1 Corinthians 10:6-13
Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. And 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." Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
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. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.
What a Marvelous Promise!
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Contrast. It is one of the realities of this world that makes things interesting. Light and dark and how they interplay in a picture makes the photo fascinating. A white flower stands out in a sea of greens, a luscious red rose stands out in a light colored setting. The high trill of a clarinet quickens the tempo in a field of baritone oboes in a piece, and it is always the unexpected that makes a joke particularly funny. Contrast, whether it is visual or mental, auditory or olfactory always draws ones attention - and usually in a positive way.
That is what we have in our text today. We have a marvelous promise, but it is set in the context of such deep and visceral law that it stands out as a brilliant and wonderful promise of God. I invite you to consider this Epistle with me this morning, and take note of the striking and welcome promise of God to us. Our theme is, "What a marvelous promise!"
First we must paint the background. The Apostle Paul writes to us about the things that happened to the children of Israel. Before our text, he reminds of how the children of Israel were all alike - all members of the chosen people, all part of the "church" if you will, and experienced the same things, the baptism, the spiritual food and the spiritual drink. Yet even though they shared in that calling of God and the sacred things, they did not all share in the consequent favor of God - God was not pleased with all of them, and He laid them low in the desert.
Then, our text begins, with the words, Now these things happened as examples for us. Paul seems to be telling us in this message that not everyone who is part of the outward people of God makes it. We all actually know that this is true. We can all remember people who joined the church, and seemed quite excited about it for a time, who have since stopped coming, or going, to church. Those people were not necessarily hypocrites. They were probably true believers, and had salvation full and free within them, for a time, and then they turned away. Such people are the seed that falls among the rocks, or among the thorns, in the Parable of the Sower. They are the ones who fulfill the proverb that Peter tells us about in 2 Peter 2, "It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire." The plain truth is that it - meaning faith and salvation - can be lost.
Now these things happened as examples for us. God cares so much for us that He used the lives and the sins of these people as examples and instruction for us. Their lives were their lives, lived before God for their own blessing or hurt. This use of their lives as examples for us does not make a difference to the reality of their lives for them. But God put them through their paces for us. He used their lives and their situations and their decisions for our blessing and our learning. That is how deep is God's love for us. Such a love should encourage us to trust Him. When you think about it, the problems of Ancient Israel were not simply sin (although they certainly had that problem too), but lack of trust in God - unbelief, as it were.
Of course, they had no problem believing that God existed. They knew that He was real. They personally witnessed His power and wisdom in ways that would shake our world as clearly as it shook theirs, but they did not believe in the sense that they trusted God as God would have them trust Him. God paints the background for that marvelous promise in our text.
We should not crave evil things, as they also craved. - The specific things that they craved were the meat and the drink on the Exodus, the stuff of Egypt that they had left behind. They craved abundance and pleasure. Their craving revealed that they did not trust God. They did not trust where He was taking them, and they did not trust God that He would supply their needs and their desires. The result was that they actually preferred a secure slavery to the uncertainty of walking in faith with God who had demonstrated such love for them, and such power in saving them, and such a marvelous goodwill toward them that they left Egypt wealthy with the plunder of the Egyptians, and then God fed them daily with this wonderful mystery food they simply called "What is it?" - The Hebrew word was "Manna". God's gift and providence wasn't enough because they did not trust Him to maintain the supply - and once they had that, they wanted more and other. So they craved something else, something other that what God had planned for them, and any such craving is evil, and what we might crave for other than what God would freely give us in His love are also "evil things." How often are we tempted to want more or something different than what God has chosen to give us?
And 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." - Here they children of Israel turned to a very American religion, the worship of pleasure, or the pleasures of false Gods. The ritual meal which traditionally followed the sacrificing to a pagan idol and the "play" - the harlotry of ritual prostitution which made pagan worship so appealing for so many - mark more than just sensuality gone rampant, although they clearly reflect that, they also demonstrate a complete collapse of trust in God. The chosen people of God turned to another god to keep them secure, to bless them, and to make their lives make sense. We face the same temptations today; the temptation to give ourselves over to sensuality or the temptation to deliberately follow ungodly choices in order to secure a brighter future, to make our own lives richer and make more sense to us? We are tempted to give up on God and take care of ourselves, and put meaning into our existence by chasing pleasure - travel, hobbies, family gatherings, and sporting events - rather than the more serious and less entertaining work of encouraging one another in the faith and sharing the news of God's goodness and love.
