to A New Beginning (2)
1 Corinthians 10:1-12
A preacher who had never sailed before told
about going sailing with his friend. When he got in the sailboat, he was
like most landlubbers. He saw the sailboat only as a means of transportation--like
driving to work. He thought their purpose was to get to the next docking
place as fast as possible. But his friend had a much different about sailing.
He was in no hurry at all. In fact, he took great delight in sailing his
boat. The winds and waves were a challenge to him. As a true sailor, he
received as much enjoyment from sailing as he did from reaching the destination.
We often feel the same way about our journey
to heaven as that preacher did about sailing. Thinking only of how wonderful
it will be when we arrive, we become impatient and dissatisfied in the
trials of this life. So we miss out on much of what God has to offer in
the immediate challenges. Great spiritual blessings can be ours as we face
life's challenges. There are truths to be discovered, battles to be won,
lessons to be learned, and spiritual delights to be enjoyed along the way.
Israel missed out on much of what God had
to offer as they journeyed through the wilderness. They didn't know how
to enjoy the challenges growth required along the way. In Deuteronomy Moses
reveals that it took Israel 40 years to make an eleven-day trip. Moses
writes, "It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by
the Mount Seir road." (Deuteronomy 1:1-3). Kadesh
Barnea is on the border of Canaan; it is an eleven-day journey from Horeb.
Yet, Israel took forty years to get beyond it.
This eleven-day journey on foot would be nothing
for our space age. But it took them forty years to make the trip. It wasn't
the distance traveled that made it a long journey. Their trip was
much like the woman who was asked by a coworker: "Well, I hope you enjoyed
your three week vacation?" The woman responded, "Have you ever spent three
weeks in a van with people you thought you loved?" Israel had wondered
forty years in the wilderness and they did not see it as a vacation from
gathering straw and making bricks.
Their forty-year wilderness journey wasn’t
like the sail boat ride. Israel’s wilderness journey could have been as
exciting and challenging as a sail boat ride. They were not enjoying the
challenges the trip offered. They were like many of us who hate the challenges
we face as we seek to live for God.
What took them so long to make an eleven-day
trip? Was it their enemies? Was it their circumstances? Was it
their trials and tribulations along the way? Or, was it something entirely
different that prevented them from arriving at their destination?
Do Not Be Uninformed
Israel's deliverance from the bondage of slavery
in Egypt--was almost as miraculous as our deliverance from the bondage
of sin through Christ. The amazing thing for me is that the journey to
the Promise Land is just as treacherous for me is it was for them.
Paul speaks of Israel's failure to reach the
Promise Land after their Exodus from Egypt as a warning for all of us.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
"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. They were all baptized
into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual
food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual
rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God
was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the
"Now these things occurred as
examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things 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 got up to indulge in pagan revelry." We should
not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-- and in one day twenty-three
thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did--
and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did-- and
were killed by the destroying angel.
"These things happened to them
as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment
of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful
that you don't fall! 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 (NIV).
Paul says I don't want you to be uninformed--the
same thing can happen to Christians. The Christians in Corinth
weren't enjoying their Christian journey either. Egos were running rampant.
Dissension was so rampant that Paul told them that they would be better
off to stay at home than to come to church and act as they acted (1 Corinthians
11:17-22). They had lost sight of Christ as they came together to break
bread in memory of him. Paul told them that their assemblies did more harm
Paul warned the Corinthians that many of the
Israelites were overthrown in the wilderness. God had saved all of them
from Egyptian slavery but he was displeased with most of them. These things
serve as examples to all of us even when you think everything is fine.
They were all baptized into Moses in
the cloud and in the sea . . . The night before God parted the
Red Sea for Israel to cross, God came between the Egyptians and the Israelites
in a cloud. The Egyptians only saw darkness while Israel enjoyed the light.
Paul referred to God overshadowing Israel with a cloud and crossing of
the Red Sea as a baptism into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. He compares
it to our baptism into Christ.
