure all kinds of weather. It stood against the beating desert sun, the pounding rain and hail, and the strong wind with its sandstorms. It was durable, strong and firm. As such, it served as a needed protection to the tabernacle with its contents. This is much more important than the outward appearance.

While badgers’ skin represents the appearance of Christ, and many people rejected Him because of this, what He looked like was never the main point. There were some, such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who looked beyond His common appearance and discovered who He really was. Over the years many, including us, have made the same discovery and taken refuge from the storms by hiding in Him. He is durable, strong and firm.

God sees the church according to its content, which is glorious and precious. At the same time, the outward testimony of the church before man is not at all glorious, but is covered by a tough Christ who can resist all storms and bear the heat of the day. This is the visible testimony of a healthy church.

People should not be impressed by a grand building or stately liturgy. That is not the church. Our meeting halls are functional but not at all impressive. People should instead be impressed with the One in whom we have taken refuge, the Christ who is the content of the church.

It is the same with the testimony of individual Christians who are full of the constitution of Christ. We think transformed people should appear so holy and glorious. But no matter how spiritual people are, their outward appearance is only badger skin. On the one hand they are just people, perhaps not impressive at all, but if their content is Christ, there is something that should be appreciated.

Sometimes those who serve the Lord do well accidentally, and pride starts to come in. At such times, the Lord is faithful to remind them that they are just ugly badgers’ skin. Even the apostle Paul’s outward testimony was that “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible “ (2 Cor. 10:10). His weighty and strong letters were the toughness of the badgers’ skin, but his unimpressive presence and contemptible speech were its ugliness.

Those who are spiritual should not live among the saints by form or comeliness but by the tough and strong humanity of Christ. Then they can bear whatever comes and defend against any attack as did the apostle Paul. When the weakness of some gets exposed or some young ones get troubled, they can bear them up, cover them, and give encouragement to go on. When criticism or false teaching tries to creep in, they can strongly stand for the Lord with no compromise.

May the Lord produce many with the testimony of badgers’ skin among us.

 


Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (7)

By Titus Chu

 

The Coverings of the Tabernacle

The tent of the tabernacle was made of four layers, or coverings. These layers represent the experience of those who love the Lord and desire to follow Him. The outermost layer was a covering of ugly badger skins, sometimes translated as porpoise skins. Under that was a layer of ram skins dyed red. Under the ram skins was a layer of goats’ hair woven like a blanket, and the innermost covering was made of curtains of fine twisted linen with blue, purple, and scarlet thread with cherubim (Ex. 26:1, 7, 14). If we were standing in the holy place, this last layer would be the ceiling above us. (more…)

 


Revolutionizing Our Church Life (2)

By Titus Chu

In the previous message we said that we needed twenty brothers and sisters willing to leave their labor at the bronze altar, drop everything, progress through the holy place, and spend time appearing before God at the golden incense altar. After this, they can pick up their labor again in a fresh way, charged by the Lord. Of course this is not limited to twenty. If there is any limitation, we are that limitation. We may be too young, too old, too routine, too fearful, or too contented to go this way. If so, we should be at peace, but we should not limit those have such a desire.

 

Fellowship with the Elders

If we choose to go this way, we must be prepared to leave the comfort of the routine, assignment-oriented church life. Of course we must always respect the leading ones and those who shepherd us by continuing to have good fellowship. We are not rebellious.

The first thing we must do is go to the leading ones and tell them that we will always fully support and participate in the Sunday meeting, but we request to be free Monday through Saturday. We need to be exempt from the routine church life. There must be a full understanding so that no one is bothered and so the leading ones can cover us. Many will not understand what we are doing, so we need their covering.

We want to be out of the routine meeting life, not to be wild, but to appear before God at the incense altar to be infused with Christ. When we come back, we will be in the full enjoyment of Christ to serve in life instead of routine or duty. We will no longer belong to a Tuesday prayer meeting or a Friday home meeting, but to Christ.

We want to be free the whole week, but how we use our time is important. If we waste our time, it becomes a loss. If this is the case, we had better rejoin the old church life. At least then we will be kept.

If I took the whole week off, I would have dinner one night with this one, have dinner another night with that one, and have lunch with another one. I would take a walk with that one, have a cup of coffee or tea with another two, then have a hot dog with a gospel friend on campus. Every minute is valuable and should be used well. (more…)

 


Revolutionizing Our Church Life (1)

By Titus Chu

“How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned
   for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. Selah.
How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.”
—Psalm 84:1-7

In this Psalm, the swallow makes her nest between the two altars in the tabernacle, that is, between the bronze altar in the outer court and the golden incense altar in the holy place. The bronze altar represents the place where we, as New Testament priests, labor with people and help them come to God. The golden incense altar is where the priest stands before God Himself, who dwells in the Holy of Holies.

The swallow represents the common people, meaning that everyone can find a home here. Between these two altars is the laver, the shewbread table, and the golden lampstand. To live between these altars means that we experience the reality of each of these items. This is to “go from strength to strength” until we at last “appear before God in Zion” at the golden incense altar. After spending time in God’s presence, the priest can return again to the bronze altar to serve others in a renewed way. (more…)

 


Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (6)

By Titus Chu

 

The Covering of Badgers’ Skin

According to Exodus 26:1, the main covering of the tabernacle was the fine twisted linen:

Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen.

This verse seems to say that the entire tabernacle was to be made of this linen, making it the main item. But the verses that follow indicate three additional layers that were to be placed on top of the linen covering:

Then you shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle….You shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of porpoise skins above”
– Exodus 26:7, 14

The goats’ hair covering lay directly on the fine twisted linen, followed by the rams’ skin dyed red, and, on the very top, the porpoise skins, often translated “badgers’ skins.”

These four layers represent four conditions in our spiritual life. We can consider them from the inside out as Exodus 26 does, or from the outside in which is more according to our experience. Since the ark of God is in the holy of holies, God’s view starts from the linen covering on the inside. Since the people of God stood in the outer court and beyond, our view starts from the badgers’ skin on the outside.

Ugly in Appearance

The first thing that impresses everyone about badgers’ skin is how ugly it is. It is dark, rough, and seems to have nothing to appreciate. We have to wonder why God would choose such material for the outside of His tabernacle where everyone would see it. Why would He not choose to make it glorious using precious materials such as in Saint Peter’s Cathedral? In contrast to such religious buildings, God hid all the glory on the inside, and made the outside of something men would despise.

When I was a young Christian I read, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday” (Psa. 37:6). I was so happy. My life, I thought, was going to get brighter and brighter until I would eventually shine like the noonday sun and everyone would appreciate how spiritual I had become. But for some reason, as time went on, I became uglier and uglier and many bad things have been said about me. Instead of becoming bright and golden, I had become badgers’ skin.

A government official in China once said to me, “Oh, Mr. Chu, you’re very famous. I went to the Internet. There are so many articles about you.” I dared not ask him if the articles said good or things or bad things. If they were good, I would be very embarrassed. If they were bad, they would insult my dignity. When anyone begins to admire or appreciate me a little, I get a bit nervous. If I’m a spiritual man, I should give people a feeling that I am the ugly badgers’ skin. This doesn’t go with our concept.

Badgers’ skin represents the true appearance of Christ. The Bible describes Him in this way:

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
– Isaiah 53:2-3

Those who saw Christ as a man in the flesh thought He looked far older than His years. Though He was in His early thirty’s, they thought He was close to fifty (John 8:57).

Eventually, almost nobody liked Him. He was not as handsome as many think or as many artists have painted him. Of course, He was not necessarily ugly, but He was common. There was nothing outwardly attractive about Him that would cause others to admire Him. This was true of Christ, and it is just as true of the church and of those who serve Him according to the picture of the tabernacle. Those who want to follow the Lord and give their lives to Him should be prepared to become despised badgers’ skin in the eyes of others.

Durable in Function

The outer covering of badgers’ skin served a valuable function for the tabernacle. It was tough and could endure all kinds of weather. It stood against the beating desert sun, the pounding rain and hail, and the strong wind with its sandstorms. It was durable, strong, and firm. As such, it served as a needed protection to the tabernacle with its contents. This is much more important than the outward appearance.

While badgers’ skin represents the appearance of Christ, and many people rejected Christ because of His appearance, what He looked like was never the main point. There were some, such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who looked beyond His common appearance and discovered who He really was. Over the years many, including we ourselves, have made the same discovery and taken refuge from the storms by hiding in Him. He is durable, strong and firm.

God sees the church according to its content, which is glorious and precious. At the same time, the outward testimony of the church before man is not at all glorious, but is covered by a tough Christ who can resist all storms and bear the heat of the day. This is the visible testimony of a healthy church.

People should not be impressed by a grand building or stately liturgy. That is not the church. Our meeting halls are functional but not at all impressive. Rather, people should be impressed with the One in whom we have taken refuge, the Christ who is the content of the church.

It is the same with the testimony of individual Christians who are full of the constitution of Christ. We think transformed people should appear so holy and glorious. But no matter how spiritual people are, their outward appearance is only badger skin. On the one hand they are just people, perhaps not impressive at all, but if their content is Christ, there is something that should be appreciated.

Sometimes those who serve the Lord do well accidentally, and pride starts to come in. At such times, the Lord is faithful to remind them that they are just ugly badgers’ skin. People even said of the apostle Paul:

His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.
– Second Corinthians 10:10

His weighty and strong letters were the toughness of the badgers’ skin, but his unimpressive presence and contemptible speech were its ugliness.

Those who are spiritual should not live among the saints by form or comeliness but by the tough and strong humanity of Christ. Then they can bear whatever comes and defend against any attack as did the apostle Paul. When the weakness of some gets exposed or some young ones get troubled, they can bear them up, cover them, and give encouragement to go on. When criticism or false teaching tries to creep in, they can strongly stand for the Lord with no compromise.

May the Lord produce many with the testimony of badgers’ skin among us!

 


Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (5)

By Titus Chu

 

The Coverings of the Tabernacle

The tent of the tabernacle was made of four layers, or coverings. These layers represent the experience of those who love the Lord and desire to follow Him. The outermost layer was a covering of ugly badger skins, sometimes translated as porpoise skins. Under that was a layer of ram skins dyed red. Under the ram skins was a layer of goats’ hair woven like a blanket, and the innermost covering was made of curtains of fine twisted linen with blue, purple, and scarlet thread with cherubim (Ex. 26:1, 7, 14). If we were standing in the holy place, this last layer would be the ceiling above us.

 

Our Experience

As we consider these four layers, we shouldn’t think of them as simply something historical.  Rather, we should recognize in them our condition as we stand before God individually and represent Him corporately. We are these four coverings. In a very real sense, we are the roof of the tabernacle.

The list of these coverings in Exodus 26 starts from the fine twisted linen on the inside and works its way out through the goat’s hair and the ram’s skin died red, to the badger skin on the outside. This is God’s perspective. He starts with the glory of our full salvation and then shows us where we came from. Our experience, however, starts from the ugly outer layer and works its way in. We start with what we see, and God starts with what He sees. We feel salvation starts with our ugly condition, but God shows us with this picture that He starts His salvation work with Christ as the fine twisted linen.

The operation of Christ as fine twisted linen gives us all the riches of life, intertwined with God, Christ, and all the saints. The goats’ hair represents our natural life, the rams’ skin dyed red represents our sinful nature which has been washed in His blood, and the rams’ skin represents our ugliness before God and man. God turns these negative layers into a protection for His testimony.

Because these other layers are there, we can have no pride. None of us can dare boast that we are special, above others in the church life, or that we have gained something on our own, because we have the constant reminders of the badger skin, the ram’s skin dyed red, and the goat’s hair.

The devil once thought he could be equal with God because he felt he had gained the fine twisted linen. However he lacked the other three layers. This allowed pride and boasting to fill his heart. It is God’s mercy to us that we have all four layers. His growth in us will produce a testimony that looks to those around us like ugly badger skin. No one will respect us. No one will say, “Wow! Here comes a spiritual man!” Yet the beauty of the fine twisted linen is hidden inside. This is God’s wisdom and our salvation.

 

God’s Testimony

God told Moses, “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman” (Exo. 26:1). This verse surprised me when I first read it. It seems to imply that the entire tabernacle was made of just this covering. He said “make the tabernacle with…fine twisted linen”. Forget about the showbread table, the golden lampstand, the incense altar, and the ark of testimony. Forget about everything else. Just make the tabernacle with the curtains of fine twisted linen. God was so strong to impress us with the crucialness of this covering.

The church in Cleveland went through a lot to find and purchase the property on Warren Road, and then paid an even higher price to construct the meeting hall. There were not many of us, and no one was rich. But the Lord was faithful in the saints. Those who were there can tell you all the stories of labor and sacrifice. Even today, whenever I walk into the hall, I have to worship the Lord for his provision and the faithfulness of the saints to produce such a facility that has served the need of the church all these years.

During the time of building, winter began to set in, and snow was predicted. The footer was poured, the walls were up, and the trusses were set, but we had no roof. At this point a brother told me, “If it snows tonight, the whole project will have to stop until April.” This was because without a roof, there was no protection. Until we were under roof, nothing mattered. We worked and prayed desperately. Finally, the roof was finished, and immediately after it began to snow. Because the roof was on, the building work continued. The roof is so important.

The roof protects everything inside. If the roof is very good, the building is good. The roof also testifies of what is inside. If the roof is made of poor materials, we know that whatever is inside is also poor. If the roof is made of gold, we know that precious things must be inside.

The roof testifies of a building’s content. The content of the tabernacle was the most valuable thing in the universe, God Himself. This is why God seemed to forget everything else and told Moses to “make the tabernacle” from this covering. On the one hand the tabernacle was made of so many things, but on the other hand it was made of this one thing.

God would tell us to take care of the roof, because the roof represents the entire tabernacle. In fact, in His salvation, we are the roof. We are what people see, and we testify of what is inside.

Whether the church life can go on well or not has a lot to do with what kind of roof we are. If we are a sloppy roof, hiding in a corner doing our own things, the whole church will be unprotected. The snow will come in and the work will stop. If, on the other hand, we rise up according to the salvation we experience and become what God desires, a covering “of fine twisted linen,” the church will be protected and God will be testified.

The Bible is so strong. It says that when we raise up the structure of the tabernacle, we must take care of the roof, and make it “of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman”. The whole tabernacle is related to this.

 


Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (4)

By Titus Chu

 

Living Out the Humanity of Jesus

It is interesting that only acacia wood is used throughout the tabernacle. God was very specific. Even if pine, oak, or some other wood was available, Moses could not have used it. Of course such wood was not available because they were in the desert. Only the acacia tree could survive in such a harsh environment.

 

Acacia Wood

Acacia wood represents the proper humanity that has been worked on by God. This is the humanity lived out by the incarnated Jesus as He testified of God to the men of His time, and it is the humanity He is producing in us today for His testimony in the church life.

We may think that the testimony He desires could only be expressed by those who are super-spiritual, heavenly, and angelic. But God did not float spiritual wood down from heaven for the building of the tabernacle like He did heavenly manna for food. He told Moses to use earthly wood that grew in the environment of the wilderness, and He wants His testimony today to be built using the humanity of Jesus that grows in the wilderness environment around us.

 

The Pillars and Hooks

The Bible says much about the pillars of the outer court, but it does not say what they were made of. As we saw in the previous message, some scholars say they were made of solid bronze, others of acacia wood covered with bronze, and still others of just acacia wood. Based on my realization that the tabernacle is a picture of the church life today, I prefer to agree with the last group. God needs men that He has worked on to hold up His testimony represented by the fine twisted linen. A testimony of bronze (judgment) would scare people away. A testimony of acacia wood (humanity) welcomes people to come in.

The Bible is also very clear that the pillars of the outer court had silver hooks to hold the silver bar, but it is unclear whether those hooks were on the inside or the outside. If we do some research, we will discover that both views are held by different scholars. Some diagrams show it one way, some the other. Since the Bible does not say, we really don’t know. But again, based on my realization that the tabernacle is a picture of the church life, I would put them on the inside. This would allow the linen to hang behind the pillars, making the pillars visible. If the linen were in the front, no one could see the beautiful acacia wood which represents the fine humanity of Jesus in the saints.

 

The Church Life

The church life is a display of the decent humanity that comes out of divine attributes. As believers, Christ is in us and we can enjoy Him (Col. 1:27). As we enjoy Him together, a certain kind of sweet human life is produced. It is a life of acacia wood, not of bronze. If we scare people away, something is wrong. People should find the life we live together attractive and inviting.
It is fine to honor older brothers or sisters, but we should never fear them. Fear causes us to not want to be with one another. If an overly-spiritual bronze brother comes toward us, we may quickly turn the other way. Fellowship is hindered and the building of the church is frustrated. This is not the testimony God is seeking.

