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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
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This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Last week our Apostle Paul used the Exodus generation as an illustration to warn the Corinthian saints (and Believers today) that spiritual privileges provide the basis for success, but no guarantees are included with those gifts.
No one should read into this that those Israelites, who were saved and yet died in the wilderness, not only fell out of favor with the LORD God but also lost their salvation. There isn’t a hint of this in Scripture. Although the subject of a person’s salvation in the O.T. is not as clear-cut as it is in the Dispensation of Grace, ultimately, their salvation was based on one’s faith in what God had said.
One of the best examples of this from Scripture is Abram’s response to the LORD God’s call to be the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3; 15). He was living at a time when the world did not know God, paganism was running rampant, and idolatry was practiced by everyone including Abram’s father. In the midst of all this: Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as (what) righteous because of his (what) faith (in what the LORD God had communicated to him) (Genesis 15:6).
Similarly, when the Exodus Generation, smeared the lamb’s blood on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal, at twilight, on the night of the first Passover, demonstrating faith in what the LORD God had said, this is a picture of salvation from an O.T. perspective (Exodus 12:23-28). These Israelites were saved; they just didn’t act like it, which is Paul’s point (Deuteronomy 23:14; Psalm 106:8-12; Jude 1:5).
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 10:6
Our Apostle Paul had said: For everything that was written in the past (speaking of the O.T., was not written to the church – but) was written for our learning (Romans 15:4). Then at verse 11 he basically says the same thing: Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for (what) our instruction…
- As Israel was “under the cloud,” Believers experience God’s protection and guidance, if they pursue God.
- As Israel “passed through the Red Sea,” Believers have passed from death to life (John 5:24).
- As that generation was baptized into Moses, all Believers are baptized into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
- In the same way Israel ate the spiritual food, Believers celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
- As the LORD God’s covenant with true Israel was an everlasting covenant, likewise Jesus Christ declared I give eternal life to them (that believe), and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).
In verses 6-10 Paul wisely draws the Corinthians (and us) into this sad recount, to make it “real,” and relates a collective warning by summarizing five stories from Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, which shows a repetitious pattern of disqualification. He does this because the Corinthians, as does every Believer, stand accountable for every thought, word, and deed (Matthew 15:18-20; Romans 2:14-16; Galatians 5:19-21), just as the Exodus generation did, before God (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Now let’s read through these “do not” do verses before we discuss them.
1 Corinthians 10
6: Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved (they became greedy).
7: Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.”
8: Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
9: Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
10: Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
We’ve already seen that the Exodus generation experienced great spiritual privileges but most were not “content” with the LORD God’s blessings; they were always complaining and desiring something they didn’t have – they wanted something else.
I was watching a youngster at play the other day. The living room was littered with toys, puzzles, and books, but he lost interest in all these items and left the room seeking something “else” to occupy his time. He saw his brother playing with a toy in another room and he decided he “wanted” that toy to play with, so he took it away from him, causing quite a commotion. Before people dismiss this example saying, “They’re only children…” let us briefly consider, as adults, don’t we have a problem with the concept of “Blooming where we’re planted?” An individual is passed-over for a job promotion or a desired position with the company and suddenly they don’t feel appreciated; they feel undervalued by their superior. Consequently, the repercussion is hardly positive on their emotions and their work ethic moving forward. Isn’t it also true, as adults, don’t we desire a “new car, SUV, or truck,” even though the one we have is functional? Don’t we desire “a larger home with a pool, “a new life-partner, probably much younger than the one currently in residence, and 36-24-36 proportionately, if you’re a male” or “a new wardrobe with shoes to match...” – this list is almost endless.
In light of eternity, which each Believer possesses right now, what difference does it make if our neighbor has any of these things, or if we gain something “else” that we want, but don’t necessarily need? This isn’t our home; we’re merely here for a time, until the Lord comes for us. These things will be forgotten then, but for now Paul wants us to know that craving evil things may keep us from finishing our race well.
