Lessons from the Wilderness

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 In these verses Paul uses the example of the failure of the people of Israel during the exodus/wilderness period to teach lessons for the church. What are few of theses lessons and how do they apply to believers today?

In a nutshell, this passage lays out five primary examples of failures Christian believers in the age of grace should keep themselves from.

These five are:

  1. lusting for evil things [v.6]
  2. being idolaters [v.7]
  3. committing fornication [v.8]
  4. tempting God [v.9]
  5. murmuring [v.10]

The first thing you notice about these five is that they are all interrelated. Certainly practicing idolatry and committing fornication are evil things that are associated with lust, involve tempting God to bring His judgment upon you, and are often accompanied by murmuring against God. With that said, I am going to approach answering this question from an interrelatedness perspective rather than breaking each item out separate. One could analyze each of these points in-depth and probably have enough information for a book. I believe that there is a general application encompassing all five that is very compelling to think about. The common thread that runs through all five involve "lust" and "evil things," as is set forth in verse 6.

To discuss lusting for evil things we must first define "lusting" and then "evil things." To lust for someone or something is to desire it strongly. So much so that you are willing to make sacrifices or compromises to get what you want. There are no positive references to "lust" or "lusting" in the Bible. In every instance it is used in a sinful sense. We usually associate lust with wantonness and unseemly desire for other people. But lust can also be for things. The lust for things can also be called greed.

The definition of "evil things" is a little more difficult. In the sense it is used in this passage it is most likely a direct link to the Children of Israel wanting to return to Egypt and desiring the things of that place after God had so graciously liberated them from captivity.  Another instance of lusting after evil things occurred while Moses was on Mt. Sinai and they did evil things worshipping the idol they constructed and committing fornication with one another. Yet another example would be where they defeated heathen nations while wondering the wilderness and were told not to take the defiled goods of these places, but did anyway. As you can see, all these things were evil for the Children of Israel because they represented returning to bondage for worldly comfort (lust of the flesh), committing fornication (spiritual with idols, fleshly with one another) for worldly pleasure with visible things (lust of the eyes), and taking the spoils of war for worldly treasure (pride of life). These are the three lusts common to man and are succinctly put forth in 1John 2:16: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."

It cannot be overemphasized how important this statement is. This concept pops up at two of the most significant events in whole Bible.  In both instances it was monumental event in human history. The first was in the Garden of Eden when the disobedience of Adam took place.  After God created Adam and Eve, Satan was there in person and he used these lusts to deceive. We see that the fall of man was caused by this when Eve was deceived (1Timothy 2:14) by these three in Genesis 3:6:  "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." Notice Eve said that the tree was "good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise." Here we see the lust of the flesh (good for food), lust of the eyes (pleasant to the eyes), and pride of life (desired to make one wise), given in the exact order given in 1John.

The second event of monumental significance in the Bible (by chronology of course) was the coming of the Saviour. Here we see that these three lusts are what Satan tempted Jesus with after His forty day fast in the wilderness.  Luke 4:1-13.

Notice in these passages that Satan tempted Jesus with the lust of the flesh (stones to bread), the lust of the eyes (kingdoms of the world), and the pride of life (show those at the temple you are God by having angels catch you in front of them). Our Lord and Saviour passed these tests and through this and much more proved Himself a worthy redeemer of Adam's poor sin cursed race. Later we have the occasion where the Pharisees accused Jesus of evil for eating with His disciples with unwashed hands. But Jesus used this as an opportunity to teach about evil things.  Mark 7:21-23.

The practical application of this is obvious; you must focus on your heart. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:21: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." And in Matthew 12:35: "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." Is your heart given over to God? Do you ever lament over the good old days before you were saved, as Israel did over Egypt, when you lived a life in bondage to sin? Do you make idols out of your family, career and possessions and forget about the God on the mountain that makes intercession for you? Do you lust over vacations, wealth, property, cars and recreation, but care little for the lost, mission work, witnessing and attending church?

Ultimately evil things are those things that proceed from the lusts of the heart. They are the product of an evil heart that lusts after the corrupt pleasures and riches of this fallen world. In 1Corinthians 10 we Christians are taught to resist succumbing to the evil things through lust as did the Children of Israel. For as John said in 1John 2:17: "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." Amen and amen.

Will Hoyt
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 27:10

Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.