Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
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.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 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 revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did — and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel.
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.
It has been said that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. You can see this throughout history. For example, if Adolf Hitler had learned from Napoleon’s disastrous winter invasion of Russia, he would not have done the same thing. Because he did not, he used much of his resources in a failed winter invasion. This morning, the apostle Paul takes us through a few incidents from Israel’s history so that we might learn from them. He wrote in verse 6, “These things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” We are encouraged to PONDER THE PAST 1. If You Think Your Sins Are Something New, 2. If You Think Your Sins Are Not So Bad, and 3. If You Think God Cannot Defeat Sin For You.
In the first four verses, Paul reminds us that the people of Israel had enjoyed so many benefits. “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.” Paul is speaking about the fact that God had so richly blessed the people of Israel as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. 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 of 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, who 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.’
In spite of 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.
Again, Paul writes, “These things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” We want to briefly look at the examples that Paul gives so that we might learn from them. 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 revelry.’” The incident that Paul is referring to is when the people of Israel were waiting for Moses to come down from Mt. Sinai. When he took too long, they made a golden calf. Part of their worship of the golden calf was pagan revelry. They had a great big party. They ate and drank and got up to dance. They made a false god and worshiped it with a party.
Worship of the golden calf goes on today. Perhaps, we do not do so literally, but this type of activity goes on. It is so easy to get tired of waiting for Jesus to come back. We catch ourselves thinking that Jesus probably won’t come back today. He hasn’t returned in the past 2,000 plus years. Why would today be any different? As a result, we find ourselves enjoying all that this life has to offer. We go after the things of this world as being the most important things in our lives, whether it is possessions or family or a good time. Do we, at times, forget that Jesus is returning and that, out of love for him, we want to be living lives that worship him?
Another example for us is found in verse 8, “We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did — and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.” In this instance, the Israelites went over and enjoyed the sexual favors of the Moabite women. As a result, God told Moses to go through the camp and kill everyone involved. And kill he did, as 23,000 men were put to death in a single day.
History does repeat itself! With all of the living together, all of the divorce, and all of the pornography available in our society, does today’s Christian always take God’s Sixth Commandment seriously? Do we always remember God’s Word which tells us that our bodies are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit? Or is it so easy for us to become hardened by what we see and hear to think that it is not really a big deal?
Verses 9&10 deal with the same basic sin. “ We should not test Christ, 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 the first instance, the people challenged God’s patience, power, and faithfulness. As a result, God sent poisonous snakes into the Israelite camp and many died. In the second instance, the people complained about Moses’ leadership and God’s dealings with them. As a result, God opened the earth beneath them and they were swallowed up by it. The Israelites complained and grumbled against the Lord and his care for them. They were not satisfied with their situation in life.
Does this attitude show itself in our lives? Rather than being thankful for all that God has done for us, we show ingratitude. We grumble and complain about our situations in life. God isn’t doing this right. My life isn’t what I hoped it would be. We find it so easy to grumble and complain about or make fun of God’s representatives that he has placed over us, whether they are in the government, church, or home. How many times don’t we 21st century Christians put our God to the test?
“These things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” Just as the Israelites had all of the blessings of God, so have we. We know that God provides everything that we need for this life. We know that God sent Jesus into the world to be our Savior. In spite of all of the blessings, the Israelites took for granted all that God had done for them and they were lost. May the same never be said of us! Do not think that it cannot happen! Paul writes in 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!” Not to learn from the generations that preceded us, to ignore what former ages have to teach us about the wages of sin is foolishness. More than that, not to learn from the past history of God’s people is pure conceit. “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” To look at all of these warning examples and think, “That can’t happen to me,” is eternally dangerous. If we think that we don’t have these weaknesses is proof that we do. When we take pride in and elevate ourselves above others because we haven’t murdered, stolen, or fornicated, when we think that we don’t need church as much as some other people do, or that we can’t learn any more about God, then we are ready to be punished just like Israel. Paul tells all Christians that, if we think we can stand before God with what we are, we will fall from faith.
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. Jesus served as our substitute by going to the cross to pay for every one of our sins. The faithfulness of Jesus is on main display during this season of Lent. 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 of 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 of all, 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 you 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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