1 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3all ate the same spiritual food,”
Chapter 10 continues the argument for Christian liberty in the context of restricting liberty for the sake of the weaker Christian. The overarching issue is priority of love for fellow believers. In chapter nine, Paul illustrated his waiving rights for others and especially for reaching those without Christ. The issue in chapter 10 is the abuse of liberty. The first five verses deal with serious warnings about that abuse.
Paul speaks to weak Christians in this chapter because they were about to violate their weak conscience against eating food sacrificed to idols. There are areas of the Bible that are not explicit about which direction to take. In that case, the Christian operates on principle.
“Moreover” links chapter 10 with chapter nine.
brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that
The Israelites were privileged people. Note the word “all” in the first five verses. All the Israelites were privileged people, not just a few. Paul shows the Corinthian church real and graphic examples of the abuse of privilege from the Old Testament. The Israelites started well, but through self-indulgence and lack of discipline, they lost reward before God. What follows is striking, graphic warnings for Christians today.
Romans 15:4, For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
all our fathers were under the cloud,
This cloud was the pillar of smoke that preceded Israel, to guide her in her travels. This was a unique blessing that other nations never had. It was a Shekinah cloud of God’s presence (the pre-incarnate Christ). The first privilege of Israel was that they had definite, divine guidance wherever they went. The Greek tense “were” is constantly in the past. There was no time when Israel was not under God’s guidance. The “cloud” for the Christian today is God’s Word; God’s Word gives us guidance. God’s Word is filled with privileges.
Hebrews 13:5, Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” [The word “never” occurs 5 times – God will never, ever, ever, ever, ever leave us.]
all passed through the sea,
The second privilege was they possessed the power of God. Pharaoh pursued Israel, and they ran into a dead-end at the Red Sea. They hit the panic button because they deemed their plight a hopeless situation, but God delivered them through the sea. Israel passed through the Red Sea, but the Egyptians drowned in the same sea. God divided the sea for Israel but drowned the Egyptians by closing the divided sea. This was an act of the omnipotent power of God. Christians in impossible situations can experience deliverance through God’s power.
all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
The third privilege was their position in God’s economy, God’s nation. The word “baptized” means to identify. God identified Israel with Himself and His dispensation. They were no crowd but a community associated with the God of heaven and earth. They were people who shared the presence and power of God. This was a baptism where no one got wet! The baptism here was neither water baptism nor the baptism of the Spirit into the body of Christ (Spirit baptism). The baptism was identification with the leadership of Moses, the leadership of the pre-incarnate Christ in the cloud, and the power of God who divides the Red Sea. The Israelites became more than a wandering mob; they became a nation and a community.
all ate the same spiritual food,
The fourth privilege was God’s provision for them. The “spiritual food” here was the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness. Manna was real food but supernaturally provided, so it was “spiritual” food. God fed two million Israelites every day for 40 years with manna supernaturally provided. When the people came out of their tents in the morning, they saw white stuff spread over the ground, and they said, “What is it?” (“Manna” in Hebrew). “What is it?” became the name of the white stuff. Israel ate manna for 40 years. No wonder they got tired of that diet! Yet, they never went hungry. God provided for them every step of the way. He anticipated their every need. God blessed them on the basis of His character.
Learning the principles of the Word of God saves us the expense of experience.
Christians today are confident of their spirituality but are almost completely unaware of the inherent dangers of their spiritual privileges. It is possible to have a saved soul but a lost life. There are those who live and then try to learn. God’s way is to learn and then live. The Word of God saves us the expense of experience. The Bible is manna for us today. If the Israelites left manna to be picked up the next day, it spoiled. If we neglect the intake of the Word of God on a given day, we miss spiritual nourishment for that given day. Only those who have life can feed on Christ.
John 6:31-32, 31Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.