The warning from the desert

1 Corinthians 10:1–13

Paul is writing to the Corinthians with a warning.

To illustrate the danger they are in, Paul reminds them of what happened to the Hebrews in the desert after God had rescued them from slavery. The Hebrews are a warning and an example of what not to do. Paul wants us to learn from them.

In Paul’s mind this is not some random example, the Hebrews in the desert are the ancestors of the Christians in Corinth. The link is direct and close. This is despite most of the Corinthian Christians being in fact Gentiles. Paul is using a story of a people chosen by God to teach another group of people who have been chosen by God. Even though you have been especially selected by God, you can still go badly astray.

If you do go badly astray, it won’t help that you are special to God and that he has given you all kinds of privileges. You will face destruction just like anyone else.

The two problems are the same for both groups. Porn and paganism. Immorality and idol worship. ‘Porno’ is the Greek word for immorality. Pornography is images of immorality. Don’t we struggle still today with these same two problems? So we also need to learn from the Christians in Corinth and the Hebrews in the desert.

Paul parallels salvation in the first exodus and salvation in Jesus to show that salvation does not prevent one from falling. He says one group was baptised into Moses, and we are baptised into Jesus. The Jewish people of the day were waiting for a new exodus led by a new Moses. They were waiting for the Messiah to lead them out of slavery and into heaven.

The Christians in Corinth seem to have been proud that they were saved. They seem to have thought that because they celebrated Holy Communion, as we did last week, that they were safe from all danger.

Paul pricks that bubble quickly. He notes that the Hebrews passed through the Red Sea in a form of baptism. That they ate sacred manna and water given by God. In verse five he says: “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”

Taking part in the Lord’s Supper does not protect us from this danger. We are warned that if we open ourselves up to porn or paganism, we will be destroyed. You are not protected.

Do you remember who it was who told Eve in the Garden of Eden that if she ate the fruit she would not die? Of course, it was Satan. He is still telling the same lie to anyone who will listen.

Many of God’s chosen people were destroyed. In verse eight we are reminded how 23,000 died in one day because they indulged in porn. Don’t be like them, Paul urges the Corinthians.

Paul says the Hebrews craved evil things. We must not crave evil things.

What are some of their evil cravings? We can find the answer in Numbers 11. They complained and wanted better food than the sacred manna that God had given them. Instead of God’s spiritual food, they wanted meat. Just as they had once eaten in God’s presence, verse seven says they began to eat with idols.

The Corinthians had the bread of life, the living manna that is Jesus. They had the true bread that came down from heaven. They craved more. They attended pagan feasts. They engaged in immoral actions. They lusted after flesh.

Be warned, if you entertain evil ideas you will also face destruction.

Verse nine, don’t put Christ to the test. Penalty, death from snakebites.

Verse ten, don’t grumble. Penalty, death by a visit from the angel of death. The angel of death is the angel who visited every home in Egypt, passing over those homes marked by passover blood, and killing every first-born child.

Verse eleven. These things “were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”

The Corinthians were in as much danger as the Hebrews in the desert. Do you think you are safe? No, this warning is for us to. We also are in grave danger.

Verse thirteen makes it clear. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.” The Hebrews, the Corinthians, and us, we all have the same temptations. Your temptations are not special, different or unique. The penalty if you give in is no different either.

Paul also tells us that God ‘will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.’ There is no excuse for giving in. You can never blame the temptation and say it was too much. Scripture takes that excuse away right here. We cannot say that Satan made us do it.

That is what Eve tried to do in the Garden of Eden, but God rejected that excuse. He made her take the responsibility along with Adam.

Satan holds up the apple in front of you, but the evil desire to eat the apple comes from inside you. Satan doesn’t force anyone to eat the apple. You may then say that you were dying of hunger and you weren’t strong enough to resist.

The Bible says that is not true. It says you are always strong enough to resist. No excuses. The devil didn’t make you do it. You did it because you wanted to. The devil provided the opportunity. The devil reminded you.

In verse four, Paul says all of the Hebrews drank from the same spiritual rock that travelled with them. He is linking the water from the rock to Jesus or to God. He is saying that at all times in the desert God was with his people and giving them life.

Jewish myths say that the actual rock moved around the desert, but other sources say only that at every stop in the desert God miraculously supplied water. Marah, Massah and Meribah were only three among many.

God does not and cannot tempt. God blesses. He gives spiritual food and drink. He is patient.

He doesn’t allow any greater temptation than you can bear. If you are tempted, it means you can endure it and grow. God has promised. If you don’t endure, it isn’t God’s fault. It’s yours.

Do you have porn in your life, then you are experiencing the normal temptations all of us have experienced since the Hebrews wandered in the desert. That isn’t an excuse. It will kill you just as it killed them.

Do you have idols in your life? Could you have false gods? Superstition maybe. Your smart phone perhaps. Your looks or your intelligence, your education or your career, your marriage or your children. That’s been normal since the Hebrews were rescued by God from Egypt. It got them killed and it will get you killed.

What should we do any time immorality or idols creep into our lives? God says we have the strength to resist them. And Paul suggests the best thing is to turn away from them. Turn the other way. Don’t look. Don’t touch. Put down that magazine. Turn off that video. Stop playing that game. Always be alert and careful.

Verse twelve: “If you think you are standing strong, be careful.”

Paul says the easiest way to deal with temptation is to run away. You see something, and you feel the temptation rising inside you, then look away. Run away. Flee. Because this is a warning sign to you that you are in imminent danger of death.

The best protection is to run away. Compromise will kill you. You will die if you entertain evil desires. Don’t entertain them. Turn to God.

Amen 아멘

About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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