In my advanced age, it is my dream that there would be no such fear among us. I long to walk among the saints freely with no hindrance to the fellowship with anyone. Yet I know, perhaps because of of my strong ministry over the years, that many fear me. Once I slipped into a meeting and hid in the back row. The brother who was ministering was quite experienced and doing very well, but then he spotted me sitting in the back. Quickly he finished his sharing and sat down. I had to ask myself, am I that bronze? Surely there must be something wrong with me for the brother to react in this way. Where was the acacia wood?

Our future in the church life is not found in becoming prevailing or spiritual, or even in striving to magnify Christ. Rather, it is in living a genuine, healthy, normal human life. When others see us living like this, they want to be with us. When the church life is full of human love and care mixed with the enjoyment of Christ, we will not have to pressure people to come.

 

Healthy Love and Care

There is an older couple I know who are not necessarily so full of truth and not so overly-spiritual, but who genuinely care for the saints with them in very practical ways. All the young people are kept in the church life through them. If you listen to these young ones talk, they all refer to this couple as Grandma and Grandpa, and they are so happy to be with them. They feel this way because they get care through Grandma’s cooking and love through Grandpa’s attention. I’m pretty sure they feel free to come for advice or consolation when they need someone to talk with. This couple is not necessarily more spiritual than the other saints, but they take the time to display their acacia wood humanity in the church life and it is attractive. This is the church life we all long for.

Over the years we have been through so much. We’ve seen the strong move of the spirit come and go. We’ve seen high truth, but eventually the truth we see will become dim. The apostle Paul wrote:

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away…But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians 13:8, 13

The love God has put within us will always remain. The love for the young, the weak, and the discouraged will always be there. The love to be with the saints is permanently installed. Any church with a loving grandma and grandpa is blessed, and every church could have several such couples.

 

A Plan

If we want to become such people, we shouldn’t try to do so much. We should just find ways to love the saints with us. There are countless people that need to be loved. Many have been through a lot and are wounded both spiritually and humanly. They need us to spend time with them with no motive or expectation other than to love them. We don’t need to see visions and revelations to do this. If we have a home and the heart of Christ, we have everything we need.

Consider the ones around you and come up with a plan. Don’t just be inspirational. Ask yourself, “How can I encourage the ones God has given me? Maybe I will have them over for tea next week.” Don’t wait for a chance meeting. Plan something and take action. It doesn’t have to be something great. Your love will cover any shortage.

If we don’t have this humanity, the people we contact will all be targets, the objects of our work, and they will sense it. The harder we try, the more we will drive them away. No one enjoys being the object of our work, a notch on our belt. The more we focus on numbers, the lower our numbers will go. It is those who live out the acacia wood humanity of Jesus who are fruitful. The Lord said:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
– John‬ 15:4-5

 

A Prescription

If I could write a prescription for the need of the churches today, it would simply be “humanity”. Exercise the fine humanity of Jesus Christ. We don’t even have to do much. We don’t even have to expect much. A warm, family based church life will be blessed.

Don’t say the church is weak and that it doesn’t have many new contacts. Forget about all that. That is not crucial at all. The crucial thing is what we do in our local church life—do we stress and exercise a healthy humanity? Does our church life have Christ as its substance expressed through our humanity? Are we a piece of acacia wood? Are we a pillar that can hold the fine twisted linen of Christ in the tabernacle? This is what is needed.

If I could stay in just one church, I would make a point of living among the brothers. I would spend the time to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them. I would have a little prayer with them, have a little Bible study with them, and have a time of singing with them. No one is too old to be rescued. No one is hopeless if we believe what we preach. The life in them is eternal, always fresh, and always new. We should never consider them as old.

I will give you a real testimony. When my wife passed away, I felt pressured with no joy for a long time, even though I continued to minister and serve the churches. One day a young family invited me and some others to dinner. After the meal, I sat on their couch and watched them as they talked among themselves. Their genuine brotherly love elevated me. I felt the sadness taken away. From that day, I was able to live a normal life again. I didn’t get help from hearing a good message or from reading the Bible. No one told me to stand tall for the testimony’s sake and forget my grief. Even if the Lord had told me that, I could not have done so. But the brotherly love I saw at that simple dinner rescued me. At that moment I told the Lord to keep me and take away my sorrow, and He did. The display of humanity I saw in this young family saved me.

The churches today need the exhibition of the humanity of Jesus. We should not say that we are unqualified and can’t do much. We can do a lot. We shouldn’t think everyone else is hopeless and not worth our time. Everyone is hopeful. The only question is: do we want to love them or work on them? Only if we want to work on them is it hopeless. But, if we love them, they know. If we care for them, they know. If in the church life we care for one another in this way, the Lord will know, all the angels will know, all the saints will know and even our gospel friends will know. The church will be fresh again all because we love one another with a healthy proper humanity. If such a life becomes normal among us, the Lord will be testified and we will be blessed.

 


Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (3)

By Titus Chu

 

The Court of the Tabernacle

The Bible does not record that the tabernacle needed a wall, but that it needed a court (Exo. 27:9). This court, marked off by pillars and hangings, was where God and man could come together, and was the place which defined God’s testimony to those outside. The pillars and hangings would have formed the first impression to any who approached the tabernacle from the outside. Together they created a perimeter that announced to all that God was here. They portray the church today and the healthy testimony of Christ it bears.

 

Its Measurements

This perimeter measured one hundred cubits by fifty cubits. A cubit is about one and a half feet, so this perimeter was one hundred fifty feet by seventy-five feet using today’s unit of measurement. It consisted of fine twined linen hangings supported by sixty pillars. There were twenty pillars on the south side, twenty on the north side, ten on the west side, and ten on the east side, including those supporting the hangings that made the entrance (Exo. 27:9-16). It was five cubits, or seven and a half feet, high (v. 18). The tabernacle itself, enclosed within the outer court, was twice this height, covered by a tough but ugly skin, translated as either badger skin or porpoise skin (26: 16, 14).

Because the tabernacle was twice the height of the outer court perimeter, all the ugliness of the badger skin covering was visible. This represents the church life, which can be quite messy. If we are looking for something beautiful and fancy, we may miss it. People often select a church based on their own expectations. Who has the biggest cross, the best choir, or the fanciest building? But God desires something very simple.

While the badger skin within may have looked messy, the pillars with their hangings of fine linen that surrounded it looked inviting. It was not a wall to keep people out, but something that invited people to come and see.

 

The Pillars of the Outer Court

The Bible tells us much about the sixty pillars of the outer court. We know they have caps of silver and that they stand in sockets of bronze. We know they have silver hooks which hold silver bars, or bands, that connect them together (Exo. 38:17). We know that the fine twined linen stretched from pillar to pillar on these silver bars (v. 9). However, the Bible says strangely little about what the pillars themselves looked like.

Some scholars say these pillars were made entirely of bronze. When I was younger, I held this view myself. But not only is solid bronze too heavy to carry around the wilderness, in the Bible bronze represents God’s judgment. If the tabernacle was surrounded by God’s judgment, everyone would be scared away. It is God’s love, not His judgment, that attracts people to draw close to Him.

Other scholars say the pillars were made of acacia wood covered in bronze. This is more reasonable because they would be lighter and easier to carry, but the appearance is still all bronze. I would not want a church life so full of judgment. People would see us and say, “Wow! You people are too godly. You scare me to death!” We might answer, “If you want to join us, you will have to be either all in or all out!” There is surely something wrong with such a thing.

A third group say the pillars were just made of acacia wood. While they stand in a socket of bronze, bronze is not their presentation. Acacia wood stands straight and solid, and in the Bible it represents the best humanity. It is a humanity that has been worked on by God to stand for Him and that welcomes others into the church life.

 

Acacia Wood

The acacia tree can grow in the desert with very little water. I once saw some while traveling in Africa. They were impressive. They grow very large and have long, sharp thorns to keep away any animals that would try to damage them. This was the only kind of wood used in the tabernacle.

If we still hope in our career, our business, our studies, or what we can do for ourselves, we are not in the desert. If we are not in the desert, we are not acacia wood. The desert is a hopeless place. When we are in the desert, all we think about is finding water. We see everything else as vanity and not worth pursuing. It is then that the acacia tree starts to sprout. Even though we are in the hopeless desert, we find the strength to survive. We begin to shoot up and grow thorns to protect ourselves. This is acacia wood that is useful to God.

The church life needs acacia wood people. Many good Christians are more like jello—they can’t stand straight and take the form of whatever is around them. It is hard for God to use such people in the church life. He wants to gain a group of people as solid as acacia wood who will become pillars to stand for His interest.

 

Five Cubits High

Every pillar was exactly five cubits high (Exo. 27:18). This is hard to understand because we are not all the same spiritually. How can I be the same height as the apostle Paul? How could a brand new Christian be the same as me? Does God chop some of us off and stretch others out? No, but if we are pillars in the church life, according to this picture we are each five cubits high.

In the Bible, the number five represents responsibility. Therefore, the number five here does not speak of our spiritual maturity. Rather, it speaks of how God is taking full responsibility to make those who are willing into pieces of acacia wood able to bear His testimony. Without God assuming this responsibility, it would be just as impossible for the apostle Paul to transform himself into a piece of useful wood as it would be for us. We all depend on God to make us such. It is the same for the one talented as for the five talented. God has made Himself responsible for each of us.

 

The Silver Cap and Bronze Socket

Each pillar was crowned with a silver cap and stood in a socket of bronze. Silver represents the salvation of God, and bronze represents His judgment. It is so good that the pillars had both. We have a lot for God to judge, but if we only have God’s judgment without His salvation, we would surely be condemned. The silver cap declares that Christ has taken our judgment and resulting condemnation for us.

God doesn’t expect us to be so spiritual. He expects us to be very human. Because our humanity is fallen, we all need His salvation. Those who are young may not have sinned very much yet, but still God puts a silver cap on them. Those of us who are older have had more time to sin, but we also live under the silver cap of Christ’s salvation. Our temper needs salvation but our non-temper needs salvation also. Both our badness and our goodness need salvation. Everything about us needs the silver cap.
We dare not judge each other. The Lord said “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). I am just as bad as you and you are just as bad as me. I am just as good as you and you are just as good as me. Only the details differ. Our mutual salvation is that we both stand in a bronze socket and wear a silver cap.

If everyone in the church life saw each other as acacia wood and not as bronze, the church life would be so beautiful. Of course we should respect the older ones and honor the leading ones, but we should not be afraid of them. No one is a judge, and so we should always like to be together. Such a church life is healthy.

From the time we are regenerated, we can never take this cap off. Our whole person is continually in the process of experiencing God’s salvation. Our life is a life of abiding in His salvation. Otherwise we will burn up because we are standing in the bronze socket of judgment. We stand on the merit of Jesus Christ. He has been cursed for us, and we are redeemed and saved in Him. Satan cannot bother us. Our sins are forgiven! We have the Lord! We are capped with His salvation!

 

The Silver Hooks and Bars

The pillars also have silver hooks through which are slipped the silver bars that connect them. On the silver bars hang the fine twisted linen for all to see. This linen represents the fine humanity of Christ. How good it is that what connects us is silver, not bronze. We are not here to judge and condemn one another, but to experience God’s salvation and display Christ’s humanity together.

The bars connecting the pillars are straight. This indicates that in the proper church life there can be no politics. We don’t just say we love one another. We actually and practically do love each other. We are very honest, with no crookedness or selfish maneuvering. We are not for our own interest, but for the benefit of our fellow pillars and for the testimony of God.
Each hook is made of silver, which means that our ability to join to the ones beside us comes from God’s salvation. None of us likes to be together. We all protect our privacy. We are naturally self-centered, individualistic, self-confident, self-supporting, and self-magnifying. Even when we do come together, we each have our peculiar natural man and we fight too easily. The only way we can stay together is through God’s salvation.

Some Christians today think they are pillars for the sake of having a great ministry or doing a great work. They have the bronze socket and the silver cap, but they seem to lack a silver hook to be connected with the pillars to their left and right. They stand alone, trying to be glorious all by themselves. Without the silver hooks and bars, there is no place to display the fine twisted linen. Others may greatly appreciate these lonely pillars, but the testimony of Christ is missing. The attractiveness of the church life is found only when the brothers and sisters stand together displaying Christ for His testimony.

The more salvation we experience, the stronger our hook is. If we experience Christ just a little, our hook will be very fragile. For instance, we may start to read the Bible with others. Then after a while we stop. Why? Because our hook was too weak and it dropped the bar. The first time our reading together was so enjoyable, but after a few times it became a pressure to us. We are funny people. Remember, the more we experience salvation, the stronger our hook will be.

The Bible does not say, but I like to think of the hooks and bars being on the back of the pillars so that the beautiful transformed acacia wood could be seen along with the hangings of fine linen. How inviting this would be to all who approach. Not only do they see our wonderful Christ as the linen, they also see saved and transformed people standing with Him, defending His interest. Although we are each quite different, we are all standing in bronze, capped with silver, connected by silver hooks and bars, and displaying the fine twisted linen. This is a beautiful picture of the attractive church life.

 


Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (2)

By Titus Chu

 

The Tabernacle—The Best Old Testament Picture of Christ

God’s Revelation

God revealed many pictures of the church in the Old Testament. Through Adam, Eve, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God revealed many things about the reality of Christ, the church, and the growth and advancement of a typical Jesus-lover.

After all these, the Old Testament reveals how God gained Moses. All who had gone before him had experienced the Lord more or less individually, but Moses’ experience was different. While he had his personal dealings with God, he also gathered God’s children, and together they established the priestly kingdom of God and manifested the testimony of God. (more…)

 


Moses: The Raising Up of The Tabernacle (1)

By Titus Chu

 

Two Mysteries

 

The Tabernacle—A Picture of Our Spiritual Experiences

The tabernacle, with its outer court, is the best picture in the whole Old Testament. In it we can see Christ, the Triune God, and God’s work, desire, and testimony. In it God unveils His economy and how His economy will be fulfilled through our spiritual growth for the building of His church. This simple picture shows us so many divine riches from so many angles. (more…)

 


How Can We Go On as the Lord’s Testimony?

By Titus Chu

The Testimony of Oneness

Who are we, and how do we go on? What is the church, and what does it mean to say we are the testimony of oneness in a given locality? How are we different from other Christian groups where we live? If the church includes all the believers in our locality, how do we practice an inclusive church life? I am concerned that we may not be clear about these basic things ourselves, and thus convey the wrong understanding to our second generation and to those around us.

If we say our group is the local church, then we become exclusive. If we imply that only we are right, then we are both exclusive and proud, and God will never bless us. If this is not clear, we will go nowhere.

We can learn a lot from those who have gone before us. God has raised up many Christian groups over time. They almost all began with a lot of zeal and genuinely sought the Lord that His will would be done through them, but most have faded away. Those that remain are only poor, religious shadows of what they once were. If we are observant and humble, God will show us a lot.

There are at least five ways a Christian group can try to survive. (more…)

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (14)

By Titus Chu

Those who aspire to be New Testament priests must live a sanctified and pure life as they present their riches to those around them. God’s supply to us for this is the priestly garment, as pictured by that worn by Aaron in the Old Testament. This message explores three aspects of this garment: the gold plate worn on the forehead, the five colors making up the garment, and the pomegranates and golden bells on the hem of the skirt.

 

The Priestly Garment

In revealing His dwelling place to Moses, God first gave him the pattern for the tabernacle with all its furniture so we could know who He is, then later He unveiled the offerings so we would have a way to come to Him. By this picture, we see how we are able to enter into God, enjoy His full salvation, serve Him according to the vision He has given us, and serve our fellow believers to help them into the same. However, God is also concerned with our presentation, and for this He ordained the priestly garments.

There is much to say about these garments. They are complicated and rich in meaning. However we will only concern ourselves with three striking parts: the gold plate worn on the forehead, the five colors making up the garment, and the pomegranates and golden bells on the hem of the skirt. (more…)

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (13)

By Titus Chu

The Offerings

One of the provisions God gave those who would be priests was the offerings. He told Moses:

“Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests to Me: take one young bull and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread and unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil; you shall make them of fine wheat flour”
– Exodus ‭29:1‬-2

These offerings each represent an aspect of Christ, and their application to us is very meaningful.

First, the Lord gives us a bull; second, a ram; third, another ram; finally, a basket of unleavened bread. These provisions are very interesting, but they are only for the priests, His serving ones. If we have no desire for the priesthood, we do not need, nor can we have, these things. If we do desire to serve, we cannot even begin our serving life without them. These provisions are for the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering, each of which are needed for our own strength and enjoyment.

