I have started wondering lately if God does not see time as a line, but more like a slinky. Seasons go in circles and repeat. The planets circle. Human actions circle. And God through history uses similar images and examples to help us understand His plan.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 uses the Old Testament imagery from the Israelites exiting Egypt in the book of Exodus as a picture of baptism. It says that the Israelites passed under the cloud (a physical representation of God’s presence, made of water) and the sea (parting of the Red Sea, again, water), and were baptized into Moses. That is an odd statement to me. But just like Christ represents us to God, Moses was the representative for Israel to God.
The Israelites all ate the same spiritual food, manna provided miraculously from heaven. And they all drank the same spiritual drink: water that came from a rock! You can read the account in Exodus 17. As if that wasn’t strange enough, Paul says that the rock that followed them was Christ! He is the source of refreshment and life in the desert. This applies to me as well! So often I discount the Old Testament stories as easy moral generators. I neglect to look for how God continued to tell the world about His love over and over again through the years. I want to keep looking for the threads that tie together this book of God’s history with man.
Starting with this next verse…everything sounds great for the Israelites in the wilderness, until Paul reminds us that they died. They did not believe! These things were written as examples to us, warning signs shouting, “Do not crave evil!” And my heart drops…evil can be so hard to hate. The interesting thing is that all of Israel had the same experiences, and only some of them were believers. We can be exposed to all of the truth of the Gospel, but until we grab hold of it and commit our lives to serving Jesus, we are just wandering in the wilderness waiting for judgment. And this is the context of the famous verses on temptation:
“12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 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, so that you will be able to endure it.”
God will help us in every circumstance, and we can be victorious! That is an awesome promise. But at the same time, temptation will come, and will show us who is truly in control of our hearts.
So flee idolatry! Paul says. Through communion, we physically show that we are one body with Christ, like the Jews being unified through temple sacrifices. Watch out that you do not take your liberty too far…yes, idols are not real, but do not get mixed up with them in a way that will compromise your worship of God.
23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his[i]neighbor.”
So yes, eat meat from the market, but do not ask where it is from. This surprised me at first. Why not just know it was from a temple? Isn’t it better to know? Not all the time. For the sake of conscience, it is better to just know that it is meat. Look out for others, and do not hurt them by your actions. Paul finishes with another set of famous verses,
“31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.”
Paul journeyed from Israel and their half-faith to modern ways of living in half-faith. God, please help me to understand areas where I may edify others by giving something up, and please help me to not just live through the spiritual experiences of the church community, but seek Your living water to refresh my outlook every day an profit others. Amen.