Summary: Though so often we start out with such good intentions, things happen in our life to trip us up from serving God. What are those things and how can we avoid them?
Paul has just gotten finished encouraging us to pursue our relationship with the Lord and our being used by Him in the furtherance of the gospel like we were competing for the Olympic games, or in a boxing match where winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing! It’s a “full speed ahead” mentality. But continuing the boat metaphor, there are two things that try to hinder our training and competing—logs in our path to put holes in us and slow us down or sink us (“the flesh”) and lights on a shore away from our destination that would pull us off from our intended direction called “temptations.”
In Chapter 10, though Paul seems to skip around a lot, but his main intention is to get us to cut away the anchor and set a true and straight course that will allow us to be used most effectively to bring His love story to a lost humanity.
Although Corinth was not a Jewish city, Paul appeals to those in the congregation that were Jewish, or to the spiritual Jewish roots of Gentiles who had been “grafted” into Israel (Romans 11:17 ).
Paul is bringing some of the rich history of Israel after the Exodus, and using it to symbolize what temptation and the flesh can do. Part of his point is that you cannot come to Christ and then ignore the relationship and live as one who never knew Him.
First he talks about the Jews as they set out from Egypt in Exodus 13:21-22 . As Israel departed, a pillar of cloud guided them by day and a pillar of fire by night.
In Chapter 14, that pillar of cloud separated the Jews from the Egyptian soldiers pursuing them the night before the crossed the Red Sea. The next day the Sea was split in two and the Jews walked across.
Being “baptized” into Moses basically speaks to the fact that all the Jews experienced this miracle together, and it led them to worship Yahweh for His deliverance. In the same way, all people who are “baptized” into Christ experience the deliverance of God through the salvation of Jesus Christ.
The “spiritual food and drink” he refers to is the manna (Exodus 16:4 ) and the water is what they got from striking the rock in Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:2-23 .� The idea of the “rock” following them is the idea of God’s provision for them on their journey. The fact that the “rock” was Jesus Christ connects Him to Yahweh in the Old Testament and is further evidence of the deity of Jesus.
God had done so much for the Jews: delivered them from bondage to slavery by miracles, providing a way through the Red Sea and providing sustenance for them on the journey through the wilderness. Despite this, however, the people openly rebelled against God on numerous occasions. In fact, of all those that left Egypt, only two: Joshua and Caleb, actually entered the Promised Land (Numbers 14 ).
The tendency for someone who becomes a believer is that the gravity of temptation and flesh will tend to draw us back into its orbit. The desire for evil is still in us. In Romans 7:18 Paul says “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my flesh.” More than trying to be perfect by avoiding certain things, we should pray that God would take away our desire to do evil. Now Paul gives us some specific examples to illustrate his point.
This story comes from Exodus 32 . While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law, the people noticed he was delayed. Aaron then invited them to give him their gold and he would fashion a calf to be their god instead of Yahweh. He said “because this Moses … we don’t know what has happened to him!” Isn’t it an interesting parallel that today people wonder what happened to Jesus who has not returned in 2,000 years?
So the people called a feast and in verse 6 it says “The people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to revel.” When Moses returned down the mountain he was so upset he broke the tablets, ground the gold calf into powder and made the people drink it. Verse 25 says “Moses saw that the people were out of control.” The sons of Levi responded to Moses’ call and 3,000 men were executed for their rebellion that day.
What do we get out of this? The calf represented the way of worshipping prior to knowing Yahweh—going back to worshipping the calf like they did in Egypt. For us this might be going back to the same philosophies we used to rely on before we came to know Christ.