God was not pleased with most of them
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown[b]in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ[c] to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (I Corinthians 10:1-12.)
God was not pleased with many
A majority of people, who came out of the bondage by the Mighty Hand of God were not living a life pleasing to God. Paul writes, the Israelites had a wonderful collective experience – all were under the cloud, baptized, nourished by the same spiritual food and drink. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with many of them. The miraculous deliverance, Manna from heaven (Exodus 16:4), marvelous provision of water (Exodus 15:25) were not enough for the Israelites to be faithful. Today also, there is a great crowd of Church-goers who are baptized, active in the church, and are provided spiritual nurture and care; however, many among them may not be pleasing God.
Examples, Instructions and Warnings
It is generally stated that those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat the history. Paul picks up from the history of Israelites, which was 1500 years ago when he wrote the Letter to Corinthians and makes it an example, instruction and warning. After 2000 years of Paul’s writing, this historical information and instruction is relevant to us today. “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction” (10:6, 11).
Paul provides a list of five sins: Evil desires, Sexual immorality, Idolatry, Testing God and murmuring.
- 1. Evil desires
The children of Israel were not purified and delivered from the evil desires, even though they were called, chosen and covenant people. Their motives and desires were not holy, pure or noble. Our desires should be positive, constructive, holy, and eternally oriented. Paul writes: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col 3:1,2) Christians are called to set their focus right. Though, they live in this world, they have to be heavenly minded – thinking above than a normal human-being. The quality of thinking is well captured in the words of Paul: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
- 2. Idolotary
Paul tells them “do not be idolaters, as some of them were” (10:7). As they marched towards the Promised Land, they had to go through several nations and cultural regions. Already, they were influenced by Egyptian culture and the worship practices as slaves. May be some of them wanted to adopt their religion; believing that their spiritual prowess made Egyptians their masters. The novelty of cultures and worship patterns around them was an attraction, to which some succumbed.
Any person, idea, ideology, system, structure, power or relations that take our priority, preference, energy, time and allegiance is idol. Today, there are too many idols in the lives of the people. Possession can be an idol. The desire for more money and gadgets driven by consumerist culture can replace god from our lives. Pursuit of power can sap the energy of a Christian. A desire to control people, resources and systems could derail a Christian.
In the new world of gadgets and media explosion; Pursuit of popularity has become an idol for youngsters, adolescents and old people. A quick look at the Reality Shows in televisions provides us vital clues for this obsession. Parents egging adolescent children to perform in not modest, sometimes suggestive and obscene dances are a good example of idolizing popularity. One moment of glamorous success is precious for these young couples.
Entertainment is another idol. Youngsters playing ‘Angry Birds’ behave like angry birds instead of being ‘love birds’ in married life. The earlier generation would take a book or magazine and read when they get leisure time or during travel. The younger digital generation takes the mobile phone and play games. Even worship has become entertainment in many churches. Instead of gathering together to study the word, they gather just together for worship-aintment.
- 3. Immorality
“Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day” (10:8).It is beneficial to heed Paul’s counsel to “flee immorality” (1Cor. 6:18).Recently, we met two Christian couples. Both the couples had children within six months of marriage, which embarrassed their godly parents. One girl’s father wept and sobbed hearing this. Pre-marital sex has become common. Youngsters working in close proximity with opposite sex, indulge in flirting, petting, casual sex and even long time sin of adultery (mildly called by the secular world as ‘affair’. Divorces due to infidelity have increased several times. Family courts are flooded with cases, the judges are providing holiday courts and weekend courts for working couples to facilitate quicker divorces. Unnatural sex (homosexual relationships) is gradually being accepted as normal.
- 4. Test God
The children of Israel, tested the patience of God. Even tested the power of God. It is appropriate for God to test humans and not humans to test God. Today, Christians test God by their presumptions, assumptions which they wrongly interpret as ‘faith’. One young Christian drives his motorbike like mad man. He claims that the righteous man bones will not be broken (Psalms 34:20) is a promise given to all Christians, so he is exempt from accidents. Like this, many people take the verses or promise out of context. Some people think their prayer or faith is of superior quality. Like other religions where a person could do penance and gain enormous power over even gods, these Christian preachers claim control over all things that belongs onlyt he realm of God.
- 5. Complaining/Murmuring
The fifth sin that is named by Paul is the sin of complaining, “Nor (let us) grumble as some of them did, and were (subsequently) destroyed by the destroyer” (10:10). Complaining happens only when a person is not grateful with what s/he has and bothered about what is not with them. Anti-dote for complaining is gratefulness. Absence of gratefulness let Lucifer to his downfall and misery to whole humanity. Aspiring for something that are beyond means, and not receiving those aspirations leads to complain, anxiety and worry.
One of the most misquoted verses is that I can do all things through Him. However, the context from which Paul writes is different. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:11-13) In fact, Paul states that he learnt to be content in all circumstances, and this contentment is possible through the strength of the Lord. Most Christians apply this Scripture to accomplish big or great or miraculous things.
As long as we are living on this earth, we are not exempt from testing, trails and tribulations. Any disciple of Lord Jesus Christ has a potential to fall, unless s/he is watchful, careful, alert and always dependent on God. Any pride or over confidence or self-conceit could lead to disastrous fall. Paul warns us, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (10:12).