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Warnings from Israel’s History August 20, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Corinthians that they must practice self-denial because the Israelites (in the Old Testament) were guided by God in the form of a pillar of cloud by day (and a pillar of fire at night) and miraculously crossed the Red Sea, yet they fell away from Him. In fact, the Israelites had become disciples of Moses through the display of God’s power in the pillar of cloud/fire and their passing through the Red Sea. Also, the Holy Spirit provided them with manna to sustain them. In addition, the Holy Spirit provided them with water for drinking via Christ, who sustained them throughout their wanderings in the desert. Yet they sinned against God, who punished them by allowing them to die in the desert.

Now Paul recounts these events from Israel’s history to warn the Corinthians against seeking after evil, lest they suffer the same fate that befell Israel. In particular, the Corinthians should not engage in idolatry – the Israelites were idolatrous and worshiped (and offered sacrifices to) a golden calf that they had made. Also, the Corinthians should not engage in sexual immorality – the Israelites sinned in this way, and God killed about twenty-three thousand of them in one day. In addition, the Corinthians should not put God’s power and faithfulness to the test – the Israelites sinned in this way against Christ, and they were killed by venomous snakes that the Lord sent to them. Finally, the Corinthians should not complain in a rebellious manner against God – the Israelites sinned in this way, and God sent his angel to bring a deathly plague on them. Israel was repeatedly punished for its sins throughout the Old Testament, and these punishments were recorded so that the Corinthians – who are living in the last ages – can be warned to avoid falling into the traps that ensnared Israel. Paul then warns the Corinthians – if they believe that they are too strong to fall into sin, they should be extremely careful as they are still liable to sin. He concludes by encouraging them that God will not allow them to face superhuman trials or temptations, as He has promised to save those who are in Him; whenever they face trials, He will show them how to overcome them so that they can emerge victorious.

Thoughts: Verses 1-4 show that the Israelites were richly blessed during their wanderings in the desert. They were

  • guided by God in the form of a pillar of cloud by day (and a pillar of fire at night)
  • led by God through the Red Sea and delivered from the pursuing Egyptian soldiers
  • sustained by God with manna when they were hungry
  • sustained by God with water from a rock when they were thirsty.

In spite of these blessings, they engaged in idolatry and sexual immorality; they also tested God’s faithfulness and rebelled against Him. I thought, “since God repeatedly blessed the Israelites during times of trouble, how could they fall away from Him?” Men gravitate toward sin; their hearts are inherently hostile to God, so an external display of His power cannot change this internal condition. Indeed, modern-day Christians – although we have God’s Word – can easily fall into the trap of arrogance. We are still liable to sin, and if we assume that we are superior to the Israelites because we have God’s Word, we will fall away from God.

In verse 4, Paul states that Christ sustained the Israelites throughout their wanderings in the desert. Hodge offers some thoughts on this remarkable statement:

This passage distinctly asserts not only the preexistence of our Lord, but also that he was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He who appeared to Moses and announced himself as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, who commissioned him to go to Pharaoh, who delivered the people out of Egypt, who appeared on Horeb, who led the people through the wilderness, who dwelt in the temple, who manifested himself to Isaiah, who was to appear personally in the fullness of time, is the person who was born of a virgin and manifested himself in the flesh. Therefore, in the Old Testament he is called an angel, the angel of Jehovah, Jehovah, the Supreme Lord, the Mighty God, the Son of God, one whom God sent and one with him, therefore, as far as substance is concerned, though a distinct person…This truth impressed itself early on in the mind of the Christian church, as is clear from the prayers of the early liturgies.

This is really an amazing truth that casts the Old Testament in an entirely new light for me. Of course, I am struggling to comprehend it, as we never see the name “Jesus Christ” in the Old Testament, especially in the passages that Hodge alludes to in the above quote. My understanding was that the first person of the Trinity is the main actor in all of these passages. This verse, though, asserts that the appearances of Christ in the Old Testament cannot be limited to the more familiar incidents including Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the blazing furnace in Daniel 3 or Joshua’s encounter with the commander of the Lord’s army in Joshua 5. Through further studies – and by God’s grace – I hope to understand how Christ, as our Lord and Redeemer, shaped the Old Testament.

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Comments»

1. youngearth - August 20, 2011

I really enjoyed your study right up until “Hodge offers some thoughts …”. Then you seemed to launch off onto a different study which I don’t have the fortitude right now to evaluate… whereas your initial thought on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 were refreshing and could appropriately then be concluded with a period.

flashbuzzer - September 4, 2011

Thanks for your thoughts; I’m glad that you liked this post.

As for my note on verse 4, I decided to include that discussion in the post as it stemmed from the passage under consideration – and not from a distinct passage. That being said, I agree that the topic of Jesus appearing in the Old Testament is rather weighty and is worthy of a post (or perhaps many books) of its own.


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