There is a lot going on in this reading, and we’ll reflect on a couple things I have missed before. What was it that spoke to you today? It’s cool that the Holy Spirit will reveal new insights to God’s word each time when we allow him to speak to our hearts and minds. Sometimes we need to slow down so we can listen for what the Spirit is prompting us to hear.
Did you notice how Paul uses the story of the Israelites in the wilderness to help illustrate the whole food issue he’s been talking about? Keep in mind that the majority of his audience would be Gentiles, so using “our ancestors” is a nice way of bringing them into a story they were not originally part of.
The parallel Paul uses here is creative. I must admit being surprised by his reference to Christ being the rock that flowed with the water in the wilderness. When I think about God’s provisions for his people during those wanderings, I never picture Jesus’ presence quite like that. But it makes sense.
What we see is that God provided for all of them. It was only some of them that rebelled and ruined it for the rest. “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” Paul intended to use this illustration as a startling warning for the Corinthians and us.
When we can learn from our mistakes or the mistakes of others, you call that being wise. Paul wants these new Christians in Corinth to succeed in building their relationship with God. Because they haven’t grown up with the same remembrances as Paul, he felt it necessary to give them this historical background to understand the awesome God they now believe in.
In terms of the idol worship present in Corinth, Paul is still impressing upon them the dangers of eating food sacrificed to idols. Just because these situations are likely social occasions and not times of worship for these new Christians doesn’t seem to matter. Paul cautions them not to rouse God’s wrath. This is obviously a bigger deal than they thought.
A big part of it seems to be the temptation. I think about the alcoholic going to a party where alcohol would be consumed. Sure, it may be a “harmless” social event, but for the person trying to keep from drinking it could be very tempting.
One of the most frequently misquoted Bible texts appears in this reading. Verse 13 reads, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Clearly, we’re talking about temptations to sin. However, many people use this improperly to say that God won’t give us anything we can’t “handle.” That “anything” is usually referring to something difficult to live through, like managing trauma and loss.
Temptations are difficult to handle, too, especially when we don’t rely on God’s provision or wisdom. Paul assures us that God will give us a way out. Paul wants us to know that followers of Christ aren’t immune to problems and temptations. However, we do have a choice of how to respond.
I was a little surprised by Paul’s bluntness in referring to idols as demons. Does that help you to think about them in that way? Our present-day idols have often been identified as our jobs, sports, fame, busyness, etc. In essence, anything that keeps us away from focusing on God and his truth. Those distractions are many. We may feel like everything is fine, but are we sure that God is not jealous? Paul’s words have left that question in my mind.
Here’s a question to ponder today. What do you do (and what should you do) when you are tempted by something that takes you away from building your relationship with God?
Let’s pray …
Father God, thank you for giving me a way out when the temptations of life are luring me away from you. Forgive me for those times that my focus on you falters and I go my own way. I never want to make you jealous for my wayward actions. Show me what temptations I have left to clear away. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.