Paul points out in the verses above the Exodus generation also experienced great spiritual failure with the intention of showing all Believers there’s a danger that they too may fall into sin (backslide) just like Israel and be disqualified from receiving their future reward(s) – The Imperishable Crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-25); The Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19); The Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8); The Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:4); The Crown of Life (Revelation 2:10).
Paul gives us the key to understanding the source of their rebellion; in “trying” the LORD God and “testing” Him in verse 6: they craved evil things or lusted after things of the flesh; and the God of their fathers granted them their desires.
One episode took place one year after their departure from Egypt. Israel had been given the Law, they had built the Tabernacle, and they were well on their way to the Promised Land; all high points in their spiritual relationship building process, wouldn’t you say? But Paul said they craved evil things – they were “fixated” upon something “else.” This describes a condition of the heart or mind; a condition of greed. Another word for greed is lust. They adopted the well-worn world’s ideology of “what have you done for me lately syndrome,” and lusted after these things, demonstrating their ingratitude or ungratefulness.
There’s a chance the paragraph above disturbed your conscience, please know God intended for that to happen: For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
What were these evil things? Would you believe fresh vegetables and meat? The Israelites were complaining about the manna and wanted to return to Egypt where there was fish, fresh cucumbers and melons, leeks and onions, and garlic (Numbers 11). I guess they overlooked the fact that while they were in Egypt they were slaves and had no future except a certain death in Pharaoh’s mud pits.
By this Paul infers the Corinthians should not lust after or desire the things of the world in a general sense. There’s nothing inherently evil about fish, cucumbers, or onions folks so please don’t miss God’s point. It was their attitude of ungratefulness; they acted like spoiled children, complaining and crying in their tents for things they didn’t have. This is worldliness which led them to sin and disqualification – they did not enter God’s rest (Hebrews 3:19; 1 John 2:15-17).
Let’s look at verses 7-10 now.
Paul wrote: Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” This incident took place during the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. Moses spent forty days up on the mountain receiving instructions and commandments from the LORD God. Down below the Israelites reverted to their old ways, provoking the God of their fathers to jealousy (Exodus 20:5). Barely out of Egypt, with Moses and the LORD God up on Mount Sinai conducting spiritual business, THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY. With the assistance of Moses brother, Aaron, they constructed a golden calf, and not only bowed down to it, but committed all kinds of idolatrous behavior in front of it (Exodus 32).
This comment taken right from the O.T. should have made the Corinthians sit-up and take notice because “idolatry” was a common practice in Corinth, Greece. The Believers there thought they could return to or keep on doing what they’d been doing all along for some were in effect saying, “I know my rights; I can attend the temple festivals and celebrate with those folks. I can go to all those social gatherings after the sacrifice has been offered and rub shoulders with the prominent social elite too.” However, Paul addresses this mindset in his letter saying, “You can’t do both of these things. You can’t come to the Lord’s table and the table of demons” for the Gentiles sacrificed to demons and not to God (v20). They were attending these social events and participating in evil things that belonged to the god of this world.
The Exodus Generation STOOD UP TO PLAY, meaning they literally engaged in an idol-related kind of orgy, at the scene of the golden calf. They were out of control (v25); committing a great sin (v31) and because they acted immorally, twenty-three thousand fell in one day (1 Corinthians 10:8).
You’d think they’d learn something from the LORD God’s righteous judgment, but hey, people are people aren’t they? Today’s life-lessons are all but soon forgotten… In verse 9 Paul cites another example from the Exodus Generation with this statement: Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents (Numbers 21:5, 6-20).
What does it mean to try the Lord? I’m glad you asked. When you were a child, did you at any time “push” your parents to see how far you could go “to get your way” before they lowered the boom on you? Didn’t you take it all the way to the very edge, if necessary, to get that candy bar at the grocery check-out line, or that pretty outfit in the store? Sure you did; we all did at one time or another. We pushed mom or dad to see how much they would tolerate whether we realized this is what we were doing or not. Most of us took it to the extreme edge of their set boundary before backing down. Sometimes we exceeded their set limit and we were punished for our rebelliousness.
