The Perishing of the First Birth
This below is a different telling of the Wilderness to Promised Land story, that might be of interest to some. One thing that has been increasingly expanding in me, is the way that I see the Scriptures. Over the years they have meant many things to me, but in this past period of my life the stories of the Old Testament have taken on a much more glorious and effective meaning to me, as I have come to understand the stories to be more than history and more than moral lessons. Christ is revealed on every page, in every passage from Genesis to Malachi. Christ is revealed in everything.
This is somewhat different to me that seeing “types and shadows.” I learned about those things early in my experience, but it is only in these recent years that their meaning has taken on a whole new reality to me, in that the stories are not just about Abraham and Isaac and Christ “back then,” in Bible times, but the stories are my life now, revealing the continual redemption of Christ through the simple stories of common people like you and me.
If one could think of manual for car repair, in which each system which makes up a car, engine, transmission, brakes, electrical, is broken down into its components. There are diagrams, photos and drawings that show each of these systems, all taken apart.
Yet a car doesn’t work when everything is taken apart. It only works when all the parts are put together and work as one. But in order for us to know how it works and to work it, the manual takes everything apart for us.
The scriptures are somewhat like that. The stories are like the car manuals, and the characters in each of the stories, David, Saul, Samuel, etc., are parts which make up a whole Christ. It is in that sense that I offer the next few pages. (These stories I am referring to below can be found in Exodus through Deuteronomy.)
The First Birth
The first generation or birth, in regard to the Exodus story, is the generation that was delivered by the Lord God from Egypt with a great deliverance. As Paul told us, they were the ones who passed through the Red Sea were thereby baptized into Christ. This generation was led by the Spirit in the heart of the wilderness to the mountain of God, where many things happened and they saw the fire of God in exceedingly great fear and trembling. This first generation was led by God day by day and night after night, by a cloudy pillar by day, and a fiery pillar by night.
After their proving at Sinai where many perished, the Cloud and the Fire led them to the edge of the Promised Land, which had been promised to their father Abraham in a distant time by Abraham's God, and now this Moses comes in the name of Abraham's God and says this land is to be theirs to possess. And there on the edge of the land they are poised to go over into the Land, awaiting only the final confirmation of the twelve spies.
The first generation to be sent to the Promised Land, who could not go in, who then must perish in the wilderness because of its unbelief, is not only a type of what happens to us if we fall into unbelief or never come to faith, though probably most of the time that is how we've been given to see it. The book of Hebrews doesn't pull punches about the generation who fell in the wilderness, because of unbelief. So there is no lack of merit to that stirring up of the Spirit in us, Who, from time to time, comes to us through the voice of rebuke and exhortation. But this is to me a further seeing, because those exhortations come to us when we are still in the state of the first generation, or first birth, as I describe below.
The first generation, accompanied by a few faithful who Knew (Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb), accompanied by a visible sign of the presence of God in a Cloud by Day and Fire By Night, daily received manna & water from a rock, were miraculously sustained every day until they all fell, one by one, in the wilderness. Each of them deader than a rock. The entire generation, i.e. the entire first birth, could not go in. But as each one fell, another born in the wilderness to the Promise was born who took his place.
Joshua and Caleb are exceptions to the total death of the first generation (not even Moses goes in), not because they humanly stand above their fellows and were able to be faithful to the vision God had given them (which is certainly true), but because they also are a type of the new birth in us which brought us out of Egypt, to the mountain or God, and to the edge of the Promised Land. The Spirit who lives in us to will and do of His good pleasure in us, leading us quite apart from our day to day understanding, fulfilling all His promises in us, even while we have only begun to barely discern Him who is All in all. We are led on a path and directed in our ways, above our understanding and therefore not dependent on it, but on God alone, who has sought us when we didn't seek Him, and, having found us and we know we are found of Him, promises to “never leave or forsake us.” So even in our time of dim understanding and thinking it's all about me and meeting my needs, still my inner and Certain companion, Christ Jesus the Lord, as any good shepherd does, leads the sheep in His way by the love of the shepherd, and so the generation who has been in a sense “sentenced to death” in the wilderness, nonetheless has the witness of faith forever in its midst, in Joshua and Caleb, and with Moses and the law as master for the time, and in that wilderness they bring up the new man who has never known Egypt, the new generation born in the wilderness and knowing only the Promise from birth.
Before I go on, let me mention this. It comes from something Boehme said. He was talking about the stories of the Old Testament, and how the Spirit is telling something which is all one whole thing, all pointing at all times to the new birth in everything, and all the aspects of the new birth and the new man. But in order that we can comprehend it, the Spirit in a sense divides up the parts into these characters (Boehme always asserts these are true “histories” but their meaning far exceeds only the historical aspect, an understatement of astronomical size), so that something which is One, the new man, is seen from start to finish in the different parts and characters of many of the stories.
All is One in God, something we cannot comprehend, but the picture I get is like a waterfall gushing over a large precipice continuously and as the water pours over the side it never has the same form nor does its effect on the rocks and water below stay the same; there is instead a continuous kaleidoscopic effect to the whole thing, as different shapes and forms and patterns in spray and current and heights and light and sound change and move in a random but perfect harmony, not to mention the unrelenting sheer force and power that travels in silence in the current until it breaks forth into an orgasmic freedom as it nears and then suddenly clears the edge, and there bursts out into a total letting go of the bank of the river for a very long moment of free fall, and then a total dissolution into bits of exploding spectral light at the bottom, before it recovers itself as the river once again and then moves along its course.
Picturing the river and waterfall as if it is our lives, it makes the think of the living creatures described in the biblical visions. All sorts of things were simultaneously displayed and happening, and to imagine the visions breaks my mind. But when I begin to see my own life as God has renewed it through the Cross then I can see from a beginning I don't remember, to an end I can't foresee, from a distant point as if not in myself, and that life that I see, instead of something disjointed and happenstance, is now a life which has been completely transfigured, which makes the truth appear, for that is what light does, and in this case when the light shines, it irradiates everything in the room because it is so bright nothing can withstand or resist it, and nothing could in that light be seen as dirty or depraved or misbegotten, and that is the transfiguration that takes place throughout the whole of our lives in this sight, but in the kingdom of God, what has been process of 1-2-3 to us, appears in an eternal harmonious simultaneity, where everything is now renewed, now clean, now whole, now absolutely pure. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. This is what Joshua and Caleb hint at to their fellows, and they are the grace and faith who accompany the first generation to their death.
Now the new birth occurred somewhere for us over in Egypt or the Red Sea, and had to have occurred, or we wouldn't have been moved out of Egypt and out from under the dominion of its king, who obviously is for our sake representing the god of this world. (Though Pharaoh doesn't always mean that, nor do any other of these “types” always mean the same thing. The Spirit keeps us hopping on all that. Sometimes a cigar means something else, sometimes it doesn't.)
Just a couple of quick things about what this generation confronted. And remember, our context in the story is the story of the new birth and the new man, and about all the aspects of that story, which is the story of each of our lives, and how we all move in this way from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the Promised Land -- from outer and temporal to inner and eternal, from old to new, from carnal to spiritual, from unbelief to faith, from glory to glory, from Adam to Christ, from man of the earth to Lord from heaven, from Satan to God.
The first most important confrontation the first generation had, came at Mt. Sinai, when Moses went up to get the law while they were not allowed to even touch the mountain. They had been given to see the fire devouring the top of the mountain, and they were all of them, man, woman, and child, terrified at the sight, and gladly obeyed the commandment to not touch the mountain. We can only mention this, there is so much more to see. But just this for the moment. They are yet “babes” and have heretofore only known Egypt and bondage. They know the rigor and the pain, but they remember also that they had food and water. Even though they've seen the mighty acts of God, and they've passed through the red sea of baptism into Him, still they're all about themselves yet, and even though eating bread from heaven every single day, they just see it as bread on the ground, and despise it. The reason this generation can't touch the mountain or they'll be killed, is because God suffers no flesh to come into His presence. It's not physical flesh He's talking about, because there will be one day a “physical flesh” in which we'll be in the full presence of God. He's talking about the flesh in the sense of the “mind set on the flesh,” mentioned by Paul, the separate self-relying false-but-real-to-itself self, that is the mindset and construct of the serpent, the hidden self-righteous pride of self that masks the devil and the hiss of the snake, which the Bible calls the “old man” or the “mind set on the flesh.”
Now this is the state where they are, every day loved by God and borne on wings of eagles to a land of Promise, and yet by God's design still overtaken in their consciousness and inner knowing with this deep lie as old as our race. And the wilderness is where that is put away forever. By killing off the whole thing, the whole first generation. The old man cannot go into the land.
So all the children of Israel can take away from the mountain of meeting God face-to-face, which it was for Moses, was the law, which God gave them by divine purpose, but hidden in the law, hidden in the tabernacle, hidden in the life of Moses, hidden in the sacrifices, was unbounded grace and the Son of God.
So after their first great direct (somewhat inglorious) meeting with God, they leave, headed for the Promised Land like the Confederates headed for Fort Sumter to “beat the Yankees in a week,” with the book of the law in hand, and with the absolute certainty that they would fulfill the law and march into the land.