 

The Bull—Christ Becoming Sin for Us

If we want to serve the Lord, we first need a big bull for a sin offering. How big the bull is may be different for each of us. How much sin do we have? How evil do we know ourselves to be? Those who are young may not be too aware of their sin and so think they only need a small bull. But those who are my age know that their bull must be really big. In my experience, the older I am, the more I grow, the more I learn to serve, the more I minister, the more I have to tell the Lord that I need an ever bigger bull.

The Bible says, “But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering” (Exo. ‭29:14‬). The Hebrew of this last phrase can be translated “It is sin.” This is much stronger and shows our true need. We are not just good people with a little sin. We are not just sinful people who are full of sin. We are sin itself. If we are to serve God, we need more than an offering to take our sins away, we need an offering that becomes sin for us. Paul wrote, “He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. ‭5:21‬).

It is hard for young people to believe this about themselves, but at my age, I can genuinely confess that I am just sin. I am composed of sin, I am saturated with sin, my view is sin, my living is the fruit of sin. I am just sin. But praise the Lord, He was made sin on my behalf that I might become the righteousness of God In Him!

Because this bull became sin on our behalf, its flesh, hide, and refuse were burnt outside the camp. This was because the whole thing was disgraceful, degraded, apart from God, and of no use or value to Him. God had nothing to do with it because it was sin.

When I was young, I had the most marvelous prayer, and amazingly the Lord accepted it. I prayed, “Lord, I am such a hopeful young man. At this young age, I’d like to give my whole person to you and serve you. Aren’t you happy?” This was my real prayer. As I prayed, I didn’t get blamed by God at all. It seemed God was very happy. Afterward, the Lord’s presence and leading was with me, and He granted me a lot of experience of the laver and the altar. But as I grew more, I began to see myself differently. My prayer changed to be more like, “Lord you made a big mistake. The one you handpicked, the one you called, the one you attracted, the one you asked to be one with You, is so terrible. Lord, have mercy on me!” Of course I did not rob anyone or steal anything, but my sensation in the Lord’s light was that I was really terrible. To argue with the Lord is foolish. Whenever I feel like this, Christ becomes my big bull that becomes sin for me. Only then can I continue serving.

Everyone in principle is sin. If we do not have this realization, we cannot serve because we will be too bold—let’s do this, let’s do that. We will try to carry out whatever we think is right until we realize that every part of us, including our plans and ideas, is against God’s interest. Then we will realize that we don’t have a choice, God has a choice. We don’t have a way, God has a way. We dare not move and we dare not do because we are who we are. If we want to serve, the first thing we must do is burn everything outside the camp. We dare not bring in anything of ourselves, our abilities, our smartness, or our creativity. God says He doesn’t need it. He wants to be fully in control. He wants to be everything in our serving life.

 

The First Ram—Christ as God’s Satisfaction

“You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram….You shall offer up in smoke the whole ram on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the Lord: it is a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord”
Exodus ‭29:15, 18‬

After the bull, God told Moses to take a ram. Aaron and his sons fully identified with this ram by laying their hands on it. Then when the ram was burnt on the altar, they in figure were burnt with it. When the ram ascended to the heavens as a soothing aroma to the Lord, they in figure ascended with it.

Jesus as the bull died for us, bearing all our shame, suffering, and sin. But He is also the ram Who died, and in ascension became the sweet aroma that satisfied God. The Hebrew word translated “burnt” could be translated “ascension,” so the emphasis here is not on the death of the ram, but on the soothing aroma it provides God.

We have already seen in a previous message that every priest must wash at the laver in the outer court, and that this laver is a place of exposing. The laver shows us who we are, and how unqualified we are to serve. Because we see how sinful we are, God gave us Christ as a bull. Because we see how natural we are, God gave us Christ as a ram. By this we are able to live absolutely unto God in Christ.

Not only do our bad parts need to be burned, but also our good parts. Our weaknesses, strengths, shameful things, and our boasts all need to be burned. Nothing can be left but ashes and a sweet fragrance to God. Then He will be satisfied.

This fragrance will stay with us and will be sensed by others. Our help to them will not come from what we know or do, but from who we are. Real service to God and man comes from being in ascension with Christ.

 

The Second Ram—Christ as Strength and Love

Our first problem was sin, so God gave us Christ as a bull to take away our sin. Our second problem was our natural life, so God gave us a ram to consume our natural life and turn us into a sweet aroma pleasing to God. Our third problem is weakness, so God gave us another ram.

“Then you shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram”
– Exodus ‭29:19

This ram was also sacrificed on the altar, but unlike the first ram, it was not totally consumed. Two parts were left—the right thigh (v. 22), and the breast (v. 26). These parts were given to Aaron and his sons as their portion and nourishment forever (v. 28, 32). They belong uniquely to those who serve as priests (v. 33). The thigh is the strongest part of the ram and signifies Christ as strength to us, and the breast contains the heart and signifies Christ as love to us.

We are all so weak. As Paul said:

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate….For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
– Romans ‭7:15, 18

Even though we want to serve as priests and have offered ourselves to God for this service, we constantly fail. We lack the heart and strength to carry through according to our consecration.

I have given many trainings, but I do not trust in these because I know how weak we all are. We change so easily. Without strength we can do nothing. Without love we will not want to do anything. We need Christ as the second ram to strengthen us with His thigh and to motivate us with love from His breast.

If we do not love people with the love of Christ, we can never serve them. No one should simply be the object of our work. If this is the case, everyone will sense it because it gives off the wrong aroma. Work smells like flesh but love smells like Christ. People can smell our motivation and will instinctively reject the one and receive the other. How we need the breast of the second ram!

Yet laboring out of love is slow and full of disappointment. It is so easy to give up and move on to something that seems more profitable. We need to be strengthened by Christ to continue in the labor. Thank the Lord that the thigh and the breast come together.

 

Unleavened Bread—Proper Humanity

We serve as those with just a little strength, always dependent on the Lord. We should never become powerful. Those who think their speaking is powerful are often scary. It seems they can say anything. They do not need God, the Bible, or the brothers. I know a man who taught that the Chinese are the chosen race of God and that the Garden of Eden was in China. When I asked him if he had any verses to back this up, he just stormed out of the room shouting that we were not qualified to hear him. This kind of power is not Christ.

If we are too self assured and zealous, we will be just like this, although we may manifest it in a different way. We will say, “If you just follow my lead, it will work! If you just do it my way, it will work!” But the strength the Lord gives us comes from the thigh of the ram that was consumed for God. It is not our strength. It is the strength of Christ.

Because we’re so small, even the little strength we have can become a big and powerful thing in our own eyes. This is why God told Moses to give the thigh of the ram to Aaron along with a cake of unleavened bread (Exo. 29:23). This indicates that those who serve must care for their humanity. If our humanity is not right, we cannot serve. Whenever we are with the brothers and sisters, we must care for our humanity.

We might think that the conclusion of the offerings would be divinity, but instead it is humanity. New Testament priests must not give others the feeling that they are so heavenly, divine, and out of reach. Instead we must be so approachable and human. Praise the Lord for the unleavened bread.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (12)

By Titus Chu

The Priestly Service

The tabernacle is a picture that represents our entire Christian experience. Many have passed through the entrance, that is, they received Christ as their Savior, are regenerated, and even attend church meetings, but not all of these are on the altar, that is, not all saved ones are fully consecrated. Of those who are consecrated, not all realize they need to pursue the experience of serving as a priest. Thus, while every believer should be a priest, the priesthood today is sorely lacking.

 

Two Aspects of Service

The priest was to first wash at the laver. From there, he went in one of two directions, each representing a different aspect of service. One route took him to the altar to serve his brothers by helping them with their offerings. Today, this is to help our fellow believers overcome whatever distracts them from finding and pursuing Christ. We as priests should help others into the presence of God to consecrate themselves and begin their own spiritual journey. As Peter wrote, “In this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Pet.‬ ‭1:11‬).

The other route took the priest into the holy place with its showbread, lampstand, and incense altar, to eventually arrive at the ark of God in the holy of holies. In our experience, this is to fight for our own growth and progress in the Lord. These may have been two very different aspects of priestly service, but they are very much tied together.

We need to fight to enter the holy place to experience eating Christ as the showbread so we can grow; to enjoy Him with other believers so that together we can become the lampstand, the Lord’s corporate shining testimony; and to become the incense altar, people mingled with Christ and one with Him for His purpose. As a result of these experiences, we can enter into the holy of holies, the holiest place of all, with its ark, representing the deepest experiences of God. Only then are we qualified to offer ourselves in service to our fellow believers.

 

Experiences Unique to
the Serving Life

In the Old Testament picture, only the serving priests could experience the holy place, and only the one serving as High Priest could enter the holy of holies. Therefore we must learn what it is to serve as New Testament priests if we are to have these deeper experiences of Christ. Actually, we cannot even experience the reality of the laver in the outer court adequately unless we are serving in this way.

Many serve according to their concept of serving, but it may not be the service that God desires. We may serve only according to our human culture and thought, but not according to Christ. If we only bring people to a kind of social life full of love feasts with delicious food, but not to Christ, that is not the service of a New Testament priest. Of course we do not want a cold church life, and love feasts may help, but we must always be careful to serve people the real thing.

A brother in China told me that he often traveled one and a half hours by train to attend a Christian gathering with a huge congregation. The place he was describing has many such places. There must have been something there to draw such large numbers. Perhaps they had good music, good speaking, or good food. But when it was all done, this brother could find no one willing to talk with him. He would stand there desiring fellowship, but could find none. It seemed that no one there was really pursuing the deeper things of Christ, and if they were, they had no desire to bring this desirous brother into it. I fear we could easily be the same, playing our religious games but offering no real service.

We may bribe ourselves into thinking that we are serving God and man when we are actually doing neither. Mere social activities and making people happy with spiritual entertainment will not work. Real service requires real priests, those who spend themselves to get the deeper spiritual experiences.

 

Service as a Pattern

Only those who are fighting for their own spiritual growth can help others do the same. If the Lord commits a number of younger believers to us, it will be hard for them to grow beyond where we are. This is a sober thought. When they see us relying on programs, activities, or anything other than Christ, they will learn the same. When they hear our loose talk and see us waste time on things we should not, this becomes their pattern. We become both their help and their limitation. This is why our second generation can have such a hard time, and why I sometimes encourage them to branch out and produce something on their own. In this way, if the Lord has mercy, they can break through and really begin to develop.

The experience of the tabernacle only belongs to those who serve. The more we advance in our serving, the easier it is for those who follow us to do the same. The more spiritual our lives are, the easier it is for those watching us to be the same. I hope that all the leading ones in all the churches would be such patterns. If they are pursuing, everyone in their church will advance. Otherwise they will just wander in and out of the outer court enjoying a sweet church life and the Lord will be unable to use them.

The Lord must gain a group of people who are consecrated and willing to serve. He wants those who do more than dream of spiritual things. He is looking for those who will fight to grow into the experiences of the holy place and into the experience of standing one with God for His testimony in the holy of holies. In the Old Testament this was reserved uniquely for the high priest, but at the Lord’s death, the veil at the entrance to the holy of holies was torn, opening the way for all who would aspire to be a New Testament priest (Mark 15:38: Heb. 10:19). It is more than worthwhile for us to invest the time and effort necessary to obtain a rich entrance into this realm.

Such experiences are not for common Christians. They are for the servants of God. Any Christian who lives a lonely Christian life with no one else around can love Jesus, but no service is involved, no growth is involved, and no advancing is involved. The more we serve, however, the more our need grows and the richer our experience of Christ will be.

All Christians should be honored. But are they all going through this process? Their pastors rarely even have such a thought. Most are satisfied if those in their congregation are happy, love one another, and have a good time together. Spiritual entertainment seems much stronger than Christ Himself. It is the easier way because there is no struggle. This is a sad situation.

 

God’s Provisions

When we finally tell the Lord that we desire to serve, He provides us with many rich provisions to make it possible. First, we discover that we are not alone—we are part of a priesthood. God did not ask Aaron to serve by himself, and neither does He ask that of us. There are many others serving with us. Every servant of the Lord has others to serve with, lean on, and learn from.

Second, we have the offerings. In spite of our desire to serve the Lord, we have serious problems that immediately disqualify us. We have not only committed sins but, according to the Bible, we are sin. God could never allow sin to serve Him. What is more, we are completely natural. There is nothing spiritual with us. Even our humanity is poor. Unless God had stepped in and provided Christ as the reality of all the offerings, we could never serve Him.

Third, we have the priestly garments to cover us. Without such garments, all that would disqualify us from service would be exposed. Every time we looked in a mirror we would disappoint ourselves and come under the accusation of the devil. The Lord covers us with the priestly garments to protect us and to remind us that the priesthood is His, not ours.

We who desire to give ourselves to serve as New Testament priests must praise the Lord for these provisions. He desires such service, and He desires such a priesthood. He has done everything. Now He is only waiting for us to offer ourselves.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (11)

By Titus Chu

 

The Bronze Laver

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the Lord. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations”
– Exodus 30:17-21

The bronze laver was located between the altar and the tent of meeting. It was used by the priests, Aaron and his sons, to cleanse themselves both before they entered the tent of meeting and before they offered sacrifices on the altar. If they tried to serve without first washing at the laver, they would die.

In our experience we should come to the laver right after experiencing the consecration of the altar. It is the only way to experience the deeper, divine riches in the tent of meeting, and it is the only way to help others consecrate themselves at the altar.

 

The Need for the Laver

Aaron’s sons were human beings like us, and so they were full of problems. Don’t think that when they put on their priestly robes they suddenly became holy. To think of any of God’s servants in this way is simply superstitious. Consider Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons, who used strange fire not from the altar to offer to the Lord. This was clearly contrary to God’s ordination and so they were immediately consumed by fire (Lev. 10:1-2).

Looseness among Aaron’s sons may be one reason Korah felt justified in his complaint. As a Levite, he saw the priests day in and day out. He may have thought, “Why did God choose them to be priests? Look at how they live! I am much more qualified then they are.” It seems the closer we are to where the service is, the easier it is to become opinionated. But God chose Aaron’s family knowing full well who they were.

There is a sister in Cleveland whom I really appreciate. She serves me in my house taking care of many practical things that I cannot. Because she is in my house so much, she knows all my habits, my schedule, and how messy I am. One day she may ask herself, “Is it worthwhile to serve Titus? Should I still respect him so much? He’s just as messy as the rest of us!” So far she has not done this, but that is because she is quite spiritual. Many would have given up on me, thinking that being flawless was a requirement for service.

Aaron’s sons no doubt had problems, but they also had the laver. They didn’t qualify for service by being so good. They were qualified only because God called them to serve Him in the tent of meeting and at the altar, and because they were able to cleanse themselves at the laver. God already knew all their problems and shortcomings. Without the laver no one could serve Him.

 

The Size of the Laver

The Bible doesn’t tell us how big the laver was or how much bronze was used to make it. It seems it is up to our need. Young ones have not had time to sin much, so their laver may be quite small. An old man like me needs a huge laver because time has taught me to be so impure. I know I’m a sinner and am not worthy of His cross. I know I’m very sloppy and that I owe the Lord so much. I know I make promises to the Lord too easily and am too quick to go back on those promises. I know every part of my being is a problem. So my laver needs to be big.

Sometimes we get into an argument right before we go the church meeting to serve. We then ask the Lord for His cleansing so we can have a clear conscience before the Lord and the saints. But actually we should wash in the laver every time we go to serve, even if we did not have an argument. Peter refused to let the Lord wash his feet, and the Lord responded, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). Before we can wash other’s feet, we must have all our own defilement washed away by the Lord.

Young people spend too much time in front of the mirror considering how to make themselves more attractive. Old people spend too much time in front of the mirror looking for grey hair and signs of old age. All this is vanity and needs to be cleansed. And these are just the outward things. Dare we go deeper? We need to pray, “Lord Jesus, from my top to my toes, every part, please cleanse me. My whole person makes me unworthy to serve you.” We need the laver more than we know, and it is always the right size to fit our need.

 

A Deeper Cleansing

The Lord wants us to go beyond the consecration of the altar. He wants us to go all the way into the Holiest Place, where He dwells. Since this is His desire, it should be normal for us to want the same thing. We should desire to advance in our Christian life. But when we try to enter the tent of meeting, the Lord speaks to us that even our most sincere consecration is impure and needs to be washed. Our tears of repentance need to be washed. Our confession of all our weaknesses needs to be washed. Our zeal to follow the Lord and serve the church needs to be washed. All this is much deeper than our sin and worldliness. We find the laver is so helpful to our growth. We can only grow and serve by passing through the laver.

We need to be continually cleansed because we collect dust whatever we do. Even when we consecrate ourselves with tears there is an impure motive. If we want to serve others at the altar, we need the laver. If we want to enter the Holy Place to enjoy the bread of the Presence, we need the laver. The more experience we have with these things, the more we will realize how much we need the laver. The laver is the key to our experience of the priesthood.

