1 Corinthians 10:1-5, 11-13
Text: For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 that you can endure it.
You can learn things from bad examples as well as good examples, and perhaps, even more. When you contrast what that person did with what they should have done, you can learn not to follow their bad example. We see this in many of the children’s books and movies. The main character does something wrong and they have to pay for their mistakes. Take, for example, Pinocchio. He got into trouble for lying. It was only after he learned from his mistakes that he became a real boy. If you are on a sports team, the coach will show not only the plays where things went the way that they were supposed to. Often, they will show a play where someone didn’t do what they were supposed to do, so that the rest of the team can learn from that mistake. The Bible is also full of examples. Many of them are good examples, such as Mary, when she believed the message that Gabriel told her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. There are also plenty of bad examples to learn from, as well. In our text for this morning, the apostle Paul holds up a bad example, so that we can learn not to repeat their mistakes. We shall see that NOT ALL EXAMPLES ARE GOOD EXAMPLES. 1. See Israel’s Example. Remember that 2. God Loves And Helps Us.
Paul calls to mind the example of the Israelites as they traveled from the land of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into 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.” (Verses 1-4) Paul highlights all of the ways that God had shown love to them as they traveled. God rescued them by leading them through the waters of the Red Sea. God was with the people, leading them by day in a cloud and a pillar of fire at night. God provided food for them by sending manna down from heaven. When there was no water, God told Moses to strike a particular rock and water flowed from the rock. Every Israelite had to think, ‘I must be one of God’s people. Look at the great things God has done for me.’
Like the Israelites, we, Christians, are a privileged people. We, too, have been touched by the grace of God. We have been rescued through the waters of baptism, in which God brought forgiveness and adoption as his children into our lives. All our needs for this life and for the next have been supplied by our gracious God. We, too, have the privilege of eating and drinking spiritual food and drink every time we receive the Lord’s Supper. The passage through the Red Sea bound the Israelites to their leader, Moses, whom God had sent to lead them to safety. Through baptism, we are bound to our leader, Jesus Christ, who was sent to rescue us for all eternity. When we are reminded of this, we also must think, ‘I must be one of God’s people. Look at what great things God has done for me.’
Despite everything that God had done for the Israelites, we read in verse 5, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” What a sad statement! Out of the 600,000 plus men twenty years and older that left Egypt, only two men, Joshua and Caleb, entered the Promised Land. The reason for this is that they developed an unfaithfulness to God, which took for granted all that he had done for them and said to them. As a result, they lost the promised blessings that God wanted to give them in the Promised Land.
When we read about this, we might shake our heads and wonder what was wrong with those people. Look at all that God had done for them. In spite of that, the Israelites continued to sin against him again and again. Listen to verses 11-12, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” If we think that we are above doing the things the Israelites did, we would do well to ask ourselves, “Are there ways that we have followed their example?” They grumbled and complained about how God was providing for them. Do we find ourselves complaining about what God has given or not given to us? They didn’t like the way that God was leading them to the Promised Land. They thought that they had better ideas. How about us? Do we think that we have a better plan for our lives than what God does? If he would just do it our way, things would be much better. Think about how quickly they abandoned the true God for the worship of a golden calf. While we may not bow down to a golden statue, do we find ourselves prioritizing the things of the world and the pleasures it offers at the expense of our relationship with God? As we look at the Israelites continued rebellions against God, we see that we also have rebelled against God in our thoughts, words, and actions. Paul wrote, “God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” We know that, because of our sins, we deserve to not just die in the wilderness as the Israelites did. We deserve to have our bodies scattered in the punishment of hell.
Whatever are we to do? Where is there any hope for us? We find the answer in three little words in verse 13, “God is faithful.” God is faithful to the promise that he made after the first sin was committed. He promised to send a Savior into the world to rescue it from its sins. God, in his faithfulness, sent his Son, Jesus, to save us. Jesus was faithful to his Father’s will as he followed it to the letter. He served as our substitute by living a perfect life for us. The faithfulness of Jesus is on full display as he served as our substitute by going to the cross to pay for every one of our sins. God, in his faithfulness, raised Jesus from the dead, since he had done everything necessary for humanity’s salvation. God, in his faithfulness to the promise that he made, has declared all those who trust in him are forgiven their sins. This faithful God has promised that, if we sin, we can come back. When we have slipped and fallen, this faithful God has seen to it that the blood of his Son cleanses us from every sin. As a result, we can have confidence, not in our own actions, but in the actions of our faithful God.
But what are we to do about all the temptations that we face every day? They come at us from every side. How can we ever hope to stand up against them? Look at verse 13: “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 that you can endure it.” God makes two promises to us in this verse. First, it says, “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” God will never allow a temptation to enter our lives that will be more than we can handle. He will never allow a trial to enter our lives that is more than we can bear. Secondly, we read, “When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” When a temptation enters our lives, God will always give us a way out of it. It can be as simple as giving us the ability to get up and get away from that situation. Sometimes, it can be as simple as pushing a button to turn something off. It can be that he will give us the words to stand up for what is right. It might come in the form of Christian friends who you can turn to help you resist that temptation. The same holds true for any trials that might enter our lives. God always gives us a way out of it. It might come in the form of a medical procedure. It might come as family and friends help us. Ultimately, the way out of all of life’s trials will come when we get to heaven. God is faithful in each and every situation. He will not leave us dangling in the wind. We thank our God for his faithfulness. We pray that, with his help, we will remain faithful to him.
There is such a good reason for us to continue to be in God’s Word. There we find the blessed message of God’s salvation plan carried out in his Son. We, also, see so many examples of God’s people, even the great heroes of faith, falling into sin. We can learn from their mistakes and keep our eyes open for the same temptations that they faced. As we read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith so that we can stand up against the temptations that we face every day. This is a part of our Father’s love for us. When we teach our children, we want them to learn from the mistakes that we made, so that they will not repeat them and suffer the consequences that we had to face. Our heavenly Father shows us these bad examples in his Word, so that we might learn from them and not have to suffer eternal consequences. He, also, shows us the perfect example, his Son, who did everything necessary for our salvation. May God help us to ponder the past to learn of his amazing love for us. Amen.
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