The Expository Files

 

Training From Israelite History

1 Corinthians 10:1-13



{Before reading this, please read 1 Cor. 10:1-13}

When Paul says something like this: "Brethren, I do not want you to be unaware," he is introducing something they need to know. It is not optional. It is not merely academic. It is essential knowledge. "For I do not want you to be ignorant," (NIV). That should raise an alert for us that this is something we need to know.

This is a matter of Old Testament history and the Jews in Corinth would be especially familiar with this.

"All our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock, and that Rock was Christ."

This is historical; you can read about this in the Old Testament. It concerns the early members of the Jewish nation and God's care over them.

This is expressed in vivid, dramatic terminology:

1. They were "under the cloud." This is a reference to Ex. 13:21,22, and that has to do with the guidance God gave them, out of Egypt and through the wilderness.

2. They "passed through the sea." On that historic occasion recorded in Ex. 14:21,22 God gave them safe passage away from the fleeing Egyptian army.

3. They "were baptized into Moses." Figuratively speaking, under this cloud and through the sea, they were brought under the leadership of Moses. When we are baptized into Christ, we are brought under His authority and leadership; thus it was, for those ancient Israelites, they were baptized into Moses, so to speak.

4. They "drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them." This is all about God taking care of the nation. They had what they needed to eat and drink. Manna and water from the Rock provided by God. Paul affirms - these provisions came from heaven; God and Christ were the source.


These phrases were crafted by Paul, under supervision of the Holy Spirit, to remind the Jewish Corinthians of the early members of their nation and God's care over them. You can read about all of this in the Old Testament. Whether you read from the Old Testament or in this passage it is clear God took good care of His people.

He supplied what they needed. In fact, we can say: Those early Israelites, in Moses' time, were a highly privileged people. All of them.

Do you see, all of these people were recipients of these rich blessings from God and Christ?

This cannot be intended to be understood literally, for it was not literally true. The rock from which the water flowed was evidently an ordinary rock, a part of Mount Horeb; and all that this can mean is, that that rock, with the stream of water thus gushing from it, was a representation of the Messiah. The word was is thus often used to denote similarity or representation, and is not to be taken literally. Thus, in the institution of the Lord's Supper, the Saviour says of the bread, "This is my body," that is, it represents my body. Thus also of the cup, "This cup is the new testament in my blood," that is, it represents my blood, 1Co 11:24,25. Thus the gushing fountain of water might be regarded as a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which result from him. Albert Barnes

BUT (verse 5 says): "...with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness." There is a contrast here, and it needs to be noted. Going through the first four verses, note and emphasize the word "all." All of them enjoyed these blessings; the early members of the Israelite nation had these benefits and Christ was involved then.

The word "all" is repeated throughout the first four verses. Every one of them - all of them had the privileges that came from heaven. "But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness."

God was offended by their ingratitude. He was disappointed in their rebellion. Their bodies being "scattered in the wilderness" was a direct result of their unbelief and disobedience. Of Moses in the cloud and in the sea," how many entered the promised land of Canaan?

Only two entered, Joshua and Caleb. The rest of them perished in the wilderness. Being baptized unto Moses and following God's guidance for a while was not enough to guarantee their reward. They failed to persevere; they didn't exercise self-discipline to continue what they started.

Here is a case where people who started a journey didn't complete it. The lesson for us is obvious. Being baptized and taking the Lord's Supper and Reading the Bible is not enough. There must be perseverance in faithful discipleship. Their must be self-discipline, in the use of all God provides for us. "Therefore He lifted up His hand in an oath against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness," (Psa. 106:26).

In Vss. 6-13, based on this history, here is what Paul wants the Corinthians to learn. Likewise, this is what we need to learn:

6Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." 8Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Several things stand out in this paragraph to help us appreciate the self-discipline of faithfulness. There are about five things I want to highlight:

1. "We should not lust after evil things as they also lusted." To "lust" in this sense is to accept and nurture strong desires for things you shouldn't have. This was involved in the apostasy of these early Israelites. Desiring what is forbidden by God. We should avoid such lust and we can, by the activity of faith in Christ.

2. We should avoid any form of idolatry. Down in verse 14 Paul will say, "Flee from idolatry." When we give to anyone or anything, the honor and reverence God deserves, that is idolatry. It was and is sin. "Whatever a man seeks, honors, or exalts more than God, is idolatry," William Bernard Ullanthorne (1806-1889)

3. We cannot allow indulgence and entertainment to consume us. "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." They committed sexual immorality and in one day, 23,000 fell. That's half the population of the city I occupy! One day - and you can read of this in Ex. 32 and Num. 25 - this happened. Think about it: if God responded today, as he did then, the population of this country would be drastically reduced. This is sex and drinking - indulgence in self-centered pleasure, showing an absence of self-discipline - a lack of devotion to God, that offends Him. We ought to learn the lessons from this history.

4. We Must Not Tempt Christ. To tempt means, to make trial of; to provoke to anger; to disrespect; to try and get away with something. Teenagers who rebel against their parents will deceive, manipulate, antagonize and otherwise intimidate their parents. We should never act that way toward the Lord. It shows our heart it not where it ought to be.

5. We should refrain from murmuring. To fall into the habit of constantly complaining about your lot in life; to bury yourself in negative, defeated language and broadcast your troubles to others all the time, eventually expressing bitterness to God was the sin of those people and warns us today. It shows lack of self-discipline, along with these other behaviors.


11Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

The things happened to them - to the early Israelites, long ago. But, those things were documented: "written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." So - to those who are puffed up; overly confidence and boastful: Take heed lest you fall!

Verse 13 needs our attention:

"No temptation has overtaken you except such
as is common to man; but God is faithful, who
will not allow you to be tempted beyond what
you are able, but with the temptation will also
make the way of escape, that you may be able
to bear it."

When I am tempted to sin in some way (thought, word, deed) I should never think that doesn't happen to anybody else! No temptation is unique to me. Being tempted to sin is common to man. I believe it can be argued: every free moral agent is subjected to temptation. The devil doesn't leave anybody out. "No temptation has overtaken you, except such as is common to man."

Here's the good news: "...God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." It helps me a lot to just dwell on this simple statement of truth about God: He "is faithful." His word is good; His promises are trustworthy; the help He says He will give we can count on. This is my source of security; this is why I am motivated to obey God and keep His commandments. This is why I love Him - He is faithful.

Now, there is a particular application of that truth about God that is the subject of this verse (1 Cor. 10:13). God "will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." This is something we can count on - and you can count on this every day.

Whatever the circumstances, the causes, the agents, the emotions, the pressure, the overwhelming assault of the devil, there is "the way of escape." You don't have to sin. That can never be our claim, that we had to sin! God, through the mystery of His providence, so controls things - He limits temptation, so that with every temptation, there is a way of escape!

Where would we be without this confidence? Hopeless. In bondage to fear. But we have God's Word that no temptation will ever be so overwhelming that we are forced into sin!

"...You can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then, you will be able to endure it." (New Century Version)
 

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 13.8; August 2006

 

 

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