 

The Mirrors of the Serving Women

The Bible tells us that the laver was made “of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (Exo. 38:8). There must have been a lot of these serving women, each with a piece of bronze polished so as to reflect as a mirror. Mirrors are used to help people see themselves with all their blemishes and faults so they can make themselves presentable and attractive.

These women served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Passing through this doorway represents our experience of initial salvation. We had no idea we had so much ugly sin before we met these women. They held up their mirrors and we saw for the first time that we were full of sin and in great need. The church needs such gospel preachers today to help usher sinners through the gate of salvation.

God told Moses to collect these mirrors and use them to make the laver. When we first looked at these mirrors to see our reflection at the doorway, we saw we were sinners in need of a savior. This was mainly to see that what we have done is a problem. But when we looked at them after they were made into the laver, we saw that what we are is the problem.

Once the mirrors are made into the laver, they are not just for our exposing, but for our cleansing and to receive shining from God Himself. There is no other way into the Holy Place. On our way into the Holy Place, we must wash at the laver, and while we are washing, we see ourselves in its reflection.

We should have this experience as we come to God in prayer. Our sins are already forgiven. That happened as we came through the doorway. But as we begin to pray, we stand at the laver to wash away all our spots, wrinkles, and dust from our daily touch with the world. The more we wash, the more the reflection in the bronze laver begins to show us who we are. We may appear attractive on the outside, but the laver shows us how ugly we are on the inside. We soon realize that we are only qualified to die on the cross, that we are nothing and have nothing to offer the Lord. Only with this realization are we ready to enter into the holy place to enjoy the bread of the Presence and a deeper Christian life.

 

The Light of Christ

When we see the laver, we see the light of Christ. This light reflects who Christ is and thus exposes who we are. The apostle Paul wrote, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). In this light we are cleansed and washed. The spots and wrinkles are taken away. The life of Christ supplies us.

While we see that we are worthy for nothing but to be judged, we discover that Jesus bore the curse for us on the cross already. We are crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us. If we want to live a holy life, Christ lives in us. If we want Christ to be everything to us, Christ lives in us. If we want to be a shining lampstand for Christ, Christ lives in us.

Often as we pray and ask the Lord to forgive us for something we did, His light comes, and this light causes us to ask Him to forgive us for who we are. While we are confessing our sins, God’s light begins to judge us. But for some reason this judging doesn’t kill us. If God really judged us, He should just slaughter us. Instead, He brings us to the realization that we do not even know how to properly confess and repent, that we don’t even know how poor we are. We have to worship the Lord because without Him we have no way to live. Only because we died with Him can we be in resurrection with Him and come into the holy place.

If we are without the light, everything seems just fine. Everyone does things with a good reason. After eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Adam justified himself by blaming Eve for giving him the fruit, and then by blaming God for giving him Eve. Eve justified herself by blaming the serpent for giving her the fruit and then by blaming God for making the serpent. Each could blame God for creating the tree of the knowledge in the first place, and each thought themselves fully guiltless. From the very beginning man was in darkness and needed God’s light. If someone else tells us how terrible we are, we will not believe them because there is no light in their speaking. If we come to the laver, however, and look at our own reflection in the light of Christ, we will say that we are only qualified to die with the Lord on the cross.

 

Washing and Exposing

The laver serves two functions. First it washes us with refreshing, cleansing water. Second it is a mirror, exposing us so the cleansing can be deep. We don’t know ourselves. We don’t know how terrible we are. We don’t know how selfish we are. We don’t know how much we are for self-gain. We don’t know how manipulating we are, trying to operate in every way just for our own benefit. If we came to the Lord in the holy place without the deep cleansing of the laver, we could not stand.

Eventually we are brought to say, “Lord, I’m very thankful. You have shown me who I am. I am worse than I ever knew. But You have also shown me that I died with you on the cross. I’m terminated. Now I have Christ as my new life and my new person. I trust this new life and new person to carry me into the Holy Place. Thank you Lord for Your mercy.”

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (10)

By Titus Chu

 

The Second Covering of the Altar

The altar in the outer court of the tabernacle is often called the bronze altar, but it’s first and most basic material is acacia wood. This was the base and strength of the altar. In the Bible, acacia wood alway represents fine, decent, high-quality humanity. This acacia wood was then covered with bronze, representing God’s judgement. This is significant. It makes no difference how good and qualified we think we are, when we offer ourselves to God, we must come under His judgement. There are no exceptions. We all need redemption and continual salvation. This is the life of the altar.

 

A Lifelong Process

We need another kind of constitution. We need God to build himself into us. When we offer ourselves to God, our realization should be that we are not qualified for anything but the judgement of the altar. It is by this judgement that God consumes us. There is nothing more beautiful than this kind of divine consuming because it is by this that He builds Himself into us. To consume an offering on the altar was relatively fast at Moses’ time, but for us it is a lifelong process.

I have been a Christian for around sixty years. That means I have had the experience of being consumed on the altar for around sixty years. At the same time that I was being consumed, God was building me up by building Himself into me. This process is both hard and glorious. When I was first saved, all I knew was that I was a sinner, that the blood of Jesus had cleansed me, and that I should go to the church meetings. After sixty years of learning to love the Lord and stay on the altar, I realize I have become somewhat different. Like the apostle Paul, I can testify, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16-17).
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God simultaneously consumes us and builds us up on the altar. The stronger our consecration, the greater the building work of God will be established in our lives. It seems we have been reduced to ashes, but in fact we are established. The interesting thing is this: when we begin to feel somewhat established, we unconsciously think we have something, and all kinds of views and opinions start to come out. We look at those serving in the church and think we can serve at least as good as they do, probably better. Our ideas are newer, fresher, and more attractive. Cannot God also use us? ThIs logic seems so right. Quickly we gather others around us to form a party.

 

Korah

Such a thing happened in the Old Testament, which tells us, “Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action, and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown. They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?'” (Num. 16:1-3).

Korah was a descendent of Levi and was thus qualified to serve in the outer court of the tabernacle. No doubt he spent much time around the altar. Although he was a leader among the people, he was not to serve administratively as did Moses, nor as a priest as did Aaron and his sons. They were all Levites, but this difference in service was determined by God Himself.
Korah began to think, “We belong to the tribe of Levi just like Moses and Aaron. We are all holy and we all have the Lord. Why are they somebody and the rest of us are nobody? Who are they to lift themselves up like this?” He first drew Dathan, Abiram, and On to his cause, and eventually 250 leaders of the congregation. With these on his side, Korah grew bolder and approached Moses with his accusations.

Moses was very wise. He didn’t argue or debate. He just fell on his face before the Lord (v. 4). Hardly any are that spiritual today. We would all either defend ourselves or surrender our place to the stronger party. Moses had no confidence in himself or in his position of authority, but in the God who had spent 80 years turning him to ashes and establishing something solid in him.

Moses told them, “Take censers for yourselves, Korah and all your company, and put fire in them, and lay incense upon them in the presence of the Lord tomorrow; and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the one who is holy. You have gone far enough, you sons of Levi!” (vv. 6-7). He went on to say, “If the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord” (v. 30).

We would think that this word would have put a holy fear into Korah and the others, and that they would have repented of their rebellious actions. But instead they showed up at the appointed time with their censers. The Bible records God’s judgement: “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions….Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense” (vv. 32, 35). Their censers fell to the ground.

 

The Two Coverings

‭‭This is a very negative story, but something so positive results from it. Under the Lord’s direction, Moses told Eleazar the priest to pick up the 250 censers, hammer the bronze from them into sheets of plating, and use them to cover the altar. This was in addition to the original covering of the altar.

The application of these two coverings for the altar is quite serious. The first covering is for us to consecrate ourselves to God to allow Him to work on us by consuming us and building Himself into us. The second covering is for us to consecrate our service to Him so He can have His government. Our service must be 100% one with God’s desire.

When we are new believers, it is so good to be on the first covering of the altar. We give ourselves to God and let God consume and build us. When we gain more experience, we should also have the second covering.  We should realize we cannot just offer our sacrifice of service however we like. We really need the Lord’s mercy. Our service is much more serious than how we live. To live is unto ourselves. To serve effects so many.

If I am in the Lord’s presence praying and overcoming every day, that is my personal life. If I spend all day every day on my devilish little computer, reading and watching all kinds of things, that is also my personal life. If I fail 24 hours a day, that is me. If I am victorious 24 hours a day, it is also me. Such things are dealt with by the first covering of the altar.

We also have a serving life, and this requires the second covering of the altar, which was made from the censers of those who offered according to what they thought was right. Of course God is big and generous. There are many members in His body. No one can say they embody everything and there is no room for anyone else. But we must all serve according to God and His desire, and this requires the consecration of the second covering.

There are all kinds of Christian groups which serve in all kinds of ways. No one can say there is no value. If they preach the gospel and people get saved, there is value. Paul said he could rejoice even if the gospel was preached with impure motives (Phil. 1:18). But such service does not give full satisfaction to God. He is not happy when people stop at the entrance of the tabernacle with only their initial salvation. He wants to bring them all the way to the ark of testimony. He wants them to enjoy Him as the two tablets and as the golden pot that contains the heavenly food. He wants them to labor with Him as the budding rod in resurrection. He wants us to operate in resurrection with His supply, according to who He is, not according to what we think is right.

How valuable these two layers are! With the first layer, we give ourselves so that God can consume us. But as God is consuming us, He is also building us.

When we come to the second layer, we must be concerned about our serving life. Our serving life has to be properly judged by God. Can God say that our service is exactly what He wants? Or will He have to consume it? All our work will one day be tried by fire, but not all work will be consumed (1 Cor. 3:13-14). For our work to remain, we must know the second covering of the altar.

 

The Descendants of Korah

God does have mercy. Korah’s descendants became great musicians and poets, writing many of the psalms. Most of what are known as the Psalms of Ascent were composed by the sons of Korah. These psalms became a blessing to all the children of Israel, leading them to a proper praise, appreciation, and worship of God.

Because of their family history, the descendants of Korah had a lot of deep feeling toward God. Every time they looked at the altar with its second covering, they were reminded of their unworthiness and dependence on God. They looked unto Him, expecting His mercy and leading. All these feelings came out in their Psalms.

Tenderness usually comes out of much experience and suffering. Without this there can be no tears for the Lord. Every time the descendants of Korah saw the altar, they must have had a good deal of feeling. When they gave themselves to the Lord, they knew the price involved. They knew how godly and fearful they had to be, and how much they had to look unto the Lord for His mercy so they could go on.

Korah was judged by God, but God showed His mercy by allowing Korah’s descendants to write poems that would eventually help millions and millions of Christians grow in the Lord. I would encourage us all to read these psalms in the light of this history and seek to enter into their profound experience of repentance and dependence. May our service also be so affected by the second covering of the altar.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (9)

By Titus Chu

 

The Altar Life

If we lived during the time of Moses and entered the outer court of the tabernacle, we would first be confronted with the altar. We could not skip it and move on to something else that we preferred. It did not matter if the altar was too hot or smelled bad, it would be there waiting for us. This picture tells us that the Christian life is a matter of the altar. As soon as we are saved, God intends for us to begin an altar life.


Consumed and Enlarged

The altar life is a romantic life. On the one hand we are continually being burnt to ashes. On the other hand we are being enlarged. Both happen simultaneously. Watchman Nee experienced this as can be seen in part of his hymn:

     In me enlarge Thy measure,
     And me to ashes turn.
    — Songs & Hymns of Life, #331

In this one verse he said enlarge my capacity and consume me into ashes. When I was young I would sing this hymn, but I couldn’t understand this verse. If we are ashes how can the Lord enlarge us? It seemed to me that if we are ashes, we are finished. Now after many years of serving the Lord, I realize that the more we are ashes, the more we are enlarged. The more the Lord consumes us, the more He establishes and builds us.


The Altar Church Life

Some of us are Chinese and so prefer a Chinese food church life. Many come from other backgrounds and so prefer a church life that matches them. Others have musical training and prefer a church life full of good music. And still others are scholars and want to have a Bible study church life. Some want a tongue-speaking church life and others want a healing church life. But God wants us all to consecrate ourselves to Him so we can have an altar church life. He wants to consume us with all our differences and preferences so He can build us up as His church.

First we consecrate ourselves to God. Then He consumes us and builds us up. At the very time God is consuming us, He is also establishing us. The more we consecrate ourselves, the more we are changed, because we are living on the altar. We may still eat Chinese food, listen to good music, or study the Bible, but these things are all ashes now. They can never be our boast nor can we use them to define our church life. Our boast is the altar and our church life is the ark.

I once visited a large congregation in a small town In China. They had a huge hall that possibly took them seven years and millions of dollars to build. The major room held 5000 people, and the overflow room held the same. The pastor was very happy as he walked me out, saying, “Oh, it’s all the Lord’s mercy.” Then I looked at him and said, “Brother, the tabernacle was covered with badger skin. It was very ugly.” All of a sudden, his face dropped.

There is nothing wrong with building a large hall, but we should be happy because of Christ, not the hall. Badger skin is rough and ugly. There is nothing to be proud of or to boast in. We shouldn’t try to attract people with our outward building, but by the Christ built up in us through our experiences of the altar.

 

The Experience of the Altar

The church life is a life on the altar. On one hand, everyone is ashes. On the other hand, everyone is enlarged and established. We can no longer boast in our ability or talent. We no longer have self confidence or assurance. Everything we were once proud of has been consumed. We have become ashes, but at the same time, we are established.

This is why Watchman Nee wrote, “In me enlarge Thy measure, and me to ashes turn.” Although these two things seem as though they cannot go together, it is a spiritual fact backed up by our experience. When we are consumed, we are established.

Those who serve the Lord full time know this experience very well. They come with a lot, but in time that all disappears. They come with education, work experience, and Bible knowledge. They are always full of talent, ambition, hopes, and dreams. By choosing to serve full time, they consecrate themselves and begin to live a life on the altar. Not only they themselves, but their spouses also are automatically on the altar with them. It is a hard life.

Over time everything they come with turns to ashes. Some of their former classmates may have become famous, and some of their business partners may have become rich, but they seemingly have nothing. There can be no boast or pretense. However they themselves have been built up. They have become solid people who know what they live for. They have become very useful in the hand of the Lord to supply and support the churches. I am very happy to see these full time altar-dwellers grow and develop so well.


Escaping the Altar

Of course we don’t have to serve full time to live the altar life. Any who consecrate themselves and keep their eye clearly on the ark can have this experience. It is a spiritual interaction between us and the Lord. The trouble is that most have one leg on the altar and the other on the steps ready to climb down. When it gets too hot, rather than get turned into ashes, it is too easy to jump off and take a cooling off period. We limit what the Lord can do by telling Him we will only go so far.

How much the Lord can build in us depends on how much He is able to consume us. The more we can tell the Lord to consume us, the more Lord will be able to build Himself in us. The more we think we are wiser than God and know what is best, the more we will find we are just wandering about with nothing happening in our spiritual life. This is why so many Christians are simply church-goers and pew-sitters. As the hymn says:

   To bring thee to thy God,
   Love takes the shortest route;
   The way which knowledge leads,
   Is but a roundabout.
— Songs & Hymns of Life, #348


A Testimony

I met the Lord while in high school and immediately consecrated myself to Him. From that time the Lord began to both burn me and build Himself into me. Sometimes I jumped off the altar, but my original consecration and love for Him always brought me back. The Lord has brought me through many trials and hardships with much suffering. My life has been a life of ashes, but as a result the Lord is so real in me.

Eventually by the Lord’s mercy, all my family has been saved. They all have Jesus, yet for some reason my mother likes to tell me that they are all blessed because of “your Jesus”. It seems to her that my Jesus, whom I gained on the altar, is more substantial than hers. Today even my brothers, who are about as old as I am, are amazed that I still have the energy to fly around and serve as I do. Although my life has been one of being consumed on the altar, it has produced a solid testimony of the Christ who is built up in me.

If we are willing, the altar will become our living. The Lord will burn us and build us, consume us and enlarge us our entire life. We will become ashes and at the same time become solid. Whenever we are on the altar, looking at the ark, this divine work will proceed. If ever we climb off the altar to look at something else, it will stop. If ever along the way we stop to enjoy our seeming spiritual success, we are finished. The Psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones (Psa. 116:15). To be consumed for the Lord is precious. This is the life of the altar.

