The Reproach of Egypt
The above passage would read equally well, they remained in their places until they lived — except for Joshua and Caleb, the circumcised nation that left Egypt desired to return (Num 14:3–4). This nation died in the Wilderness of Sin, because this faithless nation believed the report of the ten spies. It was sentenced to death for its unbelief (Heb 3:19) that became disobedience when it tried to enter the promised land on the following day.
The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Sin is lawlessness (! John 3:4). And the natural mind of all human beings is set upon the flesh, is hostile to God, and will not submit to God’s law. This natural mind cannot (Rom 8:7) Thus, to set the mind on the flesh is death (v. 6). And the unbelief that produced the wage of death through the intermediary disobedience in the Israelites that left Egypt was seeing the sons in Anak with the natural minds of the ten spies. They saw themselves with their natural minds—they were as grasshoppers to these giant men of renown. They couldn’t see God delivering the sons of Anak into their hands; they didn’t believe that God would send swarms of hornets before them. These ten spies could only see what their eyes saw. They couldn’t see into the spiritual realm even though they had been sent to spy out the land across the Jordan, a type of glorification or godly rest. And this is why God says of Caleb, ‘"But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit [i.e., trough or channel] and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went"’ (Num 14:24). Caleb’s mindset was different than the ten spies who could see only with their natural eyes. Because of belief or faith that had caused him to become part of the Hebrew nation, Caleb, son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite (Josh 14:6), Caleb’s thoughts followed a different path than did the thoughts of the ten faithless spies.
The reproach of Egypt had rolled forward to the offspring of the generation sentenced to death. This reproach of Egypt wasn’t geographically removed from Israel when the nation was "baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea’ (1 Cor 10:2), nor was it removed by eating manna (v. 3), nor by drinking from the Rock (v. 4). The Psalmist, sliding from third person to the voice of God, writes, "For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart and they have not known my ways’" (Ps 95:10). The reproach of Egypt was in the heart of the nation, and was revealed through that nation’s unbelief. And this reproach remained with the second nation of Israel (i.e., the offspring of the nation that left Egyptian bondage) even when this nation crossed the Jordan and was baptized as had been the nation that left Egypt (Josh 4:23). Penning this second nation on the 10th of the first month in the promised land—as the nation would have penned its Passover lamb on this day—and then rolling away foreskins accomplished through the shedding of blood was required to remove the reproach of Egypt. This nation had to believe God enough to submit, as adults, to circumcision.
Circumcision is the removal of the natural covering of a man, this covering representing the animal skin coverings or clothing God made for Adam and Eve when He drove them out of Eden. Adam was Eve’s covering for sin, for her disobedience in eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge; Eve was a daughter of man (Gen 6:2), in that she was created from a rib taken from Adam’s side. However, Adam as a son of God, created in the likeness and image of Elohim [singular] just as Seth was born in his likeness and image (Gen 5:1–3), had no precursor. As a son of God, Adam, like the angels who are also one-of creations, had no covering for sin but his obedience to God. Thus, when Adam ate forbidden fruit, sin entered the world (Rom 5:12). Death spread or was rolled forward to all men. And once sin entered the world, Adam realized that he was naked: he no longer had any covering for sin. And Elohim [singular] covered his nakedness with animal skins (Gen 3:21).
The natural covering for a man’s nakedness (i.e., the foreskin) came to symbolically represent the skin covering or clothing given by God as a result of Adam’s sin. Males are born with this covering; it represents the natural state of humanity not in covenant with God. Thus, when Abram’s name was changed to Abraham through the insertion of the linguistic radical representing breath [/ah/], and in this case the Breath of God or Holy Spirit, God made a covenant with Abraham, the terms of which would have Abraham walking blameless before God (Gen 17:1). Abraham was ninety-nine years of age and had been obedient to God throughout his life; he had been practicing walking blameless and by faith had fairly well perfected his walk with God. Circumcision was the ratifying sign of this covenant made between God and Abraham, who was to remove his foreskin covering and to appear before God naked, except for his covering of obedience.
Circumcision makes a man appear naked before God; circumcision requires that the person cover his nakedness with obedience to God, with walking blameless before God. Putting on Christ does this person no good, what Paul understood but what the circumcision faction in the 1st-Century never grasped. Grace is today a disciple’s covering for sin. And until the fullness of iniquity arrives and the son of man is revealed (Luke 17:26–30)—the son of man’s covering will then be obedience to God; Jesus is the head of the Body; disciples comprise the Body—circumcision actually hinders a disciple, for circumcision negates Grace.
An uncircumcised male appears physically as the natural mind appears spiritually. The old written code wasn’t given to the world in general, but was from Sinai given to a circumcised nation. The removal of foreskins necessitated a covering of obedience to the laws of God, necessitated the giving of the living words to a nation upon whom the reproach of Egypt remained, in that this nation retained natural minds or mindsets. And since the laws of God were not written on the hearts and minds of these circumcised Israelites but always remained outside them as a schoolmaster, the nation had to inscribe God’s laws on their own heart through practiced obedience by faith. They were to do what Abraham had done. They were to walk blameless before God until it became their habit and their desire to always walk upright even when no human being was looking.
