Blessings or Maledictions—Examples for Us Today
“These things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 CORINTHIANS 10:11.
1. Even as one inspects an implement, what inspection should we make?
UNSEEN under a coat of paint, rust can begin to corrode an implement made of iron. It may be some time before the rust becomes visible on the surface. Similarly, the attitudes and desires of one’s heart may begin to deteriorate long before this results in serious consequences or is even noticed by others. As we would wisely inspect an implement to see if it is becoming rusty, so a close inspection of our hearts and timely maintenance may preserve our Christian integrity. Put another way, we can receive God’s blessings and can avoid divine maledictions. Some may think that the blessings and maledictions pronounced upon ancient Israel have little meaning for those facing the conclusion of this system of things. (Joshua 8:34, 35; Matthew 13:49, 50; 24:3) However, that is not so. We can benefit greatly from the warning examples involving Israel, as set out in 1 Corinthians chapter 10.
2. What does 1 Corinthians 10:5, 6 say about Israel’s experiences in the wilderness?
2 The apostle Paul parallels the Israelites under Moses with Christians under Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) Though the people of Israel could have entered the Promised Land, “on most of them God did not express his approval, for they were laid low in the wilderness.” Paul therefore told fellow Christians: “Now these things became our examples, for us not to be persons desiring injurious things, even as they desired them.” (1 Corinthians 10:5, 6) Desires are nurtured in the heart, so we need to heed the warning examples that Paul cites.
Warning Against Idolatry
3. How did the Israelites sin in connection with the golden calf?
3 Paul’s first warning is: “Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; just as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they got up to have a good time.’” (1 Corinthians 10:7) This warning example is that of the Israelites’ reverting to the ways of Egypt and making an idolatrous golden calf. (Exodus, chapter 32) The disciple Stephen indicated the underlying problem: “To [Moses, God’s representative] our forefathers refused to become obedient, but they thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us to go ahead of us. For this Moses, who led us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ So they made a calf in those days and brought up a sacrifice to the idol and began to enjoy themselves in the works of their hands.” (Acts 7:39-41) Notice that “in their hearts” the wayward Israelites harbored wrong desires that led to idolatry. “They made a calf . . . and brought up a sacrifice to the idol.” Moreover, they “began to enjoy themselves in the work of their hands.” There was music, singing, dancing, eating, and drinking. Obviously, the idolatry was enticing and entertaining.
4, 5. What idolatrous practices do we need to avoid?
4 Antitypical Egypt—Satan’s world—virtually worships entertainment. (1 John 5:19; Revelation 11:8) It idolizes actors, singers, and sports stars, as well as their dancing, their music, their concepts of fun and good times. Many have been tempted to drench themselves in entertainment while still claiming to worship Jehovah. When a Christian must be reproved for wrongdoing, his weakened spiritual state can often be traced back to drinking alcoholic beverages, dancing, and the having of a good time in some way that may border on idolatry. (Exodus 32:5, 6, 17, 18) Some entertainment is wholesome and enjoyable. Yet, today most worldly music, dancing, movies, and videos cater to corrupt fleshly desires.
5 True Christians do not succumb to the worship of idols. (2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 John 5:21) May each of us be just as careful not to become addicted to idolatrous entertainment and risk suffering the detrimental effects of being immersed in having a good time in a worldly way. If we subject ourselves to worldly influences, injurious desires and attitudes can almost imperceptibly lodge in the mind and heart. When not corrected, these can eventually result in being ‘laid low in the wilderness’ of Satan’s system.
6. What positive action may we need to take concerning entertainment?
6 Like Moses at the time of the golden-calf incident, in effect “the faithful and discreet slave” is saying: “Who is on Jehovah’s side? To me!” Taking positive action to show that we stand firmly for true worship can be lifesaving. Moses’ tribe of Levi acted promptly to clear out debasing influences. (Matthew 24:45-47; Exodus 32:26-28) So, then, carefully examine your choice of entertainment, music, videos, and the like. If it is corrupt in some way, take your stand for Jehovah. With prayerful reliance on God, make changes in your choice of entertainment and music, and destroy the spiritually harmful material, even as Moses destroyed the golden calf.—Exodus 32:20; Deuteronomy 9:21.