 

A Narrow Way

This is a narrow way. To follow the Lord is not at all a simple thing. First we need to be saved. Second we need to be on the altar. The more we consecrate ourselves, the more the Lord will consume us. The more the Lord consumes us, the more He will build us up. While the Lord consumes us and builds us up, we have to praise Him and continually look at the ark of the testimony. Our lives are for nothing but the ark of the testimony. We genuinely have no desire to develop anything for our own ministry. We don’t even care about it. We honor our ministry because the Lord has given it to us, but the Lord only cares for Himself. When we are for a ministry, we are very low. When we are for the ark of the testimony, we are very high.

We must give ourselves to the Lord and tell Him to consume us and build us up, and to make what is built up in us so useful and profitable to His testimony. We are for the ark of the testimony. May the Lord have mercy.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (8)

By Titus Chu

 

The Bronze Altar

God’s View

When God unveiled the contents of the tabernacle to Moses, He began with the ark in the Holy of Holies (Exo. 25:10). The ark represented God Himself, and so all His work starts here.

The next item was the shewbread table (v. 23). God does His work in us by first becoming bread for our satisfaction. We know today that this bread is Christ (John 6:35). Only when we are fully satisfied by Him can God’s work on us bear its intended fruit. If we want to delay God’s discipline, we only need to avoid enjoying anything of Christ. The shewbread table was mentioned first after the ark because the Lord desires to work with those who are enjoying Christ as their satisfaction.

The third item was the golden lampstand (Exo. 25:31). This was made of pure gold, so it is all God. Nothing of our humanity is involved. God is the unique source of divine light in those who first enjoy Christ as their satisfying bread.

Then we come to the bronze altar in the outer court (27:1). This is the place of consecration. If we stay on this altar and live a life of consecration, God can complete His work with us.

The incense altar and laver were added later and are therefore secondary (30:1,18). The four items listed here are primary and give us a full picture of God’s work. He starts with the ark, showing us His desire for a matching counterpart to complete His two and a half cubits. Then He becomes bread to us for our satisfaction. Next He shines in us as the divine light from the golden lampstand so we can learn to live a consecrated life on the altar. This is from God’s view, starting at the Holy of Holies in the center of the Tabernacle looking out.


Man’s View

Our view, however, starts at the altar in the outer court and looks in toward the ark. In fact, our entire life should be spent on the altar looking at the ark. If we take our eyes off the ark, we will never stay on the altar. The ark is our unique goal. Be assured, if we find ourselves running after other things, even Christian things, we are off the altar.

It is too easy to take our eyes off the ark, to forget God’s desire for a counterpart, and to look at something else, such as Christian music or church love feasts and activities. This is to lose our consecration and to get down from the altar. There is nothing wrong with Christian music, but it cannot become our goal. It is good to eat with the saints and enjoy things we have in common, but this is not the purpose of our church life. We should not enjoy these things and forget the ark.


Practices

All Christian groups have their practices, including us. The Shakers got their name because they shake their chairs in their worship. I believe they based this on Acts 4:31, where the Spirit shook the place where the church prayed. We may think it strange, but if it helps the Shakers get out of their minds to touch the Lord, what is wrong?

I was in one group that passed out plastic spoons before the Lord’s table so we could each draw a little wine from the common cup. There are different ways to take the table, different ways to baptize, different ways to pray, different ways to sing, and different ways to do about everything. As long as these things are not sinful, nothing is wrong. But we must not hold on to any of these to the point they become our focus. God is not after proper practice. He is after His counterpart. If we remain consecrated on the altar with our eyes on the ark, this will be our goal also.

If we live a Christian life according to what we like, it will have very little value before God. Our Christian life only gains value if we live it with a view to the Lord as the ark. The ark is only two and a half cubits, indicating that He is only half, and we are to grow and matured to match Him. For this He provides us with Himself as the heavenly bread. He invites us to come to Him to eat and drink to satisfy our hunger and thirst. Then He wants to become the golden lampstand in us to be light to us and to shine out through us.


Gaining the Oil

This lampstand was produced by being beaten or hammered (Exo. 25:31). Sometimes Christians read the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 and pray that they will have adequate oil in their lamps. Yet their prayer is almost always for themselves, not for the bridegroom. They are not on the altar and their eye is not on the ark. We don’t get this oil just by wishing or even praying for it. If the Lord would answer such a prayer, we would have to be on the altar ready to experience His beating work. This produces the oil. I have never seen one person who passed through this workmanship of Christ who did not gain the oil.

It is so easy to come down from the altar and make our own choices with no view to the ark, to God,  or His purpose. When we decide on a career, a house, or how to spend our vacation time, is it our own choice or the altar? When there is a church conference, do we decide to go or not based on our choice or the altar? When there is a new one to visit, do we choose to go or not based on our own desire or the altar? It all depends on what we are looking at.

We never graduate from the altar. Although we do have experiences of the shewbread table and the golden lampstand in the holy place, we must remain on the altar. We must remain in our consecration.


Elevated in Suffering

The real experience of the altar comes only when we have our eyes on the ark. Suffering for suffering’s sake is not the altar. One very spiritual sister in the past purposely scared her face to mar her beauty because she thought this was to experience the altar. The only one to really experience the altar through this was her husband. If our goal is suffering, then suffering is all we will get. Do not marry someone you do not like or take a job you hate thinking this is the way to experience the altar. If our focus is the ark, the altar will do its work even with the best spouse and the best job.

The Lord doesn’t burn us just to burn us. He doesn’t take things away just to watch us suffer. The process of the altar elevates us and makes us God’s. Yes, we are ashes, but what beautiful ashes, and how satisfying to Him. When we are so free to come down from the altar whenever it gets too hot, we will never get that far, and it will seem to us to be only suffering.

The story of Job is hard to understand. In the beginning God allowed all of Job’s children to be killed. This seems too cruel. At the end, God replaces these children with new ones. But every child is irreplaceable. The new ones were no doubt welcome, but they in no way made up for the ones lost. Job’s suffering here seems too much. However this understanding is too outward. The real story is that while God was consuming Job, He was also elevating him. In the end Job knew God and became a sweet smelling savor to Him. If we don’t see this, we only see suffering.

While we are consumed, we are built up; while we are being torn down, something is being constructed; while something is decreasing, something else is increasing. The altar becomes our life long experience. We don’t leave it behind as we experience the rest of the tabernacle. We can never escape. After 60 years I’m still on the altar because it is from here that I can see the ark of the testimony. Without seeing the ark of the testimony my offering is not real.


Staying On the Altar Viewing the Ark

Most zealous Christians want to be on the altar so they can serve God. They tell Him, “I’m consecrated now, Lord, so use me!” They may even be innocently encouraged in this direction by others who praise them for their love to the Lord and their obvious talent. Their eyes are not on the ark, but on their usefulness and their success in service. Their consecration is more to themselves than it is to God. The zealous Moses was told by God to spend forty years in the wilderness doing nothing but tend sheep. If the Lord tries to tell these Christians not do anything but to stay on the altar, they have no ear to hear. How quickly they climb down from the altar to begin their so-called Christian ministry. They are much bolder than me. There are many places I would like to go and much I would like to do, but the Lord stops me and tells me to stay on the altar and keep my eyes on the ark. This is my salvation.

It is so easy to say, “Lord I give my life to you.” But do we see the ark? If not we will climb up the altar and then come back down; we will consecrate ourselves and then retreat; we will do many things but always by our own decisions. We will be so much for Christ but we will also have so many excuses for ourselves. All those on the altar must have a view of the ark of the testimony. Then when we offer ourselves to God, we offer ourselves to live for God’s economy, to experience God, to express God, and to walk and work with God to do whatever he desires. That is real consecration!

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (7)

By Titus Chu

 

The Ark

The tabernacle was pretty small, considering it was to be a place of worship for two million Israelites. God had the whole wilderness, even the whole world, to work with, yet He designed something so stingy. Outside its walls was plenty of room for all kinds of so-called ministries and religious activities, but within was only God’s economy. It seems He did not want to stress the size. He was more interested in conveying the spiritual reality represented by all its items and through it to give a view of His heart’s desire.

Even the ark which was placed in the Holy of Holies, the meeting place of God with man, seems too small, but God was pleased to design it that way. He told Moses, “They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high.” (Exo. 25:10). The ark represents God Himself, yet every dimension is a half measure. How can this be? God is all-sufficient, complete, and short of nothing. Yet when He comes to meet with man, He presents Himself as only half.


God’s Need

God seemed to be saying that something is missing, that without humanity He is somehow short.  Yes, God is complete in Himself, but in the dimensions of the ark, He testified that He was two and a half cubits waiting to become five, and one and a half cubits waiting to become three. We think we need God, but we never consider how much God needs us. Without the church to fill out His dimensions, God feels incomplete and unsatisfied.

A young man may grow up feeling very self sufficient. He may be strong, talented, and well able to take care of himself. In many ways he seems quite whole. Yet when a certain young woman comes into his life, he suddenly discovers he is only half. Without her, he feels incomplete and will do anything to gain her heart. He will call her, take her out to dinner, and buy her flowers. He will drive hours to see her if necessary. If her smile drops, he will scramble to bring it back. He will do things for her that he would never have done before, just so he can spend a little time with her. This is exactly how God feels about us. The gospel is His declaration to the whole universe that He is half and needs another half. He is doing everything to win us.

Many do not understand God like this. They know Him as all-sufficient, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, but they do not know that He wants something more. God desires the church as His counterpart and bride. The apostle Paul wrote that “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Only when He gains the church as His counterpart will He feel complete and satisfied. We should be very impressed with this.


The Reason for God’s Work

This is the reason for all of God’s work in our Christian lives. God is two and a half cubits and is doing everything to gain a matching two an a half cubits. This is why He loved us, was incarnated, lived as a man, and died for us. This is why He saved us and works with us even though we are stubborn and rebellious. This is why He never gives up on us.

It is God who initiated our salvation. It is God who gave us a heart to believe in him. It is God who turned us to love Jesus Christ. It is God who caused us to offer ourselves to Him. When we eventually enter eternity, we will have to thank and praise God. He does all things to prepare us as the church to be His counterpart, His bride, His matching two and a half cubits.

The apostle John wrote with full expectation, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John. 3:2). How did John have such boldness to say we will one day be like the returning Lord Jesus? He knew that God desires us to match Him, and that He is doing everything needed to work it out.

Likewise, the apostle Paul tells us that God causes “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:28–29). Paul was confident that God would use all things to conform us to the image of Christ, and that we are predestined to this end. Everything works for our full salvation and for the producing of God’s counterpart, the matching two and a half cubits. He concluded, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31). This conformation to God’s son is at the very heart of God’s work, and nothing can stop it.


God’s Ultimate Satisfaction

From the beginning to the end, God is the initiator, the provider, and the accomplisher. Everything begins and ends with God. This is why God’s revelation to Moses about the tabernacle began with the ark of testimony with its awkward half measure dimensions. God seems to be desperately trying to tell us how much He needs us. We foolishly try to ignore Him and say we don’t care, but God’s operation in us is too strong. We don’t care but He does. Paul wrote that he was “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God will finish what He has begun.

From Moses’ time to today, God has been working to produce another two and a half cubits to match Him. He will keep working until He has it, and then He will return. John wrote concerning that day, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). At that time God will have a bride that matches Him, and He will finally be satisfied.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (6)

By Titus Chu

Gold, Acacia Wood, and Silver

God told Moses, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exo. 25:8–9). God gave Moses the pattern of the tabernacle while he was on Mount Sinai. This tabernacle was to be God’s testimony, and to construct it, God required that the children of Israel offer specific building materials. Each of these materials has profound spiritual meaning.

The materials God required for the construction of the Tabernacle included gold, which represents God Himself, acacia wood, which represents profound, solid humanity, and silver, which represents the redemption of Christ. They also included bronze, which represents God’s judgment, and fine linen which represents the living out of the fine humanity of Christ. All of these items together present a marvelous picture of God’s work in the church life for our growth to become His corporate testimony.


Gold—God Himself

Gold was used throughout the Tabernacle. It covered the boards and the ark, and was used to make much of the furniture. If we were inside the tabernacle, gold would almost be the only thing we see. Light from the golden lampstands would reflect off every golden wall, bathing us in golden light. Of course it makes sense that God’s testimony would contain so much gold, because gold represents God and His divine nature. If we see no gold, no God, then it cannot be God’s testimony.


Acacia Wood—Solid Humanity

The Tabernacle is the richest expression of God’s desire in the entire Old Testament. It contains both gold and acacia wood—both God and man. Of course God is essential, but we may never have realized that man is crucial also.

There are different kinds of acacia trees. Some are big and tall, able to provide lumber and boards, while others are short and scrubby like a bush. One thing they all have in common are very long thorns. If you would look at a picture of these thorns, you would be impressed with their size. Because of these thorns, most animals cannot eat them.

Most of us today are like the short, scrubby acacia tree. The apostle Paul observed, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Cor. 1:26). The Lord does not seem to choose big, tall spiritual acacia trees.

Dare any of us say that we’re a tall, grand acacia tree, ready to be used by God for the building of His testimony? All that we can say is that we are little shrubs. While we don’t seem to have much, we do have good thorns. When movies want to capture us, our thorns come out to chase them away. When our computer or smart phone tries to waste our time with devilish things, our thorns come out to save us. Because of this, even in the harsh environment of the wilderness, we are able to grow.

If some among us did grow really big, there is a danger we would overly appreciate them and begin to worship them. The church might become their testimony instead of God’s. Christians love their leaders to the point that they can sometimes idolize them. They think that their church has a future as long as certain great leaders are with them. While we need mature ones among us, they should not raise themselves above others.

We shouldn’t compete to see who is a taller acacia tree. If we should compete, it should be to see who’s thorns are stronger. Don’t say that you’re greater, more talented, or more gifted. Say you have really good thorns. When Satan comes to devour you, your thorns resist him and make him flee. This is to be acacia wood.


Silver—The Redemption of Christ

God requires profound, solid humanity for His testimony, but unfortunately, our humanity is unqualified for this. God wants to use us, and we want to be used, but the quality of our humanity is too weak. We are fallen by nature, which makes us selfish with no ability to confront difficulties or temptations. We may even find it hard to be with other believers. We too easily change and cannot stand firm for what the Lord has given us. That’s not acacia wood.

So what does God do? He sets these unqualified boards of acacia wood on sockets made of silver (Exo. 26:19). We stand firmly for the Lord’s testimony based uniquely on the redemption of Christ. We are also connected together by silver bands, or bars (27:10). Based on the redemption of Christ, these unqualified acacia boards become qualified.

It is hard to be with the brothers in the church life. Every seemingly heavenly person is sometimes pretty fleshly. One brother may be very sweet and give you everything you need. He will be your mother, your father, and your servant. A second brother may be scary, demanding, and quick to lose his temper. A third brother is so capable but likes to keep the status quo, while a fourth is always full of ideas and eager to get things moving. How can God build His testimony using boards like this? Only by setting them each in a silver base and connecting them with silver bars. Without Christ’s redemption it would be impossible. When one board starts to fall, the others catch him. When one wants to run away, the others hold him. We all stand together in and by the redemption of Christ.


The Boards—One and a Half Cubits Wide

As boards in the tabernacle, each of us is only one and a half cubits wide (Exo. 26:16). No matter how long we have been saved or how gifted we are, we cannot be any wider. The half cubit measure shows that we are incomplete by ourselves. No matter how beautiful we are as boards, none of us can be God’s testimony by ourselves.

We each need at least one other board, also measuring one and a half cubits, so that we together can add up to a complete three. We will be held together by the silver socket and the silver bar of Christ’s redemption to bear God’s testimony. This is the principal in the church life: we are each only one and a half and therefore need a companion who is also one and a half.

Sometimes we do something that turns out well, and others begin to appreciate us. If we listen to their appreciation, we may in our own eyes begin to grow wider. Before long we think we are two cubits wide and our companions are only one. Eventually we may come to believe that we are three whole cubits wide and no longer have need of anyone. We may have the teaching that we are members one of another, but in our thinking and practice it is no longer so. We are living under an illusion brought on by our pride. If we try to act on our own and God has mercy on us, we will quickly realize that we are still only one and a half cubits and greatly need Christ’s redemption as the silver socket and bars to keep us attached to others. Once we are attached, we are protected and able to go on in a healthy way.

If you were to ask me how many times in my Christian life I have failed, how many times I have offended Christ, or how many times I have disgraced God’s salvation, I would have to confess that it has happened many times. If I only fail three times in a day, that would be an overcoming day. Then why am I still here? I must testify that ever since I was saved in high school, I had other boards beside me. The boards changed as I moved from one place to another, but there were always boards. Sometimes the boards made me happy, and at other times they were a torture, but they were always my salvation and blessing. God kept me by means of these boards.