The cutting of foreskins represented the circumcision of hearts through development of the habit and desire of obedience to God. Developing the desire to obey God required faith that God is, and that God rewards those who love Him. The reproach of Egypt, then, is the natural mind and heart that is not subject to God’s laws. This natural mind is hostile to God. Again, it cannot submit to God. And no number of miracles will convince this natural mind to obey God.
The logic of the above paragraph is seen by a visualization of crossing the Sea of Reeds (usually translated the Red Sea) and the flooding Jordan River. The Sea of Reeds is a tranquil body of water; it couldn’t be otherwise and not uproot the reeds. Affected by the ebb and flood of tides, it daily rises and lowers inches. And to part this body of water, God had to drive the water back by a strong east wind (Exod 14:21); God had to supply energy to move the water. It was then fear of the pursuing Egyptians that caused liberated Israel to hurry across the gap on dry land. As if livestock, they were driven across by their fear of Pharaoh’s wrath. They didn’t cross because of their desire to obey God.
The Jordan River, by comparison, is living water. It then overflowed its banks as it rushed downstream. To part the Jordan required stopping this torrent of water. Energy wasn’t required to move the water, but to hold it back, to stop the water from moving. And the second nation of liberated Israel didn’t need to be driven as cattle across the river. This nation had been dwelling in booths for forty years. Most of this nation had been born in booths. They were a people without any inheritance except God. They longed to acquire cities and land. And they believed that God had given them the land to possess it: the two spies, when they returned, said to Joshua, ‘"Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us’" (Josh 2:24).
The hornets that God sent before Israel then commanded by Moses that drove out the two Amorite kings (Josh 24:12 — compare with Num 21:21–35) had become fear, had moved from outside the Amorites on the plains of Moab to inside the Amorites, Hittites, and other Canaanites across the Jordan. And this movement from outside to inside represents the movement from physical to spiritual. The stinging insects promised by God had become His wilting of Canaanite faith in their gods, His wilting of their belief in their own strength, in their ability to defeat Israel. When Moses sent out the twelve spies, their report was, ‘"And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who came from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them’" (Num 13:33). The sons of Anak were not afraid of even Caleb, who had a different spirit about him and who believed that Israel was well able to take the land. Neither Sihon nor Og was afraid of the Israelites. So God sent hornets before Israel. It wasn’t Israel’s prowess with bow and sword that gave Israel their victories on the plains of Moab, nor was it their prowess with either that gave them cities they hadn’t built and vineyard and orchards they had not planted across the Jordan. Rather, for a nation with the reproach of Egypt still on it, God sent visible, physical hornets against their enemies. The natural mind needed something that could be seen with the eyes. But across the Jordan, God sent fear of Israel before the nation to do the same work that the hornets had done. So the Jordan becomes a dividing line between the visible and the invisible, between physical and spiritual.
The nation that left Egypt never truly believed God even though this nation prayed for divine deliverance (Exod 2:23–24). This nation remained under the reproach of Egypt, and this nation is a type or shadow of the greater Christian Church today. Shadows are darkened images of their reality. They are lifeless even when animated, and they exist in one less dimension than their reality. Thus, the second covenant mediated by Moses on the plains of Moab (Deu 29:1) promised a circumcised heart and soul or mind [naphesh] to the Israelite who, when in captivity, returns to God and begins to obey His laws and commandments—all that is written in Deuteronomy (Deu 30:1–10). This Israelite, by returning to God in a foreign land, practices the Apostle Paul’s law of faith (Rom 3:27). And Paul’s law of faith becomes the righteousness that comes from faith (Rom 10:6). The Israelite who by faith returns to God has only to confess with his (or her) mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his (or her) heart that God raised Him from the dead to be saved (Rom 10:9 — compare Deu 30:11–14 with Rom 10:6–8). The "everyone" in the oft-cited passage, "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom 10:13), references those who practice the righteousness that comes from faith. There is no longer any distinction between Greek or Jew for those who live under the law of faith. And to the second covenant mediated by Moses that promised physical life and good for choosing righteousness (Deu 30:15), better promises were added when the mediator changed to Christ Jesus. Now choosing righteousness produces everlasting life for the disciple of Christ. The physical second covenant lacked this empowering reality in the same way that the old written code was outside of the circumcised nation as opposed to the law of God being written on hearts and minds (Jer 31:33; Heb 8:10) under the spiritual second covenant. The spiritual commandment against murder reads such that even anger against a brother breaks the commandment (Matt 5:21–22). And this is the comparison between physical hornets and fear of Israel. The nation that left Egypt required a sign—seeing the hornets—before it would believe. All of this nation died in the Wilderness of Sin. Their children entered the promised land by faith. But before many generations passed, Israel rejected God, wanted a human king, and lost faith with very few exceptions. So as promised, God sent this nation into foreign lands. A remnant returned under Ezra. But again, within a few generations Israel again required signs. The nation had lost its faith. The reproach of Egypt or Babylon had returned.
