Do golden calves just appear around us?
Is our Complaint Department such a busy place
that we need some full-time help?
“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” (1 Cor. 10:11)
Earlier in this chapter Paul explained that he was talking about us needing to learn from Israel’s wandering 40 years in the wilderness.
Passing through the Red Sea pictured baptism. God heaped the waters up on both sides higher than their heads, and they didn’t know how blessed they were that total immersion wasn’t required of them! To picture baptism, perhaps God didn’t even allow sprinkles on them.
So with plagues and parting, God freed Israel from Egypt, but the real challenge was removing Egypt from Israel. Egypt symbolizes sin, and wouldn’t you know it that though God forgives us our past sin when we repent of it and sincerely desire to exit from it, the real challenge is changing our minds to not only choose to reject sin in the future but, harder yet, not even desire it.
On the other shore all Israel could do was keep moaning “We want to go back to Egypt”—where they had been whipped and beaten as slave laborers! What about us if we fantasize about going back to our old life? It really wasn’t all leeks, onions and garlic—except that it probably smelled to high heaven! May God help us plug any leeks in our thinking. Overcome old habits that hold us back. “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” (George Addair).
“For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries … they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation” (1 Pet. 4:3-4).
Meekest man got careless
Even Moses, called the meekest man on earth (Num. 12:3), had to die before arriving in the Promised Land because he became so overwhelmed and discouraged by the complaining crowd that he got careless in following God’s instruction to speak to the rock. “Last time I struck it, so let’s do it twice for good measure!”
Yet the reason God said Moses struck out was because he did not hallow him in the eyes of the people when he cried “Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10). Moses called the people “rebels” when it was especially true of him and Aaron! Most of the time someone who accuses others of something is guilty of the same.
The Rock who led them (1 Cor. 10:4) showed His unmatched mercy—Despite Moses’ rebellion He still made water flow out for the thirsty murmuring mob. He backed up His leader. Paul cautioned Christians not to tempt Christ as they did (1 Cor. 10:9).
Maybe Moses and Aaron lapsed into thinking they could be a little careless because they were God’s exalted leaders. God holds His leaders and teachers more accountable (James 3:1).
Israel became our examples so that “we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted” (verse 6). Paul called their orgy with the golden calf, which Aaron said just suddenly appeared, an example of not just sexual immorality but also idolatry. An idol is anything we put before God in thought, time, priority or money. With God’s help we have a lot to smash in our life!
Paul decries their complaining. They thought they were
Just criticizing Moses
but God said it was against Him! Jude warns “dreamers” who “reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.” Michael the archangel knew better than to bring a “reviling accusation” against even Satan. “But these speak evil of whatever they do not know” (Jude 8-10). What would paying attention to Jude’s instruction do to social media and our news!
Several times they didn’t start complaining until after three days with no food or water (Ex. 15:22, Num. 10:33). Their breaking point was three days. Maybe we can’t be so quick to judge if we have never gone without food or water for over a day and that was because we chose to fast. We aren’t trudging in a hot, dry wilderness. After hiking just one mile in our beautiful spring weather, I’m famished and thirsty!
You’d think the book of Numbers is about counting how many times Israel was complaining. Their minds were too much on onions to appreciate all the orchids God was offering.
God said Israel tested Him one too many times when they did it the tenth time (Num. 14:22). Ten is the number of judgment (10 Commandments, 10 wise and foolish virgins). It’s easy to google for the scriptures of the 10 incidents of accusing, murmuring, complaining, committing idolatry, not believing and not obeying. Would our total shoot right past that into being worthy of God needing to forgive 70 times seven?
May God help us—spiritual Israel (Gal. 6:16)—to learn these same lessons on our way to the Promised Land. “We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away … how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:1,3).