Living By Faith
Today, we embark on a journey of faith, following Israel's march from Egypt to the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses. This course of study deals with many topics, such as: excuses, self-image, personal separation, trials, salvation, choices, the Holy Spirit, baptism, bitter experiences, the Word of God, flesh vs. Spirit, godly counsel, legalism, God's will, submission, complaining, faith vs. sight, spiritual gifts, rebellion, unbelief, depression, and victorious Christian living.
The study is so exhaustive we could devote a lifetime to it. Obviously, we will skip lightly over some areas to finish in a timely fashion. The purpose, though, is to teach faith living. Hence we will take the time necessary to achieve that end.
To properly understand this Old Testament teaching, we must begin our investigation in the New Testament in I Corinthians 10. We will divide this first lesson into three parts: the four events, the five sins and the two applications.
I.) The Four Events (Vs. 1-5):
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
--In these first five verses, we find four events which took place in Israel's past: baptism in the cloud, baptism in the sea, eating of spiritual food, and drinking of spiritual drink. All four occurred during Israel's time in the wilderness (vs.5).
--Paul speaking to Gentile believers said, "I do not want you to be ignorant of these things."(vs.1) He then refers to the Israelites as" our fathers". The word "our" is plural. Paul did not just mean himself. They are the fathers of the Corinthians and even us in the sense that they represent a type of our Christian experience.
--Next, notice that the word "all" is used five times in five verses. Understand that a whole body of elect people were led by God.
--They were led, but were not pleasing to Him (vs.5). Many in the church today do not please God. Why? Two reasons:
1.) Mixed multitude--believer and unbeliever
2.) Compromise--saved but trying to straddle the fence
--Finally, the latter part of verse five closes in stark contrast to the first four verses. The four events are incredible and miraculous, but turn to disaster in verse five. The Greek word "overthrown" is the same from which we get our word "catastrophe." The amazing journey became what one man called "the world's longest funeral march."
--Paul was writing to a group of carnal (I Corinthians 3:3), self-indulging Christians who thought they were spiritual and he said, "I do not want you to be ignorant about this."
II.) The Five Sins (Vs. 6-10):
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
--Verse six tells us why these events are so important: "These things were our examples." "Examples" is the Greek word "tupos" from which we get our word "type". The things which happened to Israel were a type or pattern of our Christian experience. More importantly, they were recorded for an intent or purpose. God does not want us to repeat the sins of Israel. What were those sins? They are listed as:
1.) Lusting after evil things (vs.6)
--The reference is to Numbers 11:5-6, where Israel lusted after leeks and garlic. These are not inherently evil, but they become evil when we want what we do not need and God has not chosen to supply. Lust is simply a strong desire. We can have a strong desire for food, money, water, sex, power, etc. If we allow these desires to control our lives, they will lead to sin and death (James 1:15). Instead, we need to learn contentment and thanksgiving (I Timothy 6:6, I Thessalonians 5:18).
2.) Idolatry (vs.7)
--The quotation is found in Exodus 32:6, where Moses came down from the mount and found the golden calf. What does eating, drinking, and rising up to play have to do with idolatry?
--Basically, people invent their own gods so that they can do as they please. Many professing Christians have invented a god they call Jehovah that allows them to stay home and do whatever.
3.) Fornication (vs.8)
--The reference is to Numbers 25:1-9, where the daughters of Moab lured the young men of Israel into idolatry via sex. Sex is a strong lure used by the devil to corrupt and defile. In 1987, I read that there were 26 sexually transmitted diseases. In 1989, it was 37. The last count I heard was 66. The most significant diseases of our time are related to fornication.
4.) Testing Christ (vs.9)
--In Numbers 21:6-9, Israel tempted or tested Christ by loathing the manna that God provided. Christ is the Bread of life, and it was He that they despised (John 6:48).. Christians do the same thing when they say, "That Bible is just too boring to read." We should be careful, because those who did not respect the manna died by the serpent. Christians can fall prey to the serpent as well.
5.) Murmuring (vs.10)
--The text refers to Numbers 14:2, where Israel murmured. The consequence is found in Numbers 14:35, where God condemned a whole generation to die in the wilderness. Which of these sins is the worst? Murmuring is the worst. The other sins claimed thousands of lives, but this one condemned a whole generation. It is probably the singe most destructive sin that can infect a church.
--Notice the downward spiral: First, there is lust and the fleshly craving for wants, which leads to idolatry and a god who will say it is okay to fulfill our lusts. This results in fornication, which is the satisfaction of a physical lust. This, in turn, causes us to despise God's Word because it rebukes our sin. Finally, we murmur against God and His servants because they constantly remind us of the sin. Down, down, down we go until we die. "But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:57)."
III.) The Two Applications (Vs. 11-13):
--In verse 11, Paul reiterates that "all these things happened unto them for examples." Furthermore, they are recorded for our admonition. This is verbal instruction. If we do not heed it, there remains corporal discipline. God want us to learn from their mistakes. There are two lessons:
1.) Humility (vs.12)
--We need to recognize that we are all too often like Israel. We have a sin nature just as they did. We fail much like they did. If we are anything at all, it is but by the grace of God.
2.) Faithfulness (vs.13)
--We must learn faithfulness, and the promises in this verse can help. There are four things to observe:
*Common to man--(Greek: anthropinos) human problems
-Our problems are just human in nature and not unique to us.
*God is faithful
-Israel murmured but God provided. The griping only brought consequences.
*We are able--(Greek: dunamai/ dynamite)
-God gives us the resources to face our problems. We just need to use them.
*God makes the way out--(escape is better translated way out)
-It is not flight, but might. He gives us the strength to endure, until the victory is ours.
--Verse 13 teaches that Israel's experience in the wilderness is such a complete type or pattern of our Christian experience that there is no temptation that we can undergo that they did not already face in type. (see also I John 2:15-17 and Matthew 4:1-11; compare Hebrews 4:15).
--The only conclusion we can draw is this:
The wilderness is God's discipleship course.
--Next lesson: Egypt (Exodus 1)