God Gave Them Up

The pattern of events between Egypt and Canaan sheds a great deal of light upon the sexual confusion in Western culture today, and God’s remedy for it.

Modernism’s Talking Beast

From Sinai to Jordan is a ten day journey, yet, after sinning against the Lord ten times like Pharaoh did, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years like Moses did.

“Now therefore fear the Lord
and serve him
in sincerity
and in faithfulness.
Put away the gods
that your fathers served
beyond the River and in Egypt,
and serve the Lord.”
(Joshua 24:14)

40 Years of Harlotry

Priests and people both offered “strange fire,” expressed firstly in spiritual and then physical adultery. The chaff was threshed, the dross consumed, in the holy fire of the Law of Moses, the Covenant Ethics.

This process of “threshing” appears at the center of the Bible Matrix. In the festal calendar, it corresponds to the time of the wheat harvest, which is why Pentecost was the time of the giving of the Law from heaven, and the sending of the fiery Spirit from heaven. In the Creation Week and Tabernacle, it is the seven burning eyes of the Lampstand, the government of heaven (sun, moon and five visible planets) watching over Israel. In the Covenant pattern it is the “Ethics,” the section where God lays out the rules for success. In the rite of sacrifice, it is the holy fire.

Related to threshing, the process of grinding the grain to flour with a millstone is a biblical euphemism for sexual relations, whether faithful or unfaithful. This corresponds to the other symbols because under the Lawful eyes of God, Israel is either shown to be a faithful bride or an adulteress. Is the fire of her desire true or “strange” (that is, foreign)? This exact pattern serves as the underlying structure of James 1:15, a sentence in which the apostle presents sin as a process which twists every single one of the symbols above. It is a sick parody of Creation and Covenant because it begins with entertaining darkness as light, a false word from a false god. Like obedience, disobedience results in an abundance, but in plagues instead of plunder. And instead of achieving success and longevity, both personal and corporate, it brings death.

But each one is tempted
(Day 1 / Ark / Sabbath)
when he is drawn away
(Day 2 / Veil / Passover)
by his own desires
and enticed
(Day 3 / Altar & Table / Firstfruits)
Then, when desire has conceived,
it gives birth to sin;
(Day 4 / Lampstand / Pentecost)
and sin, when it is full-grown,
(Day 5 / Incense / Trumpets)
brings forth death.
(Day 6 / Mediators / Atonement)
(No Future)
(Day 7 / Godlikeness / Booths)
(James 1:15)

The only reason a new Israel came out of the wilderness is because God made a “new Covenant.” He had already prefigured this to their fathers through the giving of a second set of tablets to the nation after the sin with the golden calf. Between the first set and the second, the worshipers were executed under the testimony of two witnesses, the original tablets of Moses. The second set was, for all intents and purposes, a “new” Sinaitic Covenant.


Ascension: The First Tablets
Testing: The Golden Calf & Judgment

Maturity: The Second Tablets

Likewise, at a greater level, there was the initial (dual) giving of the Law at Sinai, and a second giving of the Law, hence the name Deuteronomy, which means “second law.” Between these two Covenants, the entire old generation was buried in the wilderness. She was consumed by God’s jealousy, as demonstrated to her on Sinai and in the destruction of the golden calf.


Ascension: The Tablets given by God
Testing: Old Israel dies in the wilderness

Maturity: The Law repeated by Moses

So, the pattern found in the initial giving of the Law was a microcosm of the entire journey, with Numbers as the fiery “Pentecost” of the greater pattern. Old Israel thus became the golden calf incarnate, Egyptian idolatry carried as a household god in the hearts of fearful men and women.

The man-made attributes and fictitious origins of the golden calf were by no means arbitrary or accidental. But what do they mean? To understand the faithless culture which now surrounds us, we must understand what this idol represented.

TRANSCENDENCE: Its miraculous origin was a silly lie. It is the nature of an idolatrous culture to profess to be wise and progressive even as it becomes increasingly gullible and backward (Romans 1:22).
HIERARCHY: Having received the instructions for the Tabernacle, Israel knew that God Himself regarded gold as a symbol of the holiest things. Gold speaks of kingly authority in heaven. However, it is the Bronze Altar which corresponds to the ox or calf. The ox is not a kingly symbol but the leader of the priestly servants. The blood of a bull was offered for the priesthood on the Day of Atonement. The Bronze Altar was bronze, not gold, because it spoke of the priestly submission of earth to the king of heaven. And in Solomon’s Temple, the oxen which carried the Bronze Sea were themselves fashioned out of bronze. As a servant, this altar was located outside the tent, not inside as a son or an elder. The ox was natural, not supernatural, and a slave, not a son. Thus, the golden calf was itself a symbol of a rebellion of God’s “firstborn son,” who wished to return to the slavery of Egypt’s king and his gods.
ETHICS: This golden ox “came out of the fire” at the first Pentecost. Holy fire falls upon the servant-ox, offered in place of human rulers. The ox does not come out of the fire, at least not as an ox. It must be transformed into a “swarm,” a new “heavenly” body, bridal smoke that is pleasing to God. A golden ox coming from the fire announces that natural things are acceptable to God, that no transformation is necessary, that an earthly ox in this fallen world is every bit as holy as the beasts which surround the throne in heaven. This is the same deception as that of the dragon in Eden, who promised to the first priest a kingdom which avoided the refinement of holy obedience.

