The Apostle Paul wrote concerning God’s people, the Israelites, who left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness before reaching the land of Canaan. 1 Corinthians 10:5-11 “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” Because of their sinfulness, God caused most of the Israelites to die in the wilderness. Let us learn from their bad examples.
“We should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.” The best example of the lust of the Israelites was after they were giving the manna to eat. Numbers 11:4-6 “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!’” To lust for something is to have an intense craving for something that you do not have. The Israelites were discontent with what God had given them and they lusted for different food; they complained to Moses and to God. You too can be discontent and lust for the things of this world. 1 John 2:15-16 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.” Do not lust for the things of the world. Be content with what God has given you.
“And do not become idolaters as were some of them.” When Moses was upon the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites convinced Moses’ brother Aaron to make a golden calf to worship. He also built an altar and proclaimed a feast. Exodus 32:6 “Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” While it is highly unlikely that you will worship before an idol such as the golden calf, you can make something in your life an idol by spending all of your time and energies for that thing. Covetousness is called idolatry in Colossians 3:5. God is a jealous God. Do not become an idolater.
“Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell.” The sexual immorality is recorded in Numbers 25:1b “And the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab.” Apparently, the prophet Balaam was behind the women of Moab offering themselves to the Israelites. Jesus told the church in Pergamum in Revelation 2:14 “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” As a result, a plague came upon the Israelites and thousands died. God was intolerant of the Israelites when they committed sexual immorality and He will be intolerant of you as well if you choose sexual immorality. Ephesians 5:3 “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints.”
“Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents.” This is recorded in Numbers 21:4-6 “Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.” The people were very unhappy with their conditions so they complaining to God and Moses. As a result of their complaining, the Lord sent serpents that caused many people to die. Accept what happens in your life and deal with it the best you can, but do not complain to God.
“Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” It is thought that this refers to the time when Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. Ten spies returned and complained that the Lord had brought them out of Egypt to destroy them; they wanted to return to Egypt. Numbers 14:36-37 “Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord.” This is another example of complaining to the Lord rather than walking in faith and accepting what He brings into your life.
The Israelite’s rebellion against God was evidenced by their lusting for things they did not have, by their idolatry, by their sexual immorality and their complaining and murmuring against Him. As a result of their sin, most of them did not reach the Promised Land. Don’t follow their bad example lest you also not reach your promised inheritance. I encourage you to learn from the bad examples of the Israelites in the wilderness.