March 3, 2013: Don’t Be an Israel, Be a Zion!

Let us pray: Dear Savior,empower us today to renounce being wishy-washy Christians! Inspire our hearts to take both You, Your sacrifice for our sins, and all the truths of Your holy Word seriously. Cause us to resist all temptations by clinging to Your cross. Yes, continue to give us the ability to walk away when Satan comes calling by walking toward You. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE FOCAL POINT OF ALL HISTORY!

TEXT: I Corinthians 10: 1-13

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Self-love, narcissism, pride, the celebrity-driven culture of America today—they are all cut from the same cloth. For a culture that prides itself in knowledge and information most Americans are pretty clueless when it comes to history. It would be interesting to take a poll with these questions: 1. Who is Beyonce vs. Delilah? 2. How many of you know who Chris Rock is vs. St. Paul? 3. Is King David the name of a new rock band? Or how about # 4. Who do you admire more, Oprah or John the Baptist? You and I both know what the results would be: Modern culture hits a home run while Bible knowledge strikes out!

Why is it that people care so little for the lessons of the past and are so engrossed with the superficial fluff of the moment? Do we think we’re so much smarter than our forebears that we’ll never, ever repeat their mistakes? Or have we adopted the old Roman epicurean world view that we should: “Eat, drink, and party-hardy for tomorrow we’ll all die!”? Sadly, all of the above probably apply today….. Ignorance is not bliss. It’s not bliss when it comes to your health, your wealth, your politics, or your religion. Ignorance is just ignorance. Unfortunately, it is also often deadly. If you think otherwise, go practice your climbing skills on a high-tension electrical tower and see how it turns out.

Today St. Paul takes us back in time to the ancient history of the children of Israel. And then he contrasts their situation with that of New Testament believers. I’ll paraphrase Paul this way:

DON’T BE AN ISRAEL, BE A ZION!

I

The children of Israel were trapped in Egypt. They had been there for 400 years, originally as honored guests and then they were slowly enslaved. They were forced to build the monuments of ancient Egyptian greatness with muscle, sweat, tears, and blood. Finally God had freed them from Pharaoh by using Moses. They escaped Pharaoh’s army when God separated the Red Sea, letting them cross on the dry sea-bed and then sending the waters crashing down and destroying Pharaoh’s army. For the next 40 years God went ahead of their straggling column in the form of a giant dark thunderhead column of smoke by day and a flashing lightening column of fire by night. They saw all this. They experienced this sensory overload every single day. Through it He protected them from countless enemies. Yes God preserves His people! Likewise, God provided them with water literally from rocks and miraculous food—manna and flocks of quail each morning and night. However, almost to a man and woman the adults perished. Why? Because God was mean and vindictive? Because He’s all show and no go? NO! They perished because they became apathetic, lazy in their allegiance to Him, and rebellious against His goodness. They didn’t trust God Who led them out of Egypt toward the promised land. They trusted in their own strength, wisdom and power instead of putting their God # 1 on their priority list.

Listen to how Paul describes what happened to Israel: “I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized (set apart as God’s holy people) into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert….” The point being: apathy coupled with ignorance is deadly. It was for Israel and it will be for the Corinthians, you, and me—if we let it.

II

I began by saying: Don’t Be An Israel, Be A Zion! Well, what’s a “Zion?” Throughout the Bible Zion is a reference to God’s Holy City and His Holy People. It’s code for the “Holy Christian Church” or all the believers in Christ. Zion can also mean God’s holy temple where He dwells. Since Scripture tells us that the bodies of believers are God’s living temple, Zion is literally you and me.–You and me made holy, pure, and spotless by the cleansing, forgiving blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. So, now St. Paul addresses the challenges and stresses of being a faithful believer by contrasting it with Israel’s pathetic waywardness. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

This means: Don’t get lazy in your faith. Don’t start taking God and His love for granted. Don’t play with sin thinking: “I’m forgiven anyway. I’ll always have time later to repent in my leisure. I can put God off when it’s more convenient for me.” It also means: When your comfortable world has been invaded by cancer, a dying child, bankruptcy, or addiction—don’t give up on God. Why? Because He never gives up on you! Jesus’ love is always there. His help is always there. All you have to do is ask for it. But make sure you ask in repentant faith with the words: “Your will be done.” Make sure you do that because God’s will is good and gracious and He always wants what is best for our eternal welfare. If that means swallowing hard and ingesting a bitter pill, so be it. The worst that can occur is we come out on the other side in heaven! In other words, don’t be afraid to trust your life, your soul, your all to God Who gave His life to save yours!

You know, if more people read history and learned its lessons; if more people read Biblical history and learned from it—America would be calmer, more sane and less prone to outlandish silliness. People would be happier. Life would be more satisfying. What more can I say, other than: Don’t Be An Israel, Be A Zion. Amen