7. How can we protect the figurative heart?
7 How can we counteract corrosion of the heart? By studying God’s Word diligently, letting its truths sink into our minds and hearts. (Romans 12:1, 2) Of course, we should attend Christian meetings regularly. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Passively attending meetings could be likened to painting over a rust spot. This may brighten us for a while, but it does not solve the underlying problem. Instead, by advance preparation, meditation, and active participation in meetings, we can aggressively remove corrosive elements that may linger in the recesses of our figurative heart. This will help us to adhere to God’s Word and will strengthen us to endure tests of faith and become “sound in all respects.”—James 1:3, 4; Proverbs 15:28.
Warning Against Fornication
8 In Paul’s next example, we are counseled: “Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day.”* (1 Corinthians 10:8) The apostle was referring to the time when the Israelites bowed down to false gods and had “immoral relations with the daughters of Moab.” (Numbers 25:1-9) Sexual immorality is death dealing! Letting immoral thoughts and desires run rampant is like allowing a “rusting” of the heart. Jesus stated: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matthew 5:27, 28.
9 Testifying to the consequences of ‘looking so as to have a passion for a woman’ is the result of the debased thinking of the disobedient angels prior to the Flood of Noah’s day. (Genesis 6:1, 2) Remember, too, that one of the most tragic incidents of King David’s life was ignited by his continuing to look improperly at a woman. (2 Samuel 11:1-4) In contrast, the righteous married man Job ‘made a covenant with his eyes that he would not show himself attentive to a virgin,’ thus avoiding immorality and proving to be an integrity keeper. (Job 31:1-3, 6-11) The eyes might be likened to the windows of the heart. And it is out of a corrupt heart that many wicked things issue forth.—Mark 7:20-23.
10 If we apply Jesus’ words, we will not allow free rein to wrong thoughts by viewing pornographic material or by entertaining immoral thoughts regarding a fellow Christian, a workmate, or anyone else. Rust is not removed from metal by merely brushing off the corrosion. Therefore, do not lightly brush off immoral ideas and tendencies as though they were of little significance. Take strong measures to rid yourself of immoral leanings. (Compare Matthew 5:29, 30.) Paul exhorts fellow believers: “Deaden . . . your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming.” Yes, on account of such things as sexual immorality, “the wrath of God is coming” as the expression of his malediction. So we need to “deaden” our body members as respects these things.—Colossians 3:5, 6.
Warning Against Rebellious Complaints
11, 12. (a) What warning is given at 1 Corinthians 10:9, and what incident was referred to? (b) How should Paul’s warning affect us?
11 Paul next warns: “Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents.” (1 Corinthians 10:9) While trekking in the wilderness near the border of Edom, the Israelites “kept speaking against God and Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread and no water, and our soul has come to abhor the contemptible bread,’” the miraculously provided manna. (Numbers 21:4, 5) Just think! Those Israelites “kept speaking against God,” calling his provisions contemptible!
12 By their complaints, the Israelites were testing Jehovah’s patience. Punishment was not withheld, for Jehovah sent poisonous serpents among them, and many died from serpent bites. After the people repented and Moses interceded in their behalf, the plague was brought to an end. (Numbers 21:6-9) Surely this incident should serve as a warning for us not to display a rebellious, complaining spirit, especially against God and his theocratic arrangements.
Warning Against Murmuring
13. Against what does 1 Corinthians 10:10 warn, and what rebellion did Paul have in mind?
13 Citing his final example involving the Israelites in the wilderness, Paul writes: “Neither be murmurers, just as some of them murmured, only to perish by the destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:10) Rebellion erupted when Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their associates acted untheocratically and challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 16:1-3) After the destruction of the rebels, the Israelites started to murmur. This was because they began to reason that the destruction of the rebels was unjust. Numbers 16:41 states: “Directly the next day the whole assembly of the sons of Israel began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, saying: ‘You men, you have put Jehovah’s people to death.’” As a result of their finding fault with the way justice was administered on that occasion, 14,700 Israelites perished from a divinely sent scourge.—Numbers 16:49.
