5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
Even people with the very best parents have, at some point in life, identified at least one way they want to do things differently. When we see the stakes are high, like when we begin the journey of parenting our own children, we want to get it right. One way of doing that is by looking to the past. History can teach us where other people have made mistakes as they met the challenges of life. George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Paul believed the history of Israel had much to teach the church. All the Israelites had been joined together in the shared common experiences of God’s grace, just as all the Corinthians were joined together in their experiences of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (vv. 3-4). Despite the grace they experienced, God was not pleased with most of Israel, and they did not make it into the Promised Land. Paul wanted the Corinthian church, and today’s church, to recognize a similar possibility. Beginning a spiritual journey through participation in ordinances like baptism and the Lord’s Supper does not necessarily signify or guarantee saving faith.
Israel’s experience is meant to provide warning by example to the church today. Going through the motions doesn’t give us the rest God promises; faithfulness does. We can do all the church things and still not get it right if our hearts are hard and disobedient to the Lord.
• How would you respond to a person who believes, “It doesn’t matter how I live because Jesus has forgiven me”?
• From the example of your life currently, what are you teaching those who come behind you about relationship with Christ?
• Thank God for the examples of the past recorded in Scripture to help you know how to live differently in faith. Invite Him to show you areas where you’ve been playing with fire in regards to temptation, and ask Him to fill you with His strength to turn away and walk more closely with Him.