Summary: Many of us want to bypass trial and temptation - but God says there is no "Fast Pass" around difficulty. In fact, we need to learn from the mistakes of others in order to learn patience and the way to withstand temptation.
Recently I went to Disneyland. I’ve been there a number of times, but this time something was different. Instead of one line for each ride – many had two lines. While waiting for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – I watched in dismay as people walked right up to the front and got on what seemed like miles ahead of me. I felt like a second class person.
I learned their secret – it was something called a Fast Pass. You went to a kiosk and put in your ticket, and out came a Fast Pass with a time period for you to come back and go to the front of the line. I loved it! No more waiting – I felt like a special person, somehow exempt from the traditional waiting in line at Disneyland.
When it comes to maturing in our faith by undergoing hard times, or temptation – we also would love to be exempt. We want the joy, but not the trials that bring about true contentment by stripping us of everything except our need for God – which is all we really need anyway for true joy – and on and on.
Today Paul uses the example of the Jews to show Christians that no one is exempt – and in fact, trying to avoid difficulty can lead us away from God, not towards Him. Let’s begin by holding our place in Corinthians, and turning to Exodus chapter 13)
(turn to Exodus 13:20)
After escaping Egypt
:21 Pillar of cloud
:12 grumbling – wanted to go back
:19 pillar hid them from the Egyptians
:21 through the sea
17:5 Strike the rock, so they got water
32:5 After the law, the people created a false god and worshiped it
Numbers 13 (the people didn’t believe the spies, so they were excluded from the Promised Land)
The trouble with the Israelis was that they 1, trusted their judgment more than God’s, and 2, longed for the bad but known old life more than the promise of the new, unknown one.
In short, they loved the world more than the Lord. At every step they complained – “we’re going to die” “we’re thirsty” “we want to go back to Egypt” “we’re hungry” “we don’t like you Moses” “we are afraid of God”
What did they get for this unfaithfulness? Death for some, wandering in the desert for all. They saw God’s work, but were unable to receive all the blessings God had for them through their distrust.
So, back to Corinthians – let’s see how this plays out:
1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
Paul draws a line from the experience of Israel to the experience of the believer – rescued from sin, baptized into Jesus, taking communion which celebrates the body and blood of Christ – like the water that came out of the rock and the manna. Remember Jesus said: “Come unto me anyone that thirsts” and “I am the Bread of Life.”
Disobedience and not trusting in the Lord led Israel back into the desert and to death. And while God doesn’t kill the disobedient believer – if we act like the Israelis we too will experience dryness, and death.
Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
So why does Paul bring this up?
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
Learn from their mistakes, Paul says. We like to think “this won’t happen to me.” But it can and it does. Paul uses four categories of mistakes in his point:
7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did-and were killed by the destroying angel.