OATH/SANCTIONS: It is faithfulness under the fire of testing which brings an abundance, plunder instead of plagues. Here, Israel had taken the plunder of Egypt and fashioned it into a plague, just as the Philistines later did after the Ark of the Covenant felled their false god and struck their cities.

The golden calf was still considered by Israel to be plunder, which is why the judgment of God concerning it was perfectly just. It was ground into powder, that is, a “swarm,” a plague, and its worshipers drank it as a jealous inspection concerning the Covenant Oath which they had made. The harlot who consumed the cup would herself be consumed.

Moses delays on the mountain, and the people desire that Aaron make a god.
(Creation – Sabbath)
Aaron gathers the plunder of Egypt and “engraves” it into a calf, replacing the “graven words.”
(Division – Passover)
Aaron builds an altar and proclaims a feast (a table)
(Ascension – Firstfruits)
God sends Moses down and desires to consume them with fire.
(Testing – Pentecost)
Moses hears them singing, and grinds the calf into a powder, a “swarm.”
(Maturity – Trumpets)
The people are divided between the blessed and the cursed. The idolaters die under the sword of the Levites.
(Conquest – Atonement)
Moses offers himself in place of Israel for the sake of her future. (Glorification – Booths)

Pictorially-speaking, Israel drank the golden calf as if it were a swarm of consuming locusts. Liturgically, the “insides” of the idolaters were exposed, just like the adulteress in Numbers 5, before they were consumed externally, by the “flaming sword” of the priests.

SUCCESSION: But, as God revealed to Moses, this episode was not finished yet.

“But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” (Exodus 32:34)

The remainder of Israel died over the next forty years, but out of the furnace came a new Israel. This national or “corporate” forty years was the fruit of a previous personal one, the time Moses spent in the wilderness. This also was a period of fiery “threshing.”

40 Years of Faithfulness

Moses spent forty years in the wilderness. He saw the “Lampstand” of God in the holy place on the mountain. Like Israel after him, he too came out of the wilderness with uncircumcised children to conquer a city. His exile began with his rejection by Israel as their judge. The righteous sentence he passed and executed upon a single Egyptian (as an Egyptian prince), he would now carry out upon the entire nation of Egypt with the power of God. This forty years matured Moses, and it also matured Israel. Their previous rejection of him had sentenced them to another generation of slavery, but now he, they, and Egypt, were all ripe for a harvest. But before even the preparation of Moses, there was a greater time of growth.

Over a period of 400 years, Israel grew to fruition from a tribal family to a nation. As the other bookend to the nation’s history, Israel’s “times of the Gentiles,” from Malachi to Matthew, was a similar period of 400 years spent waiting for a deliverer. Both periods were silent as far as words from God. He was waiting until the seed had come to fruition, until the words spoken by the prophets had done their work.

As with Moses, the 400 years was followed by a period of 40 years. Jesus, as a better Moses, covered the personal wilderness wandering in the 40 days of His temptation, reflected in Moses’ time on the mountain.

However, the “corporate” testing was indeed 40 years, the time between Jesus’ ascension and the end of the Old Covenant, from Pentecost (AD30) to Holocaust (AD70). Those forty years, from the tearing of the veil to the destruction of the Temple, allowed both righteousness and sin to become full grown, to bring the hidden things to light. The sacrificial sword of the Gospel, applied by the Spirit of Pentecost, would reveal the thoughts and intents of the hearts of Israel.

So, four hundred years, forty years, and forty days are time spans allowed by God for things to come to fruition: the National (400 years of generations); the Judicial (40 years, one generation); and the Personal (40 days for one man, the Covenant Head). God allows time for the words spoken to men and women to become flesh in every realm, that they might expose their true natures in every realm.

In the Name of Love

It should be no surprise that we can see similar patterns in our culture, which was founded upon and then progressively, deliberately, shaped by the Bible.

It is over 400 years since the Reformation, and the “cultural capital” of this great event is now running dry. We can be confident that this means God is doing something new, and something bigger, but also that there are some “birth pangs” ahead of us.

Although there have been highs and lows since the Reformation, the wholesale hatred of the Bible we are witnessing today would have been unthinkable in any previous era. The seeds for this have been sown in various ways over hundreds of years, but the slandering of the Scriptures and the rejection of biblical morality has taken only one generation. Like ancient Israel at Sinai, we too have “broken loose,” but how has this been expressed in modern culture?

It is 40 years since the introduction of easy divorce. It promised freedom but has only brought slavery and death. It promised plunder, but has instead brought plagues. The body count of the sexual revolution in the USA alone, if limited to a consideration of abortion, is over 50 million. But this “redefinition” of marriage that men and women might more easily “break loose,” and the “redefinition” of the unborn that they might be disposed of without blood guilt has undermined every other human definition. As it was with the golden calf, this confusion begins with a silly lie concerning origins. Since it is the events in Genesis 1-3 which define humanity, the breakdown of modern society is following a predictable pattern.

