1 Cor 10.1-13
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
1 Cor 10:1-131 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. (6) Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. (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. (11) These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (12) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (13) No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
When my kids were little, we used to love to go walking, for about 2 minutes. Jacob, light saber swinging, would be yanking my left arm off, trying to bound off to who knows where. My daughter Adriel, in her fluffy foofoo dress, would sink down trying to pull my other arm to the ground. We used to call Jacob “Tigger the Tiger”. He was always in a hurry and had no patience at all. Adriel, on my other hand, would collapse like a Raggedy Ann doll full of rocks, and then the whine would start, “Daddy, I’m tired. Daddy, carry me.” She’d just go limp like a wilted flower.
The church at Corinth had a problem with people wilting. Let’s read in the text... (read 1 Cor 10:1-6)
The church at Corinth had a problem with people wilting. They seemed not to be aware that, morally speaking, there were more than a few folk that seemed considerably more wilted than upright. Paul needed to help the church realize that they might be headed for the same fate as their Hebrew forefathers. Especially the ones whose bodies lie scattered over the desert, dried up and dead like thousands of wilted flowers.
And they couldn’t see it because Corinth was such a cool place with all the beautiful people and good things and art museums and philosophy and temples and gods. You could buy anything you wanted at Corinth. Everything went through Corinth. It was the capital of the province. You could buy anything that was for sale in this place. You could buy exotic imported pleasures too. The variety of temples and gods and religious practices available at Corinth was over the top. Corinth was the kind of place a consumer could indulge, let desires run wild.
(1 Cor 10:1) I do not want you to be ignorant, Paul says, (1 Cor 10:5) God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Scattered like thousands of wilted dried up dead flowers. There’s an awful lot of death here.
The Hebrews wilted, but not before having known God’s rich blessings. They had been under the cloud, the covering of grace. They had passed through the sea, the mighty deliverance of God. They had Moses’ baptism, the covenant promises. They ate the spiritual food, drank the spiritual drink. They had communion with God. They drank from the spiritual rock, the rock that accompanied them, the rock that traveled with them on their journey. Christ himself was with them, caring for them. Nevertheless, they wilted. Bodies scattered. Thousands and thousands of bodies. How could this be? What happened? In a word, arrogance. To presume that the goodness of God indicates that one is entitled to the favor of God is the hallmark of arrogance. The Hebrew children were arrogant. And so was the church at Corinth. And their arrogance led to sin.
(1 Cor 10:7) 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."
Paul is referring to the story of the golden calf (Ex 32). Moses had disappeared up the smoky mountain. He’d been gone many days. What was taking him so long? For all the people know, he died up there. “Make us some gods who can lead us,” they whined. “We’re tired of waiting.” Bunch of whiners. “This Moses, we don’t know what’s happened to him. Make us some new gods and we’ll party on.” Aaron said, “Give me your gold rings, your earrings, your nose rings, your toe rings.” Aaron wilted and went to work. One calf later and they all got amnesia. They forgot all about Moses, all about the Lord. That old song:
“I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea (Ex 15:1).”
Forgotten. The bread from heaven, forgotten. Water from the rock, forgotten.
Beholding their glistening golden calf, they sang instead, (Ex 32:4) "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."
We have the calf. We’re blessed. Sorry about Moses. Don’t know what happened to him. Party on!
The folks at Corinth were surrounded by idolatry. There was a dozen different temples and religions to choose from. These aren’t storefront churches, either. These are big exciting temples with smoke and sacrifice and noise and revelry. And meat markets everywhere with all the sacrificing going on. You couldn’t hardly go out to dinner without likely being served some food that had been offered to an idol. The whole town was immersed in idolatry. And when you live with idols everywhere, you stop asking, “What is this doing to me?” and you risked becoming vulnerable to all the idols stand for.
