The Nation of Israel is an Old Testament representation of the New Testament Church. Israel is referred to as a “peculiar people” in Exodus 19:5, while in the New Testament, we Christians are referred to as a “peculiar people” in 1st Peter 2:9. The word peculiar is defined as: That which is one’s own. Belonging to one’s own possessions. So essentially, we and Israel are both a people selected by God from among the nations for His own possession.
In Israel’s day, their world was divided up into three distinct people groups. On the one hand were the gentiles, which were the unchosen people of all the other nations in the world at that time. Then there was what we know as the Nation of Israel, and these were circumcised Jews who identified themselves with Israel as it related to citizenship. The third group was the faithful remnant which were not only circumcised physically and identified with Israel with citizenship, but also these people were circumcised in their hearts and were serious minded Law-abiding Jews.
In our day, our world is divided up also into three distinct groups of people. The unsaved people, what we call “the world,” are akin to the Old Testament gentiles. Today we have professing believers as the second group which mirrors those people who only identify with their citizenship. These nominal Christians today can claim citizenship in Heaven, but they are not interested in much else. What were called the faithful remnant in Israel’s day we call disciples today. These are the serious minded Christians who identify with Christ beyond just one day having a home in Heaven.
Back in the Old Testament, during the Exodus, God led Israel through His appointed leader, Moses. Today we have God-appointed leaders called pastors, and they lead churches filled with all three types of people: The unsaved (gentiles), the nominal Christians, and the serious-minded disciples. And just as God wanted Moses and Israel to reach the Promise Land (a place of blessing), so too does God want our pastors to lead today’s Christians to a place in their lives where they are experiencing their own “Promise Land” experience of rich blessings in their lives. But it’s sin and backsliding that held Israel back, and it’s what prevents us from reaching blessings in our lives.
If you read 1st Corinthians 10:1-11, Paul also sets up the argument for how we New Testament Christians today are a representation of Old Testament Israel. God delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt and Pharaoh (vs. 1) and He has delivered us from the bondage of Satan. Israel identified with, and submitted to Moses and his authority (vs. 2) while today we identify with Christ’s leadership and submit to His authority. Paul reminds us that God gave Israel manna in the desert (vs. 3) while today, we have the Word of God to feast on daily. Lastly, Israel enjoyed spiritual water from the rock that followed them (vs. 4) and today, Christ is our rock with water that will make us never thirst again (John 4). So in verse 11, Paul wraps it all up for us and reminds us that as the focus of God has shifted from Old Testament Israel, to the New Testament believer, God expects nothing less out of us than He expected out of Israel.
Now in 1st Corinthians 10:5-10, Paul warns us about backsliding by showing us how it was that Israel sinned against God and backslid. It ultimately led to several episodes of chastening by the Lord against Israel. Some at the hand of God Himself, while other forms a chastening came from God allowing other nations to hurt Israel. As we study this week, we need to remind ourselves that God can chasten us directly for our sins, or He can allow others in our lives to make our lives unpleasant while we sin, disobey God, and live for ourselves. But God’s chastening of Israel and His chastening of us is for one simple reason…He loves us. God wants what is best for us and wants us to avoid all those things that He knows are harmful to us.
In verses 5-10 of 1st Corinthians Chapter 10, we see five sins Israel was guilty of. These five sins are not random sins that stand alone. In this text, we see that these five sins are a progression deeper and deeper into backsliding. Paul tells us that Israel lusted, took up idolatry, committed spiritual fornication, tempted God while doubting His goodness, and lastly they were a thankless people. This is what can happen to us, and in the same exact order. Consider this scenario…
You crave (LUST after) wealth. The Bible says that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Well if you LOVE something, you’re going to be obsessed with getting it. Now the focus to make, create, or get money will become all-consuming for you. The quest for money, wealth, and riches has now taken priority in your life because money has become an IDOL in your life. Now in order to get the wealth, you will stop at nothing and stoop to new lows. You will be very willing to err from the faith and compromise on your morals, values, and ethics. This is called committing SPIRITUAL FORNICATION. You will discount the severity of entering into unequally yoked partnerships just to make money. The whole time you are seeking wealth, it is driven by an underlying thought process…that you DOUBT GOD’S GOODNESS. You believe God wants you poor and you don’t think that’s good, so you venture out on your own to make your own money. If and when you finally achieve the wealth you are looking for, you no doubt will be a THANKLESS person because you will have done ALL the work yourself and find no reason in your heart to be thankful to God. What a miserable path with a miserable ending.
