We all need examples. We learn from them. A demonstration is always better than just hearing some words. I’m glad the Bible has given us plenty of examples and demonstrations to help us learn. On such set of examples comes in 1 Corinthians 10. Let’s take a quick look.
Examples for Christian Living 1 – Background – 1 Corinthians 10:1-5
From verse 6 we learn that the prior material “took place as examples for us.” What is the example? It is the story of Israel’s wilderness wanderings and more specifically their failure to please God. The Hebrews had been delivered from Egyptian captivity but soon rebelled against their God. Because of their rebellion a brief month long journey became a 40 year wandering. Paul reminds his readers of this misadventure as the background to three examples from which we can learn.
First, the Israelite people were well cared for by God. They were “under the cloud” which is certainly a reference to God’s presence as seen in a cloud by day and a column of fire by night (Exodus 13:12). They also “all passed through the sea” (Exodus 14:22). This passage not only allowed their passage through a massive obstacle but also separated them from their enemies. This was a moment of redemption as the people were finally freed from the Egyptian oppressors. Taken together these things were likened unto baptism except in this case it was a baptism into Moses. They were literally immersed under Moses leadership with the cloud above and the waters of the Red Sea all around.
The “spiritual food” which they ate was the manna given from heaven (Exodus 16:15) which sustained them on their journey.
Paul now says some things that are curious. He says the Israelites drank from a “spiritual rock.” This speaks of the two occasions when God brought water forth from a rock. The first time at Mt. Horeb (Exodus 17:6-7). A second time at Kadesh (Numbers 20:11). In both cases water came forth and the people were refreshed.
Together we have God’s protections with the cloud and through the waters which protected them from their enemies and guided their path. They were well fed and were given water for their journey. God never failed them. But they rebelled and were overthrown or defeated in the wilderness as they traveled.
I think the key understanding here is that God was also faithful to all of the people. Their failure was not because of some weakness in God but because of their own faithlessness and unrighteousness.
Examples for Christian Living 2 – Desiring Evil – 1 Corinthians 10:6
Paul charges that the Israelites desired evil (vs. 6). This was the root of the problem and it represents a choice each of us must make. Will we seek God or will we seek evil? A man usually will find whatever he is looking for. If he wants evil he will find it. But like Israel, we may convince ourselves that what we desire is good when it is really evil. In Exodus 32:1 the people came to Aaron and asked for a new god to serve because they did not know what had become of Moses. Although the surely thought they did good they actually were desiring an evil thing. Idols were prohibited (Exodus 20:3-6). What they thought was good was really evil.
Here’s Isaiah on the subject, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; That put darkness for light and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Job spoke of the supposedly wise men who “…make night unto day” and say the light “is near to the darkness” (Job 17:12). Paul put it this way, “God gave them up…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”(Romans 1:24-25).
Let’s clean our hearts and purge out the evil desires. “…each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14). “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). With the power of God’s help we can strive to eliminate the desire for evil.
Examples for Christian Living – Idolatry – 1 Corinthians 10:7
We may be inclined to think that idolatry could never apply to us today but we would be terribly wrong. Idolatry is more than a stone idol at the center of some pagan worship. It is an improper desire for or worshipping of any material object. Colossians 3:5 says that covetousness is idolatry. Once we accept that idolatry is homage to the material we come to see that idolatry really does apply to us. Has there ever been a time more materialistic than today? Have men ever spent more of their efforts and labors to acquire physical comforts and luxuries than today? Probably not.
The illustration here used by Paul comes from Exodus 32:6 at the very first worship to the golden calf made by Aaron. Although this was a typical idolatrous event the core emotions and desires were from and for the flesh. They were not satisfied by a God they could not see and touch so they created one that appealed to their senses. Eating, drinking and playing serve to satisfy other senses of the human flesh and are not spiritual in any way.
As God’s people we must not surrender to the desires of the flesh. We must feed our spirit – not our flesh.
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Please watch tomorrow for Examples for Christian Living – Part 2. Be sure and subscribe so you do not miss a single installment.