We risk getting entangled in all the idols of our day. The cry of our day is, “Give me good things and a good body.” I have friends who go to the gym twice a week. I have another friend who has a personal trainer. A couple of weeks ago, I asked her what happened. She was bent over in pain, could hardly move, after the trainer got done with her. And we pay money for this kind of abuse. We beautify ourselves. We get cosmetic surgery, liposuction, facelifts, nose jobs. I read in the May Reader’s Digest that the average American life expectancy is now 78 years, but doctors are hopeful that we’ll be able to soon double that. How are they going to do that? High tech replacement parts and better DNA. We’ve got hip replacements, knee replacements, heart valve replacements, lazic surgery, root canals with gold crowns, wigs, toupees. Lot’s of things we can do to pump up and spruce up these bodies, make them last longer. We want better bodies, but we want good things too. We hunt for the garage sales, watch HSN, pore over the never ending barrage of adds filling our mailboxes, hang out at Best Buy, set the computer home page to ebay, and dream of stuffing the living room with a 52” plasma display, 6 channel surround sound home theatre entertainment system, uplinked to a spanking new core-duo super high performance computer system with extreme graphics display card and dvd burner and youtube piped in with remote control to the home theatre system so that the most bizarre entertainment imaginable is available 24x7 at the push of a button.
We practice financial irresponsibility, addictive behavior, greed, and covetousness. The average American family has 8 credit cards. We buy our indulgences on credit and collectively owe $872 billion dollars in credit card debt, almost $3000 for every man, woman, and child among us. We’re idolatrous consumers with technological ability to out-shame the Corinthians.
(1 Cor 10:8) We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-- and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.
It was those Moabite women. They say you can catch more flies with honey. The Hebrew fellows couldn’t resist the cute Moabites gals. The upright Hebrew men just wilted. Phineas turned back the wrath of God by skewering the Hebrew Zimri and Moabitess Cozbi, but not before thousands of wilted souls had dropped dead from the plague.
Corinth was a city of freedom and enlightened ethics. Known for “sexual immorality to shame the pagans,” and proud of it, it boasted the Temple of Aphrodite with 1000 prostitutes on call.
Our enlightened culture of freedom boasts smiling women in tight shiny skirts on billboards hawking gambling and sex at casinos open 24x7 where everybody wins. We have r-rated family movies, r-rated primetime t.v., r-rated commercials, r-rated comics, x-rated cable t.v., and internet pornography aimed at all ages. Who needs temples with prostitutes?
1 Corinthians 10:9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-- and were killed by snakes. (Numbers 21:5 "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!")
We complain, we’re impatient, we don’t trust, we presume that because God has been good to us, that we can ignore him and get away with it.
New medical research has developed a vaccine to prevent the virus HPV. This is a virus that can cause cervical cancer. This virus is now the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Research says that 80% of all women will have the HPV virus by age 50 and 74% of them are exposed to the virus between the age of 15 and 24. So now they are recommending that teenage girls as young as 11 years old be vaccinated to protect them from cervical cancer. One more way we can indulge in immoral behavior and avoid paying the price. I don’t want anyone to suffer from cancer but we should not test the Lord. We have the morning after pill. A young single woman I know was in her sophomore year of college on a full ride athletic scholarship. After a night of foolishness, she took the morning after pill. It didn’t work. She lost her scholarship, has now dropped out of school, and is a single mom. We should not test the Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:10 And do not grumble, as some of them did-- and were killed by the destroying angel.
We’d try to take the kids out to lunch but it was impossible. Would you like hamburgers? No. How about Chinese? Yeah! I don’t like Chinese! How about Mexican? I don’t like Mexican. Yeah, let’s get Mexican. Ribs? I don’t like ribs! All this “I don’t like” reminds me of the grubby Dr. Evazan with the hideously scarred face and the death sentence on 12 systems picking a fight with the young Luke Skywalker:
“He doesn't like you.” - “I'm sorry.”
“I don't like you either. You just watch yourself.” – “I'll be careful.”
“You'll be dead!”
What’s the message here? You might think that if we would all just straighten up, quit lusting after pleasure, quit whining, quit putting everything else before God, quit testing God, then we’d be ok and get God’s blessing. Yes, there is a warning here about whining and wilting and withering, but there’s something else here too. Some of us only see the warnings and either say, “Thank God I’m not a sinner like that other guy,” or maybe you’re in the white-knuckle club, and you’re gonna do the right thing even if you have to cut off your right arm to do it, or you might say, “What’s the big deal? Everybody indulges a little,” or you might say, “What’s the use? I can’t live all holy like that, so I’m not going to worry about it.” We shouldn’t give ourselves over to idolatry and immorality and testing and grumbling. It says not to live like the Hebrews lived, the ones whose wilted bodies lie scattered in the wilderness, and Paul is saying to the Corinthians that they are not to live for idols and sex and presumption and grumbling, or they’re going to end up dead too. But the text has a word of grace, and we need to hear it because we are not that different from the Hebrews or the Corinthians. We wilt before our idols of beautiful bodies and wonderful things, we are just as immoral, we are presumptuous complaining consumers and we need a word of grace if we hope to live differently.
What God is trying to get across to us is that his presence, his sustenance, especially his refreshing, is for us right now, at all times, in all places. In verse 4, Paul says, “they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” Can you see Christ accompanying them, refreshing them, everywhere they went? A wilted flower that’s drying out and drooping needs the refreshing of water. Then it can stand up straight and strong again. We need the refreshing of God if we’re to stand up straight and strong and really live (like Prof Tan).
Professor Tan was in his 90’s, standing up straight and full of grace, when I heard him tell his story. Professor Tan grew up in Communist China. The extremely gifted musician and teacher became the deputy director of the Shanghai Conservatory. In 1966, the Cultural Revolution changed everything. Professor Tan was charged with crimes against the state, stripped of his leadership at the Conservatory, and locked in the basement in a small closet, without windows, under a stairway, over a septic tank, for fourteen months. He was separated from his wife and four children, humiliated, beaten, and tortured. Then, for the next 8 ½ years he was assigned to clean and repair the 122 toilets in the conservatory. Many professors wilted under the pressure. 17 committed suicide. Professor Tan said, “I never thought of committing suicide or running away, because I’m a Christian, you see. I just wait, because the sun will come up. It’s night, but the sun will come up eventually.” When the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, Professor Tan was reinstated at the Conservatory. The guard who mistreated Professor Tan was sentenced to 8 years in prison. When released, he came to work in the kitchen at the Conservatory. One day, Professor Tan was waiting for his car when his old guard came by riding a bicycle. The guard recognized Tan, and in fear, quickly rode away. Professor Tan said, “If he would have stopped, I would speak to him and let bygones be bygones. If you hate someone, you yourself will be hurt first. To forgive is what makes me happy, makes me have peace of mind. Now I am in the last stage of my life. I treasure this period very much. Unfortunately, my wife is sick. I’m going to keep her company, make her comfortable. I hope to live together with her at least to one hundred. That’s my goal. I hope so.”
They could shove him into a closet under a stairway and lock him up, but a rock rolled in with him, and they couldn’t keep him from the refreshing of God. They could make the gifted violinist clean and repair 122 toilets for years and years, but there was a rock that accompanied him, and they couldn’t keep him from the refreshing of God.
How do we stand straight in a world of wilt? How do you keep your heart upright when a Moabite man or women crosses your path? They’re all around. When I stand in the checkout line at the supermarket, there they are staring at me from the pages of the glossy magazines and tabloids in front of my face. I’m invited to peer into some unnaturally attractive person’s story of indulgence and addiction while I fish out my credit card to pay for my goods. It’s hard to get through the line without wilting.
We need the refreshing of God.
How are we going to withstand the barrage of temptations to buy and indulge and consume? We need the refreshing of God. How are we going to resist the never ending assault aimed at our sexuality every time we walk by a t.v.? We need the refreshing of God. How can we respond with grace to the irritation and inconvenience of people out to hustle and take advantage of us? We need the refreshing of God.
All who are thirsty, all who are weak,
Come to the fountain, dip your heart in the stream of life.
Let the pain and the sorrow, be washed away.
In the waves of his mercy, as deep cries out to deep.
Allow God to refresh you. Come, here’s food and drink for your soul. Come to God and be refreshed so you can stand up straight in a wilted and withering world. Delight yourself in the Lord. Satisfy yourself in the living water, and your heart will never desire evil. When trials take a terrible turn, you won’t wilt, you’ll stand straight with your face to the sun. When you stay satisfied in Christ, gripped by his grace, then the promise becomes real and true:
(1 Cor 10:13) No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
We need the refreshing of God.
1 All Scripture citations are taken from the NIV unless otherwise noted.