The Falling Away of Israel

 

Part I

 

 

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, an all passed through the sea; And were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: that Rock was Christ.  But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.  Neither murmer ye, as some of them also murmered, and were destroyed of the destroyer.  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

-  I Corinthians 10: 1-12

 

 

Introduction

 

These words of the apostle Paul inform us that the activities of natural Israel, after their exodus from Egypt, serve as an example of the sinful behavior that the servants of God are to refrain from.  Paul brings our attention to their poor example in order to teach a lesson – so that we might take notice of their failings, consider God’s displeasure and punishment upon those who do such things, and avoid making the same errors.

 

The Israelites, under the leadership of Moses, were brought out of Egypt by Yahweh’s mighty power.  It was a display of Divine strength not seen since the flood.  And never had such wonderful miracles been witnessed by such a great multitude of people.  Literally speaking, millions of individuals were witness to the miraculous salvation wrought by God.  Never had Yahweh manifested himself in such a display of power nor had he ever so openly provided for the needs of a people as he dealt with the Children of Israel.  Not even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (as blessed as they were) had been allowed to witness such a display of Divine power to the magnitude seen by their descendants.

 

But something went drastically wrong!  God gave to Israel more then any man can expect in a lifetime.  He provided for their spiritual as well as temporal needs in such a way that will not be duplicated until the reestablishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.  But for Israel this obviously was not good enough for the nation would time and time again rebel against God’s wishes and grace.  Israel’s sad failings are recorded for all to read and consider.  We find their failings not only recorded in the Exodus account but through out all of the Divine Record.  Israel was under the most ideal circumstances for spiritual and temporal success, but failed miserably.  Why?

 

We who call ourselves Christadelphians (Brethren of Christ) live on the very doorstep of the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.  It (the Kingdom) will be a time of blessing and joy that the entirety of scripture point forward to.  Believers of the Truth of God’s word over the past 100 years have been witness to some very incredible events.  Though maybe not visibly “supernatural” in appearance they carry a sense of profound relevancy to the serious Bible student and should have an affect on the Faith of the believer as did the open miracles of God in times past.  We have seen the stirrings and revival of the Nation of Israel after 1,900 years of virtual political silence.  Christadelphians have been witness to the first Zionist Congress in 1898, the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the establishment of the Nation of Israel in 1948, and the drying up of the Euphrates – the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire which would free up the Land of Israel for the resettlement of the Jews.  This resurgence of Israel was plainly prophesied thousands of years ago, and firmly understood and believed by brethren that lived before 1898, and clearly seen and accepted as fact by brethren who have lived and are still living in the era that has followed the First Zionist Congress.  All of us have grown up with these events as a fact of life rather then looking sometime into the future for their fulfillment.  We truly are witnessing events of Divine action in these last days, and we continue to see this work being accomplished – preparing many nations of the earth to rise up against Israel as harmoniously spoken of by the prophets of Israel.

 

Truly, we are a people most blessed to see these glorious events unfolding before our eyes.  We, just as the Children of Israel, are in fact living by sight as we see the Word of God being dramatically fulfilled before our eyes.  But for us as well, something has gone DRASTICALLY WRONG.  If we think all is well among those of us who call ourselves Christadelphians, then we are sadly mistaken.  All is not well!

 

Our community, though it has never been perfect, is remarkably different then it was 100 years ago, or even comparing it to 10 – 20 years ago.  Purity of Truth and fellowship that was once so firmly contended for has been exchanged for a more open minded approach in dealing with spiritual matters.  The social benefits and associations that come with being a part of the Christadelphians and a connected quest for numbers has replaced the idea of a small remnant who believe the exact same things no matter how unpopular they are in the eyes of man.  Liberalism or the acceptance and toleration of worldly ideas or behaviors has become our way, rather then a strict adherence to the Old Paths.  Open mindedness and toleration is a Humanistic Creed, and not a principal that can be found in the scriptures.  A Laodicean attitude has overtaken us, as we have found a way to accept more and more of this world’s pleasures and ideology, while still claiming to be God’s people due to our association with His Truth.  Our current compromised condition is not unique in these modern times in that we are doing nothing more then reflecting the condition of the world around us.  And what should concern us even more is that our present state finds a frightening parallel with both the histories of Natural Israel (the natural seed of Abraham) and with Spiritual Israel (the Brotherhood during the time of the early ecclesias).

