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Vol.  9  No. 10 October 2007  Page 9
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Louis RushmoreBy Way of Example

By Louis Rushmore, Editor

Especially Christians need to learn from the mistakes of others, so they can better prepare to meet God in eternity. The American Standard Version of 1 Corinthians 10:11 uses the phrase, “by way of example,” to emphasize that contemporary people can and need to learn from the mistakes of those who have come before us.

Parents sometimes say to their children (and others over whom they may have some influence), “Don’t make the same mistake that I made.” This type of advice might have to do with a misspent youth (e.g., drinking, drugs, premarital sex, an abortion, marrying too young, hanging out with the wrong crowd, etc.). Quite possibly, such advice may have to do with post-adolescent or adult life responsibilities (e.g., mishandling one’s money, childrearing, etc.). Any number of things might be included in such well meaning parental advice, howbeit, advice that often is neither desired by younger persons nor followed.

The Bible contains several instances of Bible characters essentially urging subsequent generations, “Don’t make the same mistakes that we made.” Solomon, for instance, tried everything “under the sun” to bring him earthly, sensual happiness and concluded that it was all in vain. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Solomon’s Book of Proverbs in its entirety is a warning to youth to avoid paths of wickedness (and their hurtful consequences) and rather choose paths of righteousness (which promise a better today and a brighter eternity). The individual accounts of various Bible characters echo loudly the truism, “Don’t make the same mistakes that we have made!” The apostle Paul encouraged Christians both in Rome and Corinth to learn from Old Testament history and to avoid making the same sinful mistakes (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11).

What should we be able to learn from the demise of the Jewish priests, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2)? The NIV says they offered “unauthorized fire” in Jewish worship. The fire was supposed to come from the altar of burnt sacrifice before the entrance of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 16:12). Evidently, these two sons of Aaron, the high priest, derived their fire from some other source.

In a very dramatic and public display of divine disapproval, God destroyed Nadab and Abihu with fire out of the sky. God declared that the two errant priests, by their ignoring of divine instruction, neither had neither observed the holiness of God nor were they glorifying God (Leviticus 10:3). Further, under the penalty of death, even their father and brothers were forbidden to either mourn or sympathize with Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:3, 6-7).

Just what might we conclude that we can apply to ourselves? We had better not worship God in any unauthorized way, or we, too, will come to know divine displeasure (at Final Judgment). At all times, especially when worshipping, we need to act in such a way as to honor the holiness of God and glorify him. We must not sympathize with sinners, irrespective of whether they may be fellow Christians.

What should we be able to learn from God’s punishment of his people following the Exodus from Egypt? In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, the apostle Paul summarized the sins of Israel during this period. The children of God were guilty of “lust after evil things,” idolatry, fornication and grumbling against God (1 Corinthians 10:6-8, 10). One translation says that they tested God (i.e., tested the authority and fortitude of God like children test their parents to see if they will follow through on what they say) (1 Corinthians 10:9).

Consequently, God littered the desert with the bodies of those sinners (1 Corinthians 10:5). Preceding the Exodus, the Egyptians had seen the result of the mighty hand of God against them (Deuteronomy 6:21; 7:8; 26:8; Daniel 9:15). Ironically, Israel was not more receptive to God in view of the power he demonstrated against the Egyptians. Israel sinned and was severely punished by God during the 40-year wilderness wandering so that a whole generation eventually died before reaching Canaan (Numbers 14:29-33).

Just what might we conclude that we can apply to ourselves? We must not lust after evil things (Titus 2:12; 1 John 2:15-17). We must not practice idolatry (i.e., nothing and no one must either be more important to us than God is or come before God in our lives) (Matthew 6:24, 33). Sexual immorality must not characterize the children of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). We must not grumble against God or his divine Word (e.g., marriage, divorce and remarriage; the role of women in the home and the church; instrumental music; etc.). God will punish his children for their sins, perhaps providentially in this life (Heb. 12:5-11). Especially Christians should not test the authority of God.

    In conclusion, though similar instances could be multiplied greatly, the principle would remain the same, namely: God says what he means, and he means what he says. There is no need for us to make the same kind of mistakes that Bible characters made to bring upon them God’s severe displeasure. We can learn by the sinful mistakes of others how to better prepare to meet God in Final Judgment (Amos 4:12). The first step today in preparing to meet God in Final Judgment is to become a Christian (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 11:26). Each day is an opportunity to commune with Jesus Christ and his blood, whereby we can be prepared to meet God in Final Judgment (1 John 1:7-10).
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