By Tyson Thorne

April 21, 2019

RollingStone Large

"For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did."

We just celebrated Passover, and I've been looking at the original Passover found in the book of Exodus. There is an interesting story in chapter 17. While traveling through the wilderness, Moses led the Israelites to a place called Rephidim. After traveling all day the people were thirsty, and the cattle too, but there was no water to drink. The people complained to Moses, who in turn went to the Lord with their concernsGod gave Moses instructions, which he followed, and struck a rock with his staff (the same one with which he parted the Red Sea) and water came forth from the rock. This explains how the people's thirst was satisfied this one day, but not for the 40 years that followed. There isn't much water in the desolate wilderness they wandered through. It is something that puzzled Jewish scholars for centuries.

There are only two accounts of the Israelites obtaining water during this time, this first passage in Exodus 17 and at the end of the wanderings in Numbers 20-21. This has led some Hebrew scholars to conclude that the rock, the very rock Moses struck to bring forth water, followed them through the desert. This ancient tradition developed as a supernatural solution to a very natural problem: the need for water.

As strange as this seems, it appears that it is an explanation Paul accepted, at least in a fashion, and passed on to the church at Corinth. The quote at the beginning of this article is from 1 Corinthians 10, verses one through six. In it, Paul talks about the "spiritual rock that followed them." The very mention of the roaming rock is a puzzle unless we understand the Jewish tradition behind it. Rather than taking the Jewish tradition at face value, however, Paul reinterprets the rock in a spiritual fashion instead of a physical one. For Paul, the rolling stone was Jesus Christ.

Why does Paul mention this? To understand why we need to understand the context of 1 Corinthians. The believers saw themselves as especially blessed by God and, therefore, above the need for discipline. Paul warns them that they will not escape the discipline of God and need to live with godly intention. To make his argument clear, he uses another group of God's people who were especially blessed. The Israelites of the Exodus experienced God's guidance as a pillar of fire and a cloud, whereas the church experienced guidance through the instruction of angels (to Mary and Joseph) and prophets like Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist). The Israelites passed through the Red Sea and were saved from their enemies, while the church experienced deliverance of another kind, salvation from sin. The Israelites were baptised into Moses, while Christians are baptised into Christ. The Israelites were given spiritual food (manna) while the church has been given bread from heaven (at the feeding of the 5,000, for example). Finally, Israel had been given water from a supernatural source, and Jesus is the Living Water for the church. If Israel had been disciplined for their bad behavior, so would the church.

Leave it to Paul to bring forth an exposition of the Old Testament in a New Testament framework. Leave it to Jesus to care for all of God's people, both past and present. This Resurrection Sunday thank God for all his provision, including his correcting discipline.

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