“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. “
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples. . . .”
Literally the apostle says: Now all these things as types happened unto them.
The apostle is referring, of course; to the preceding context where briefly he had sketched the history concerning Israel’s departure from the house of bondage in Egypt. In this brief sketch the apostle mentions the historic facts that Israel was under the cloud, that they all passed through the sea, that Israel was baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, that in the wilderness they ate of the manna and drank of the rock, the spiritual Rock that followed them, which he says was Christ. Moreover, he adds to the historic facts that God .was highly displeased with Israel because of their sins and overthrew them in the wilderness; and he enumerates their sins by pointing out their idolatry, fornication, murmuring, and rebellion; in the way of which sins they were destroyed of the destroyer. And this brief sketch is prefaced with the solemn note addressed to the church of Corinth and therefore to us: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant,” that is, ignorant of these historic facts.
In verse six already the apostle declares that these things were our examples. And now in the text he says once more, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples.”
The history to which the apostle refers was not simply a record of natural phenomena, but sacred history—an infallible record of what God did according to His counsel, in the way of His covenant, in which He clearly revealed His virtues, particularly those of His love and His wrath. It was also a record of how that ancient people reacted to this marvelous revelation of God Who made them the recipients of exceeding precious benefits, how they responded to these benefits by turning their faces away from Jehovah their Saviour, and what God did to Israel because of their sins.
The apostle also stresses the point that this history was typical history. What the apostle is saying is that the things that happened were types, shadows, patterns of a greater reality which would be realized in the church of the new dispensation. It is in that context that he informs us that these things are written for our warning, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.
There may be exceptions to the rule, but it is generally true that, history is not written for the generation that makes history. So it is here, for the apostle says very definitely that these things which happened to them were written for us who stand at the end of the ages. It is written for our warning. Thus it certainly behooves us to reflect on it, to learn from it, and especially to guard against the pitfalls into which Israel fell.
Indeed, what we have here is a warning from history!
The history to which the apostle refers, and which he briefly sketches in the context, is, of course, infallibly recorded in Holy Scriptures, particularly in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. But references to that history one finds repeatedly also in the Prophets and especially in the Psalms. It seems, when one reads the entire Old Testament; that the generations of Israel were constantly reminded of that history, especially when those generations walked in the sins of their fathers. In one word, it seems that God would never forget to remind the children of Israel of His miraculous deliverance of them in Egypt, and what they did with that salvation. This He does also now to the New Testament church through the apostle, who was adept in the knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Marvelous typical deliverance from the bondage of sin and death!
That it was a typical deliverance cannot mean that it was not real. Always the type belongs to the reality as the shadow is related to the object that casts it.
Indeed, Israel’s deliverance from the bondage in Egypt was a wonder of grace. When Egypt had made full its cup of iniquity and was therefore ready for its destruction, God fulfilled His covenant promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promise namely that after four hundred years He would bring His people to the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And just as wonderful is the historic fact that the nations dwelling in Canaan had made themselves also ripe for judgment in order to make room for the Israel of God.
Moreover, the wonder becomes even greater. For God prepared for them a cloud, the symbol of His presence; to protect them by day and by night: and to guide them in the way. He opened for them a way of escape through the midst of the sea; and when Pharaoh, who had hardened his heart, determined to bring Israel back into bondage, pursued after them into the sea, he and his army were drowned. So Israel is symbolically delivered from the bondage of sin and death, when they were baptized into Moses m the cloud and the sea. They ate of the spiritual meat and drank of the spiritual drink which was Christ when they ate the heavenly manna and drank of the water which flowed to them from the rock. Thus briefly the apostle summarizes the history of Israel’s deliverance. Of this the church of the new day must not be ignorant.
The history, however, does not stop here. It goes on to record what Israel did, how Israel responded to this manifestation of Jehovah’s salvation. Did Israel out of gratitude serve in faithfulness the God Who had so wondrously delivered them? The opposite was true. They made an idol before which they danced in hellish glee. Did Israel walk in holiness which might be expected of those who had been lately cleansed? O, no, to the contrary, they gave themselves over to fornication and uncleanness. Did Israel fear the Lord? No, they tempted Him and were destroyed of serpents. They became a murmuring, rebellious, lusting lot. Of this the church of the present must also be not ignorant.
