Summary: Do you know what the ultimate idol is? Paul gives us some insight into this. We might not like the answer!
The Ultimate Idol
October 20, 2001
In life, we sometimes talk about what is ‘ultimate’ in many different fields. You might speak of the ultimate ice cream, or the ultimate chocolate. You might have a place, which is, for you, the ultimate restaurant, or have the ultimate dish that you enjoy. You might have an ultimate vacation spot or camping spot. We might think of the ultimate war, as we’re into war these days. At camp, one of some of the campers’ favourite games is called ‘ultimate Frisbee’- they want to play it every year, at least once, much as they like to play soccer in the rain, at least once each camp.
Ultimate speaks of what is the top, the most, the greatest, sometimes the best, but not always.
Today, we’ll consider the ultimate idol. Do you know what it is? Well, we can allow scripture to reveal this to us. What is the top, the greatest, the most, not the best, idol?
Let’s consider, together, 1 Corinthians 10. One subject of this chapter is the ultimate idol!
Paul takes the people back to ancient Israel, in this discussion. I believe something is worth noting, considering that the church at Corinth was composed of both Jews and Gentile Greeks. In the first verse, in speaking about this ancient history, he speaks to the Gentile Greeks, as to the Jewish members of the church about ‘our fathers’. This tells us something about the relevance of the OT to all Christians and that Paul understood this rather clearly. When we enter Christianity, no matter what our paternity or cultural heritage, we enter into the family of the people of God which is a spiritual family back to Christ, but a physical family back before Christ. But it’s all our family. This is just an interesting point it seems to me.
In the first four verses, Paul outlines most incredible experiences that ancient Israel experienced.
- Were under the cloud- Exod. 13.21- this is the cloud of God’s presence and protection.
- Passed through the sea- Exod. 14. 22- this was an obvious miraculous intervention by God. There was no other answer.
- Were baptized together into Moses, in type, at least, through passing across the Red Sea.
- Ate the same spiritual meat- Exod. 16. 15, 35. God fed them for 40 years- with manna, water, and quail! They ate the food of the angels- one passage speaks of manna as being angels’ food (Ps. 78. 25).
- Drank water that was spiritually and miraculously provided- Exod. 17.6.
Just think of all that these people experienced. Just think of what it would be like to have been there. Have you ever been in some situation where you knew, felt, and experienced the presence of God? How about being in the presence of a miracle of God? What would it have been like to be directly fed, each day, by God, and to know it? Or imagine having seen water given to you as the result of prayer and speaking to a rock! I can’t imagine more tangible evidences of God’s presence and can only imagine that this would be what many of us might call, today ‘mountain-top experiences’! How could it get any better? What more could God do than what He did? Just imagine if this all happened today and you were involved. What would this do to you in your relationship with God? I’m sure I’d be driven to simply basking in the presence of God and would absolutely enjoy God’s presence and His actions expressing love toward me, as well as toward the others that were around me. I know how I’ve enjoyed experiencing God at festival gatherings. Or when surrounded by over 5000 teens at Acquire the Fire 3 years ago. It’s pretty exciting.
But something went wrong. What went wrong?
v. 5 says that most of them ended up dead and not in the Promised Land. This is very sad, when you think about how many people there were. Estimates place the number of Israel who came from Egypt in the range of 2 to 2.5 million- quite a good-sized population- 2/3 the size of our city of Montreal. But only 2- not million- just plain 2 made it to the Promised Land! That’s pretty sad. All those people heard, saw, experienced, ate, and drank in the presence of God, and only 2 made it to the Promised Land. What went wrong?
Well, a number of actions happened that led to God’s condemnation of most of them.
- Lust- v. 6, Nu. 11.4. They were discontented and they wanted more! They had been with God, but that wasn’t enough. They wanted more. Just the presence and the involvement and the salvation of God were not enough, but they wanted more.