When moving from physical to spiritual, dead shadows become living realities. The Apostle Paul’s new man or creature dwells in the same tabernacle as had his old man, crucified with Christ, dwelt. This tabernacle in which the new creature dwells is a spiritually lifeless image of the incorruptible body in which this new creature will dwell when glorified. So the spiritual birth process, analogous to the creation of Adam, is two part, with the new man born-from-above in the same manner as was Adam given life (i.e., Elohim breathed the breath of life into a fully formed physical corpse). Human beings by nature are spiritual corpses: they lack spiritual life given through receipt of the Breath of God. They are born anew or born again when they receive the Holy Spirit and thereby acquire spiritual life [pneuma] while still in a tabernacle of flesh. They are now as Israel was in Egypt. Ahead of them lies their journey through the Wilderness of Sin and dwelling in booths as the new man replaces the old man, crucified but still alive on his (or her) cross. The new man, born in a temporary tabernacle, seeks a permanent abode in a promised land that he will have to struggle to occupy—this son of God’s struggle isn’t with human beings, but with wicked spirits (or spiritual wickedness) in high places. However, human beings are affected by these wicked spirits. The effect is that disciples will be betrayed and persecuted by even other disciples (Matt 24:10).
The Feast of Tabernacles stands as an annual commemoration of Israel dwelling in booths in the wilderness of Sin: ‘"You shall dwell in booths seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God’" (Lev 23:42–43). This festival, as with all seventy Sabbaths, should be kept by disciples today; for our physical bodies are the spiritual reality of the physical tents in which Israel dwelt for forty years in the Wilderness of Sin. Our old selves are the reality of the circumcised nation that could not enter the promised land because of unbelief; our old selves are crucified on the cross with Christ, but death by the cross doesn’t come immediately. The lawbreaker hangs around for awhile, sometimes a long while if the person were exceptionally strong. And the reality of the children of the nation that left Egypt is the Apostle Paul’s new creature, born of spirit in this tabernacle of flesh. It is this new creature that will have to fight to occupy the promised land of glorification, this fight made by faith in God and by practicing walking blameless before God. A disciple deludes him or herself if the disciple believes that the old self will be glorified.
Because one shadow doubles for two spiritual realities just as Jesus came as a human being, then became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45) when glorified, the first spiritual reality of dwelling in tabernacles is the development of the Apostle Paul’s new creature within every disciple. The second reality is the development of the Body of Christ during the Tribulation. The greater Christian Church today remains in bondage to sin just as Israel was in physical bondage to Pharaoh. The Church will be liberated from sin when the Tribulation begins—the death angels will pass through spiritual Egypt or Babylon as the death angel passed through Pharaoh’s Egypt. And the spiritual nation that leaves Babylon will rebel against God (2 Thess 2:3) just as the circumcised nation did in the wilderness of Sin. This nation will try to return to Babylon; it will then try to enter God’s rest on the following day (there remains the keeping of the Sabbath for the people of God — Heb 4:9). They will be rejected, and their spiritual children will enter the promised land of glorification behind a Joshua and a Caleb; these children will have to fight their way in by enduring to the end. The gospel that must be proclaimed to the world as a witness to all nations is that all who endure to the end shall be saved (Matt 24:13–14).
When the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh (Joel 2:28), every person will become as a spiritual virgin. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like ten virgins, half of whom cannot enter His rest because of unbelief, because their lamps were without oil, because they retained the reproach of Egypt. They longed to return to their pre-Tribulation relationship with Jesus, a relationship in which they practiced lawlessness under the cover of Grace. They will not want to appear before God naked, with only their obedience as their covering for sin. They will take to themselves the tattoo of the Cross; they will hang on their crosses. They will not take up their crosses and follow Jesus across a flooding Jordan River and begin living as Judeans. Rather, they will all spiritually die in a wilderness of sin as they decide for themselves how and when they will worship God.
The prophet Ezekiel was given a forehead of flint so that he could deliver the words of God to the house of Israel. A forehead of flint is again needed to deliver the words of God to the spiritual house of Israel, a house of shared language, a house of neighbors. These are the people who truly desire to serve Christ, but on their terms. These are those who sing praises to Jesus, whose desire is for Jesus just as Eve’s desire would be for her husband (Gen 3:16). These are people whose teachers have them practicing iniquity or lawlessness under the guise of liberty. These are those who will protest abortions and gay marriages and every manner of civil injustice, but who will not keep the Sabbaths of God.
Repent while there is still time, while Grace still abounds, while you can practice walking blameless before God under the covering of Christ’s righteousness. The reproach of Egypt is the carnal or natural mindset. And this natural mind isn’t removed until a person crosses a figurative Jordan River and is circumcised inwardly, thereby becoming willing to fight to possess righteousness through obedience to God. You must want to walk blameless before God, and must believe that by faith you can walk blameless—or Abraham is not your spiritual ancestor. And if you are not of Abraham’s spiritual seed, you are not an heir of Christ. You are illegitimate, and you will die in a wilderness of lawlessness.
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