By Emily Wickstrom
Lectionary reading for 3/15/2022: Psalm 105:1-42; Numbers 14:10b-24; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Selected passage for reflection: 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13
1 Corinthians 10: 1-13, NLT
Lessons from Israel’s Idolatry
10 I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 3 All of them ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.
9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
This day marks 74 days in 2022. 74 days ago, I made some new year’s resolutions to myself, one of which was to live more healthily (you know, the typical eat better, exercise more type of thing); perhaps you too made resolutions or named hopes for this year. But this year, I was reluctantly excited to make them - I know how helpful it is to have goals, and how disappointing it is when you don’t meet those same goals.
People say that it helps to remember your “why” to stay consistent. Your “why” helps ground you, to keep you focused, especially in times when you are tempted to forget and return to the way things were. My “why” at the beginning of 2022 was centered around a desire to live into the fullest and best version of myself, and I was struggling to do so before making this resolution. So, I made a resolution in order to help set me free from things that were holding me back from being the best version of myself. Some days it’s pretty easy to remember my “why”. But on more days, it’s really hard to remember, and I give into things that may be satisfying in the moment but don’t bring me closer to the fullness and freedom I am seeking.
In this passage, Paul is reminding the church in Corinth about their “why”. He asks them to remember who they are and whose they are. He emphasizes the importance of remembering their history, revealing that Israel didn’t always remember their “why”, even when God was right there with them. Despite God parting the waters, delivering the people from slavery in Egypt, and providing for their every need in the wilderness, Israel was tempted and forgot. And Paul is telling the Corinthians that they could fall into that same trap if they are not careful! Verses 12 and 13 say, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.” The enemy is always tempting people to stay and live in a life of bondage. AND GOD IS FAITHFUL! “[God] will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, [God] will show you a way out so that you can endure” (verse 13).
If I’m being honest, some days I too am like Israel - easily forgetting God, even when God is looking me full in the face (Numbers 6:26, The Message). Sometimes it’s a blatant turning away from God… almost like, “Yeah, that’s a hard pass today, God.” And God remains faithful, even in my forgetting. God’s faithfulness is right there for us - we can live into it at any time, if we seek it. For when we bask in God’s faithfulness, turning towards it and not away from it, we can live into our fullest, freest selves.
What’s your “why” with your relationship with God?
What is tempting you to forget your “why” with God?
Take some time to reflect on where you have seen God’s faithfulness. How can you choose to seek God’s faithfulness more in your daily life?
God of Moses, be near to us in our every step, as you were with Moses through the parting of the Red Sea and the journey through the wilderness. Help us in our forgetfulness - we are so easily tempted to forget, and yet we long to remember you with all that we are. Thank you for your faithfulness, a steadfastness that stands outside of time and our temptations. Give us the stamina and wisdom to remember our “why” for You, and to choose it day by day, moment by moment. We long to be our fullest and freest selves, found only in Your faithful love. Amen.
About the Author
Emily Wickstrom, a born-and-raised Midwesterner, now serves in a co-vocational role in Sacramento, CA, both as an associate pastor at Common Ground Church and with the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Emily is passionate about work surrounding justice and equity, believing they are integral parts of the Gospel. Some of her favorite things include: listening to people’s stories, being with her husband Ben and their dog Rocky, and spending time in and around water (always missing Lake Michigan). You can follow along with her life, ministry, and everything in between on her Instagram (@emily.wickstrom).