14, 15. (a) What was one of the sins of the “ungodly men” who slipped into the congregation? (b) What can be learned from the incident involving Korah?
14 In the first century C.E., “ungodly men” who slipped into the Christian congregation proved to be false teachers as well as murmurers. These men were “disregarding lordship and speaking abusively of glorious ones,” anointed men then entrusted with the spiritual oversight of the congregation. Concerning the ungodly apostates, the disciple Jude also said: “These men are murmurers, complainers about their lot in life, proceeding according to their own desires.” (Jude 3, 4, 8, 16) Today, some individuals become murmurers because they allow a spiritually corrosive attitude to develop in their heart. Often they concentrate on the imperfections of those in positions of oversight in the congregation and begin to murmur against them. Their murmuring and complaining may even extend to criticizing publications of the ‘faithful slave.’
15 It is proper to ask sincere questions about a Scriptural subject. But what if we were to develop a negative attitude that manifested itself in critical discussions among an intimate circle of friends? We would do well to ask ourselves, ‘Where is this likely to end? Would it not be far better to stop murmuring and pray humbly for wisdom?’ (James 1:5-8; Jude 17-21) Korah and his supporters, who rebelled against the authority of Moses and Aaron, may have been so convinced that their perspective was valid that they did not examine their motives. Nonetheless, they were completely wrong. So were the Israelites who murmured about the destruction of Korah and the other rebels. How wise it is to let such examples move us to examine our motives, dispel murmuring or complaining, and allow Jehovah to refine us!—Psalm 17:1-3.
Learn, and Enjoy the Blessings
16. What is the substance of the exhortation at 1 Corinthians 10:11, 12?
16 Under divine inspiration, Paul concludes the list of warning messages with the exhortation: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived. Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:11, 12) May we not take for granted our standing in the Christian congregation.
17. If we sense an improper motive in our heart, what should we do?
17 As iron has a tendency to rust, likewise we descendants of sinful Adam have inherited an inclination toward badness. (Genesis 8:21; Romans 5:12) Hence, we should not be discouraged if we sense an improper motive in our heart. Instead, let us take decisive action. When iron is exposed to moist air or a caustic environment, its corrosion is greatly accelerated. We need to avoid exposure to the “air” of Satan’s world, with its vile entertainment, rampant immorality, and negative bent of mind.—Ephesians 2:1, 2.
18. What has Jehovah done respecting the wrong tendencies of mankind?
18 Jehovah has provided humankind with a means to counteract wrong tendencies that we have inherited. He gave his only-begotten Son so that those exercising faith in him might have everlasting life. (John 3:16) If we follow Jesus’ steps closely and manifest a Christlike personality, we will be a blessing to others. (1 Peter 2:21) We will also receive, not maledictions, but divine blessings.
19. How can we benefit from considering Scriptural examples?
19 Though we today are as susceptible to error as were the Israelites of old, we have God’s complete written Word to guide us. From its pages we learn about Jehovah’s dealings with mankind as well as his qualities exemplified in Jesus, ‘the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of His very being.’ (Hebrews 1:1-3; John 14:9, 10) Through prayer and diligent study of the Scriptures, we can have “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) When confronted with temptations and other tests of our faith, we can benefit from considering ancient Scriptural examples and especially the superlative example of Jesus Christ. If we do so, we will not have to experience the outworking of divine maledictions. Instead, we will enjoy Jehovah’s favor today and his blessings forever.
How Would You Answer?
□ How can we apply Paul’s counsel not to become idolaters?
□ What can we do to heed the apostle’s warning against fornication?
□ Why should we avoid murmuring and complaining?
□ How can we receive divine blessings, not maledictions?
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If we want divine blessings, we must avoid idolatry
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Even as rust needs to be removed, let us take positive action to remove improper desires from our hearts