Paul says that they were also following Christ
as their spiritual rock. They ate the same spiritual food . . . they
drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the same spiritual
rock . . . that rock was Christ. Paul sees Christ as the key to
a proper interpretation of the Old Testament, for the writings of Moses
and the prophets all pointed to Christ. Therefore they were following Christ.
Christ was seeking to lead them to the Promise Land, just as he seeks to
lead us to the Promise Land.
Unfortunately, Israel was like many of us
who have been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26,27). They enjoyed the
same supernatural food that we do, but it gave them indigestion. It took
them a lifetime to make an eleven-day trip. Sadly many of them didn't reach
the Promise Land, including Moses.
Paul was concerned that many in the church
at Corinth would never make it to the Promise Land. I am concerned that
many I preach to may not make it. I am concerned about making it to the
Promise Land, myself.
Paul warns us saying, ""These things happened
to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the
fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm,
be careful that you don't fall! 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."
It's scary to realize that most of the
people who failed in Scriptures failed in the second half of their lives.
When Moses struck the rock in anger, it was at the very near the
end of the forty years wandering in the wilderness. It cost him the Promise
King Saul’s demise happened in the last
years of his life.
1 Samuel 15:10-11
"Then the word of the LORD
came to Samuel: "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has
turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was
troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night" (NIV).
Solomon’s heart was drawn away from
God, as he grew old.
1 Kings 11:4-6
"As Solomon grew old, his wives
turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted
to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed
Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of
the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not
follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done" (NIV).
These things serve as our reminder.
"For everything that was written
in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the
encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (NIV).
Initially, I am taken back when I observe
Israel's wilderness journey. They wandered around the same mountain for
forty years. After all they had witnessed, they failed to reach the Promise
Land. It had nothing to do with the harsh wilderness they found themselves
in. It had nothing to do with bad leadership. It had nothing to do with
lack of opportunity. It had nothing to do with their lack of ability. It
had nothing to do with an unwillingness to be baptized into Moses in the
cloud and in the sea. It had nothing to do with not having a God-given
Hindrances to Moving On
Moses writes, "The LORD our God said
to us at Horeb, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain"
(Deuteronomy 1:6 NIV). Have you ever felt like, "I have been here long
enough, Lord let me move on?" There are many things that hinder us from
moving on with our lives.
All the Israelites could see was their
limitations. Take note of how negative these people were. They
were complaining ready to give up easily. They preferred bondage to the
challenges that were ahead of them. They preferred bondage to the Promised
All the Israelites grumbled
against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only
we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to
this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will
be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?"
And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to
If we think that we have a bleak future,
we will tend to glorify the past. Israel longed for the good old days.
It is easy to develop this mindset. It is difficult for these slaves who
were forced to feed their babies to the crocodiles to believe that their
future held something better. It was extremely difficult to believe that
they could overcome the lure of Egypt.
Too often our past and present take
control of our future because we rather hold on to what we have than entrust
our future to God. We know what we have and we are not willing
to invest it in our future. Too often when we do make an investment in
our future we begin to wish we hadn't.
We have a hard time moving on because
it is difficult to relinquish control of our lives. The only way
we know how to face the fears of this world is to feel as if we are in
control. We may have ourselves convinced that we are in control of our
present lives. However, stepping out on faith requires relinquishing control
of our lives. It requires surrendering your future to God.
If your focus is centered upon yourself, the
smallest risk is too great, because you realize that both success and failure
can destroy you. If your life is centered upon God, then no risk is too
great, because success is already guaranteed--the successful union of creator
and creature, beside which everything else is meaningless. (Morris L. West
in The Shoes of the Fisherman. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 3.)
The idols of this world seem to give
us something tangible to hold on to. Aaron sought to give Israel
a tangible representation of their gods.
"When the people saw that Moses
was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron
and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow
Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to
"Aaron answered them, ‘Take
off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are
wearing, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off their earrings
and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into
an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they
said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’"
Their unbelief hindered God's plan.
It was difficult for them to believe that God really knew what he was doing.
He was leading them to the Promised Land, but their unbelief hindered God's
"Who were they who heard and
rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom
was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies
fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter
his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able
to enter, because of their unbelief" (NIV).
They were not trusting God at all.