In Hosea 4:6 God tells us that Israel’s backsliding was all started when they “forgot” God’s Word. In the Bible, the word “forget” means to turn our backs on…essentially telling us point blank that backsliding is a deliberate act. If you read Psalm 119:9-16, it tells of a person that will have a much better outcome than that of Israel in Hosea. Verse 16 tells us that the psalmist delights in God’s Laws and will NOT forget them…that means the psalmist will NOT turn his back on what God has told him to do and not do. This man likely won’t backslide. He may sin in moments of weakness that are easily dealt with and corrected, but he will not likely backslide the way Israel did after they “forgot” God’s Law.
If you are on the path to backsliding, it generally happens while someone is in church and trying to do well. But the biggest mistake people make is leaving church for some reason. That only accelerates backsliding. The major function of the church is to keep people grounded in truth and on the right path. In Acts 2:42, the Apostles were steadfast (firm and resolute) to NOT forsake (turn their back on) the assembling of themselves together. Rather, the Bible tells us that they continued in the teaching, preaching, and learning of God’s Word. They fellowshipped. They broke bread and partook of the Lord’s Table which has a built-in element of confession of sin. And they prayed. Any of these four elements of worship can set off or accelerate a downward cycle leading to a state of backsliding.
Once you start backsliding, there is a natural progression. In Psalm 19:12-13, David tells us that there are “secret sins” that are purposeful and intentional that are known only to you and God. Once a person becomes comfortable with the secret sins in their lives, they will become bolder and venture into presumptuous sins. These sins are committed with a much more brazen attitude and with much less concern or trepidation. As we get more and more comfortable with these presumptuous sins, we will then commit what David called the “great transgression” which is simply doing whatever sin we are involved in with a calloused conscience, void of concern over what we are doing is wrong. At this point we could care less, if we even care about our sin at all. We may even be able to justify to ourselves why the sin we are involved in is not wrong.
Once you start backsliding and have reached a point of sinning with a calloused conscience, you are inviting chastisement into your life. In Hosea 4:10, we see that God created in the lives of the Israelites a lack of fulfillment, joy, happiness, etc. That’s exactly what happens to us. A Christian may be tricked by the devil into believing that taking a small dose of heroin at a party would be fun. Problem is, what the devil knows and you don’t know is that you will really like the heroin. You inhale dose after dose of heroin over the next several weeks and the amounts you need to get that high feeling is increasing as well. Now, inhaling isn’t affording you the same high, so now you have someone show you how to inject heroin to get that high again. Only now, you build up a tolerance and it begins to take more and more heroin to get high.
At this point you don’t work because you are too busy chasing a high, and because it costs money to get high, and you don’t work, you begin stealing or prostituting yourself for money. Only now, at this point, you can’t get high anymore, so you are hustling, stealing, prostituting, and injecting just to keep from going into withdrawals. So what started out as an “innocent” experimentation with heroin at a party has now ruined you. You have no more fun, happiness, enjoyment, or pleasure out of your sin that the devil made so clear would be there and never end. That’s how God will allow your backsliding to create in you a life void of fulfillment, joy, and happiness.
Hosea 1:2-9 shows yet another progression of chastisement for continuance in willful and deliberate sin (aka backsliding). Hosea’s wife bore three children, and each one’s name had a significant meaning. The first name was Jezreel (God will scatter). Just as Israel fell prey to their enemies, so too will God allow us to fall prey to our sins, much in the same way that the person who tried heroin at the party fell prey to the devil and the heroin use. Next, Hosea’s wife bore Lo-Ruhama (God will not pity). God will send us severe chastisement if we earn it, and He will not hold back, because again, chastisement from God is because He loves us and wants us to do better. Finally, L0-Ammi (You are not my people) was born. In this state of backsliding, God has deemed us of no use to Him in the condition our lives are in. We are dry and hard-hearted like a worthless lump of clay, and it’s here that God puts us on a shelf.
So God hates sin because of how it flies in the face of what He did for us. He rescued us from the bondage of sin. He leads us and provides leaders for us to follow. He nourishes us daily in the Word He has preserved for us through the centuries and millennia. He has promised us a state of perpetual blessings here in this life and has set aside for us a home in Heaven. All He asks of us is to serve Him and steer clear of sin…especially the sin of the willful and deliberate kind. But if we turn our backs on what God wants out of us, then we will go to depths we never dreamed possible for our lives by getting more and more comfortable with sins that are progressively more serious. Then one day, we will fall prey to that sin. We will be placed under the chastising hand of God. And we will find ourselves in a state that negates our privilege of being used of God, and instead we will be placed on a shelf, put out of service.
Sin is serious, but that cycle can be broken by interjecting the study of God’s Word to illuminate your ignorance. Fellowship will help stronger Christians help you to get stronger. Confession of sin is essential to breaking the cycle of backsliding because forgiveness of sin restores fellowship with God Himself. Lastly, praying will help us get off the merry-go-round of backsliding. This honest and sincere desire to stop sinning will be heard by God, and He will help you…as He has done for countless millions of people since the creation of man…you are no worse of a person.