The Lord was very wise in presenting such a picture to us through the tabernacle. We would perhaps never know what it means to become God’s testimony without it. May we grow into the full experience of every aspect.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (5)

By Titus Chu

Becoming God’s Testimony

Moses brought Israelites out of Egypt, and after about three months travel, arrived at Mount Sinai. On this mountain God unveiled many things to Moses. We have already seen three of the major things: the law, the sabbath, which is included in the law, and the festivals. These three show us how God comes to man to give us Himself, His restfulness and fruitfulness, and a festival life.

 

Becoming Festival People

God’s intention with the festivals was not simply that we make a lot of noise and have a good time like an Independence Day celebration. Every year on the fourth of July people have picnics, watch fireworks, and go home. The next day is comparatively quiet as everyone goes about their normal business. There is nothing wrong with this, but such a celebration has no lasting effect and no one is changed. God’s festivals are meant to get into us, mature in us, and develop in us. We don’t just celebrate His festivals—we are changed into festival people. We don’t just go to festivals—we become the festivals. We don’t just enjoy festivals—festivals are our reality.

Young Christians often pray to be filled with the Spirit because they want a quick transformation into super-Christians. But God’s way is to enjoy the festivals and be filled with Christ. This is much slower. As we have seen, each week leading up to the Festival of Weeks is made up of 3 days plus 4 days. The number 3 represents the Triune God, and the number 4 represents man. The way to get to this festival is to enjoy a lot of 3+4, a lot of God plus man. The more interaction we have with God by doing things in, with, and through God, the more festival we have. We need to keep having 3+4, 3+4, 3+4, 3+4 experiences. Eventually we will be harvested and ingathered by God.

The festival of Ingathering was eventually called the festival of Tabernacles. In his vision concerning the New Jerusalem, John wrote: “I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among mean'” (Rev. 21:3). It has always been God’s desire to tabernacle with man. This experience is described by John in the rest of the verse: “He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” We begin to get a foretaste of this as we have a lot of 3+4, 3+4, 3+4, 3+4 experiences. It is the accumulation of weeks that leads us to the enjoyment of the festival of Tabernacles.

Experiencing a lot of 3+4, God plus man, makes us festival people. But at times even good believers get moody and forget all about the 3. Sometimes they may fight with their spouse or get mad at a brother, and it seems the 3 has totally disappeared. If we visit them at such a time, we will sense there is no enjoyment of a festival with them. Even those who have been believers for many years can have days like this, so don’t be surprised.

What should we do? Tell them, “Let’s call on the name of the Lord. Your problem is not with 3. Your problem has never been with 3. God is always available. Your problem is with your stubborn 4! Your stubborn 4 needs to be joined to the always available 3!”

Once a brother told me, “I have suffered enough! I want to leave!” I had a lot of sympathy, but I knew the reason he suffered. He was short of 3 because he wanted to do his own thing. The best way to cut ourselves off from 3 and only have 4 is to insist on our own way. If we can rest in our sovereign Lord and take what comes from His hand, we will be strengthened to sit in His presence and receive more of Him.

When we to speak to the Lord and tell Him we are His, that we love Him, and ask for His presence, we become festival people. Sometimes the change can come really fast. We touch the Lord who is in our spirit and immediately 3 is added to our 4, and we gain some Christ.


Eating and Drinking Before God

After Moses came down from the mountain and reported what God had told him, he went back up the mountain, taking with him “Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank” (Exo. 24:9-11). To my sensation, these are the most enjoyable verses in the entire Old Testament.

What an amazing picture! They all sat in God’s presence close enough to see Him. What did they do there? They ate and drank! We would think that when they saw God they would all bow down and worship and dare not lift up their heads. When they finally did look up, God and Moses would both have disappeared. But no! They feasted before God!

They were close enough to God to see that under His feet was what looked like “a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” God did not get offended by their watching Him as they ate. No one is supposed to see God and live, but God did not lay His hand on them.

This is a picture of the highest experience in the Christian life and the church life. Sitting in God’s presence, all doctrinal disputes disappeared. No one questioned Moses’ leadership. They just saw God, sat in His presence, and ate and drank.

 

Bringing Man to God

The first time Moses went up the mountain (Exo. 19), he went by himself and eventually came back with three precious things: the law, the sabbath, and the festivals (Exo. 20 and 23). These three things brought God to man to lead them into a festival life. Then God commanded Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel” (Exo. 24:1). The seventy elders of Israel represented all of Israel, so as they ate and drank in God’s presence, all of Israel was represented there.

After they feasted, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there’….Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain” (Exo. 24:12, 15). When Moses left the feast on the mountain to go into God’s presence, he represented all of them. He no longer went up as an individual, but as a representative of all the people corporately.

The first time Moses went up the mountain, the three items he brought back showed how God is brought to man. This time he came back with three more items which showed how man is brought to God. These items were the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the offerings. This was very different. What Moses brought back the first time was about God coming to man as grace. What he brought back this time was about God’s people coming to God to bear His testimony.

The picture of the tabernacle shows us that we are to grow into the corporate testimony of the Lord. It is full of details displaying the riches of Christ, our growth in life, and the church.

The picture of the priesthood shows that we are to be a body service. Individually we can each be a priest, but it takes all the priests together to form a priesthood. The church not only bears the name of the Lord as a testimony, it also serves as a priesthood.

In this body service, every individual priest offers Christ to God as the five offerings: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering.

Together, these items give a complete picture of how every individual stands before God, lives in the church life, and serves in the body. They also show how we together become the tabernacle and the priesthood with all the offerings to become God’s testimony. May the Lord open our eyes and grant us understanding.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (4)

by Titus Chu

The Experience of the Commandments,
the Sabbath and the Festivals

Moses’ life was in three stages, first in Egypt, then in the wilderness of Midian, and finally leading the children of Israel out of Egypt to Mount Sinai and the good land. The first two stages were preparatory in which God sovereignly prepared Moses’ person. In the final stage, starting from the burning bush, God progressively unveiled who He was, what He wanted, and how Moses and the children of Israel were to become His testimony. This became the divine commitment that Moses carried the rest of his life.


The Experience of the Commandments

Part of this unveiling is found in the Ten Commandments. If we only see these commandments as a list of what to do or not do, we do not see the real thing. God is not that shallow. These commandments first show us that He as the unique God is our God and He can never be replaced.

Second, He will exercise His sovereignty to continually draw us to Himself. He visits our iniquity and shows us mercy as needed. In hindsight, each of us should be able to testify how God has faithfully worked behind the scenes to cause us to love and follow Him. Why are we still here? Because God is sovereign!

His sovereignty can also be seen in history, as all things work together to benefit Israel and the church. The gospel has always prevailed, even in the hardest of times. That is why we should not worry when global events seem in such turmoil. Even if we have a president and congress that seems to mess everything up, we as believers should have confidence in the sovereign God. If our confidence lies in anyone or anything else, we make them into a graven image that substitutes for God.

Third, He is always with us, so we should never vainly use His name as though He is not. We should live our lives knowing that Christ dwells within us, always ready to answer our call, and that we are continually held by His hand (Col. 1:27; Jhn. 10:28–29). We should therefore “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).

 

The Experience of the Sabbath

This leads us to the Sabbath, the fourth commandment, in which we rest in our wonderful God. This rest issues in a righteous living that represents God in the way we honor our parents, interact with others, and find satisfaction in the lot God has provided us. These are the last six commandments. They are not meant to be understood as a list of ways we should behave, but as a description of a living that is an outflow that comes from resting in our unique God with His sovereignty and presence.

This weekly Sabbath eventually expands into a sabbatical year in which we labor to bear fruit for God’s satisfaction and to feed everyone around us. We all need to find some land on which we can labor to produce something. This land could be some service in our local church, or we could labor with some others in an untouched locality to produce something new. Be creative. It does not have to be a new church. It could just be a Bible study to see what the Lord would do. My greatest concern for the young ones is that they do not have land to experience a sabbatical year.

At the end of our sabbatical year, we must be prepared to go back to be with others for another period of time. This is for our growth until we are ready for the next sabbatical year. Often our companions during this time are the very ones we raised up during our labor. While we may not feel we are doing as much as before, we eventually all grow together.

This has been my experience. I once felt the Lord would have me visit a certain place regularly, so I went four times a year, four weeks each time. I felt I did nothing. I only fellowshipped with some local brothers over lunch and dinner. But after a number of years like this, so many churches were raised up and so many brothers and sisters came to love the Lord. This was not out of some specific labor, but just out of fellowship with my non-sabbatical year companions.

Once we grow to a certain point, the Lord may lead us to have another sabbatical year to labor for a new harvest. This labor will produce even more who can be our companions when our year is done. I have many such companions in places where I have previously labored.

We shouldn’t be satisfied to just love the Lord, go to the meetings, and be good Christians. We must have land to experience a sabbatical year. Once we labor and have fruit, we should treasure it. This fruit is for us and for those with us to enjoy. Those we raise up will become our companions for our growth in the years to come.


The Experience of the Festivals

The Ten Commandments show us that God gave Himself to us, and the sabbatical year shows us the He has given us growth in life to bear fruit. God also showed us something when He established the festivals. The festivals cannot be experienced alone. They require the whole congregation. The whole church life should be a celebrating church life. We are especially interested in the three main festivals: Passover, Harvest, and Ingathering.

The Passover was immediately followed by the festival of Unleavened Bread. For practical purposes, they formed one festival, for the one led directly into the other. In the middle of all this was the festival of the Firstfruit. These represent the start of our Christian life. All who are regenerated children of God have experienced this festival.

The festival of Harvest was exactly 50 days later. By the New Testament time it was called Pentecost, because of the number 50.

The festival of Harvest was also called the festival of Weeks because they counted 7 weeks and a day to make the 50 days. Each week is 7 days, and the number 7 is made up of 3+4. In the Bible, the number 3 stands for the Triune God, and the number 4 stands for creation, especially man. When we put them together, the number 7 represents God working with man. Therefore the 50 days between the feasts is filled with God working with man and man working with God 7 times over, plus the final 1 day that represents the unique God.

Our time leading up to the festival of Harvest should be full of 7s, full of 3+4s, full of God working with man and man working with God. If not it will be hard for the Lord to harvest us. If we only have 4s, man working but no God, we may never get there.

How do we know if our experience is that of 3+4 or just 4? The test is: Do we pray? Is the Lord’s presence with us? Do we enjoy the Lords leading? When something good happens, do we thank the Lord, or do we just take it as our doing? If there is no God, it is only 4.

Without God, nothing works. But even when we have God, we often turn our 3+4 into 3+4+2. The extra 2 is our 2 legs. We trust in God, but instead of Him leading us, we use our 2 legs to take Him wherever we want. He wants us to go to one school but we take Him to another. He wants us to take one job, but we go to another. He wants us to live in one place, but we move to another. Our 2 legs give us too much freedom. If this is our case, how can we ever expect the Lord to harvest us?

This is a special danger to those who feel they have accumulated some spiritual riches. It is easy to become proud, and this pride causes their 2 legs to become active. They may suddenly feel to become a missionary or a preacher with a large congregation. They think, “I will have my followers and do whatever whatever I feel.” If what we have does not add up to 7, it will never be harvested.

Then we come to the festival of Ingathering, sometimes called the festival of Tabernacles. This came toward the end of the year, and should be the normal conclusion to our labor. But many who grow a lot never develop into the Ingathering. How will we get there? Only by continuing to have 3+4 experiences.

How much the Lord uses us is not our concern. Our concern must be to experience God with man, 3+4, over and over again throughout our entire life. We must depend on the Lord even for this. Everything we go through has to involve God and us together. How rich such a life is! What a satisfaction to both God and man!

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (3)

By Titus Chu

 

The Sabbatical Year and the Festival Life


The Sabbatical Year

When God gave Moses and the children of Israel the Ten Commandments, He told them to keep a weekly sabbath day (Exo. 20:8). Later, however, He told them that they should also keep a sabbath year: “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard'” (Lev. 25: 2–4).

It was only after they had the land and worked it six years that they could enjoy this sabbath. The fruit of the land would be so abundant that it would supply everyone. It would be for “yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat” (vv. 6–7). Not only was the landowner blessed, but all those with him and even the animals were blessed. When God gives us this kind of rest, we hardly know how to respond. We cannot praise Him enough. He is too marvelous. (more…)

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (2)

By Titus Chu

 

Learning God

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.

 


Moses: A Man Bearing a Divine Commitment (1)

By Titus Chu

 

Moses’ Commitment

Moses was 120 years old when he died. According to Stephen’s word in Acts 7, his life can be divided into three periods of forty years each: forty years in Egypt as a prince, forty years shepherding sheep in the wilderness of Midian as a nobody, and forty years leading the children of Israel to mount Sinai and then to the good land as a man bearing a divine commitment. During his first forty years, Moses mainly experienced God in His sovereignty.

 

God’s Sovereignty

According to Pharaoh’s decree, Moses should have been killed as a baby, but God exercised his sovereignty to save him in the best possible way. His mother put him in a basket and set the basket in the Nile River. He floated in the river to where Pharaoh’s daughter would see him. She rescued him out of the river and hired his mother to be his wet nurse (Exo. 2:1–10). Who but God could have arranged all this?

His mother likely used this time to tell him his true identity and all the stories of his Hebrew heritage. She surely told him how God created everything, how man failed, and how God called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. She must have told him how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and how God used this to bring all his family to Egypt to save them from famine.

Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s own household where he received the best education and training in all of Egypt. Here he ate the best food, which may have made him taller and stronger than most. If anyone knew that God was sovereign, it had to be Moses.

 

Moses’ Choice

Based on all of this, it seems safe to assume that Moses knew he was special—that he was to be the one who would release his brethren, the children of Israel, from their Egyptian bondage. There were three ways he might accomplish this.

First, he could assassinate Pharaoh. This was pretty risky.

Second, he could wait for Pharaoh to die naturally and pass the throne on to his daughter, Moses’ adoptive mother. Then he could wait for her to die and pass the throne to him. At that point he could release the children of Israel easily and legally with just a decree, but this would take too long.

Third, he could do something to force the issue immediately. Whether he acted by plan or by impulse, this was the choice he made. He went out of the palace and found an Egyptian  mistreating an Israelite. Mistreatment like this probably happened all the time, so it would not have been hard to find. Moses killed the Egyptian and saved the Israelite. I believe Moses did not do this just to protect that particular Israelite, but to spark a rebellion among all the Israelites so he could become their leader and save them all from bondage. Based on God’s sovereignty toward him up to this time, such a plan surely must have seemed to have been God’s will. But the children of Israel did not respond in this way, and Moses was forced to flee to the wilderness of Midian (Exo. 2:15).

 

Shepherding in the Wilderness

What a contrast the wilderness presented to Moses’ life in the palace of Egypt. In Egypt he was part of the royal family and a future Pharaoh, so everyone bowed to him. In the wilderness, he was a shepherd, a nobody. Even the sheep may not have obeyed him. The palace was full of the smells of sweet incense. His shepherd’s house smelled of animals and dirty things. In the palace, servants jumped to prepare his bath. In the wilderness there might not even have been a bathroom. Yet Moses knew that if God was sovereign while he was in Egypt, God was just as sovereign while he was in the wilderness.

When things go well for us, we like to praise the Lord and tell everyone how He is with us. But when we get rejected from the school we want to attend, or get passed over for the promotion we think we deserve, do we still see God’s hand? Can we still praise Him and testify of His sovereignty? The apostle Paul wrote that we as believers should be found “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:20). All things means all things, not just the good things. Moses must have learned this lesson. There is no record in the Bible that he ever complained of his change of status. It seems Moses still sensed that God was his, even in the wilderness.

When we have the Lord, all other things seem less important. The smell of dirty sheep filled that little hut where Moses lived, but it didn’t matter because God was also there. It seems Moses was very restful. He may have been more free to enjoy God in that hut than he had ever been in the palace. If we have such a realization, we will be restful in our situations also.

Still, Moses must have had questions. He must have wondered why God saved him from the river as a baby, why he was raised up by his mother to have all the riches of the Jewish faith, and why he was given all that wonderful Egyptian education, even to the point he could be a commander leading the Egyptian army. Why did God do all this, and what good would it do now? Was all this just so that he could shepherd sheep in the wilderness? It must have seemed to Moses that God was just having fun, and that all his good beginning was pointless vanity.

 

Moses’ Writing

Because of his Egyptian education, Moses was able to write. Probably most shepherds could not do this. Eventually he would write the entire Pentateuch with all its history and poetry, but this would be long after his time as a shepherd. At this point, every desire to do things was gone, but everything of his constitution remained.

He did do some writing as a shepherd. He wrote, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psa. 90:1–2). Who would expect someone who lived with sheep to write such a thing? If he could, Satan would have asked him, “Where is this habitation? I don’t see it.” Moses would have had to answer, “I can’ t show you, but I know it is true.”

