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New Testament Letters

1 Corinthians, Chapter 10, Lessons from the Exodus

INTRODUCTION: Paul wanted the Corinthians to always give thanks for the blessings of being called by God, and to avoid being easily caught up in doing things that are displeasing or forbidden by the LORD. He used the writings of Moses for a Scriptural basis, to show the consequences of the repeated failure of the chosen children of Israel to trust the LORD who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt by miracles. As Paul presented several ways Israel had been set apart, he said the rock that provided water for them was Christ. Israel had been exposed to the Egyptian culture for many generations, and some of them held on to Godless desires. A culture like that of Corinth, could likewise present many temptations to the readers of Paulís letter. Is there any pure culture around the world in our day?

NOTE: All Scripture is from the Bible in Basic English.


A - ISRAEL HAD UNIQUE BLESSINGS WHEN CALLED OUT OF EGYPT

1 Corinthians 10 "1 For it is my desire, my brothers, that you may keep in mind how all our fathers were under the cloud, and they all went through the sea; 2 And they all had baptism from Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And they all took the same holy food; 4 And the same holy drink: for they all took of the water from the holy rock which came after them: and the rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not pleased: for they came to their end in the waste land. 6 Now these things were for an example to us, so that our hearts might not go after evil things, as they did."

COMMENTS: Paul began preaching about Jesus in the synagogue at Corinth, where the common practice would have been regular reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, which Paul also used to prove Jesus to be the Christ. When the unbelieving Jews became hostile, Paul and his followers met in another place. The readers of his letter who had received his teaching for about eighteen months would have been familiar with the Scripture references Paul used. He began with the unique provisions from God that had set apart the children of Israel as they left slavery in Egypt and were being prepared to enter the Promised Land. Paul wanted his readers (which has now included many more over the centuries) to avoid the blatant conduct Israel displayed before the LORD. Even though true belief in Christ Jesus brings freedom from the bondage of sin unto death; the many temptations of pleasures in the world can lead those who profess faith, to stray from trusting and following in the ways of the LORD.

Exodus 14 "19 Then the angel of God, who had been before the tents of Israel, took his place at their back; and the pillar of cloud, moving from before them, came to rest at their back: 20 And it came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel; and there was a dark cloud between them, and they went on through the night; but the one army came no nearer to the other all the night."

Verse 30 below indicates that Israel had "faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses." However, that "faith" proved to be short-lived for some of the people. Exodus 14 "26 And the Lord said to Moses, Let your hand be stretched out over the sea, and the waters will come back again on the Egyptians, and on their war-carriages and on their horsemen. 27 And when Mosesí hand was stretched out over the sea, at dawn the sea came flowing back, meeting the Egyptians in their flight, and the Lord sent destruction on the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. 28 And the waters came back, covering the war-carriages and the horsemen and all the army of Pharaoh which went after them into the middle of the sea; not one of them was to be seen. 29 But the children of Israel went through the sea walking on dry land, and the waters were a wall on their right side and on their left. 30 So that day the Lord gave Israel salvation from the hands of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seaís edge. 31 And Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done against the Egyptians, and the fear of the Lord came on the people and they had faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses."

Centuries later another prophet of God wrote about a persistent lack of trust in the LORD by Israel. This is an inherent part of the nature of all mankind throughout all times, and it can only be overcome with inner strength from the LORD. . Isaiah 40 "27 Why do you say, O Jacob, such words as these, O Israel, The Lordís eyes are not on my way, and my God gives no attention to my cause? 28 Have you no knowledge of it? Has it not come to your ears? The eternal God, the Lord, the Maker of the ends of the earth, is never feeble or tired; there is no searching out of his wisdom. 29 He gives power to the feeble, increasing the strength of him who has no force. 30 Even the young men will become feeble and tired, and the best of them will come to the end of his strength; 31 But those who are waiting for the Lord will have new strength; they will get wings like eagles: running, they will not be tired, and walking, they will have no weariness."


B - DO NOT GO AFTER FALSE GODS, OR DESIRES APART FROM GOD

1 Corinthians 10 "7 Then do not go after false gods, as some of them did; as it is said in the holy Writings, after resting and feasting, the people got up to take their pleasure. 8 Again, let us not give way to the desires of the flesh, as some of them did, of whom twenty-three thousand came to their end in one day. 9 And let us not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did, and came to their death by snakes. 10 And do not say evil things against the Lord, as some of them did, and destruction overtook them. 11 Now these things were done as an example; and were put down in writing for our teaching, on which the last days have come. 12 So let him who seems to himself to be safe go in fear of a fall."

COMMENTS: Paul used the factual example of many who suffered the wrath of God because they despised the LORD and did not remain separated from the ways of the world. They had been part of the body known as the children of Israel brought out of slavery in Egypt for the glory of God. Paul next wrote of the continuing present time as the last days, when the call of God is not limited to Israel alone. Now salvation in the LORD is open to every people group around the world to become children of God. Since some of the chosen people miraculously brought out of Egypt did not faithfully honor God; every person must take that wilderness lesson to heart, and not trust only in being part of a group of worshippers. As Paul said, "So let him who seems to himself to be safe go in fear of a fall." That fear must prevent confidence in personal righteousness from displacing the only true righteousness: which is received from God by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

Exodus 24 "1 And he said to Moses, Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, and Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the chiefs of Israel; and give me worship from a distance. 2 And Moses only may come near to the Lord; but the others are not to come near, and the people may not come up with them. 3 Then Moses came and put before the people all the words of the Lord and his laws: and all the people, answering with one voice, said, Whatever the Lord has said we will do. 4 Then Moses put down in writing all the words of the Lord, and he got up early in the morning and made an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel."

