The Tragedy of Unbelief
1 Corinthians 10:1-14 - Joshua 13-14
Cooper P. Abrams III
Introduction: 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 explains to us the reverence
of the Old Testament to us. Verse says these things were written for
examples to us. The passage is addressing idolatry which
means placing anything in our lives above God. To
worship God means to hold Him in the highest place submitting one’s self
to Him. Through this passage God is saying that the Israelites
all were guided by Moses and by God through the cloud in the daytime and
the pillar of fire at night. They all passed on dry land through the
Red Sea and were saved from Pharaoh’s army. Verse 4 says
they all drank of that spiritual drink, meaning they knew of the Lord’s deliverance
and were looking by faith towards the Messiah, the coming Savior.
However, verse 5 says that in spite of all the knowledge
of God they had and the demonstration of His power God was not pleases with
some of them. Their disobedience, which was sin,
brought about its natural result and most of them never saw the Promised
Land and also lost their lives in the wilderness. Numbers 13:25-33
records how they did not believe God’s promises. Moses lead the people
to Kadesh-Barnea which was on the southern border of the land of Canaan.
He then send spies into the land to gather intelligence for the coming
God had promised to protect them and make them victorious,
but when the eight of the ten spies came back they reported that the land
was inhabited by giants and the land would eat them up. They people believed
the spies in spite of what God had said and then murmured against
Moses and started to choose a new leader to lead them back to Egypt.
It is not amazing that God had done all these miracles before them and had
brought them this far, but they wanted to return to slavery in Egypt!
Yet, Moses, Aaron and two of the spies believed God and Caleb and Joshua
stood up as Number 14:6-9 tells us and encouraged the people to believe God
and take the land.
“And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh,
which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake
unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we
passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD
delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land
which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD,
neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their
defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not” (Numbers
The people’s response when they heard the message was
to take up stones to kill them and thus silence the message that exposed
their unbelief and unfaithfulness to God. Would it not have made
more sense to see the error of their ways and to believe the truth?
But they did not really believe God and they acted according to their unbelief.
Numbers 14:10-11 says God’s glory then appeared in the Tabernacle.
God then tested Moses “And the LORD said unto Moses,
How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe
me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite
them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater
nation and mightier than they.”
But Moses loved the Lord and loved God’s people and he
stated his heart. Moses was jealous for God and for
God’s testimony before the lost. With all his heart he believed God
and wanted God’s will done. Number 14:13-15 records
“And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall
hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)
And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard
that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face,
and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by
day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.
Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which
have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the LORD was
not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore
he hath slain them in the wilderness. And now, I beseech thee, let
the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression,
and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers
upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech
thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy,
and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (Number
God’s natural is to show “unmerited favor” which
is grace and His response was to forgive but unbelief has its consequences:
“And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:
But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the
LORD. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles,
which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these
ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not
see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them
that provoked me see it” (Numbers 14:20-23)
God then chastened them and sent them to wander in the
wilderness for forty years. I have personally seen part of that
desert land when I went to Israel in October 2002 and believe me it is barren
and desolate. Our guide said it was more than a desert it was a “wilderness”
stressing to us how barren the land was.
Before them was the “land of milk and honey” and God had
shown Himself to them in a mighty ways and had promised to give it to them
because He loved them and wanted to use them as His witnesses to the lost
world. But they would not believe Him and because
they would not believe God all the children of Israel who were twenty years
old and older died in the wilderness.
God’s testimony was not ruined by their
failure. The Canaanites I am sure were happy to see them fail.
They knew the God of Israel was Almighty God and they feared Him.
They understood that it was not God’s failure that caused Israel to not at
that time possess the land. They knew it was the failure of Israel
to follow the Lord. Joshua 2:10-11 records Rahab’s testimony
that the Canaanites knew of the power of God. She told the spies,
“ For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you,
when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites,
that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
And as soon as we had heard these things,
our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man,
because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in
This was forty years after Israel sent in the first spies
from Kadesh-Barnea. The Canaanites knew of the power of
God and they forty years earlier were afraid of God’s people.
You can imagine that they hoped God was through with these idolatrous people
and for forty years heard they were still in the desert begin fed manna and
quail. God was still protecting them and in spite of the fact
He was chastening them....He did not forsake them. Yes, they were not
allowed to possess the land, but God fed them and even kept their clothes
and shoes from wearing out. Can you imagine wearing a pair of
shoes for forty years and the same clothes. By the way....to
those who preach the heresy that one can lose their salvation by disobeying
God this would be quite a revelation....God never forsakes or turns his back
on those whom He saves.
God promised to Joshua and Caleb they He would honor their
faith and that they would enter the land and process it.
It is interesting and very revealing what God said about Caleb.
“But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with
him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto
he went; and his seed shall possess it.”
What was the spirit that Caleb had that caused him to
want to attempt great things for the Lord and go and take the land?
It was the spirit of belief. He truly believed God.
1. So many today in our churches are
being swept along with the crowd. They attend church and they
want all the blessings of God. They would give the same
answers the Hebrews would if you had asked them if they believed God.
They would had said “Yes.” If you ask them did they wanted
to possess the land of Canaan they would reply “Yes.”
But they really did not believe God and they too were
being tested. He tests our faith and commitment to
Him. Before God uses anyone to serve Him, He tests them to prove
their faith to real. He weeds out the unbelievers.
Israel was tested at Kadesh-Barnea. Before them lay the great blessings
of God. Before then was a beautiful and wonderful
land where they could prosper, raise their families and live godly lives
and experience all the blessings of living for the Lord.
2. But it would take effort, great effort.
It would mean putting God first in their lives and making His will the direction
they would follow. Joshua and Caleb believed God and God’s
test proved their faith that it was real. They were ready to
obey God and do His will because they knew who had made the promises to them.
They wanted to be a part of what God was doing and they were personally willing
to commit their lives, their families and their all to see the Lord’s work
accomplished. It would be Joshua who was to lead the Children
of Israel into Canaan and take possession of the land. Through
his leadership and obedience to God Israel would win great victories.
Caleb would be an important part of this and would be a testimony even until
this very day of how God uses those who believe live by their faith.
1 Corinthians 10:6 presents Israel in a negative
light and says they were examples to us and Verse 7 says they sat down to
eat and drink and rose up to play. This gives us
great incite into what their sin was. They were not at this openly
worshiping idols but God says they were in idolatry. What the
verse means is they were not seriously devoted to the Lord. They
wanted God’s blessings, but they were not willing to work for the Lord.
They placed other things in their lives before the Lord. Their
idolatry was what were their priorities. There is nothing wrong
with eating, drinking or playing. But what displeased God was
that they had made these good things into idolatry by placing them before
the Lord. They were not willing to fight to take the land.
They were more interested in a life of ease.
ILLUS: I once had a pastor call me and tell me that one of the families
of my church had visited him and were interested in attending his church.
He called as a courtesy to let me know and wanted information about the couple.
He said their complaint was that they did not feel that I as the pastor was
ministering to them as I should. I explained to the pastor
that this couple only attended church about once every five to six weeks
and then only on Sunday morning for the worship service. They never
attended any other meetings of the church. I explained that I
had visited them and spent more time talking with them than any other of
our members. Once when my wife called asking if anything was wrong
because they had missed many services the wife said that she was so tired
on Sundays that she did not even dress on Sundays and stayed home to relax.
They had every kind of problem you can think of in their lives. Friends
I faithful taught and preached every service, yet they were rarely there.
We went by their house a number of times and they were never home.
You cannot minister to people who will not put forth the effort to even come
and worship the Lord. The pastor said from what they said he suspected
they were that type of people. The problem was not with
me as their pastor....the problem was with them and their lack of faithfulness
to the Lord. No new pastor or new church can help such
people because the solution lies within themselves. Many
people are looking for some special counseling that will give them the solution
to their problems and they want some magical cure, but the only cure is to
believe God and live according to God’s promises.
The Lord Jesus speaking to Jews gave this powerful truth,
in Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.” You see,
God our Creator, our righteous and Holy God. He deserves the first
place and He will not take second place behind the idols we put before Him
and bless us. Colossians 1:18-19 says “that in all things he
might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should
all fullness dwell.” That passage is saying that we are to put Christ
first in everything because in Him is everything we need.
Joshua and Caleb had to wait forty long years before they
received God’s promises, but Joshua 14:6-15 records that God was faithful
to them and they did inherit the land. Numbers 14:33 records
also a sad result which happened to the children of those who would not believe
God. The verse says their children would bear their whoredoms
meaning idolatry for forty years. Their unbelief effected their children.
Can we grasp the reality that these disobedient parents put their children
through the rigors of forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Instead of growing up with the benefits and blessings of God in the land
of milk and honey they were raised in a bleak and ugly desert with all its
1 Corinthians 10:14 contains the compassionate plea to
avoid the destructive consequences of idolatry saying: “Wherefore,
my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”
This passages uses the verb “flee” which is a strong word
meaning to run away with all abandon from idolatry as fast as you can.
Fight it with all your might even to the point of panic....flee from this
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