Moses continued, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away (v. 10). Moses must have been close to 80 when he wrote this, so he was no doubt thinking his end was near. This is also hard to understand, because so many with him lived so long. If we consider his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam, living longer doesn’t seem to have been so unusual. Even Moses’ father-in-law Jethro was likely close to the same age.

It seems Moses was not in the right place to write about dwelling places and the end of his life. But he knew God and insisted that God was there as his dwelling place. This was just as true in the wilderness as it was in the palace. He also knew that his days were in God’s hands. How long he lived was up to God.

 

A Divine Commitment

What Moses wrote in Psalm 90 showed a great understanding and trust in God, but it was not a vision that could control his life. That came when he met God at the burning bush. That bush was used to hold the flame but was not consumed. This was a picture of the rest of Moses’ life, and the life of every true servant of the Lord. Moses met God at this bush, and from that point on he was captured and controlled by what he saw (Exo. 3:1–10). This vision became his commitment and changed the direction of his life.

The everlasting God spoke to the 80 year old Moses. Moses’ reaction now was very different than it would have been 40 years earlier. All his zealousness was gone. He felt that he had only a few years left, and that confronting Pharaoh and leading the children of Israel out of Egypt was no job for an old man. He no longer had the time, energy, or reputation needed for the task. But God insisted, and Moses had no choice.

Moses confronted Pharaoh and brought the children of Israel back to the very mountain where he was called by God at the burning bush. God told Moses, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself” (19:4). God doesn’t bear us on eagles’ wings so we can can get a good job and have a happy life. He does so to bring us to himself.

God told Moses and the children of Israel, “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vv. 5-6). God wants to make us His possession even though all the earth is already His. He wants to make us His kingdom, His priesthood, and His holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9). The people’s response was both foolish and positive: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Exo. 19:8). It was foolish because it was impossible for them to fulfill. It was positive because it showed they had a desire for God and to live for Him. Their destiny was set by the sovereign God and a controlling vision. We should all pray that our sovereign God would grant us such a controlling vision with a divine commitment.

 


The Ministry of the Apostle John (3)

By Titus Chu

When I travel in China, I often visit congregations that were raised up by Watchman Nee. Many of these churches are fragmented based on whether or not they are registered with the government, and who helped them over the years. The sad part is that these congregations cannot seem to fellowship together. Each lays claim to being the church. But the Lord only has one church, and therefore there is only one church in a locality made up of all the believers who live there. There is no need to fight over this. As long as the leaders are one, the saints are one. (more…)

 


The Ministry of the Apostle John (2)

By Titus Chu

The background of John’s writing was messy and discouraging. People everywhere were imposing teachings and practices on the churches. All these things were taking the place of what should have been the believers real focus—Christ! (more…)

 


The Ministry of the Apostle John (1)

By Titus Chu

The apostle John was an interesting person. He was Jesus’ cousin, and probably quite a bit younger than Jesus. Perhaps as a boy he even ran errands for Jesus in the carpenter shop. Together with James, Jude, and John the Baptist, he witnessed the early years of Jesus.

During his lifetime, John saw many things. He witnessed the Lord’s death and saw Him in resurrection. He was in the upper room on Pentecost when the Spirit fell upon all who were gathered there. He saw how thousands were wonderfully saved at that time, and joined Peter as he healed the lame man at the Temple. He saw the persecutor Saul become the apostle Paul who went on to unveil great truths and raise up many churches among the Gentiles. He later saw the city of Jerusalem, and thus the church in Jerusalem, destroyed by the Roman army.

John likely wrote Revelation and his epistles in the late 80s, and his Gospel in the 90s. Paul and Barnabas had died, as had all the other apostles, including Matthew who had written his own account of Jesus’ life. The other gospel writers, Mark and Luke, had also died. John was the only one left who had the ability to perceive the real situation among the churches. (more…)

 


From Egypt to Sinai—Becoming a People for a Possession (6)

By Titus Chu

After a long journey starting from God’s salvation in Egypt and their baptism by crossing of the Red Sea, the children of Israel finally arrived at their destination—Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horob. This was the same mountain where God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and gave him the commission to return to Egypt to lead the people out of their bondage. At that time He told Moses, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain” (Exo. 3:12). That sign was now fulfilled.

 

Station 8—Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai was the eighth and last station of this journey, and along the way both Moses and the children of Israel learned much about who God was and what He wanted. But they still had a long way to go in order to become His testimony. God’s goal for them was much higher and required even greater revelation and commitment.

Eventually, Moses would be brought to the point where he could see God face to face, walk with God, and be incorporated with God. From this place of incorporation, Moses would be able to dispense God and His heart’s desire, and to raise up the Tabernacle, the testimony for God in Israel.

Moses might have thought that he had already had enough training when he arrived at Mount Siani, but God’s way is progressive. He always has more to take us through. His training is not given to us as book learning. If that were so, we could eventually pass a test, graduate, and be done with it. God’s training is to give us Himself so that we and He can be one. God’s dealing with Moses and the children of Israel at Mount Sinai was complicated and exposing, but it made them into a people for His possession.

In 1956, I had a chance to participate in a three month church training. I was actually too young to qualify for this training and had to get special permission. It was hard with my disposition to sit there for three months listening to things too high for me, but the Christ I gained at that training has lasted my whole life. I keep learning the lessons from what I heard there. As I pass through things, I am often able to say, “Oh, that’s what they meant!” God’s training is progressive. We don’t get it all at once.

 

Up the Mountain

God called Moses up the mountain many times (Exo. 19:3, 20; 24:1; 32:31; 34:2). Moses could have complained that he was eighty years old—much too old to be climbing mountains. But instead he went with no hesitation because along the way he had learned the lesson of the burning bush, he learned the works and ways of God, and to a degree he even knew God Himself. There was no such complaint from Moses. Each time up the mountain God showed him more.

On the first trip, God prepared the people for what He was about to do by telling them, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:4-6). He went on to say that they should consecrate themselves to prepare for this (v. 10).
God twice told Moses to bring Aaron up the mountain with him (19:24; 24:1, 9). On Aaron’s second trip, Moses, according to God’s word, “went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank” (24:9-11). This is perhaps the sweetest scene in the entire Old Testament. The Bible doesn’t say if the food they ate was supplied by God or if they brought it up the mountain with them, but either way, they ate it in the very presence of God Himself.

Moses was called further up the mountain by God, and he disappeared for forty days and forty nights (vv. 12, 18). Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders had no idea how long Moses would be gone and no doubt grew impatient, because we next see them at the foot of the mountain with the rest of the people. “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him'” (32:1).

Aaron had just been on the mountain where he had seen God as he ate and drank with the others in His presence. He was there when God called Moses further up the mountain and so he knew where Moses was. He should have stood strongly for God and assured them about Moses. Instead, he told them, “‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt'” (vv. 2–4). That Aaron would do this is almost unbelievable. “The next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (v. 6). Aaron allowed the whole situation to degrade into idolatry. How dangerous it is to be in God’s presence yet not know God.

 

The Tabernacle and Its Furniture

During Moses’ forty days and nights on the mountain, God had much to show him concerning the Tabernacle, which was to be a physical picture of His full relationship with man. He first showed him the ark with all its details (Exo. 25:10), then the showbread table (v. 23), the golden lampstand (v. 31), and eventually the bronze alter (27:1).

It would seem that God was done with the furniture of the tabernacle because He moved on to describe the things of the outer court, the priesthood, and the sacrifices. But then He suddenly came back to add two more pieces of furniture: the incense alter and the bronze laver (30:1, 18). Why did He add these two items? Surely God was not forgetful and just remembered them at the last minute. I believe it was because, while Moses was interacting with God on the mountain, Aaron was forming the golden calf in the camp of the Israelites. At the very time that God was unveiling His economy to Moses, Aaron was leading the people into idolatry. The incense alter and the bronze laver were added because of man’s failure.

From God’s viewpoint, first we consecrate ourselves at the alter, then we enjoy the Lord at the showbread table, then we are beaten and formed by the Spirit into the image of Christ as the golden lampstand, and finally we are ushered into the presence of God at the ark to be one with Him to bear His testimony. For a truly consecrated person, that is all that is needed.

But Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders, who had just been with God on the mountain, messed everything up. They thought they were leading the people to worship God (32:5), but in fact  they brought them into the idolatrous, fleshly world. It is so easy to begin by the Spirit and end up in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). We don’t even know the difference.

This is why I believe God added the last two pieces of furniture. We need the bronze laver to wash off our touch with the world and renew our consecration, and we need the incense alter to offer prayers of intercession for our struggling brothers and sisters. Without these, it would have been impossible for the children of Israel to repent and be received again by God after worshipping the golden calf. Without the reality of these two things, we also would find that we have no way back to God once we have strayed into the flesh.

 

Spiritual Leadership

The church needs spiritual leadership. Where the congregation ends up depends on its leaders. The more spiritual, committed, and visionary the leaders are, the more spiritual, committed, and visionary the congregation will be. The more the leaders are incorporated into God, walk with God, and bear His testimony, the more blessed the congregation will be.

Where the leaders are common, the congregation is in danger of becoming common also. Eventually their coming together will be mainly to enjoy a social life. They may find that their meetings match the description of the Israelites: “the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exo. 32:6). It is a Christian gathering, but it is hard to find Christ among them. Paul had to tell the Corinthians, “I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse” (1 Cor. 11:17). The church in Corinth had come to a place where it would have been better for it to not come together at all.

Aaron proved himself to be a poor leader at this point. He was joined by other poor leaders—Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders. They had all just been on the mountain with Moses, eating and drinking before God. Now they were at the bottom of the mountain fulfilling the people’s wish for a golden idol to worship as their god. As a result, the whole congregation ended up in their flesh thinking they were worshipping God.

When Moses came down the mountain and saw the golden calf and the dancing, he became angry (Exo. 32:19). He confronted Aaron, but Aaron refused to take responsibility. First he blamed the people (v. 22). Then he said he had cast the gold he had collected from the people into the fire and spontaneously out came the calf (v. 24). Aaron was not only a poor leader, but also a poor liar.
It is hard to say why Aaron told such an unbelievable story. I would guess that he did not know how big a mistake he had made until he saw the anger on Moses face. This absurd excuse popped out of his mouth because he had not realized in advance that he had done anything wrong and so had not considered what to tell Moses. Many lives were lost to the sword and plague because of God’s anger. It would take the face to face intercession of Moses with God to bring about the mercy needed for the situation to be rescued (33:11–17).

 

The Laver and the Incense Alter

It is God’s mercy to us that He added the laver and incense alter to the tabernacle. Without the laver there would be no way to wash away our touch with the world and the flesh, and without the incense alter there would be no intercession in support of one another. Every leader among God’s people makes mistakes, but because of these two items there is always a way to go on. God’s way is simple. We can wash by confessing our sin and enjoying in the water of His word in the church (1 John 1:9; Eph 5:26). We can intercede by fervently praying for one another in spirit (James 5:16).

This enables us to go through the rest of the Tabernacle. We start with consecration, that is to be consumed to ashes at the alter in the outer court. If we are not willing for this, we will continually be climbing off the alter and will never go deeper. If we are willing, we next move into the holy place where we find the enjoyment of Christ as the showbread and the work of the Spirit which conforms us to Christ as the lampstand. All this is to bring us into the holy of holies where we are one with God at the ark. Each step builds on the other, yet each step never goes away. It is in this way that we become the testimony of God, a people for His possession.

 


From Egypt to Sinai—Becoming a People for a Possession (5)

By Titus Chu

 

Station 7—Rephidim

Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.
– Exodus 17:1


When the people arrived at Rephidim, there was absolutely no water. Two million people and countless animals wandered in the heat of the sun, and there was nothing to drink. “Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’….The people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?'” (v. 2-3).

No one can survive without water, so the people’s complaint was more than legal. Their thirst was genuine and their need was immediate. Yet their complaint shows that, although the people had experienced the springs of water in Elim and the manna in the wilderness of Sin, they still did not have a relationship with God that enabled them to trust Him. (more…)

 


From Egypt to Sinai—Becoming a People for a Possession (4)

By Titus Chu

 

Spiritual Progression

The spiritual life of a Christian is a constant struggle to progress from one stage of life to another. The picture in Exodus of the children of Israel as they left Egypt and progressed station by station until they arrived at Mount Sianai is an excellent portrayal of this struggle. God wants us to run the race and finish the course, but how easy it is to stop at any of these stations and go no farther. I fear that many Christians never arrive at the goal God has for them. The apostle Paul warns, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Cor. 9:24). (more…)

 


From Egypt to Sinai—Becoming a People for a Possession (3)

By Titus Chu

 

Station 5—Elim

Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.
– Exodus 15:27

The name Elim means “palm trees” (Strong, H362).

It had probably been about 15 days since the children of Israel left Egypt, and no doubt they were tired and thirsty, especially the children. They were no doubt all feeling discouraged, beat down by the heat of the sun and with no proper lodging. Then they came to Elim and found twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees.

We might think the children of Israel were overjoyed at such a find, but consider, what was this to over two million people plus countless animals? A single palm tree does not give off much shade, so even seventy palm trees together can only give very limited shade. If it was a great palm forest, perhaps everyone could have benefited. But as it was, nearly thirty thousand people had to share a single palm tree. Even if you stood in line, how long would it take to get your turn in the shade, and how long would your turn last before the next in line pushed you out? And as for the springs, you would have to share your spring with nearly one hundred thousand other people, plus all their flocks and herds. It seems God was very stingy giving only twelve springs of water and seventy date palms to so many people.

 

Twelve Springs

Actually, God is showing us something wonderful here. There were 12 springs, and 12 is made up of 3 times 4. The number 3 in the Bible stands for the triune God, and the number 4 stands for God’s creatures, especially man. the number 12 represents things of eternity, as seen in the frequent use of the number 12 in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 20-21). In the picture of the 12 springs, God is showing us that He as the living spring will supply all of our need for eternity. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:38). He is our divine supply for eternity.


Seventy Date Palms

What about the 70 date palms? The number 70 is made up of 3 plus 4, multiplied by 10. Here God is added to man to meet man’s need, as represented by the shade and the dates. The number 10 represents something of time, not eternity. Whereas God’s eternal supply is the focus of the 12 springs, man’s need in time is the focus of the 70 palms. Without water we would perish, but the palm trees are only to satisfy us in this life.

None of us can say that we are so spiritual that we have no human need. Until we go to be with the Lord, we will have such need. We need a place to live, clothes, transportation, companions, food, health, and at least some finance. We also need a church life. God wants to supply all our need in this life. When God come to be our heavenly supply, He comes as 3 times 4, and He fills us with Himself to the brim. When He comes to supply our human need, He comes as 3 plus 4, and takes full responsibility to meet all our need.

I have served the Lord for many years, and must testify of the Lord’s faithfulness. I have always had something to eat. In fact, I have never been short of anything. I could tell you story after story of how the Lord came in to supply my need, often at the last minute. He has really been the seventy date palms to me, coming as 3 plus 4 times 10. His divine supply is bountiful and endless. The way He meets our human need is always so proper and healthily.

Two million people camped in the midst of 70 trees and 12 springs. It seems so inadequate. But God was telling them that He would be absolutely responsible for all their needs, both spiritually and practically. He would never fail them.


Station 6—The Wilderness of Sin

Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.
— Exodus 16:1

The wilderness of Sin does not imply sin as we think of it. Sin was simply the name given to this part of the wilderness (Strong, H5512). Here there was no food, no water, and no rest. It was a real wilderness full of thorn bushes and little else. Since thorns came from the curse (Gen. 3:18), it was a place of curse. Including the two years spent at Mount Sinai, the children of Israel were to spend the next 40 years wandering in this wilderness.


Complaint

The whole congregation of the children of Israel complained to Moses and Aaron (v. 2), but their murmuring was not a rebellion. Their complaint was very legal—they had no food. Even in the church today, if the leaders are not supplying nourishing spiritual food, the congregation has a right, even a responsibility, to make a complaint. We should not, however, have the habit of complaining, nor should we try to overthrow the leadership. To attempt to overthrow is to be rebellious. To murmur or complain simply means we are not satisfied because we are hungry.

The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
— Exodus 16: 3

They didn’t die, but they wished they had died so they wouldn’t have to go through such a hard life.

All they could remember about Egypt was their time sitting by the pots of meat and eating bread to the full. They remembered nothing of working so hard as slaves of Pharaoh to earn that bread. Now it seemed Moses and Aaron had brought the whole congregation to the wilderness to die of starvation. Such a complaint was very legal.

If the saints in the church are not properly fed so that they lose their spiritual appetite, the elders are fully responsible. If the saints cannot grow, the elders are responsible. If the saints do not develop, the elders are responsible. If the saints say that they are spiritually hungry, it is a legitimate complaint, and the elders must listen.

