I am often amazed at how God works in and through people. I can think of someone I know who is not really much of a Bible reader or church goer, but who still has a heart for God. This person has a huge heart and looks out for the well-being of others all the time. This same person rarely gets frazzled by life’s many challenges, and at times is seemingly nonchalant about things that are a huge deal to most people. Where I would be falling apart and completely stressed about something, this person would probably just say “Oh well” and move on with life.
I am easily frustrated by people like this. I have the unfortunate virtue of not only recognizing when something isn’t going well, but becoming completely stressed and frustrated about it. I can just feel my blood pressure rise, my heart rate increase, and my ability to focus and be successful on just about anything else becomes non-existent. On the other hand, this person who I am speaking of would state something that usually reminds me to calm down. The quote goes like this: “If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” Enter a deep, relaxing sigh.
As I was searching for passages to write about this morning, I stumbled upon this chapter in 1 Corinthians that I felt fits perfectly with much of what we all encounter on a daily basis. We all are tempted by so many different things in our everyday lives. It may be wanting something so badly that we are willing to do almost anything to get it. It may be gossiping about someone. It may be complaining about work or our boss or the other drivers on the road. The list could go on.
The Israelites of Moses’ time were the exact same way. They grumbled, complained, created false idols, yelled at God, and all sorts of other things. All of this in spite of the fact that God had just freed them from the horrible slavery they had endured in Egypt for generations. All of this despite the fact that they literally had the cloud of God leading the way for them. The grass is always greener as the saying goes.
How did it end for the Israelites? Well, the one place the set out to be their final destination was a place they never made it to. Rather than making it back to the Promised Land, they died before they could get there. The only adults who left Egypt that were permitted to enter were Joshua and Caleb because of their faith. For the rest of them, their temptations were too strong. As Jesus stated “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38. The Israelites had a choice, and God provided them many ways out of their predicaments, but they always fell victim to more temptations.
What are we to learn from this? It is often stated that we study history so that history doesn’t repeat itself. But too often, along the way, the history is forgotten and we stumble and history is once again repeated. Here in 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds us of how great the Israelites actually had it, and how they continually messed things up. We are to learn from the challenges and temptations faced by the Israelites and how they ended up falling short of their ultimate goal.
Let us not lose our faith in the face of temptation, and therefore fall short of our hope of eternity in God’s kingdom. As Paul reminds us in this passage, God will not allow temptation beyond what we can handle, and He always provides a path out for us. But we need to be grounded in our faith that God will provide, as he continually did for the Israelites, so that we may find that path. If he brings us to it, he will bring us through it.