Menu Close

March 20, 2022 Sermon

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Click HERE for an audio podcast of this message.

  Can you think of people who were more blessed than Israel was?

  When they were in trouble God answered their prayers and delivered them in a way we still talk about over 3,000 years later. People are still making movies about the way God delivered them. There were ten plagues through which God showed that he was in control of all things, that he was the God of gods and the Lord of lords. And if anyone still doubted that he was who he claimed to be, the I AM, the only being who simply is, witness what he did at the Red Sea. He didn’t just show Moses a path through a marsh as some unbelievers try to say. He caused the water to wall up on the right and the left, and he made the floor of the sea dry ground! The path he made was wide enough to allow 1 million plus people, not an army that could move quickly, but men, women and children, to cross in one night. Then, to top it off, as soon as the last Israelite was safely on the other side, he caused those walls of water to come crashing down on those from Pharaoh’s army that were pursuing them. Just imagine witnessing a miracle like that!

  Paul says that those who experienced that miracle were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. By this miraculous use of water God made it clear to everyone that the people of Israel were his people, rescued and redeemed by him, and that Moses was his appointed leader.

  But God wasn’t finished blessing his people. When they were hungry, he provided food, manna from heaven, and quail. When they were thirsty, he provided water, sweetening bitter water, and providing water from a rock when necessary. God made sure his people were protected and their needs were provided. They witnessed miracle after miracle performed on their behalf, not to mention the constant symbol of his presence, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. It kind of makes you jealous, doesn’t it? Makes you wish you could see a few miracles, some visible evidence of God’s presence.

  Hold that thought until you hear what Paul says next. After stressing that ALL the people received these blessings, he says ALL 5 times, he says, nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them. He had them die in the wilderness.

  Wow! How can it be that people who are so blessed fail to appreciate their blessings and end up losing them? In spite of their uncommon blessings, they gave in to common, ordinary temptations.

  When Moses was on the mountain a long time, they became impatient and thought they could worship the Lord through an image and with wild celebrations, literally suggestive dancing. When women invited the Israelite men to join them in worshiping their gods which involved ritual prostitution, they did it. They grew tired of the miraculous food God provided.

They grumbled against God and challenged the leadership of Moses through whom God spoke to them. And we might say that God disciplined them in proportion with the greatness of their blessings. Only the faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land. The rest who grumbled that they would die in the desert, did. Many died from the bite of poisonous snakes, and some died at the hands of a destroying angel. That doesn’t mean that only Joshua and Caleb went to heaven, I’m sure many, like Moses himself, were led to repentance, but God made it clear that he is serious about sin. Though there is forgiveness, there are always consequences to sin.

  Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit recorded all that happened to Israel for a purpose. These things took place as examples to warn us… All these things that were happening to them had meaning as examples, and they were written down to warn us, to whom the end of the ages has come. We say today, “those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

  Paul wants the Corinthians, and us, to know that we are just as blessed as Israel was. In fact, we are even more blessed because we know that Jesus is the Christ. We have nothing to be jealous of, even if we have never witnessed the dividing of the Red Sea, manna, or water from a rock. In fact, Paul implies that we do witness fantastic miracles. Luther picked up on Paul’s example and included the miracle of the Red Sea together with the flood in his baptismal prayer. Every time we witness a baptism, every time we remember our baptism, which we should every time we hear the invocation at the beginning of a worship service, or at the beginning of Luther’s morning and evening prayers, we can picture ourselves in the place of Noah and in the shoes of Israel. In the waters of Baptism, we are saved just as the waters of the flood saved Noah and his family, and the waters of the Red Sea saved Israel from Pharaoh. In the waters of Baptism, we are declared to be a child of God, one he loves and has promised to protect and care for. In the waters of Baptism, we are baptized into Christ whom the Father appointed to be our leader. We are united with him in his death and resurrection so that we are dead to sin and alive to God. What a miracle! By the power of his word connected to simple water God rescues us from sin and Satan and promises to bring us to the Promised Land of heaven!

  Learn from the history of Israel not to despise your baptism. Don’t give in to the temptation to think that God is not with you. Don’t give into the temptation to think that he will not keep his promise. Don’t give in to the temptation to think that he will not provide for your needs; or that he won’t make sure that everything that happens serves your eternal good. Let your baptism remind you that God, who brought Israel through the Red Sea, remained faithful to his promises even when Israel was unfaithful. He is the hen who wants to gather you under her wings. He is the loving Father eagerly watching and waiting, happy to welcome his repentant sons and daughters back home.

  Israel received miraculous food and drink the whole time they were in the desert. We receive miraculous food and drink every time we come to the Lord’s Supper. It’s a miracle beyond our comprehension that Jesus can give each of us who comes to the supper his body and blood together with the bread and wine. But isn’t the even greater miracle the fact that he says, this is for you for the forgiveness of your sins! Wow! I don’t see a pillar of cloud, or a pillar of fire, but I do see bread and wine, in fact I don’t just see it, but I smell and touch and taste it. Jesus grabs the attention of all my senses so that he can assure me that when he gave his body and shed his blood, he did it for me, as if I were the only person alive. I need have no doubt that my sins are forgiven, and that he is present with me, even living in me.

  Paul said of the great blessings of Israel, even to his day, Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

  He could say of us today, “You have the gift of Baptism instituted by Christ himself. You have the gift of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ himself. You have the very words of Christ recorded for you and you can hear, read, and study his words whenever you want! But there is a great danger for all who are so richly blessed by God. It’s the danger that we take our blessings for granted.

  How did Israel do that? John the Baptist made it very clear. He warned them not to respond to his call to repentance by saying, we are Abraham’s children. We are God’s chosen people. Trusting in your heritage is false security. Paul puts it this way, let him who thinks he stands be careful that he does not fall. Trusting in your heritage, trusting in past history is a sure recipe for failure. No one is saved because of their heritage. No one is saved by the faith of a previous generation. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus alone, a faith that God looks for in each individual.

  Where do we see false security today? Don’t you hear it when someone says, “we’re the true Lutherans.” Don’t you hear it when someone says, “I’m baptized. I know Jesus. I don’t need to go to church. If I have communion a few times a year, that’s enough.” Don’t you hear it when you are tempted to think, “I don’t have to worry about joining in the common sins of the world, Jesus already paid for all my sins.”

  Don’t forget Israel’s history. Whenever they got complacent, whenever they took their status as God’s children for granted, whenever they thought they could join in the common sins of the world around them and still enjoy God’s blessing, God made it clear that was not the case. He sent dire consequences on them to call them back, to bring them to repentance.

  One of the strongest temptations we face as baptized children of God who come faithfully to worship and the Lord’s Supper is to take these blessings for granted and think that we are standing firm. Paul says to us, watch out! Jesus says, if you think you are better than others because they have suffered misfortune and you haven’t, watch out. Unless you repent, you will all perish too.

  The way out of this temptation that God has provided is to use our Baptism to remind us that we need to drown our sinful nature every day. Every time we think he is drowned; he pops his head up again to tempt us to sin. Every day we need to drown him by contrition, recognizing that no matter how many good things we have done we deserve God’s wrath for even just one sin. We need to drown him with contrition and repentance, which includes trust that Jesus has crushed our lapses into false security by his life and death in our place. Then, in response to what he has done for us, producing fruit in keeping with repentance, serving him and our neighbor in thankful love.

  Remind yourself every day of how richly God has blessed you. Seek his help every day so that you avoid taking those blessings for granted, and instead, let them be your reason for serving him in thankful love.