In I Corinthians 10, Paul refers to the Old Testament, the “things written aforetime,” as something from which we can benefit and by which we can grow spiritually.
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did…They were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
– I Corinthians 10:6-12 (excerpted)
What can we take from these ancient writings to help us on our spiritual lives? What can we learn about our God and ourselves?
The Seriousness of Sin
In Genesis 3, after the creation of nature and humankind, Adam and Even are driven from the Garden of Eden because of sin. Genesis 4 sees Cain punished for his sinful conduct. Genesis 6 tells of a population who care for nothing but evil conduct. We can see that sin was a problem then just as it is today, separating them and us from God just as Isaiah speaks of in Isaiah 59:2. Likewise, Paul makes this same case in Romans 3-6, and we can see the seriousness of that separation through those Old Testament examples.
In Genesis 8:13-14, Noah opens the ark to see the dry land in the beginning of one month, but he and his family do not leave the ark until the end of the next month when God finally tells them to do so. In II Samuel 7, David expresses a desire to build a better house for the Lord, but God responds by asking when He had ever asked for such a house; David respects God’s authority and relents. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, we need to look to God’s authority for all we do, and the writing of the Old Testament help us understand the completeness of that authority.
In Genesis 2:16-17, God lays down a single ground rule for living in Eden, simply expecting faithful obedience. In Genesis 4:3-4, God gives regard to Abel’s offering of faithful obedience. Genesis 22:12 records God recognizing the significance of Abraham’s faith, and Acts 10:34-35 shows Peter expressing that God will accept all who will serve Him in faith and reverence. God’s expectation has always been simple faithful obedience, and we can see that expectation endure from generation to generation.
When Adam and Eve sin in Genesis 3, God approaches them and talks to them. He also, in verse 15, sets in motion a plan of reconciliation for all of mankind. Genesis 12, 26, 28 – these record promises of blessings to the nations. Time and again, we see God deal patiently with imperfect and sinful man. We see His love ultimately in the sacrifice of His son, and how can he be so forgiving and loving to those who continually resist Him?
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In Luke 13:34, we see Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem, expressing that continual desire to gather His own to Him, even though they reject Him. II Peter 3:9 reminds us that God is patient with us, wishing that all would come to repentance. His love is still the same.
In I Corinthians 10, Paul writes about some specific events and shows how they point to the New Covenant. Our salvation in Christ began with roots in the times of Adam and Eve, and that plan built up through generation after generation. During that time, the problem of sin persisted, as it does today. Also persistent is God’s love, though, and if we respect His authority and render unto Him the faithful obedience He expects and deserves, then we can hope to be with Him one day.
lesson by Tim Smelser