Today we close out the section on idolatry. Sha’ul uses specific examples from Israel’s history in the Torah that demonstrate Adonai’s response toward the idolatry of His own people. He then moves on to explain the reasons behind why participating in idol sacrifices must not be done. Then he closes out with some practical advice.[Read 1 Cor. 10 – 11:1] [i]
Israel’s History with Idols
(Vs. 1-5) In the first 4 verses, the word “all” is used 5 time to show several different ways that the Children of Israel were similar to the congregation in Corinth. Being under the cloud and passing through the sea can be equated to being immersed in the Ruach and in water. The children of Israel were partakers of the bread from heaven, and drank the living water that flowed from the rock that followed them. In the same way, the Corinthian believers in Yeshua had partaken of the matzah and wine. These symbolised the body and blood of Yeshua. They had shared in the living bread Who had come down from heaven, Yeshua, and they had all shared in the living waters of the Ruach. And Yet, Sha’ul shows that even after all these things, Adonai was not pleased with the Children of Israel, and by comparison would not be pleased with those in Corinth who participated in idolatry, sexual immorality, and prideful grumbling.
Sha’ul also refers to the “Rock that followed them” being Messiah. Where did he get this idea? Well in Jewish tradition, “according to the Aggadah [the legendary and midrashic material woven about the Tanakh], the Children of Israel were accompanied in the desert by a rolling stone that poured forth water.”[ii] This was also known as the “Well of Miriam,”[iii] and was well established in Judaism at that time. Sha’ul then identifies that rock with Messiah. Sha’ul wrote to the congregation in Rome (9:32b-33), “They stumbled over the stone of stumbling, just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, and whoever believes in Him shall not be put to shame (Isa. 28:16). Yeshua said of Himself, “Have you never read in the Scriptures? ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the chief cornerstone. This came from Adonai, and it is marvellous in our eyes.’ (Ps. 118:22-23) … Whoever falls on this stone will be shattered; but the one upon whom it falls, it will crush him.” (Matt. 21:42, 44)
(Vs. 6-10) Sha’ul now masterfully weaves the issues he has been addressing with the Corinthians with the examples from the Torah. Idolatry, sexual immorality, pride, and even eating food associated with idols are dealt with in these events. Before we get into these, notice that in Vs. 1 Sha’ul started out by declaring that the Children of Israel were “Our Fathers.” Sha’ul is writing to a primarily Gentile audience, but acknowledges that those who trust in Yeshua, are “grafted in” to this same history (Rom. 11). Sha’ul shows that sexual immorality and feasting with the Midianites at Baal Peor, cause about 23,000 to die because of the anger of Adonai. (Num. 25:1-9) This also references the feasting at the Golden Calf (Ex. 32:6) and the complaining about not being able to have meat to eat in (Num. 11:4,34). The fiery serpents came because of the Israelites complaint against Adonai and despised His provision of bread from heaven (Num 21:5-6). As for the destroying Angel, Adonai said, “Behold, I am sending an angel before you, …. Watch for Him and listen to His voice. Do not rebel against Him because He will not pardon your transgression, for My Name is in Him.” (Ex. 23:20-22) And when the people rebelled after the incident with Korah, 14,700 people died (Num 16:41-49).
(Vs. 11-13) Sha’ul now applies all these examples as warnings for all of us. If we think we are stronger then the Israelites, we should watch out. Our pride could cause us to fall. The ray of hope amid this passage, is in verse 13. Here we have a promise from Adonai that can give us the strength to endure. Any and every test that comes at us can be overcome with the strength of Adonai. If we find ourselves in incredibly trying times, we can be assured that a “way of escape” has already been provided. This way of escape could be as simple as calling a friend for prayer, praising Adonai in the middle of the test like Job, or like Joseph, running the other way.
Warnings and Directions
(Vs. 14-18) “Therefore,” Sha’ul writes, “my dearly loved ones, flee from idolatry.” When we partake of the Lord’s Table, we are coming into covenant with Him. Through the partaking of the Matzah and Grape Juice, we are becoming one spirit with Yeshua. We are saying, “Your body in me, ‘Messiah in [me], the hope of glory!’” (Col. 1:27) If this is true with Yeshua, how then can we have anything to do with eating food sacrificed to idols? We must not have anything to do with the practices of other religions.
(Vs. 19-22) Sha’ul now feels that he needs to clarify his statement. Are idols anything? Has the food sacrificed to idols been tainted? No. Budda is nothing! Allah is nothing! The Zen Buddhism of Martial Arts and Yoga are nothing! The gods of the Hindus are nothing! However, the worship that people give to these false gods, goes to demons! The song of Moses in (Deut. 32:16-18) says that the Children of Israel, “sacrificed to demons, a non-god, gods they had not known.” Rather they ignored “the Rock who birthed” them and “forgot God who brought [them] forth.” The psalmist writes that after Israel entered the land, they “sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.” (Ps. 106:37) If the “allegiance of any sort to pagan idols, which certainly takes place when one eats in the banquet halls of pagan temples, inevitably involves the worship of demons, then Paul’s concluding statement hit the nail on the head: “I do not want you to be participants with demons.””[iv]
(Vs. 23-33) Sha’ul now concludes with some practical advice. He starts out by once again refuting the Corinthian statement, “Everything is permitted.” It is true that our salvation is not at stake since our justification is based upon trusting in Yeshua’s payment for our sins. However, not everything is helpful or beneficial for us or for others. When we purchase food from the grocery stores, we should not worry if it is halal or not, because the “earth is Adonai’s and the fullness thereof.” But if someone points out that the food has been offered to another god, then don’t eat it for their conscience’s sake. The bottom line is as we have mentioned before (vs. 31-33), “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jewish or Greek people or to God’s community— just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.”
Application and Conclusion
Some people say that we are now in an “age of Grace,” and
therefore “everything is permitted.” If this is the case, then what happened to
Ananias and Sapphira in (Acts 5)? It is true that we can worship Adonai from
afar. However, we should seek to model our lives after Yeshua, instead of after
the world. I will finish by paraphrasing (Matt. 5:11-12). We should seek to be
humble for then we will own the Kingdom of Heaven. We should seek to mourn over
sin for then we will understand Adonai’s heart. We should seek to be strong,
but gentle, for that is what the world needs. We should hunger and thirst after
the things of Adonai, for when we seek Him with all our hearts, we shall find
Him. We should seek purity in our inmost hearts, for then He shall reveal
Himself to us. As children of God we must seek peace where ever we go. And when
we are persecuted for the sake of Yeshua, we can learn to love our enemies. In
this way we can imitate Sha’ul as he imitated Messiah!
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[ii] Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, pg. 469.
[iv] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11, pg. 346.