 

What we would like to do in this consideration is to briefly consider some of the failings of Natural Israel and even that of Spiritual Israel to see how we might compare in these last days.  In considering these matters we have the advantage of seeing men’s behavior from God’s point of view rather then man’s.  When we are the actual eyewitnesses to events and circumstances we may be skewed in our interpretation of what is taking place by looking at matters through the eyes of the flesh and human sentiment.  The scriptures, if honestly approached, do not afford us this opportunity.  In these times we do not have the advantage of the prophets of Israel directly speaking to us on how our God views our behavior or of the Apostles directing ecclesial affairs.  But we do have over 4,000 years of human behavior recorded in the scriptures and God’s attitude and reaction to that behavior, whether it be good or bad.  And is stated in the tenth chapter of 1st Corinthians, these things stand as our “ensamples” or examples.

 

 

Time of the Exodus

 

The Apostle Paul gives as a very good summary of the failings of Israel during the time of the Exodus from Egypt.  He mentions five evils or sins that Israel partook of and we are commanded to avoid.

 

1.  Lust (vs. 5)

2.  Idolatry (vs. 7)

3.  Fornication (vs. 8)

4.  Tempting (vs. 9)

5.  Murmuring (vs. 10)

 

Do any of these elements exist in ourselves?  Do any of these elements exist among Christadelphia today?  Remember, before we become defensive in our attitude we have to remember that we have to consider these things from God’s perspective!

 

First of all we consider the matter of LUST – rendered “crave” in the Emphatic Diaglott.  What did the Children of Israel lust or crave after?  In Numbers 11:4-6 we are informed that they lusted after food.  It wasn’t that the Israelites were absent of food but it was that “there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.  They were tired of the manna that God miraculously provided every morning (except on the Sabbath) for their need.  Ironically they lusted for the fruits and vegetables that they had while in the oppressive atmosphere of Egypt.  They were willing to trade the freedom, protection, and promised hope they had under God’s visible and merciful hand for the few fleeting natural pleasures they enjoyed under cruel bondage.  Though the manna was no doubt simple it its taste and appearance, nonetheless it was a life giving substance provided by God.  Not only was it naturally significant but it had spiritual significance as well, pointing forward to the Messiah (Jesus) who would come to represent the “the way, the truth, and the life”.  One who by the shedding of his blood would provide not merely natural life but would provide the hope of life eternal.  By rejecting the natural manna not only were the Israelites rejecting God’s care for their natural needs, in a very real sense they were rejecting God’s ability to provide for their spiritual needs as well.  As they rejected the natural manna so would their descendants reject the spiritual manna – Christ.

 

Considering the natural applications of this issue of LUST, think on how we lust after the things of this world.  Are we satisfied with what God has provided us for our natural needs or do we desire something more?  Considering the issue from a more spiritual perspective, do we become bored with the simple purity of God’s Truth or with “itching ears” do we desire something more elaborate?  Once the flesh principal of lust is allowed to take charge of our lives there is no limit in where it will take us in rejecting God’s provisions – whether they be natural or spiritual.

 

Next we move on to the issue of IDOLATRY.  This may at first appearance seem hard for us to relate to, but we may know more about this then we would like to admit.  In the commandments given to the Children of Israel as listed in Exodus 20 they were told, “Thou shalt have no other god’s before Me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous GOD...