The psalmist writes, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and
he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the
justice of your cause like the noonday sun" (Psalms 37:5-6 NIV).
It was easier for Israel to believe they
would fail than it was believe in God's ability to lead them to the Promise
Land. They had a negative mindset that led them to believe they would
fail even before they got started. They were like many of us. They thought
with God’s leading the circumstances they faced would be much different.
They expected perfect circumstances.
When God sets us free--freedom requires
us to develop a new way of thinking. "The problem is never how to get
new, imaginative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out.
"Every mind is a room packed with archaic
furniture. You must get the old furniture of what you know, think and believe,
out before anything new can get in. Make an empty space in any corner of
your mind and creativity will instantly fill it." (Dee Hock, the visionary
leader of VISA.)
A woman found a unique picture at a garage
sale? It didn’t go with her décor at home, but she bought it anyway.
She took it home and found a special place for it. Within five years the
picture gradually transformed the whole décor of her home as she
bought other things to match that one "cheap" painting she found
at the garage sale. This is the way we must change our thinking.
The prophet Jonah was sulking in disappointment
when he preached to Nineveh. His failure was the result of a lack of imagination;
it was a failure of heart. He had no idea what God was doing--the largeness
of his love and mercy and salvation. He had reduced his vocation down to
his own performance--he was in the right place, doing the right thing--but
he interpreted everything through his Jonah ideas, his Jonah desires. (Eugene
Peterson, Leadership, Vol. 14, no. 1.)
Jonah had a child-sized plan that did not
pan out; God was enacting a huge destiny that surprised everyone.
This was precisely Israel’s problem.
"Now there was no water for
the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron.
They quarreled with Moses and said, "If only we had died when our brothers
fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD's community into
this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring
us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines
or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!" (NIV).
These verses tell us what was in the mind
of the Israelites when they were very near the end of the forty years of
wilderness wanderings. They had been here before. Ten spies had brought
back an evil report about the Promised Land. They failed to enter at God's
command. They decided not to obey God.
Repeating the same attitudes that bring
failure over and over will keep us wandering in the wilderness. They
have repeated this same behavior several times before. When they were only
three days out of Egypt the people began to complain, but now nearly forty
years later they are still complaining. Their complaints always resulted
in the judgment of God upon them for their hardness of heart.
Surprisingly, God furnishes them with water
even though they complained. God is working with them in every conceivable
way to bring them to the Promise Land.
Somehow we never see God in failure,
but only in success--a strange attitude for people who have the cross as
the center of their faith.
Quite often the absence of immediate
success is the mark of a genuine call. Failure tests our ability
to trust God. Our willingness to press on despite our failure often reveals
a genuine call. So we shouldn’t get discouraged if we don’t first succeed.
Maturity is pressing toward the mark; immaturity is complacency and self-satisfaction.
A newfound freedom always creates a lot of
excitement. Do you remember when you first got your drivers license. How
exciting is driving now for some of you who have been driving for years?
Excitement will cause us to set out for one place and settle for another.
The energy received from the goosebumps of excitement will not sustain
Excitement will carry you for a little
while, but it will not take you across the finish line. A new venture
is always exciting simply because it is new. Have you ever noticed how
exciting a new hobby is? Give it a few months for the excitement to wear
off, and drudgery will set in. Then we are looking for a hobby with a little
Some things that appear dangerous are actually
much less hazardous than their safer-looking alternatives. Commercial airline
travel, for instance, is 30 times safer than transportation by car. It
may not seem that way to the person who would rather fight rush hour traffic
on the ground than ride a solitary Boeing 747 at 35,000 feet.
Being carried by tons of metal thrust through
the air by huge jet engines is actually safer than being pulled along in
an 8-cylinder machine that never leaves the ground. The same thing is true
in our journey through life. Following the Lord may seem perilous. But
in reality it is the safest way to travel through life.
Paul wanted Timothy to experience that same
security. He reminded him to be sensitive to the Spirit's leading. He explained
to him that a path that involves suffering for Christ is ultimately safer
than all other alternatives. That's why Paul could declare with confidence,
"I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that
which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12).