8 “Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
In verses eight through 10, Paul makes a case for the weak Christian. Some strong Christians went to pagan temples for meals, which was a stumbling block to the weak.
Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;
The second sin that the Israelites committed was “sexual immorality” in Moabite religious feasts (Nu 25:1-9). Second generation Israelites, tempted by women from Moab and Midian, fell into immorality. Twenty-four thousand died, 23,000 died in one day. God disciplined them through a plague that did not stop until Aaron’s grandson Phinehas speared a couple engaged in fornication. The Corinthians committed the same sin (5:1-5, 10-11; 6:9-10, 12-20).
nor let us tempt Christ,
Numbers 21 records the story of verse nine. This failure of Israel put Christ to the test by accusing Him of unfaithfully taking them into the wilderness. This is unadulterated unbelief.
The word “tempt” in this context means try thoroughly, try to the utmost. Israel provoked God’s longsuffering. God provided for them in grace, but they continued to complain. They accused God of not being faithful to them and that He brought them out of Egypt to kill them.
as some of them also tempted,
The Corinthians were tempted to participate in pagan feasts just like the Israelites.
and were destroyed by serpents;
The Israelites of old tested the Lord’s patience, so God killed them for their disobedience. A believer who enters protracted unbelief is subject to the sin unto death (1 Co 11:30).
nor complain, as some of them also complained,
Israel constantly complained and murmured against the Lord during the 40-year wilderness wanderings. There were 10 separate cases of their complaints in Exodus and Numbers. Carnality usually manifests itself in insolence. This incident occurred in Numbers 16:3-41, where three young men – Korah, Dathan, and Abiram – grumbled at the authority of Moses. The ground swallowed these young men and killed them.
Numbers 21:5, And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
Israel also complained about variety in their diet. They were dissatisfied with God’s provisions. They had the audacity to challenge God’s providence.
and were destroyed by the destroyer.
God sent fire to destroy some of the Israelites in Numbers 11:1-3 and other rebels in Numbers 16:32-35, 41. God killed 14,700 people on this occasion.
Now all these things happened to them as examples,
Paul picks up the thread of verse six in this verse – the example of Israel is a warning for the Corinthians and saints of today. These examples are pertinent, relevant warnings from the history of the Old Testament. God’s people of Israel and God’s people of the church both can learn from these examples. We can avoid these heart-rending experiences by taking note of Israel’s situation. Israel began with privileges (10:1f) and ended with discipline (10:7-11) and the loss of their lives.
and they were written for our admonition,
The word “admonition” means to put sense into the mind. It carries the ideas both of (1) blame to correct a wrong and (2) challenge to will to apply principles of Scripture (2 Ti 3:16). The idea is to train by the word. The Corinthians needed “admonition” to give proper concern to the weaker Christian. God wrote the Old Testament to see for ourselves the tragedy that can come from persistent sin.
upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
This phrase indicates that what happened to Israel in her succession of events could happen to the church today. It is an example of every generation of Christians.
We need to learn the implications of discontentment from Israel.
Complaining is a telltale indication of discontent and especially discontent with God. A complaint is a challenge to God’s plan. It is a challenge to God’s grace and righteousness. Paul learned to be content.
Philippians 4:11, Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
Christians who grow dissatisfied with the circumstances God sovereignly designed for them are similar to the Israelites of old. We subtly imply that God put us into our circumstances for evil. That is to test God by implying He does not provide.