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1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

That is, the miraculous and specially provided cloud of God's protection and guidance was spread over them all. Surely they could feel, "We are the chosen people."

2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

Here again a great miracle was openly performed on their behalf. Every one of them had the impressive personal experience of passing through that divinely provided channel of deliverance from bondage to freedom. This passage through the sea, with the water standing on both sides and the shielding cloud enveloping them above, Paul likens to baptism. And in this act Egypt - the world of sin - was left behind, and their former masters, the Egyptians - the old man of the flesh - were drowned in the cleansing baptismal waters.

3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

In these five things, the Israelites all partook of God's intimate favour and fellowship, but still He finally rejected them and scattered their carcases in the wilderness. The Israelites had every reason to believe that they were a specially selected and favoured group, but they had the bitter lesson to learn that as regards eternal salvation, God has no favourites. He is no respecter of persons. His ways are rigidly just and equal. As a man sows, so shall he reap.

The manna and the water from the rock are called "spiritual" because they were specially provided by the Spirit of God and not by natural, human effort; and also because they typified the true spiritual meat and drink of the Word, and of the Word-made-flesh, by regular partaking of which we may (and must) be spiritually transformed, and finally reborn of Spirit-power.

...Paul tells us here that the rock struck by Moses to provide water represented Christ. He was smitten by the rod, or Law of Moses, in order to provide a way of life. He came under the curse of the Law and broke it open to free those held in bondage by the Law. And it was the Levites, the tribe of Moses the custodians of the Law, who smote him. They were the divinely-appointed "rod of Moses," for they were the administrators of Moses' Law, confirmed in this office by the rod of the tribe of Levi being caused to blossom (Num. 17:8).

The incident of smiting the rock occurred at Rephidim, which was the last stop before reaching Mt. Sinai. Maps usually place it in the immediate Mt. Sinai region. The point is this. Paul says here that this rock "followed them." What did he mean? The most reasonable meaning seems to be that the stream caused by the smiting of the rock followed them from Rephidim to Sinai, where they stayed a whole year. The smiting of the rock was a very significant and important event. It is reasonable that it is associated with their whole stay at Sinai, which was the most important year in their entire history.

5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Let us bear in mind what Paul is driving at. He is saying that though all the Israelites partook of these things, yet the great majority were finally rejected and destroyed in the wilderness simply because - with special divine blessing and manifestations showered on them from every angle - they would not make the effort to rise above their natural, animal desires and way of life.

Paul is drawing the parallel between their spiritual food and drink, and the bread and wine of the Lord's supper. The manna, we are told (Num. 11:8) was ground or beaten to make bread, just as the Passover lamb was slain to provide the protecting blood, and the rock had to be smitten to provide the life-giving water. In all these things we are reminded that in the great battle against the evil consequences of sin, our Leader had to give up his life under the most cruel and agonizing conditions. 

This is to teach and impress on us that the struggle for holiness and life is not a pleasant, easy pastime but a vitally serious thing which only a few have the wisdom to apply themselves to and follow through to the end.

Bro Growcott - The Smitten Rock

They never reached the promised rest, and never will. The Revised Version says, "With MOST of them God was not pleased." They were a nation under divine sentence of death. For forty years they wandered with the sentence hanging over them, each waiting his turn to die. On the average, one hundred bodies were left behind every day for forty years. "With most of them God was not well pleased," though they had done just what was natural and human in the circumstances. "Natural" and "human" are not qualities that please God.

Bro Growcott - The Treasures of Egypt

6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

The lust was for the good things of Egypt. It was quite natural for them to desire the pleasing things of the world they had come out from. Truly there were many pleasant and desirable things about Egypt, which at that time led the world in all the arts and sciences and flesh-pleasing contrivances of man. Forty years is a long time to wander in a hot, dry, barren wilderness, partaking of the same monotonous, unchanging food day after day.