And we know it didn't go the way they had planned. Even though, when told they'd messed up big time, they tried to right it by going out to battle, again as themselves trying to fix what they believed they broke, and were routed by the enemy for the first time since going into the wilderness.
So God curses the whole generation, and we all exceedingly quake and fear, reading the story these thousands of years later. “Lord, let me not be like those guys, please!” (Oh, but in our deception we are, because that prayer comes from one of “those guys!”)
And yet, even though cursed of God to die in the wilderness, that first generation is lovingly led by God for whole 40 years, and sustained every single day. But even while the old generation is perishing day by day, every day likewise the new generation arises. And by the time the old generation has died to the last man, BEHOLD, a new generation is ready!
This new generation has been born in the wilderness, not in Egypt, and knows nothing but the provision of the Living God, having lived in His undeniable demonstration every day of its life. It is the new man, who is ready to go in and take the land, after having been born in the wilderness, but has now overcome the wilderness by the deliverance of God, and now is ready to go in and take possession of the gifts the Lord has provided.
Understand who this new man is. It is paradoxically the same man that was the old man, except that he has died to the uttermost and now the same man that was and then was no more, is again, only this time he is a different man. And this different man who is the same also, starts in great smallness and childlikeness, and can't be known often for a very long time, because his elders have their day and have to live it out, and this is God's way. The new man doesn't even start out knowing himself, he just begins to hear things, and his only food his whole life has been the bread from heaven; and he has suffered and been sick when they've slit the throats of the lambs at the sacrifice, and he somehow knows he is bound to their death.
But this new man has to wait in the wings maybe a long time for his turn, because all during this period it is this first birth, this first generation, this old wineskin, that we are trying to push to the front and say, “Here, fix this, this'll make a fine addition to your kingdom, Lord.” Fix the only “me” I know, make me better, etc. We know no other life except that life, that man of the flesh who talks of God and says He'll obey Him but runs at the sight of Him, and who with all sorts of bravado proclaims his boldness, until he is told to go into a land where there are giants and walled cities, and looking back at himself, the only resource he's ever known, he rightly surmises, “Oh, I'm a grasshopper, I can't go in here. This is too much for me.” And like the man who has buried his talent knowing how austere his lord is, or like the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful, we rightly realize we don't have the stuff to continue with this, we can't let go what we hold so dear, it's our precious, our lover, our citadel of ME ME ME, and we're not worthy anyhow for such a high thing, and so we retreat from the land we thought was ours to possess, knowing almost firsthand of its beauty and bounty, yet unworthy in ourselves by our own confession to receive it. We would love to have faith, to hang in there, but this is too much, and the Lord, instead of welcoming us into the Land we'd come so far to see, turns us away at the border and marches us back into the wilderness for another 38 years. Which is all you can do. Flesh can't go into the land, and it takes a wilderness to kill it.
But remember, this isn't Devil's Island, but GOD'S wilderness. These aren't political prisoners being punished for resisting he regime, but the beloved first generation of God, Of being led by God by a fiery pillar at night and a cloudy pillar by day. Another 38 years of receiving bread from heaven every day except the sabbath, 38 years of never going without water in a land where no water is, 38 years of shoes not wearing out. And everyday the Lord by the Cloud or the Pillar would lead them, apparently randomly, through a formless wilderness, a vast waste, a totally inhabitable place, but nonetheless led and sustained through it all by God.
Until the day the whole generation is finally all dead, and the second generation, the new man, arrives again at the edge of the same Land, led this time not by Moses, the law, but by Joshua, who is as the Redeemer, the Son of Man, who alone takes us into the promise of God, who Himself IS the promise of God, but who cannot be revealed in us until by the Spirit we recognize through faith the death of the old man, the first generation, the first birth, through Christ, and out of that death, we further recognize the breaking of the union with the god of sin in us, and from there we arise the new man in consciousness, Christ in us, signified by Joshua or Caleb. The irony of God in all this, which when seen takes away pride, is that there aren't some of us who are Joshua/Calebs and some of us who are the unbelieving children of Israel. We are each both, and have been moved from the first, unbelief, to the other, belief, by oddly enough, faith, operated by the spirit of God in us, since “no man can say Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
We are originally the first generation, the first birth, and it must be second born. But for a long time we only know of our being “born again” in little bitty bits. We're still the children in the wilderness in most of our consciousness, ruled mostly by the temporal and what we see and feel outwardly coming our way, but because during this process we are already in the kingdom by virtue of having been delivered from Egypt, inwardly we also have Joshua and Caleb in all of us, the faith that wells up in us from time to time despite our normal attitudes and understandings. In our time and in our lives our fiery pillars and our cloudy pillars are hidden in the everyday vision of life. But they are nevertheless there. And because we are His we follow their lead. We may not have so literal a grocery delivery as did the children in the wilderness, but we are no less sustained by the bread from heaven every day, and we drink his blood, too, every one of us. And so on. “All I have needed thy hand has provided,” sings the hymn.