Paul writes next that they acted immorally - that was a sexual problem. It is another pleasure thing. They did not trust God to give them good things. They had to take it where they could - They had to "reach for all the gusto you can get," just like the beer commercial said. They tried the Lord - That means they demanded signs, they put the Lord to the test, they expected God to perform like a servant. It also means that they did not trust the Lord to do what was right or good, but they wanted to make Him jump through hoops to prove His love and goodwill, as if the mighty act of the rescue from Egypt were not proof enough. It was like they said, "What have you done for me lately?"
Their faithlessness demonstrated for us that putting God to the test is unbelief. And Jesus underlined that truth during His temptation in the wilderness, when the devil invited Him to jump from the pinnacle of the temple. Putting God to the test is actually to doubt that He will do what He has promised. If we trust God, we walk through life and simply expect that when the need arises for God to act on our behalf, to rescue or protect or feed or clothe us, that God will act and God will keep us! But how often are we tempted to make God jump through one hoop or another just so we can see for sure that He is there and ready?
Finally, they grumbled - they grumbled against Moses. They grumbled against Aaron. They grumbled about the food. They grumbled about the promised land. In every case they were actually grumbling against God - against God's choice of the man to lead them, against the worship God gave to them, against way God chose to supply their needs, against the hope which God held out to them, the promises He asked them to trust in. This is just like those moments when you are tempted to grumble against the doctrines we teach from the Word of God, or against the Church -- her members, or her worship services whatever. When you surrender to the temptation to grumble, rather than giving thanks you are giving witness to the fact that you don't trust God's judgment or that you think you can do better.
Now these things happened to them as an example, Paul writes and they were written for our instruction. So what are we supposed to learn? We are supposed to learn to trust God, to take Him at His Word, and believe. We, upon whom the ends of the ages have come - Paul means to indicate that the fulfillment and purpose of the ages is salvation in and through Jesus Christ. The goal of this world has come upon us! We are the ones for whom all of this has happened.
That is the backdrop against which God lays out the marvelous promise of our text. It's quite a backdrop, isn't it? If you can read those words and not feel personally challenged, and just a bit guilty, you aren't paying attention - wither not paying attention to the words, or not paying attention to your life. Paul intimates as much when he writes, Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. The danger which overcame so many of the children of Israel is a very real danger to us.
Paul gave us the example of Israel. They were God's People. They certainly thought so. But they did not live like God's people. They did not trust God. And you and I face the same sorts of temptations, all dressed up in modern, twenty-first century technology and peer-pressure, and what not. I am sure it will not surprise you to realize that the temptations they faced, and which we face, are precisely the same in nature as what caused Adam and Eve to stumble and fall.
So God gave us this wonderful promise, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; - God knows where you are. God knows what you face. God knows what traps the devil lays before you and what troubles cause you pain and fear, and there is nothing beyond Him or His understanding. God is faithful, look at what He did for you already. He saw the problem of sin, and how we had all sold ourselves into death and hell, and He found the solution for that. He sent His Son. He earned life for us, and then exchanged His eternal reward for our sentence of condemnation - and died in our place on the cross. Your sins have been forgiven, and God loves you. He has given you the greatest gift He possesses, Himself . . . His Son . . . He has claimed you as His own and adopted you into His family and called you His child! What else would He withhold?
Then He promises us through the pen of the Apostle that He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also. What a Marvelous Promise! You are never out of His sight, and your life is never really out of control, however you may be tempted to think that it is, or that you may have slipped out of His sight. It is not so! And He will preserve you, for His will is for your salvation.
I want you to consider the holy meal He has set before us this morning. Some despise this humble fare as "that miserable Manna," but you, receive it as it is, the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the form of the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink for our forgiveness and strength and life. Eat and drink, and live. When we face the temptations and challenges of the life God sets before us, we have this marvelous promise. It is set before us in the context of the terrible dangers and dark temptations that beset the people of God in every age, and it shines like a jewel!
And it is guaranteed to us by the cross. This is how deep His love is. He became sin for us, who knew no sin of His own, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He suffered in our place, and pours out life and forgiveness upon all, and has chosen you and me to be among those who. We have the sign of the cross. It tells us how faithful God is and how deep is His love for us
And the promise tells us how much we can count on God as we wind our way through this life! These temptations occur in the course of the Christian's life. They come into our minds both by the temptation of the devil and by our own sinful flesh. Nonetheless, as Luther used to say, "You may not be able to keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair." When temptation arises, take heed. Paul reminds us, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and then promises us God's help, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."
What a marvelous promise! When we face trials, or temptations, God will help. He will always provide what you need to bear up under the temptation. He will always provide a way to endure and the route of escape.
As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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