The apostle lists five major sins of the Israelite people here. In essence, though, there was really only one major sin, but the others led to this major sin, which was idolatry. The other sins they committed were just a step that took them into it.
These verses list lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting God, and murmuring. But the Corinthian church had another problem that Paul does not list here. It is something that we have to read between the lines to see. But once we begin to see it, it begins to become very clear. Their problem was a careless presumption that had its roots in pride. They were elevating themselves above their brethren, and their careless presumption that they were all right with God led them to treat their fellow man in a way that they ought not to have done. He is implying that behind this whole circumstance is idolatry. They themselves were the gods they were worshipping.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10
Israel's experience in Egypt and in the wilderness is an object lesson that God desires us to reflect on frequently. These lessons are most forcefully brought to the fore during the spring as we begin rehearsing God's plan of salvation in the annual holy days. Once freed from their slavery to Egypt, it took the Israelites but seven days to cross the Red Sea, breaking completely clear of Egyptian control. In dramatic contrast, it took them forty years to walk the remaining few hundred miles! During this trek, every man of war numbered in the first census after leaving Egypt—with the exception of Joshua and Caleb—died without reaching the Promised Land. Will we allow ourselves to match this miserable record by failing to maintain our liberty?
What a costly expedition! Hebrews 3:16-19 clarifies the cause of their failure more specifically:
For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. [emphasis ours]
Clearly, they did not make the right efforts to defend their God-given liberties. Instead, they exacerbated their circumstances by failing to discipline themselves to submit to God's rule over their lives, even though He freely rescued them from their slavery. They were unwilling to pay the costs of directing their lives as He commanded, despite knowing, through the many manifestations of His power, that He acted exactly as Moses had said He would.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love
Among the truly distinctive biblical terms describing the attitudes of those journeying through the wilderness are forms of the term "murmur." Such words are not used much today, as most would use a form of "complain," "gripe," "grumble," "protest," "criticize," or "whine." In referring to the children of Israel in the wilderness, the King James Version uses a form of "murmur" 24 times.
It is natural to complain against afflictions, losses, and hopeful expectations dashed. We seem to think that our possessions are ours unconditionally, especially those things on which we had set our hearts. We feel that, having worked diligently, we are entitled to success and deserve to enjoy and keep what we have accumulated. In the same way, when we are surrounded by a loving family, no one has a right to break into that circle and strike down a loved one.
We live our lives under the sovereignty of God, whose watchful oversight is on us constantly. How do we react to Him when things are not going well? It is easy to gripe without even thinking of the ever-watchful God who promises to supply our every need. We may find ourselves complaining to Him about our state of affairs, as if He is totally unaware. Have we forgotten that this One, who by His grace has called us into a relationship with Him, has neither afflicted us nor allowed us to be afflicted anywhere near what we truly deserve as the wages of our sinful lives?
One of the benefits of fully accepting the sovereignty of God is not always appreciated because its cause and solution are not always understood. Comprehending God's sovereignty brings resignation into our lives. In this day, being resigned to something almost seems like a position of defeat, as though at best we have to choose the lesser of two evils rather than forging ahead in confidence to grab life's brass ring.
The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary defines resignation as "the quality of being submissive; unresisting acquiescence." The Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder defines it as "uncomplaining endurance of a sorrow or difficulty." The mention of endurance is noteworthy because of Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:13 for the need of endurance.
A major benefit of intelligently living by faith, seeking God through His Word, meditating on what we study, and relating everything in life to an awareness of God, looking for His hand in events, is that these activities will gradually produce a much deeper awareness of His loving nearness. It gives us a clearer sense that everything is under control. Recall Jesus' crossing the turbulent Sea of Galilee during a storm. There are huge waves and high winds. The disciples are terrified, but He is sleeping right through it. In fear, they wake Him. He arises and says to the wind and waves, "Peace, be still," and they immediately calm. He then asks His disciples, "Why are you so fearful; how is it that you have no faith?"
When we have a right and true recognition of God's sovereignty, the griping and fears that we are so prone to because human nature is so easily offended can diminish considerably. Understanding God's sovereignty better teaches us that we must know that our lives are in God's hands. He owns us body and soul, we are in His view at all times, and we must bow to His will. Therefore, regardless of circumstances, He can take care of us.
He never afflicts us with more than we deserve nor more than we can bear (I Corinthians 10:13). If He chooses poverty, poor health, or family problems for us, we must understand that He never piles more on us than we deserve. After all, we killed His Son, and besides that, He has great plans for us in His Kingdom for which we need to be prepared.
An upset woman once complained to her minister that church members had heaped much scorn on her and her family by saying derogatory things about them. She asked the minister if anybody else in his memory had had to endure such things. He replied, "Yes, Jesus Christ. All His disciples abandoned Him, and the government put Him, an innocent man, to death. He not only did not complain, He accepted God's will, and before He died, He forgave them all."
There are other examples: Job says, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away" (Job 1:21). God took away seven sons and three daughters, as well as his wealth and home. As a young boy, Samuel delivered God's judgments on Eli's two sons. That surely must have stung the old priest, but Eli responded, "Let [the LORD] do what seems good to Him" (I Samuel 3:18). Aaron accepted God's verdict of death on his two sons without a murmur (Leviticus 10:3).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty, Part Three: The Fruits
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Corinthians 10:10: