Evensong 24/7/16

 1 Corinthians 10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 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 revelry.’ 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.
 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.
 14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.
 18 Consider the people of Israel: do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
 23 ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’– but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

 Verse 31 is the key to this passage 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Paul recalls times when God's people had failed to trust him and to act in accordance to his will. They had acted unthinkingly and selfishly. This was an example his readers should not follow.

First, Paul refers to the way God had gracious and miraculously delivered his people from the slavery of Egypt. Yet, whilst Moses was still on the mountain talking with God the Israelites made a gold idol, a calf that the people worshipped and offered sacrifices to (Exodus 32). They were out of control and became a laughing stock. They could not blame their environment, for there were no people worshipping foreign gods there. They made their own.

Anything that takes our first loyalty and devotion is an idol. Many people who would not take a second glance at a carved idol will sacrifice health, time, family, moral standards, and anything else required in order to achieve the idol of success or recognition they want. The sin of idolatry, like every other sin, is of the heart. As God told Ezekiel about the elders of Israel, "These men have set up their idols in their hearts, and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity" (Ezek. 14:3).

Commendable, helpful things can even become idols. The prayer book, a ritual, a church building, social care, outreach, family etc. When these things come before God they jeopardise the spiritual health of individuals and congregations.

Of the entire great number of Israelites who left Egypt only two, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Even Moses and Aaron were disqualified from entering because the rock at Meribah was struck with Moses' rod rather than spoken to as God had commanded.

 Secondly idolatry & sexual immorality. Numbers 25 records that the Moabite women tempted the Israelite men to worship their gods, to eat food sacrificed to these idols and sexual immorality. 24,000 who had followed this way were killed in accordance with God's instruction.

Sex is idolised by some in our society. Society will readily accept and promote lifestyles that are not according to God's will. We should beware that we don't fall into the trap of the Israelites who thought it was OK to follow the ways of the society they found themselves in.

Thirdly, Paul refers to testing God. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. Numbers 21 tells the story behind this reference. "And the people spoke against God and Moses, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food'" v5.

God had provided manna to eat and water to drink, but the people were not satisfied. They wanted more variety and more spice. They complained and complained, questioning God's goodness and trying His patience. They had no concern for pleasing God, only for His pleasing themselves. They did not use their new freedom to serve Him better but to demand that He serve them better.

Many of them died until they confessed their sin and cried out to God. He told Moses to make a snake and put it on a pole and those who had been bitten by a snake looked up to this bronze snake & were saved. This was a picture of the salvation God would provide when Jesus was lifted up on the cross.

Fourthly, Paul refers to grumbling. The fourth major sin about which Paul warns is complaining. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

After Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their fellow rebels were destroyed by the Lord (Num. 16:32-35), "all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, 'You are the ones who have caused the death of the Lord's people'" (v. 41). God was so incensed at their complaints about divine justice that He immediately sent a plague that killed 14,700 people. The destroyer was the same angel who had slain the firstborn of the Egyptians before Israel left Egypt (Ex. 12:23),

I could complain that little has changed in 3,000 years and that God's people still grumble. But I won't. Because that would be grumbling! The Bible says that we should give thanks in everything. Not grumble.

Paul then turns to what was happening in Corinth. Meat that had been sacrificed to foreign gods was sold in the market place. This was a problem for some Christians but not others. Some of those who didn't have a problem with eating such meat lorded it over the others, claiming spiritual superiority.

Paul said that they should use their freedom in Christ to be sensitive to those who had a problem eating sacrificed meat.

The principle from this passage is that we should not use our freedom in Christ to do what we want. We should be sensitive to God and to people and not be complacent. This is not something we have to do in our own strength. God has given us His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. The fruit of the Spirit includes love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These would be an antidote to the sins committed by the Israelites that Paul listed.

 Also, we should know that God is in control. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.

One of the ways we can respond when tempted is to pray. After all, in His pattern prayer our Lord instructed us to ask not to be led into temptation.

Our Lord also gave us an example of how to handle temptation when He was in the wilderness. He was able to identify and counter the temptations of the devil by His knowledge of scripture.

We need to be looking for the way out that God will provide when we are tempted. His word says there will be one. We may need to be consciously looking for this, rather than at the temptation itself!

 Verse 31 is the key to this passage 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.