Anyone who makes a profession of faith in Christ, but consistently follows the ways of the world, may become deprived of entering the Promised Land as were those judged by God in the wilderness. From Exodus 24 verse 3 above, "all the people, answering with one voice, said, Whatever the Lord has said we will do." But many did not keep that pledge, and the LORD did not ignore their disobedience. That record in Scripture should be a personal reminder for each believer to be serious about avoiding the things in our own lives that are contrary to following the Word of the LORD.


C - GOD PROVIDES A WAY OF ESCAPE FOR TRIALS COMMON TO MAN

1 Corinthians 10 "13 You have been put to no test but such as is common to man: and God is true, who will not let any test come on you which you are not able to undergo; but he will make with the test a way out of it, so that you may be able to go through it. 14 For this cause, my dear brothers, give no worship to false gods. 15 What I am saying is for wise men, do you be the judges of it. 16 The cup of blessing which we take, does it not give us a part in the blood of Christ? And is not the broken bread a taking part in the body of Christ? 17 Because we, being a number of persons, are one bread, we are one body: for we all take part in the one bread."

COMMENTS: Some of the extreme difficulties and trials that we face as Christians may seem extraordinary to us, but Paul said they are all common to mankind. The great encouragement for the believer is that our God is faithful and true to enable us to undergo each test, and provide a way to pass through it. Since The LORD has this prepared for those who believe, Paul said those who are wise will avoid any type of worship to false gods. When Christians share in a communion service, the cup represents the sacrifice of the life blood of Christ atoning for our sin, and the bread represents the earthly body given over to death to allow new life in the risen Christ. Therefore, all Christians are now together in one spiritual body in our Savior.


D - EATING FOOD OFFERED TO AN IDOL CAN REPRESENT IDOL WORSHIP

1 Corinthians 10 "18 See Israel after the flesh: do not those who take as food the offerings of the altar take a part in the altar? 19 Do I say, then, that what is offered to images is anything, or that the image is anything? 20 What I say is that the things offered by the Gentiles are offered to evil spirits and not to God; and it is not my desire for you to have any part with evil spirits. 21 It is not possible for you, at the same time, to take the cup of the Lord and the cup of evil spirits; you may not take part in the table of the Lord and the table of evil spirits. 22 Or may we be the cause of envy to the Lord? Are we stronger than he?"

COMMENTS: For many centuries while the Jews were in the Promised Land it was common for the people of God to offer animal sacrifices in the defined manner to the true and living God. But the followers of false religions of many nations also sacrificed to idols with detestable variations. By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, pagan idol worship was widespread, while the practice and influence of Jewish worship of the true God had greatly diminished; and Israel was in the midst of other cultures, under the rule of the pagan Romans. Food offered to idols was widely available, and Paul wanted the Corinthians to have discernment about keeping a clear distinction for the ordinance of communion. Paul said when Gentiles offer to idols they are actually giving honor to evil spirits and not to God. Christians cannot take part in the table of the Lord, and also take part in anything representing honor to evil spirits because the LORD will not ignore this.


E - CONSIDER TO DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD

1 Corinthians 10 "23 We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good. 24 Let a man give attention not only to what is good for himself, but equally to his neighbourís good. 25 Whatever meat may be had at the public market, take as food without question of right or wrong; 26 For the earth is the Lordís and all things in it. 27 If a Gentile makes a feast for you, and you are pleased to go as a guest, take whatever is put before you, without question of right or wrong. 28 But if anyone says to you, This food has been used as an offering, do not take it, on account of him who said it, and on account of his sense of right and wrong: 29 Right and wrong, I say, not for you, but for the other man; for the fact that I am free is not dependent on another manís sense of right or wrong. 30 But if I give praise to God for the food which I take, let no man say evil of me for that reason. 31 So then, if it is a question of food or drink, or any other thing, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no cause of trouble to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God. 33 Even as I give way to all men in all things, not looking for profit for myself, but for the good of others, that they may get salvation."

COMMENTS: Christians have freedom in Christ, but there are things that are not wise to do, and things not for the common good. As part of the body of Christ, we need to consistently consider what we do as part of the corporate body. In Corinth meat sold in the market may have been associated with idol worship, but it could be purchased with a clear conscience knowing that everything in the earth is from the LORD. The same approach would apply if a believer was the guest of a Gentile: food could be eaten without hesitation unless specifically designated as an offering to an idol. If that happened, it would be important to make a stand for the LORD because the Gentile would otherwise not know the true and living God is alone worthy of worship.

Paul told the Corinthians not to criticize a fellow Christian who gave praise to God for the food without questioning the source, while the guest of a Gentile. With food or drink, or other matters, the goal should be to do all to the glory of God. This applies to relations with Jews, Gentiles, and even within the body of Christ. Paul was not seeking his own benefit from relationships, but desired to see others come to salvation in Christ.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome with similar guidance. Romans 12 "15 Take part in the joy of those who are glad, and in the grief of those who are sorrowing. 16 Be in harmony with one another. Do not have a high opinion of yourselves, but be in agreement with common people. Do not give yourselves an air of wisdom. 17 Do not give evil for evil to any man. Let all your business be well ordered in the eyes of all men. 18 As far as it is possible for you be at peace with all men."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I ask that you open my heart to apply Paulís reminder of the provisions directly from your hand which set apart your chosen people freed from bondage in Egypt. Even though they saw great miracles, they allowed immediate desires to turn their hearts away from a promised land that must have seemed too far off. Give me the desire Lord, to regularly read and study your Word to renew my confidence in your promise of eternal life, as I seek your strength to live by your commandments. Thank you, Lord, for providing ways for believers to escape from trials that are common to all of mankind. Some of those trials may come as I try to be aware to avoid any appearance of idol worship. I want to be careful to give all glory to my Lord and Savior in genuine humility. Amen.

Published 20 May 2018