10:9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
Another brief reference to a tragic incident on their journey from Egypt to the promised land.
Last night I was talking to a friend and she told me of a time a friend of hers asked her to explain her beliefs. They sat down and she opened her Bible to the Old Testament. Immediately her friend interrupted and said "I'm sorry but I don't believe the Old Testament. I'm a New Testament Christian. This thinking is not new or unique to this woman. There are entire Christian churches who hold to this idea. Here is the problem. Without the Old Testament there wouldn't be a New. Furthermore much of the New makes no sense without the Old. The writers of the New Testament who were willing to die for Jesus and understood as well or better than we do who He was and is had only the Old Testament. They quoted from it and took examples from it repeatedly. How can we come along now and say it needs to be thrown away?
Once I met with a couple who was struggling because one of them had been married before but their spouse had died. The source of the struggle were the memories. The one who lost their spouse often shared those memories and it hurt the other. They felt as if they were being compared or couldn't measure up or existed to give life to a memory. While it is critical to never expect anyone to be someone they are not or to replace someone else it is equally critical to realize you can't erase someone's past. It is part of them, as much a part of them as the present. You can never truly know a person if you refuse to explore the oath that brought them to where they are.
Is the Old Testament hard to stomach in places? Yes it is. But you know what? So is some of my own past. It has dark chapters. Times when I was far from God and as a result far from Godly. Can I disown those parts now that I am in a new chapter? I think some people might find that a little less than honest. But there is another reason to keep the past with us as we grow and move forward. It is a powerful teaching tool.
That's what Paul is doing here in chapter 10. He is telling the Corinthians that they can look back and see the results of bad choices. Why blaze a trail of destruction in ignorance when history has already exposed the path for what it is? The Old Testament is often dark precisely because they were in darkness. They never had the opportunity to know Jesus as we have had. They never knew all that we know. Consequently they made some choices we don't need to make. We have both Jesus and their example.
So what happened with serpents? I thought you'd never ask :)
The story is in Numbers 21. The people had become weary of the tough miserable trek through the desert. A trek that was only necessary because of their fear and lack of faith. A journey that could have been short in distance and time had they trusted God. The route could have been as easy one as well rather than traveling across the wilderness. It was their poor choices that created the misery and even in it God sustained them with miracle food and provided water as needed. None of this prevented their complaints and it all came to a boil again. They cried out to God and Moses, blaming them for leading them into the wilderness to die.
In the midst of their complaining poisonous snakes came into the camp and the people were being bitten and dying. They cried out to the same man (Moses) and God that moments before they deemed incompetent and useless. God told Moses to do something really strange. He told him to make a snake from brass and mount it on a pole. Then he told Moses to tell the people to look at the pole and they would live.
Tomorrow we'll talk about why...