But the saints must realize that to follow the Lord, to grow and develop spiritually, they must pay a price. Many would not deny God, but neither would they take the way of the wilderness to learn the real lessons. They simply attend the church meetings and wait to go to heaven. There is no price to live this kind of Christian life, but neither is there any growth. When the Lord out of His faithfulness does ask them to pay a price, they can only wish for the meat pots of Egypt, forgetting how hard they have to labor to earn the world’s bread.

To complain to the Lord about things we actually need is very legal. When I first moved to Akron years ago and had just dropped my job to serve the Lord full time, I was in need of a house. I went to the Lord and made a detailed complaint, telling Him exactly what I needed and why. I was very specific, naming about seven criteria for the house He should give me. I also told Him that I had no money, and that He would also have to supply that. About a week later, the realtor called me to say, “Mr. Chu, your God has prepared a house for you.” As he described the house, I had to worship the Lord. It was exactly what I had prayed for in every detail. At the same time, I received an unexpected check in the mail that covered the down payment. I lived in that miracle house for quite a few years. Every time I drove in or out I realized that God is my supply.

Do you realize how hard it is to get away from the meat pots and bread of Egypt? It is too easy for us to live a life in which we don’t have to trust Christ. It is hard for us to live a life that is absolutely for Christ and the interest of Christ.


Manna

The children of Israel complained about their lack of food. That was a reasonable complaint. They had no intention of overthrowing Moses. The Lord did not punish them, but said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily” (v. 4-5). The Lord promised them bread from heaven. They were to gather it every day for that day’s supply. Only on the sixth day were they to gather extra, so that they would not have to do the work of gathering on the seventh day, the Sabbath. In the church life we need such a daily diet. The responsible brothers need to make sure that everyone gets heavenly nourishment every day.

In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”
— Exodus 16:13-15

Manna means “what is it.” So when the children of Israel saw it, they 1said “Manna!” We may not know what manna is, but we know it’s source and we know it is nourishing.


Quail

So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp.
— Exodus 16:13

The children of Israel complained that they missed their meat pots, so God sent them meat in the form of quail. God promised them manna, but He never mentioned quail. The quail came down in the evening and covered the camp as a concession to their weakness. It came that day, but not the next. God’s desire was for them to eat a heavenly diet of heavenly bread, but He gave them some meat to satisfy their earthly appetite.

Jesus told us that we as His New Testament believers are to eat Him as the heavenly bread, the reality of the Old Testament manna (John 6:31-33, 50-51). Even though His intention is that we eat such a heavenly diet, we sometimes eat quail in the form of a variety of different activities. Such activities may be healthy and allowed by the Lord, but they can never be the reality of our church life. Such things as church picnics and other social activities are simply quail. Such a diet is good once in a while, but we will be unhealthy if we eat them every day. We may not live very long spiritually if our church life is nothing but enjoyment.

A lot of things could go on in the church life, and we should allow them, but these things should never become our focus. Quail is extra nourishment, extra enjoyment, but it’s not really what God wants for us. He wants us to be nourished by Himself as the living bread that comes down from heaven, just as the children of Israel were daily nourished by the manna. This is the refreshment of God’s grace. By such a diet He revives us every day.

Manna is produced in the morning, following the experience of a long night. After we go through a lot of pressure and death, a little life comes out. After we go through some experience of the work of the cross, a little freshness comes out. This is the principle of how God sends the manna. Some give a message and we enjoy it, but are not satisfied. Others share something and even though we may not enjoy it that much, we are very satisfied. The sharing in this case was a product of the fellowship of the suffering of Christ, which eventually became a profit for all. This is manna.

This is a sober word. Manna is fresh, and comes after a long night. Everything of life you give to the church is from your walking with Christ through the process of suffering which eventually satisfies God Himself.

 


From Egypt to Sinai—Becoming a People for a Possession (2)

By Titus Chu


Station 3—Shur

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water
– Exodus 15:22

Once we have left Egypt by being saved, and crossed the Red Sea by being baptized, we find ourselves in the wilderness of Shur. This is a dangerous place for a new believer to be, yet it is a necessary stage in our development.

The word “Shur” means walls. There were no physical walls here. It was just a part of the desert. But there were real walls nevertheless. One wall was the Red Sea they had just crossed. It forever kept them from returning to Egypt.

 

The Wall Behind Us

It may be that some of them in their haste to leave Egypt forgot to bring something with them that they now missed. They may have wanted to go back for it, but the Red Sea walled them off. They may have dreamed of it when they slept, but they would never again be able to enjoy it as before. They may have longed for it while staring across the water, but they could not go back. Egypt was gone forever.

Many new Christians try to go back to their old life before Christ and do the things they once enjoyed in the world. There is no physical wall to stop them. Yet when they try to go back, they cannot. They try to indulge in old habits, but they no longer taste the same. Their old friends try to encourage them, but they just cannot enjoy things as before. There is a wall.

 

The Wall Before Us

Others of the children of Israel wanted to go on further and follow the Lord to explore their new life of freedom. But there was another wall—lack of water. How could they move forward without water? They wanted to trust the Lord but did not know how. They had seen His hand move in their miraculous salvation from Egypt, and seen Him drown the army of Pharaoh in the same Red Sea that they had just safely crossed, but to trust Him for daily water in the dry wilderness that lay ahead seemed an insurmountable wall.

Like them, young Christians cannot go back to the world, but neither do they know how to move forward. They want to love the Lord but cannot. They want to serve Him but cannot. They want to enjoy the church meetings like they see others do but cannot. They want to study the Bible but do not understand it. They want to pray but fall asleep. They want to preach the gospel but are afraid. They want to attend church conferences but find them boring. They ask, “Where is the supply of water? I want to grow but do not know how!”

To follow the Lord is not easy. We truly believe we want to answer His call, but then He asks something hard of us. He may tell us to give up our promising career, our future plans, and to sacrifice everything for His sake. He calls us to be His alone as His bond slave. We don’t know how to answer. We want to tell Him yes, but we have no strength. At such times we discover there is a wall.

 

The Need for Care

Shur is a most dangerous place for young believers. They cannot go back, neither can they move forward. They are surrounded by high walls. In some ways, their life is harder than that of an unbeliever, and many die spiritually. This is where there is the greatest need for care from the older more experienced ones in the church. These older ones should do their best to be with the young ones and spend time with them. If possible, several families could come together to help them. The young ones need older ones to be their friends and help them to know spiritual things. They need help to sing hymns, read the Bible, and to touch the Lord. Then they can pass through this stage.

 

Station 4—Marah

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.
— Exodus 15:23-25

The children of Israel moved on to Marah where the Lord was faithful to give them water, but when they drank it, the water tasted bitter. It wasn’t poisonous or polluted. The Lord would never give His people something that harms them. It was just that the taste was not right. It did not taste like the sweet water they were used to in Egypt. To their taste, it was bitter, and this made it hard to drink.


Our Taste

Taste is interesting. What seems good to one is unbearable to another. Some like hot, spicy food while others like everything sweet. Some use a lot of salt, while others like their food bland. We can see people’s taste in how they decorate their homes, what kind of music they listen to, the style of clothes they wear, and what kind of car they drive. While our own taste seems sweet to us, someone else may like things that we think are bitter. Unfortunately taste in things like style of music have at times caused strife and even division in the church. God has put us with all kinds of people in His church and we must learn to honor one another in such things.

God allows us our taste. He would never say that beside Him we shouldn’t like anything else. He would never tell us that we should only love and enjoy Him to the exclusion of everything else. If He did, we would not be able to live a human life. God lets us enjoy many, many things, but the taste must go along with God. He loves man and He loves His church. He would never let us indulge in something that brings harm to either.

God is very generous with many things. I like to collect vases. Sometimes when I travel, a particular vase catches my eye because it is according to my taste. I then buy it and bring it home to add to my collection. Those who have come to my home have seen them on display. I have at times been reluctant to make a particular purchase because of the cost, but never has God told me no. But if my taste led me to something sinful, He would have a lot to say.

Why then does the water at Marah taste bitter? It is because our taste has problems. We only have a taste for sweet Egyptian water and do not like the water God wants to give us. We have a sugar addiction that causes His water to taste bitter. We like our kind of music, but the hymns taste bitter. We like to read novels, but the Bible tastes bitter. We like to take vacations, but the church conferences taste bitter. We like to spend our evenings watching television, but to visit the saints tastes bitter. We like to give our lives to a company that will some day lay us off, but serving the Lord full time tastes very bitter.


God’s Taste

Sometimes brothers tell me how much they appreciate my service and what a blessing I am to them and to their church. But then they tell their children to get a career in which they can make a lot of money. If they appreciate my life and service so much, why don’t they tell them to be like me? Why don’t they encourage their children to abandon themselves to the Lord and follow Him? Developing a taste for what the Lord likes is a hard trial for everyone. We have what we like and God has what He likes. However God wants to give us the heavenly water according to His taste. Water, provision, and satisfaction are all available, but we must take it according to what God wants.


The Cross

Don’t say the water is bitter. The water may not be bitter at all, it is just that we are used to sugar. God told Moses to take a piece of wood, a tree, and to throw it into the water. This tree represents the cross of Christ, and we are to throw it into the water so it can cure us of our sugar addiction. We have to experience the Lord’s work on the cross. We must tell the Lord that we want to develop our taste to match His. If we find some parts of the Bible boring, we can start with the action parts and let out taste grow from there. If we are afraid to preach the gospel, we can go with a more experienced one and just listen. Our taste for the gospel will start to grow. We will begin to love the things that satisfy our Lord. This is taste. Through the application of the cross, we begin to stand one with Christ, and the things that we once thought were bitter become our satisfaction and enjoyment.

 


From Egypt to Sinai—Becoming a People for a Possession (1)

By Titus Chu

God told Moses concerning the children of Israel, “Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God” (Exo. 6:7). The story of the Exodus of the children of Israel under the leadership of Moses from Egypt to the Good Land goes through specific stages that show how God took possession of them to make them His people, and how God became their God. These stages represent our growth as Christians today. Every stage has its particular environment and it’s special divine provision. We have to be very thankful that the Lord knows exactly how to raise us up. (more…)

 


Moses’ Vision Concerning Service

By Titus Chu

Thanks to his interaction with God in his vision on Mount Horeb, Moses learned valuable lessons  concerning God’s desire and himself. These lessons are timeless and have not changed for us today. The teaching of the New Testament clearly matches what God taught Moses. (more…)

 


Moses’ Vision Concerning Himself

By Titus Chu

Before God could use Moses to talk with Pharaoh, Moses had to know himself. God used three things to teach Moses this lesson: his staff to warn him of the danger of his serpentine talent, his hand to warn him of the danger of his leprous nature, and the water changing to blood to warn him of the deceitfulness of the world. (more…)

 


Moses’ Vision Concerning God’s Desire

By Titus Chu

So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.”

– Exodus 3:3

 The first time the Hebrew word for vision was used concerning Moses was at the burning bush on Mount Horeb (Exo. 3:3, translated “marvelous sight” in NASB). In this vision Moses saw God Himself. God showed Himself as the origin, the process, and the goal of Moses’ mission. God works uniquely for His testimony, and what He does always manifests Himself.

This is very different from our concept. Our concept is that God wants to do a lot, and so we try to accomplish a lot for Him. God’s desire is not a lot of activity, and that is why He will tell some seemingly prevailing workers, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). God does not want accomplishment, but manifestation. His goal is not to do a lot. God may commit us with some work, but eventually in fulfilling that commitment, God Himself is manifest. (more…)

 


Knowing God Himself

by Titus Chu

Moses wrote, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psa. 90:1). The Lord has always been the dwelling place for His people. It makes no difference if we see good times or bad, if we are prevailing or discouraged, or if we can do a lot or can’t do a thing. Our Lord is always our dwelling place. As we dwell in Him, he leads us, like Moses, through three stages: first to be educated and trained, second to experience and substantiate what we have learned, and third to operate. (more…)

 


The Gaining of Vision in the Desert

By Titus Chu

 

The Danger of Education Alone

The first stage of vision in our Christian experience according to the pattern set by Moses’ life is one of learning through education. This is a very dangerous period. We learn, but what we learn is not yet real to us. Without learning we don’t have a thing, but if all we have is learning, we might destroy ourselves. In the second stage, God’s government leads us into the real thing so that, in the third stage we can be one with God Himself. (more…)

 


The Gaining of Vision Through Education and Teaching

By Titus Chu

 

God’s Government

Although the Bible only mentions the word vision once with Moses (Exo. 3:3, translated “marvelous sight”), his life was a life of abiding in vision. From his childhood he was very clear that he was not common. The meaning of his name, Moses, reminded him every day that he had been miraculously “drawn out of the water” to have his status changed from slave to a member of the royal household (Exo, 2:10). (more…)

 


The Three Stages of Vision (2)

By Titus Chu

So many Christians claim to be servants of God, but not many can say that they are serving according to God’s operation, and that they do things according to God’s work. Not many can say with full assurance that they are God’s partners and that their partner is God. Amazingly, God works with unworthy people like us and causes us to love Him and serve Him. Such a life does not come cheaply.

Just before he was martyred, Steven gave a message in which he mentioned three periods of forty years in Moses’ life (Acts 7:23, 30, 36). He was the first to have the light that Moses passed through three stages of growth. It was only toward the end of his life, after all three stages, that Moses could say, “I have a partner. My partner is God himself.” God could also point to Moses saying, “Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant” (Heb. 3:5). (more…)

 


The Three Stages of Vision (1)

By Titus Chu

The life of Moses shows us that there are three stages of vision. Although the vision never changed, Moses saw it in different ways in each of the three stages.


Stage 1: The Dream Vision in Egypt

Moses got his initial vision while still in Egypt. He was trained in the things of God by his nurse-maid mother, and in the things of the world in Pharaoh’s courts. He saw how his brothers, the children of Israel, were mistreated as slaves, and somehow realized that God had placed him in the unique position to become their deliverer. This was a dream vision, exciting but without any real knowledge God or of God’s plan. When he was forty years old, he tried to fulfill this vision on his own, but he failed and was forced to flee Egypt (Exo.2:1-15). (more…)

 


Initial Vision and Mature Vision

By Titus Chu

When I was a young man still living in Taiwan, I had a funny vision of how wonderful life was in the US. American movies had taught me that no one in the US ever had to work. Even when Americans went to their offices, it seemed they just went for fun. In my so-called vision, everyone in the US drove a good car, had a good house, and lived the good life, singing songs at the beach. When I looked at the brochures from American universities, they all showed smiling students in front of beautiful buildings. Even the paper they were printed on was high quality. I could well imagine how marvelous the educational system must be. In the US, everyone lived well and was respected, no matter what their profession. While this vision was inaccurate and in many ways funny, it seemed real to me and got me excited to go there myself. (more…)

 


Christ and the Bible (3)

By Titus Chu

 

The Inner World of God

I Am Who I Am

God is very interesting. One day Moses asked God what His name was. God answered, “I am who I am” (Exo. 3:14). None of us could even dare to say such a thing. We are all temporal. First I was a baby, then a boy, and few years later I became a young lad. Eventually I was a young adult, then a young man, then middle aged, then some years later I became old. Now I’m becoming ancient. Every young boy is handsome and every young girl is lovely, but one day they will all look old like me. We can say “I was who I was” but never “I am who I am” because we are always changing. Only God is eternally the same, and so only He can say “I am who I am.”

Today some of us may be able to say “I am a student,” but some day we will have to say “I was a student.” Today we may say, “I have great plans for my life,” but those plans change often, and some day we won’t even be able to remember them. God has a plan and a purpose also, but His purpose has never changed. That is why He called us and can never give up on us. Praise Him that He is the “I am who I am.” (more…)

 


Christ and the Bible (2)

By Titus Chu

 

The Function of the Word

The Word Leads Us to Christ

The Bible says we might “search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). This is an interesting verse. It says that we can read the Bible thinking that in the Bible there is eternal life. But no matter how inspired we are, no matter how much the Bible speaks to us, it cannot give us life. It can only lead us to Christ, and it is in Him that we find life. The more we read the Bible, the more we know Christ. The more we love the Bible, the more we know Christ. The more we memorize the Bible, the more we know Christ. The more the Bible is able to operate in us, the more it leads us to Christ. (more…)

 


Christ and the Bible (1)

By Titus Chu

 

Four Divine Gifts

God has given us four precious divine gifts. The first is Christ. The second is the Bible. The third is the church with the church life. The fourth is His governmental arrangement. If we believe in the Lord Jesus and by His mercy have begun to love Him, He will never let us escape these four most precious things the rest of our lives. (more…)

 


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