Warnings for Deliverance
In a biography, both the author as they write and then the readers as they read face a great temptation to gloss over the subject’s faults. Scripture, on the other hand, makes no attempt to conceal or excuse the faults, failures, or sins of its heroes. And it is in the aftermath of spiritual triumph that the potential for defeat often seems to be at its peak.
In a victory of faith, Noah obediently continued, without a drop of rain falling, to build the ark. But after the flood, we read a sorry description of all that Noah allowed to happen in his drunkenness (see Genesis 9:20-27). Abram set out on the journey of faith; however, he then brought disgrace on himself and his family through his lies when he went down into Egypt (12:10-20). David triumphed over Goliath yet later found himself perpetrating adultery (and very possibly rape), murder, and chaos (2 Samuel 11 onwards).
Each of these characters are heroes who achieved great things in the cause of God, and who also failed. They stood tall, and they fell hard. The Bible gives us these examples not as excuses to hide behind but as warnings to deliver us from complacency when things are going well, and from expecting too much of others—and indeed, from expecting too much of ourselves!
The theologian A.W. Pink reminds us, “God suffers it to appear that the best of men are but men at the best. No matter how richly gifted they may be, how eminent in God’s service, how greatly honoured and used of Him, let His sustaining power be withdrawn from them for a moment and it will quickly be seen that they are ‘earthen vessels.’ No man stands any longer than he is supported by Divine grace. The most experienced saint, if left to himself, is immediately seen to be as weak as water and as timid as a mouse.”
Mercifully, God does not leave us to ourselves: He provides us with righteousness, salvation, truth, and His word so that we may not only endure but stand strong amid every trial and temptation. As we recognize within ourselves the same weaknesses and defeats experienced by heroes such as Noah, Abraham, and David, we are able to rely on God’s grace and power to support us through the Lord Jesus, our only true “way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Let this serve as a reminder that you are continuing in your faith, growing in holiness, or impacting the world for the kingdom not as a result of your strength or intellect or character, but because of God’s grace. The person who truly knows this sees complacency as a grave danger, and sees prayer as an absolute essential, for they know that it is only the Lord who can keep them standing day by day, moment by moment. Do you?
Warning Against Idolatry
1For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,1 that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown2 in the wilderness.
6Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9We must not put Christ3 to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
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