Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness
– 1 Cor. 10:5, TNIV
Among many scriptures that have caught my attention in the past, the one above stands out as very instructive, and I now wish to dwell on it a little longer. The Lord first brought this scripture as quoted to my attention sometime in 2012, when I was serving in Ebonyi state. I had gone upstairs to the (then) decking to pray sometime in the night with Isaiah Sabitu, close to the end of my service year in Ebonyi, and the Lord quickened this particular scripture in my heart as we prayed and cried out our hearts to God together. And the way it is quoted above is the way it reads in the Today’s New International Version of the Bible which I was using then, and which I had bought along with Bolutife Ogunsola at a book fair back in UNILAG, in 2009.
The scripture above takes on more meaning when you read the first four verses of the tenth chapter of First Corinthians. The Israelites had had terrific spiritual experiences in the past, passing through the Red Sea and all. They were baptised into Moses in the cloud and the sea. Now you ought to realise that Moses was top-of-the-range in spiritual leadership, and these guys had experienced his leadership first hand, with signs and wonders of all sorts, in Egypt and in the desert. This generation of Israelites also ate spiritual food – literal spiritual food – as the food they ate descended from the sky and they did not know what it was, so they called it “Manna” (meaning “What is it?”). They also drank spiritual drink: water that sprang from a rock! Can you beat that? Paul even says that the rock accompanied them and that the Rock was Christ himself. So they knew what it meant to experience the manifest divine presence, what with pillars of cloud and fire leading them day and night.
But after you read all of that, then you read verse 5, quoted above: “their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” because “God was not pleased with most of them”. The fact that their bodies were scattered in the wilderness is proof that God was not pleased with them. Yet we read about the spiritual exploits they were “baptised into” under Moses. It makes me shudder. And so the burden on my heart is that I should not be as those people – perishing after having been divinely kept, blessed and protected for so long a time. These guys saw the strange acts of God, but God was not pleased with them. They experience the miracles of God but had no place in Him. They received the commandments of God, but it had no place in them.
Verses 6 to 10 list examples of the things that they did, which we must not do: lust, idolatry, immorality, tempting the Lord and murmuring/grumbling. On the surface, these look like very grievous sins to commit, but on closer examination, they are the very sins that many of us easily slip into – wanting things God does not want for us, exalting anything more than God in our hearts, slipping away into unclean thoughts, daring God to prove himself and complaining at every opportunity against Christ. They are the simple everyday sins that we can easily get carried away with if we do not watch it. The Scripture goes on to say that these things are written down as warnings for us, who live in the ends of the ages – where it is easier to get carried away into these sins.
Jude reminds us in the fifth verse of his epistle that although God saved the people from Egypt, he destroyed them that believed not. In Gen 38:7 & 10, the scripture records how God killed two people because they were wicked (Er and Onan). Is God then a murderer? (I speak as a man). Or is he a just judge who will not tolerate iniquity (though he loves all men)? God has not changed, and he is not a respecter of persons. This causes me to tremble, and bow before his throne, lest I become careless and get carried away, thinking I am strong and steadfast. And so the scripture warns those of us who think we are standing to be careful lest we fall (1 Cor. 10:12).
We know that God is able to keep us until the end, but this is a call to re-commit ourselves to him as we run the race set before us, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Above all, this is to remind you that your past experience with God does not guarantee you a future in Him, only your present and continuous walk with Him will ascertain that you finish strong. Shalom!
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