Well, the Israelites “pushed” or tried the LORD God’s patience too. But God has said: ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’ (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7b), and He said we shouldn’t test our parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2). When Jesus Christ spoke these words He directed them to the father of lies, Satan himself, during His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4).
The Israelites’ persistent complaining tested the LORD God, even though He faithfully provided for their needs: The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food” (Numbers 21:5). Because of their ungratefulness God destroyed many people of Israel with serpents (Numbers 21:6b).
When you get right down to it, the problem with the Exodus Generation was their lack of faith in the LORD God. Their arguing, their persistent complaining, their poor attitudes, and their rebellious nature all emerged from their inability to believe God. So, the LORD God sent fiery serpents to bite His people. This was an attention-getter. It was God’s judgment upon those who honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me (Isaiah 29:13 – NLT). He provided a life-giving remedy for those who had been bitten by the snakes, if they believed what He said: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”
(Numbers 21:7-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The last disqualifying story on Paul’s list which the Exodus Generation practiced was complaining. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer (v10 – Numbers 16:49). The word grumble in the Greek language is Gogguzo (pronounced: gong-good’-zo), a Verb, and it means – to murmur, mutter, say anything in low tones discontently, to complain - (Strong’s Greek #1111). It means the people were dissatisfied with the God of their fathers and Moses and verbalized it.
Exodus 16:2 says the whole assembly grumbled, murmured, and complained against the LORD God. They sat in judgment of God and the way He managed things. In Numbers 16 we have the account of 14,700 people dying because of this. They were killed by the destroyer (Numbers 16:41-50). This was the Judgment Angel; he was the one who slew the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 11). This was the Angel of Death (2 Samuel 24; 2 Chronicles 32).
The rebellious attitude of the Exodus Generation may be summed up by this: complaining, daring to live life on the edge, idolatry, worldliness, and above all UNBELIEF. These five stories from Israel’s past reflect their self-centeredness, a lack of self-control, and a lack of godly pursuits. These folks abused their spiritual privileges by standing up to play with man-made idols, flirting with the world and its wrongful morals, pushing God beyond His limits, which triggered His righteous judgments, ultimately disqualifying them.
How many people see the USA, a country founded on biblical principles, doing the very same thing? Just curious…
Proverbs 4:23 states: Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. This verse teaches us the heart includes the mind and all that proceeds from it. Someone once said, when we commit sin, we commit sin twice, once in our thoughts and again we when we act upon those thoughts. We stand a better chance of ridding our lives of sin if we attack it at its source, the mind and the heart, rather than waiting for it to become rooted in our lives, and then try to remove it (Matthew 15:18-20; Luke 10:27).
Pursue God by being in the Word regularly so that when a sinful thought enters your mind (a temptation) you will be able to recognize it for what it is and take the proper action. Do not feed your minds with those things which promote sinful thoughts, i.e. conversations, magazines, movies, T.V. programs, videos, websites, and situations that will set you up for a fall. Avoid spending time with those people who will encourage you down the wrong path or at least learn to say, “No, thank you.” Remember, you have “put on the Lord Jesus Christ; make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14).
In verses 11-12 Paul writes: Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (meaning: the last dispensation; that period when God will wrap up the divine affairs of the world). Therefore let him (or her) who thinks he (or she) stands take heed that he (or she) does not fall.
The arrogance and boasting of the Corinthian factions were a major problem, and the church of today is not that different for Paul writes - …they (Israel) were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either (Romans 11:20-21).
God has and will judge His people: For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us (Believers) first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? (1 Peter 4:17-19) Meaning, those who are in Christ Jesus must continue to exercise diligence (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
(To be continued)
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