Firstly, our children do not understand the difference between men and women (Garden – Word), what their roles are when joined as husband and wife (Land – Sacrament) or how those roles as father and mother shape future society (World – Government). The old “Tabernacle” has been torn apart. Not only does every man do what is right in his own eyes instead of what is right in God’s eyes, he will defend it with a sanctimony unparalleled in the Church’s history. Just as René Girard opened our eyes to Jesus as the scapegoat, we now see our only source of true blessing, the Word of God itself, being blamed for many of our problems.

Thankfully, like Jesus, the Bible will rise again, vindicated before its enemies.

With darkened minds, those who are now lobbying for the “redefinition” of marriage ignore the social destruction we have experienced over the past four decades. Relaxing the marriage laws caused untold confusion, suffering, abuse, misery, mental health problems, sexual confusion, disease, and incalculable financial cost to our culture. The very thing that promised freedom led to bondage in every area of life. The best way to sell slavery is to package it as liberty. Of course, this required that individual responsibility and self-government be slandered as slavery.

Today, these deluded people assume that things will just keep ticking along as they now are without any further consequences. Predictably, other distortions are already queuing up for their “freedoms,” requiring more boundaries to be broken. And those who approve of same sex marriage will have no valid argument against worse perversions. They will have dismantled those arguments to get what they wanted, just as their cultural “parents” dismantled marriage laws forty years ago. When this happens, their objections to these other distortions will seem just as shrill, small-minded and bigoted as Christian voices do now.

There is a threefold pattern occurring right before our eyes. In Romans 1, Paul speaks of God “giving people up.” He uses the phrase three times because “threshing” is a threefold ethical process:


Ascension: Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves… (Romans 1:24)
False Altar – Law Given: External Law
Testing: For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions… (Romans 1:26)
False Fire – Law Opened: Carnal Pentecost
Maturity: And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)
False Smoke – Law Received: Internal Law

Notice the progression. It is sacrificial, a golden calf “formed” that comes out of the fire “filled” as a plague. This is why Paul describes them as “filled” with all manner of unrighteousness. So, at which point are we now? We are seeing the Strange Fire written into Law. We are surrounded by a dying generation that rebelled knowingly, and a younger generation that has no idea of God’s Law. This perverse legislation is a “Deuteronomy,” a “second law” invented by the wicked which condemns the next generation to death, not life. Unlike Deuteronomy, it prepares them not for Conquest but for defeat; not for prosperity but for disinheritance. That puts Western culture at the beginning of the third step, a body of carnal people united against God in the name of love, a false Church worshiping its own image. Just as the Judaizers were described as locusts in the Revelation, devouring everything in their path, so we have an apostate Christendom in its death throes. It is a sick parody of the Covenant process because it began with a “false word.”

At heart, the disease of our culture is not environmental or economic but ethical. The Law was given. The Law was opened. The plagues we are currently experiencing—disease, sexual confusion, hatred of God and His Law—are a “swarm” that will “torment” us “for five months” (locusts swarmed from May until September, from Pentecost till Atonement). The current debates prove that God is not mocked. We all reap what we sow.

Since we are following a biblical pattern, what is on the horizon? There is a sword coming, a sword that will divide those who love God from those who hate Him, divide those who have found a covering for sin in Jesus Christ from those who stand exposed to the consuming fire of His wrath. Our very culture is being torn in two by a Levitical sword. At this point, the divide is becoming apparent not only in politics but in demography. We are quite willing to sacrifice the future of our culture for “sexual freedoms” now. However we spin it, and as little as we might like it, sex is about children, and children are the future. Sex is always tied to the future.

“Sustainability” is a current buzzword, but nobody except Christians wants to talk about “sustainable sexuality.” Only marriage has a long-term future, and God will keep following this “Covenantal” pattern of testing, maturity and exposure/covering until all the saints are gathered.

Many dispute these predictions, but a tree is always known by its fruit. As marriage is finally destroyed through “redefinition,” another 40 years will see us become even more predatory, lonely, disease-ridden and mentally disturbed, and nearing extinction as a culture—a nation of widows and orphans.

The good thing is that distortions are always short-lived. Call it natural selection. It is not Christians sitting in judgment upon the various distortions of marriage. It is God Himself. History has already vindicated the prophets concerning easy divorce, and history will vindicate those now speaking against this false “resurrection” of marriage in our laws. The results are unavoidable: cultural division and the death of the counterfeit.

What is left for us to do? Continue to gather together, examine our own hearts for the buds of the same plagues that are fully grown in the world, and drink before God the cup which vindicates internal law in us, the work of the Spirit of Christ. And we must keep serving that very cup of testing to the nations through prophetic testimony, no matter much they cry foul, until they stagger and fall, and God raises them up again with contrite hearts and open eyes.

This essay is from Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes.

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