At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul points out how the people of Israel suffered from a variety of sin issues while they were wandering in the wilderness. He used that as a way to encourage the church of Corinth that even though it might feel like they were entirely alone, human beings have been dealing with these issues from the beginning.
1Co 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1Co 10:14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
I think that sin has a type of isolating effect. We often times think that maybe we are the only one who has this particular problem. Paul was writing to encourage the people from Corinth that there was nothing that would make God abandon them. Even if they felt tempted by a certain issue like idolatry, God would be able to help them come through it.
We all can identify with this I’m sure. We might all have different sinful tendencies, and what sets me back will be different than what sets you back. God promises that He will help us make it through. It doesn’t matter what the issue is.
What God does not promise is that it will be easy. You will be able to bear it. However, if you think about twisting your ankle, you are able to bear the pain, but it doesn’t mean that the pain is easy. I think that is the same way for us. We are inherently sinful people, and that is what we want to do. To break out of that pattern is not easy, but God will make it possible. It might seem to be the most natural thing in the world, and we might justify our sinful behavior as not so bad or acceptable given my personal circumstances, but we are told to run away from that. We are supposed to use the option that God will provide to us so that we can escape the temptation.
Temptation is not easy, but it comes to each and every one of us. We’re certainly not alone, and God is still right there with us. We just need to make a conscious effort to work for the freedom that He has given us.
In Luke 4, we see the temptation of Jesus, and I find it so interesting that the entire episode is book ended by the fact that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit.
Luk 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Luk 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
I think this is significant. Obviously, it shows us two parts of the Trinity simultaneously active, but it emphasizes that Jesus was not operating alone. It makes it even more significant than when he is later on the cross and speaks about being forsaken by God. Even in the difficult times, Jesus was following the will of God.
The temptation of Christ could have taken place anywhere. Satan could have met Him in His normal hometown, and Jesus could have undergone the temptation in comfort. However, it was clearly the will of God that He be led into a much harsher environment. Why?
I’m not entirely sure obviously, but it seems significant that this is reflective of the circumstances that some people live in. There are plenty of people who live in difficult environments with very limited resources. For those of us in America, we mostly don’t have a lot of concept of material suffering. However, because of this experience, Jesus did, and He was able to withstand temptation even in this circumstance. If Jesus had not done this, I wonder if some people might say that even Jesus would have sinned if He had to live through what I am living through. He lived in the desert with no food while being directly tempted by arguably the cleverest of all the angels. I think He understood something about adversity and living in a difficult situation.
Ultimately, God knows why God led Jesus by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, but it is clear that this was a very intentional act.
In Jeremiah 32, we receive more prophecy about the fall of Judah the hands of the Babylonians which is remarkably accurate, but we also get a kind of recap of why this entire situation was coming to be.
Jer 32:30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD.
Jer 32:31 For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face,
Jer 32:32 Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Jer 32:33 And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.
There are a few things to point out about this one. First, it wasn’t just the fact that the people were thinking evil things, but they were actually doing them. We certainly need to control our thought lives, but they were going even one step further. We all tempted, but we need to resist that, and apparently the people of Judah were not doing that very well.
A second important point is the fact that God was angry. We like to “sanitize” our image of who God is, and we sometimes wipe out the parts that we don’t think are so easy. However, this anger is a part of the character of God. It is a part of the Biblical account, so we cannot deny it. People violate His will, and while He certainly is forgiving, it is not as if He loves being sinned against.
Finally, the last point I want to emphasize is this idea of teaching. When the people were taught, they were not listening. In other words, the effect of the teaching was entirely lost on them because they were not actually involved with it and trying to apply it to their lives. How often can we do this in church today? Will that happen this morning?
The people of Judah obviously had a lot of things wrong with the culture, and I think we would have to be oblivious to not realize that many of these things happening in our society today. We need to control temptation, actually realize who God is and receive instruction from the Lord of all eternity.
Judges chapter 17 seems a lot like selective listening to me. Micah knew that God wants our worship, but he decided to take matters into his own hands.
First for some background:
Jdg 17:1 And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
Jdg 17:2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.
Jdg 17:3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.
Essentially, he stole a large amount of silver from his mother. However, perhaps his conscience instructed him to give it back to her, and she was obviously glad to have it back. Then, she said that she dedicated the money to God, and she wanted an idol to be made out of it.
You can imagine that God was probably not too thrilled about this development given that idolatry is generally what got Israel in trouble over the years. If we advance a few verses, the situation is explained perfectly.
Jdg 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
However, Micah was not satisfied with having his idol. He made an elaborate setup, and even went out to hired a priest to work in his house.
Jdg 17:10 And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.
Jdg 17:11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.
Jdg 17:12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.
Jdg 17:13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
In my mind, hiring the priest in this situation was little more than window dressing. By reading that last verse, you can see that that the priest was almost like a steppingstone to success. To make God happy, he decided that he needed to have a Levite living within his house.
There is nothing wrong with that, but he was missing the idea that having all of the idols was wrong. You cannot selectively listen to God. I hope that none of us are doing that. Idolatry is a powerful opponent, and we need to resist its temptation.