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Warnings from Israel’s History


I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

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Admonitions and Warnings. (a. d. 57.)

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;   2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;   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.   5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

In order to dissuade the Corinthians from communion with idolaters, and security in any sinful course, he sets before them the example of the Jews, the church under the Old Testament. They enjoyed great privileges, but, having been guilty of heinous provocations, they fell under very grievous punishments. In these verses he reckons up their privileges, which, in the main, were the same with ours.

I. He prefaces this discourse with a note of regard: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant. I would not have you without the knowledge of this matter; it is a thing worthy both of your knowledge and attention. It is a history very instructive and monitory." Judaism was Christianity under a veil, wrapt up in types and dark hints. The gospel was preached to them, in their legal rites and sacrifices. And the providence of God towards them, and what happened to them notwithstanding these privileges, may and ought to be warnings to us.

II. He specifies some of their privileges. He begins, 1. With their deliverance from Egypt: "Our fathers, that is, the ancestors of us Jews, were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. They were all under the divine covering and conduct." The cloud served for both purposes: it sometimes contracted itself into a cloudy pillar, shining on one side to show them their way, dark on the other to hide them from their pursuing enemies; and sometimes spread itself over them as a mighty sheet, to defend them from the burning sun in the sandy desert, Ps. cv. 39. They were miraculously conducted through the Red Sea, where the pursuing Egyptians were drowned: it was a lane to them, but a grave to these: a proper type of our redemption by Christ, who saves us by conquering and destroying his enemies and ours. They were very dear to God, and much in his favour, when he would work such miracles for their deliverance, and take them so immediately under his guidance and protection. 2. They had sacraments like ours. (1.) They were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea (v. 2), or into Moses, that is, brought under obligation to Moses's law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant. It was to them a typical baptism. (2.) They did all eat of the same spiritual meat, and drink of the same spiritual drink, that we do. The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified, the bread which came down from heaven, which whoso eateth shall live forever. Their drink was a stream fetched from a rock which followed them in all their journeyings in the wilderness; and this rock was Christ, that is, in type and figure. He is the rock on which the Christian church is built; and of the streams that issue from him do all believers drink, and are refreshed. Now all the Jews did eat of this meat, and drink of this rock, called here a spiritual rock, because it typified spiritual things. These were great privileges. One would think that this should have saved them; that all who ate of that spiritual meat, and drank of that spiritual drink, should have been holy and acceptable to God. Yet was it otherwise: With many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness, v. 5. Note, Men may enjoy many and great spiritual privileges in this world, and yet come short of eternal life. Many of those who were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and sea, that is, had their faith of his divine commission confirmed by these miracles, were yet overthrown in the wilderness, and never saw the promised land. Let none presume upon their great privileges, or profession of the truth; these will not secure heavenly happiness, nor prevent judgments here on earth, except the root of the matter be in us.