A Letter To The Gathering
1 Corinthians 10The Message (MSG)
10 1-5 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.
6-10 The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.
11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
14 So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.
15-18 I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar.
19-22 Do you see the difference? Sacrifices offered to idols are offered to nothing, for what’s the idol but a nothing? Or worse than nothing, a minus, a demon! I don’t want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself. And you can’t have it both ways, banqueting with the Master one day and slumming with demons the next. Besides, the Master won’t put up with it. He wants us—all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less?
23-24 Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.
25-28 With that as a base to work from, common sense can take you the rest of the way. Eat anything sold at the butcher shop, for instance; you don’t have to run an “idolatry test” on every item. “The earth,” after all, “is God’s, and everything in it.” That “everything” certainly includes the leg of lamb in the butcher shop. If a nonbeliever invites you to dinner and you feel like going, go ahead and enjoy yourself; eat everything placed before you. It would be both bad manners and bad spirituality to cross-examine your host on the ethical purity of each course as it is served. On the other hand, if he goes out of his way to tell you that this or that was sacrificed to god or goddess so-and-so, you should pass. Even though you may be indifferent as to where it came from, he isn’t, and you don’t want to send mixed messages to him about who you are worshiping.
29-30 But, except for these special cases, I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!
31-33 So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.
Let’s Go Back
The Death of Joshua
6 After Joshua sent the people away, each of the tribes left to take possession of the land allotted to them. 7 And the Israelites served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who outlived him—those who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. 9 They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah[b] in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
Israel Disobeys the Lord
10 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.
11 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. 12 They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. 13 They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. 14 This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. 15 Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress.
Judges 2:18-19The Message (MSG)
When God was setting up judges for them, he would be right there with the judge: He would save them from their enemies’ oppression as long as the judge was alive, for God was moved to compassion when he heard their groaning because of those who afflicted and beat them. But when the judge died, the people went right back to their old ways—but even worse than their parents!—running after other gods, serving and worshiping them. Stubborn as mules, they didn’t drop a single evil practice.
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.
False Gods in Judges
Also called Astarte, or Ashtoroth (plural), this goddess of the Canaanites was connected with fertility and maternity.
Worship of Ashtoreth was strong at Sidon. She was sometimes called a consort or companion of Baal. King Solomon, influenced by his foreign wives, fell into Ashtoreth worship, which led to his downfall.
The Canaanites worshiped Baal as the sun god and as the storm god—he is usually depicted holding a lightning bolt—who defeated enemies and produced crops. They also worshiped him as a fertility god who provided children. Baal worship was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution in the temples. At times, appeasing Baal required human sacrifice, usually the firstborn of the one making the sacrifice (Jeremiah 19:5). The priests of Baal appealed to their god in rites of wild abandon which included loud, ecstatic cries and self-inflicted injury (1 Kings 18:28).
In 1 Samuel 5:1-5, after the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant, they placed it in their temple next to Dagon. The next day Dagon’s statue was toppled to the floor. They set it upright, and the next morning it was again on the floor, with the head and hands broken off. Later, the Philistines put King Saul‘s armor in their temple and hung his severed head in the temple of Dagon.
Put Off Old Practices
Colossians 3:9 New International Version
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
The Ammonites Oppress Israel
6 Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They served the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. They abandoned the Lord and no longer served him at all. 7 So the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites, 8 who began to oppress them that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites east of the Jordan River in the land of the Amorites (that is, in Gilead). 9 The Ammonites also crossed to the west side of the Jordan and attacked Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim.
The Israelites were in great distress. 10 Finally, they cried out to the Lord for help, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.”
11 The Lord replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. 13 Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!”
15 But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” 16 Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.
The 12 Judges
Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson
Hebrews 11:32-38The Message (MSG)
32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
SAMSON the “NAZIRITE”
Mark 14:22-25New International Version (NIV)
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
PAUL the “Nazirite”
Acts 18:18Contemporary English Version (CEV)
18 After Paul had stayed for a while with the Lord’s followers in Corinth, he told them good-by and sailed on to Syria with Aquila and Priscilla. But before he left, he had his head shaved at Cenchreae because he had made a promise to God.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10New Living Translation (NLT)
9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
DO YOUR OWN THING
Judges 21:25: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
Isaiah 53:6 New Living Translation
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.