The Holy Spirit preserved the narration of the Wilderness Wanderings for Christians
First Corinthians 10.1–13
By Don Ruhl
Why is all that stuff in the Bible? How many stories does the Bible have, and why do we need to know them all?
The stories of the Bible, even the ones in the Old Testament, touch the deepest needs of humanity, because in those historical accounts our Creator looks down from heaven, sees our complex, complicated nature and deliveries stories of how He acted in human history that we might learn various lessons from them.
He knows that we hunger and thirst for a point to our lives, for meaning, for value, for something deep inside, and He wonders why we do not drink the water and eat the food that He offers,
Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
(Isa 55.1, 2)
The stories show people hungering and thirsting, and sometimes they hungered and thirsted for the wrong things, and sometimes they hungered and thirsted for the right things.
Everything that people in history have hungered and thirsted for that was manmade, has failed. For that reason, nations have come and gone. However, everything that has lasted that God wanted to last, has lasted. That is why the church survives, although nations have come and gone, and the church will be here long after we are all gone.
In First Corinthians 10 Paul refers to an Old Testament story, but He brings up that story because in First Corinthians 9, he had spoken of a preacher’s devotion to preaching. However, preachers and all Christians, do not want to be disqualified, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1Co 9.27). First Corinthians 10 then shows that although God delivered Israel from Egypt, they later disqualified themselves from entering the land of rest. We risk the same thing, if we do what they did in the wilderness. Therefore, the Holy Spirit put the Book of Numbers in the Bible.
First Corinthians 10.1–4 – Our Fathers in the Wilderness
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ (1Co 10.1–4).
The Holy Spirit moved Paul to reveal that it is not good to be unaware of the history of Israel as revealed in the Books of Exodus and Numbers. Verses 1 and 2 speak of events in the Book of Exodus, but verses 3 and 4 speak of events in the Book of Numbers.
First Corinthians 10.5 – Our Fathers Did Not Please God
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness (1Co 10.5).
Although they were baptized into Moses, ate spiritual food, drank spiritual drink, and although they drank of Christ, they did not please God. Of the 603,550 male warriors not of Levi, only two made it into the Land of Canaan. They died all over the place, sometimes in huge numbers as Paul will show shortly. They drank of Christ, of whom we also drink, but if God kept them from entering the Land of Canaan, because of their lust and unbelief, what about us?
First Corinthians 10.6 – Our Fathers Are Our Examples
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted (1Co 10.6).
The Holy Spirit uses the Wilderness Wanderings as examples for Christians. The Holy Spirit wants us to learn not to lust after evil things as they lusted.
First Corinthians 10.7–10 – Our Fathers Are Bad Examples
And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer (1Co 10.7–10).
In verse 7, Paul shows that the Book of Exodus reveals Israel’s idolatry. Verse 8 reveals that in one day, twenty-three thousand fell because of sexual immorality, “Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel…And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Num 25.1–9).
A thousand more died after the initial day. Let us not do the same, lest we also suffer punishment. Not that we shall suddenly drop dead; no, a worse fate awaits us.
Christ sent fiery serpents among them for tempting Him. He had delivered them from Egyptian bondage. He had destroyed the first born of Egypt for the sake of Israel. Yet, they complained and tempted Him, and the Bible says, “And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died” (Num 21.5, 6).
Why should He punish the Egyptians for unbelief, but tolerate unbelief among Christians?
Paul also warned us not to complain as Israel did. The Book of Numbers shows endless complaining. They complained about their food, the lack of meat. Miriam and Aaron complained about Moses and his leadership, and his marriage to an Ethiopian woman. Israel complained about their inability to conquer Canaan. They complained about the leadership of Moses and Aaron. They complained when the Lord punished rebels. They complained about Moses and God again, questioning their deliverance, questioning the Lord’s ability to provide, and they complained about their food again, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused” (Num 11.1a).
Therefore, He destroyed them by the destroyer, but the Lord had sent the destroyer into the homes of the Egyptians. Through Israel’s complaining they fell as the Egyptians did. Do you like to hear complaining? Why then do we do it? God does not like to hear complaining.
First Corinthians 10.11 – Our Father’s History Is Our Future
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1Co 10.11).
What Israel suffered happened to provide us with examples, examples of what not to do, and examples of what God will do.
Paul says the Holy Spirit had these things written for our admonition. He preserved the Old Testament to insure that we got it. It endured the Wilderness Wanderings. It endured while Israel got established in the Land of Canaan. It endured countless foreign occupations by Israel’s enemies. It endured neglect, such as in the times before Josiah’s reign. It endured the Roman invasion and destruction of the temple. It endured the cliffs where we found the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What is in the Old Testament, what is in the Book of Numbers, that the Holy Spirit so worked to have these things written and preserved?
They were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Paul specified that the Book of Numbers is for the church age, which is the last age on the earth. After this is the Judgment.
First Corinthians 10.12–13 – Our Fathers Fell. Will We?
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1Co 10.12–13).
If an Israelite whom God delivered from Egypt can fall, so can a Christian who has been saved by the blood of Christ. I learned the teaching of First Corinthians 10.12 early as a Christian. Then when I started preaching, I saw the truth of it immediately. Every Christian who has said that he or she could never fall, has. I can still remember the first brother who ever told this to me. He was a welder in Long Beach, California, and a good friend. He guaranteed me that he could never fall away, but knowing the truth of this passage I warned him that he could, and he did, and he still is.
Here is the problem: Claiming we cannot fall, we set ourselves up as a target for Satan, and then he goes after us with great ferocity, because we have declared that he cannot make us fall.
However, God is faithful, and He will regulate our temptations so that we will not be tempted beyond our capability, and He will also make a way of escape so that we can get away from that temptation, because He wants us to stand and not to fall.
God does not want us to fall as the Israelites did in the wilderness, which is why He had Paul write down this information. He has poured out His grace richly upon us in Christ Jesus, but now He wants us to do our part, doing the best we can, not to do what the Israelites did.
If you follow Christ as the Israelites should have, you will have peace, knowing that you will reach our Land of Canaan, Heaven.
Let us all be baptized into Christ, let us all eat the same spiritual food, let us all drink the same spiritual drink, and that drink and that food is our Rock the Christ.
Through the Scriptures God provides both bad and good examples. Our fathers in the wilderness provide the bad examples. The Lord also filled the Scriptures with examples we should follow. We can follow the faithfulness of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the morality of Joseph, the steadfastness of Daniel, the devotion of David, the wisdom of Solomon, the eagerness of Peter, the love of Mary Magdalene, and the zeal of Paul. You know that God provided the ultimate example in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus I recommend to you without hesitation. During a presidential election campaign, we discover the flaws of all the candidates, because their enemies readily point out those things. During the three and a half year ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, His enemies tried relentlessly to find flaws in Him, but they failed with every attempt. Frustrated they killed Him, but they did not know that their actions fit into the plan of God, and that He would use their evil to bring our salvation.
After they had succeeded at killing Jesus, God raised up Jesus from the dead, and in doing so declared Jesus of Nazareth to be the Lord of lords, the Holy Anointed One of God. Since He came from God, God listened to His prayers, and one such prayer was for the forgiveness of His executioners. If the Father, the Son, and the Spirit can forgive those who crucified the Son of God, they can forgive you.