 

It is easy for us to look back at the Children of Israel and think how foolish they would have been to bow down in worship to anything made out of wood or stone.  This is not only recognized as silliness to the Bible Student but is seen as being foolish by the world in general.  But does this mean that idolatry has no pull on us today?  We must realize that anything that we place great emphasis on or devote more of our time and energies on over God can be considered to be a form of idolatry.  It could be anything that goes against or takes precedence over the command of loving “the Lord they God will all thy heart”.  If other things in our life are more important to us or take up more of our time then devotion to the Father then it must be considered as an idol – whether it be television, the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of money, etc.  Why would devotion to things of this life that have absolutely no power to save us or provide for us be any different then devotion to a piece of wood or rock that has as much benefit and value?  We are commanded in Matthew 6 to “seek ye first the kingdom of God”.  To do anything less is to be found in the pursuit of Idolatry.

 

Next we see the issue of FORNICATION, or sexual immorality.  This is something that is embraced as normal and healthy behavior by the world around us but to what extent does it find practice within the Brotherhood?  As we see it accepted as commonplace in the world are our views softened as to the seriousness of this sin?  We have to realize also that this not only has a natural aspect but a spiritual as well.  To seek after the things of this world, to practice “idolatry” as already discussed, to follow after religious views that are not in accordance with “the Truth as it is in Jesus” – to do such by forsaking the covenant that we are under (our spiritual marriage to Christ) is to in a very real sense practice fornication.  Let such a thing not be named among us.

 

TEMPTING means to test.  In Numbers 21:5,6 we read “And the People spake against God, and against Moses, ‘Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.’ And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the People, and they bit the People; and much people of Israel died.

 

To tempt or test God means to question His will, His prerogative.  It is to imply that we doubt His wisdom and decision making abilities and that we think that we have a better solution.  It is to doubt the power of Yahweh – whether that is our intention or not.  Do we ever question God in such a way as did the people of Israel in the foregoing passage?  Do we ever question God’s ability to take care of us?  When things go wrong do we ask “why me”?  Do we ever think that the path that God has led us on is unnecessarily difficult or painful?  Do we entertain thoughts that we know better then God how to direct our lives?  Again, whether we mean to or not, to entertain such sentiment is to test God.

 

Finally, in the list provided by the Apostle Paul we consider the issue of MURMURING or complaining.  We have to remember that all that the Jews experienced in coming out of Egypt was a result of God’s direct power.  He fed them, He protected them, He gave them organization, He gave spiritual guidance, He gave them a national identity, He gave them a hope of a better life in “a land flowing with milk and honey”.  But this appreciation of what had been done for them was lost by the majority of the nation.  Yes, their situation in the wilderness was not pleasant at times but yet God was visibly with them. 

 

In this day and age we have nothing compared to the hardships that people have had to endure in the past, but yet we find plenty to complain about.  The recent power outage on the East Coast of Canada and the U.S. shows how quickly men can become irritated.  Even when all of our modern conveniences are running smoothly we still find plenty to complain about.  The Believers are not immuned to this pitfall.  Hang around a food line at a Bible School or Gathering, or attend a Bible School on a rustic camp ground and you see how quickly individuals are willing to complain.  This may seem like a silly example but it certainly states allot of what kind of people we can become when creature comforts are lessened or removed.  We have to remember that life itself is an extraordinary blessing given by God and to complain to quickly is to indicate that God is not capable of caring for us in sustaining our lives.

 

While reading the above mentioned points, if you feel fairly confident that none of these points apply to yourself, then consider what Paul tell us in the 12th verse of 1st Corinthians 10: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.  And in Proverbs 16:18 we read, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. 

 

We have to be honest with ourselves and realize that we have the same exact Nature as did the Children of Israel.  Whatever mistakes they made we are equally capable of doing the same.  We are of the sin flesh nature.  Our very being is sin from the time we are born.  Lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting, and murmuring are all natural characteristics to our being.  As being “in Christ” through baptism our lives are to be spent suppressing these powerful characteristics that exist in our flesh.  Christ was able to overcome these things but we often fail.  We have to face up to that fact and be aware of our shortcomings.  We have to “know our enemy” and the enemy is the flesh.  If we are not aware of this struggle then the flesh has free reign in our lives and we find ourselves willingly following down the same road to destruction as did the Children of Israel during the Exodus wanderings.

 

A. Thomas

 

 

We will further consider the “Falling Away of Israel” in Part II in next month’s installment.