And then the day comes when we've seen finally that new wine can only go into new wineskins, after the Lord has convinced us he has gotten rid of that pesky carcass in the wilderness. Once that thing has been done away -- the old man, the accursed thing -- which is nothing more than the lie the evil one planted in all of us and sustained with his power and that's all it is, a big fat lie -- that's a red letter day. Because now it is time that the hidden new man comes out of his place in the back.
Just briefly, this is the same in the David & Saul story.
Saul is the king the Israelites originally asked for -- not by name, but by type. They wanted a king like the nations around them. Never mind that those kings took the best for themselves and abused their subjects and others, still, you weren't anybody in those days if you didn't have a despotic king ruling over you, so they sought Samuel for such a king. After consulting the Lord, who told Samuel to give the people what they asked for, only telling them what they're getting in the package, Samuel did exactly as the people asked, and they all rejoiced and celebrated, having rejected, as Samuel told them, the Lord from being king among them. Which is a pretty big deal, but they didn't seem to think so at the time.
So the Lord chooses, and even blesses and gives His Spirit to in some measure His first chosen king of Israel, Saul, who is a great looking guy, a head taller than everybody else, a guy who everybody agrees looks like a king should look, and who looks like he can take on the Philistines, and that's alright with everybody, too.
Saul even attempts a religious life, but being king becomes more important to him, and after some initial great campaigns against the Philistines, things started going downhill for Saul.
Enter David, a younger son of a country dweller, Jesse of Bethlehem, a keeper of sheep and a singer/songwriter, also anointed by Samuel in secret to be king of Israel, to replace Saul whose self-presumption caused the Lord to “rend the kingdom” from him, and give it to David the son of Jesse.
But that wasn't to be common knowledge for a while, because Saul was still very much king, and David, who had no guile, loved and supported the king as was right in God's order.
It's too lengthy to go into the demise of Saul and the rise of David and how exactly the same it is as the first generation story, or how these two are one in me, how Saul, the biggest baddest mother out there, that's who we wanted to be our king and who we wanted to be ourselves, and we couldn't help it, and God anointed that desire as king anyway, and let us run with it to the uttermost, because he foresaw our life as Saul meeting his own self-designed end at Gilboa by the threat of the Philistines who were bearing upon him.
All the while for years David hid in his cave with his 400 men, and was fed by priests and friends, and never usurped the rightful authority of his elder Saul, until Saul had been taken by the Lord and his time had come.
We have our day as Saul and we have our day as David, and there is a demarcation point between the two. That demarcation occurs when we realize that we are no longer Saul and David contending together, but that Saul is now dead and we know now that we are David, who is a man after God's own heart. I simply mean that we begin to grasp humanity as God expresses Himself in it, through the Cross, which is at the heart of all things everywhere.
And then finally, here is the kicker I've been wanting to get to. As I mentioned before, the scripture divides things up into different characters and histories in order to hint to us of eternal realities. I've only briefly touched on these things here, I can't find the words yet. But this is the clarity for me at the moment.
Saul and David are seen by pretty much everybody as two different people, one you don't want to be like, the other you do. It looks like Saul was crappy and got fired, and the Lord hired a better guy in David. And the same for the wilderness story. That first generation weren't up to snuff, so I'm waiting for some better folks. No, it's not like that. The story divides up the parts but they are a wholeness and work in us in the same way. In the sense of my meaning, Saul and David are the same person. In this way. Adam was the first man, the man of the earth. He went down a path that determined all of ours. He was first lord of the earth, and we have inherited his rather shoddy lordship. It has fallen into great disrepair. (His first mistake was to turn over his own personal lordship to a snake, but that's for another discussion. Not going that deep tonight.) Here is what I am trying to get to.
Adam is the first man, the earth man, Christ is the Second man, the Lord from heaven, and for a time they are separated, but in the consummation they are One. Christ redeems Adam in that He takes Adam into Himself, and He into Adam, and restores Adam to union with the Father, in the second birth, The second birth redeems the first birth. The Son came and didn't make a new race, but brought light again to the same race, and we are that race, and Christ is who has sent us along this way, because He told us in the beginning He was our shepherd and if we would trust Him He would guide every bit of our lives. The generation who crossed the Jordan redeemed the generation who perished in the wilderness, and in wholeness were one and the same. David redeemed Saul, was “kind” unto his house and sought no retribution against his enemies when he received the kingship, because he knew how tightly he was knit with Saul, and his life was built upon him.