But if they had been able to rise to the broader, spiritual view of the matter, they would have seen things differently. Egypt, with all its pleasures, was a land of futureless death. They were on the Divine road of life and promise. If they only had had eyes to see the manna, the smitten rock, the tabernacle, the pillar of fire, the plagues of Egypt, the Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea, the miracles of Moses-all these things were concrete evidences that they were part of a marvellous, history-making divine operation that linked them to eternity.

Viewed in the proper perspective, what were the poor, passing pleasures of benighted Egypt? But they forgot the glory of God that had lifted them up, and could think only of the garlic and onions of Egypt. It is very easy to let food and animal pleasures monopolize much of our thoughts and conversation - to forsake spiritual food in the interest of natural food. Of such Paul sadly says,

"Whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things" (Phil. 3:19). Moses had the proper outlook. The apostle records of him (Heb. 11:26) that he-

"Esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."

He weighed up all that Egypt had to offer and he could see through its empty deceptiveness and its inevitable end. Doubtless, he too, naturally speaking, would have enjoyed some of the pleasures and comforts of Egypt, but he realized that there were more important things in life than babyishly catering to the flesh. He had a work to do and a goal to reach.

Bro Growcott - The Treasures of Egypt 

7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

And what of idolatry and fornication and tempting and murmuring - the other examples of failure that Paul calls to our attention? As to the first, it is hard to draw a clear dividing line between lust and idolatry. All lust is a form of idol worship and voluntary slavery, but the Apostle's distinction seems to be that by idolatry he refers to the placing of faith, trust or dependence upon something, as upon money or insurance. The commonest form of this idolatry is self-confidence or self-reliance-depending upon the arm of the flesh. Perhaps, too, he has in mind the angle of service, devotion or worship, as when he says-as previously quoted-

"Whose god (or idol) is their belly."

Bro Growcott - The Treasures of Egypt

9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

And the sin of "tempting"-what is that? The example Paul gives is when it is recorded (Num. 21:5)-

"The people spoke against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?"

They "spoke against God!" What unutterable folly! But is it not an easy thing to fall into, when the presentation to us of God's commandments is irksome and restrictive? Of course we would not admit we were speaking against God. It is safer to appear to be directing our annoyance against man, as they did against Moses. But when the people in the days of Samuel clamoured for a king, God put His finger on the heart of the matter. "They have not rejected YOU," He told Samuel, "they have rejected ME" (1 Sam. 8:7).

God told Samuel they were running true to the rebellious pattern they had always followed from the time He brought them out of Egypt. They had said then, "Let us make a captain, and let us return unto Egypt" (Num. 14:4).

They pretended it was on account of Samuel's sons. This gave them a handle. But really they lusted after a worldly setup of splendor and magnificence. They wanted to be like the world -to have all its flashy tinsel, in all the latest models. God warned them, but still they blindly persisted in their headlong way.

We tempt God when we set our judgment and opinion against His. When, instead of casting aside the deceptive reasoning of the flesh and seeking to learn from Him, we rather attempt to find something in His Word that we can interpret to justify our own views and desires. If our scriptural judgment in any matter corresponds with our natural feelings, then we should examine both very carefully, for they are probably wrong. The commands of God are usually plain if we are anxiously seeking to understand and to always be on the safe side in any matter of doubt. Jesus said-

"The Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge you in the last day" (Jn. 12:48).

He will have a Bible there, and it will only be necessary for him to open it and point silently to some passage to put many to confusion and shame. Let us try to take every precaution not to be among them.

Bro Growcott - The Treasures of Egypt

11 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.

12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

As he says in the next chapter in relation to the partaking of the memorial supper-"Let a man examine himself."

Let him take the searching spotlight of the Spirit-Word and turn its full glare upon the inner workings of his fleshly mind. What he sees if he looks carefully will move him to exclaim with Paul,

Who shall deliver me from this body of death?"

But if the whole counsel of Scripture is eagerly and unreservedly accepted and applied, he will be able to also say with the apostle-

"I strain forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus . . . I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 3:14; 4:13).

Bro Growcott - The Treasures of Egypt