Four Warnings

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“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #107

“Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:7-10).

Paul gives the Corinthian Christians four warning examples, bookended with the reminder that the wilderness period of the Israelites served as an example (vv. 6, 11) for those on whom the ends of the ages had come. The four episodes were the festival to YHWH centered on the worship of a golden calf (Ex. 32:6) There was the plague at Baal-Peor because of the sexual enticements suggested by Balaam (Num. 25:9). The revolt over food and drink was followed by a judgment of biting serpents (Num. 21:5-6). The fourth incident probably refers to the episode with Korah (Num. 16).

The sins of God’s people in these incidents were syncretistic and licentious worship, fornication, tempting Christ by revolting against authority, and murmuring. All these sins, Paul warns, were well within the reach of the Christians at Corinth. As you read through the admonitions to the church there, you can find difficulties in each one of these areas.

So we see it is not the case that the distinction between the Israelites in the wilderness and the Christians in the new covenant rests in the inability of the latter to commit these sins. No, the whole account of the wilderness was written down precisely so that Christians would know what not to do. It follows then that members of the new covenant can “tempt Christ.”

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