Even so the history is not complete. What God did to this rebellious people also belongs to this history, concerning which the church of the new day must also be enlightened. With many, not all of them, God was highly displeased, and He destroyed them. Their carcasses fell upon the sands of the wilderness. They never entered into the promised land. In one word, they never went to heaven.
It is all these things which happened unto them by way of example, and which were written for our admonition, for our warning.
Old Testament history therefore is not merely a record of the past. It is the Word of God speaking to the church of today. Besides emphasizing the truth of the unity of the Scriptures, it also teaches us by implication that the church is also one. The premillenialist or dispensationalist can certainly find no ground for his conception in this Word of God. Though the old and new dispensation can clearly be distinguished, they may never be separated. The church is one. Organically the church develops from the beginning of history to the end. One church God is gathering out of all dispensations, nations, and peoples, from the believers and their seed. When that seed produces a majority of reprobates, as was the case in the history we now consider, then they do precisely what Israel did in the wilderness. All of this makes that history to be important to us, and this is why God has seen to it that this history is written for us.
Also implied in the fact that this is typical history is the truth that the church of today is the fulfillment of the type in every sense of that word. This truth becomes emphatic when you consider that the apostle adds, “upon whom the ends of the world (ages) are come.” We must not therefore look for another church in time—we are it. We are the reality which was foreshadowed in Israel. And this implies, too, that what God provided for Israel in its redemption He provides for us in the highest sense of the word. As Israel we too are under the cloud that guides and protects us as we sojourn in the wilderness of this present time—the cloud that casts darkness and confusion over our enemies. As Israel, we too passed through the sea which in Israel’s case separated Israel from Egypt, as our fathers so beautifully express it in our Form for Baptism, the sea which destroyed Pharaoh and his host, and which for us destroyed the devil and his consorts. Through the water of the sea of baptism, we are cleansed by the blood of Christ. As Israel, we eat and drink Christ, the heavenly Bread and the living Water. What heavenly and glorious provision God has made for us! And the judgment which befell Israel in the wav of’ their sins also comes upon us in our generations when we turn from Jehovah. Make no mistake about it, God destroyed reprobate, unbelieving Israel in the way of their sin. This is precisely what He will do to our generations should they continue in sin. So God speaks to us in this history which was written for our admonition, for our warning.
What is the warning then?
Certainly there is no room for complacency. Not because we have Abraham for our father, nor because we are born in the generation of believers, do we have a guarantee that we go to heaven. It is not the fact that we were baptized, nor that we partook of the Lord’s Supper that gives us the assurance of our salvation. Nor is it true that because we belong to the purest manifestation of the church of Christ in the world, or because we fell heirs to the purest preaching of the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures that we, can boast that we are the particular objects of God’s favor. Wonderful as these facts are, if we make light of them and boastfully ride on these truths without living out of them, it were better that we were never born. If we go lost with them, our condemnation can only be made the heavier.
Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!
What does the word of warning say?
It admonishes us and our seed to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. It calls us to serve Him with a life of complete dedication, with a life and walk of sanctification without which no man shall see God. It teaches us to flee from carnal lusts, from physical and spiritual fornication, from the manufacture of idols, from murmuring and rebellion; and to flee to the cross and find there in Christ’s atoning blood our refuge. It teaches us to repent of our sins, to pray for forgiveness, for the assurance of justification, and for the grace of perseverance.
He who stands at the pinnacle of complacency will surely fall!
But he who heeds what is written and responds in faith to the admonition, shall enter without fail into the Canaan of eternal bliss!
O, indeed, God’s promises are never failing. He will save His people unto the uttermost; but let them walk no more in folly!
Joshua entered into the promised land. And here is what he said: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
They that walk in such faith shall by the grace of God inherit the land!