Exodus: A Warning and a Hope
The apostle Paul is not one to mince words. You see, he sees the great events of Hebrew history as signs for what’s happening in his day. More than signs, actually; what was true then was still true as he wrote, just in a new way.
Here, it’s Moses and the escape from Egypt. He knows no one he’s writing to was alive then. He knows many of them aren’t Jews, so their forefathers weren’t party to it. So why is he calling the Exodus a baptism? And why is he saying they all went through it? And why is he writing about spiritual food (likened to the stuff the Israelites called ‘what-is-it?’) and spiritual drink (likened to that which came from the stones)?
Because to Paul, these events gave us a foretaste of the same grace which God would show us in its fullest in Jesus, the Messiah. Something that’s most brought to mind when we share bread and wine, as Jesus did in his last supper.
So why does Paul bring up the underside of what happened in the exodus? The idolatry of the golden calf, the lack of trust they showed at Meribah, the constant grumbling and whining?
Paul says that the ancients wrote those things so that we would know better. Israel’s shining moments were also moments of shame. They thought they could stand proud, until God showed them how low they had gone. Paul’s warning to God’s people of Paul’s own time was the truth about the people of the Exodus. It is as true of us today as it ever was. God will give us a way out of temptation, but we won’t take it if we think ourselves so good that we stand on our own.
Lord, make us end our whining. Feed us your spiritual food and drink to sustain us in our material world, and lead us away from the lies of the tempter, that we may love you as we ought. Amen.