Warnings From Israel’s History
[1st Corinth. 10, 1-17]
In this week’s Bible study I will begin the 10th chapter of the 1st book of Corinthians. In the closing verses of chapter 9, Paul was exhorting the early church at Corinth to “run the race in such a way as to win the prize”, which refers to living our lives for Christ instead of ourselves with the ultimate goal being eternal life with Jesus in heaven forever. As the apostle Paul begins chapter 10, he uses the fate of the first generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt as an example of what can happen to those who don’t live their lives as such. Paul begins in verse 1, and he minces no words with the Corinthian church and with the rest of us.
“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry’. We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day 23,000 of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.” (1 Corinthians 10; verses 1 through 10 NIV)
In the above passage, Paul is talking about the exodus of the Jews – descendants of the modern-day Israelis and American Jews, among others – from Egypt where they had all been slaves to Pharaoh. The mass escape from Egypt by the Jews is a historical fact. Chariot wheels and the skeletons of humans and horses have been found at the bottom of the Red Sea. The ancient Israelites were led out of Egypt by God, who appeared in the form of a bright cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night (those who have Bibles can find this in the Old Testament, beginning in the first chapter of the book of Exodus. If you don’t own one, don’t worry about it, we’ll cover it in another lesson some other time). This is what Paul is referring to when he wrote about being “baptized under Moses in the cloud and in the sea”. He was referring to the bright cloud that guided the Israelites, and to the parting of the Red Sea by Moses as the Jews crossed over to the other side. But since God was displeased with them due to their idolatry, He allowed that entire generation of Jews to die in the desert during the 40 years of wandering, and so none of them ever saw the promised land that God had reserved for them. Paul then finishes with these warnings; “We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day 23,000 of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel”. In fact, if you will go back and read Exodus, you will all see that every one of the above things actually happened. Paul then continues beginning in Verse 11.
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fail! No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10; verses 11 through 17 NIV)
The closing part of this passage of Scripture is classic Paul in every way. After admonishing the young Church that death is the certain payout for a sinful pagan life, he turns right around in the next paragraph and encourages the faithful and lifts up the church as a whole. Paul writes, “… if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fail!”. Be on your guard, he wrote, because when you think you are in good shape spiritually, that’s when the enemy will come in and attack. But Paul then encourages the Church, writing, “No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man”, and again he says in the next sentence, “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it”. So we can conclude by Paul’s words that we are not to give up and we are not to give in. If we are standing firm we do not stand alone because we know by faith that God is with us. If we are enduring temptation there is no shame in crying out for help, because God will be there for us. Most important – or at least it seems so to me – God will never, ever allow us to be tempted to sin or to be tried by difficulty to the point that it is more than we can withstand. Remember what Jesus said, “Never will I leave you, and never will I forsake you”. These words are just as true today as they were when Jesus uttered them nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus prophesied this as well, when He said to His apostles, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Jesus and His word will always stand through any kind of difficulty, through any kind of illness or injury, through any bad situation, and through any worry or despair. Jesus is the same today, tomorrow, and forever. If you have never put Jesus in charge of your life and you are ready to relinquish control to Him, just pray this prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, I am tired of trying to do things all by myself. Please come into my heart and dwell there, and I will make you my Lord and Savior. Please come and save my soul today, and guide me in the path that my life should take. In your precious name I pray, amen.
And next week we’ll go over the second half of chapter ten. Shalom!