Learn from Israel's Experience
Reflecting on the Second Sunday in Lent, Two Days after Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 105:1-15, (16-41), 42
Old Testament: Numbers 14:10b-24
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Artist of souls, you sculpted a people for yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity, that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water you offer through Jesus Christ. Amen.
by Rev. Bryan Findlayson
Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did (1 Corinthians 10:6).
In our passage for study, Paul continues with his warning to the Corinthian believers of the danger of disqualification from the Christian faith. The people of Israel were disqualified, so beware!
While in the wilderness, Israel faced many tests of faith. Would the Lord provide for Israel and lead them to safety in the promised land? At Meribah they sought to provoke the Lord’s gracious hand with the retort, “is the Lord among us or not?” The worst failures occurred when they looked to other deities for their security, for example, the incident of the Golden Calf, or Baal of Peor, and of course, they continued to flirt with syncretism as they sought security in the gods of Canaan, in the fertility cult of Baal. Time and again Israel failed the test of loyalty to God. Organized Christianity today faces similar tests of faith. Sadly, we often seek security in the secular deities of human ingenuity and sensual power. Syncretism is no new thing and the scriptures warn us to run from it.
In a world that glories in the deity of human ingenuity, it is only to be expected that believers are constantly moved toward duty, expectations, demands and obligations. This form of Christianity has lead to subjugation, guilt and disillusionment; it has moved us from the cross to the Law.
Yet, the Christianity of the New Testament is a Spirit bound religion—a religion of grace. It is a religion concerned with faith in the renewing work of the Spirit of Christ. A receiving, rather than doing form of Christianity, leads to faithful discipleship through the compelling love of Christ; it moves us from the cross to the empty tomb and onward to freedom.
The danger we face is that we can so easily move from grace to law, from receiving to doing, as if Christ has not completely secured our salvation. We can so easily be sucked into duty-bound religion—a religion of human ingenuity and effort. Always remember, “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code”, Rom.7:6.
Another great danger we face today is the seductive power of sensuality, the very danger facing the Corinthians. This world is the domain of the powers of darkness, Luke.4:5-7. An idol has no power in itself, so the Corinthians were right, in a sense, not to be concerned about attending feasts at the local pagan temple. Yet, behind the idol there lies the powers of darkness.
The Corinthians were using the freedom they had in Christ to enslave themselves again to sin. This they did by being “participants with demons” through their involvement in the temple feasts, 1 Cor.10:20. The people of Israel did the self same thing. Confident in their standing before God, they conjoined the pagan gods of Egypt with Jehovah. This only led them into “pagan revelry” and “sexual immorality”. So it was that their “bones were scattered over the desert”.
The pagan cult of human sensuality is dominant in Western society. Youthfulness, beauty, energy, ..... in these we glory, rather than just enjoy. These powers manipulate and so a mass of humanity is enslaved to media marketing, personality politics and galloping greed. Debt, violence, sex, ... display a people who worship the creature rather than the Creator.
Believers are not immune from corrupted sensuality. Although we “cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons”, 1Cor.10:21, we none-the-less intrude success criteria, entertainment, manipulative marketing into the business of church, ....., we intrude the spirit of this age into our worship services. We chase the god of success and encourage others to chase the same illusionary dream. Therefore, flee from idolatry.