“Doesn’t God treat the Church differently than the Israelites? Surely the Old Testament isn’t as relevant as the New.”
Paul quotes many Old Testament passages and applies them to the Church.
“But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
“Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Co6. 10:1-12).
How does Paul drive home the importance of refraining from idolatry, sexual immorality, tempting Christ, and complaining? By showing us how God treated the Israelites who did such things. In other words, if we sin as they sinned, we can expect severe consequences. Although there are differences in several ways how God treats the Hebrews and the Church, God has not relaxed His holy standards for the Church. Israel’s history offers many lessons on how the Lord wants us to live before Him.
Rather than relaxing His standards, they are higher, for we have more resources available to us than the most holy Israelite ever dreamed of. We have power over sin through the indwelling Spirit. Through God’s Word we can walk in His ways. As His body on earth, we may participate in the holy calling of proclaiming the love of God. Through the Cross, we may exhibit the character of Christ living through us. Our responsibility is greater now than ever before. Do not neglect so great a salvation through careless living.
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Heb. 2:1-4).
Again, the writer uses an example of the Israelites’ disobedience to impress upon us the seriousness of paying attention to what we heard. If the Israelites had received proper discipline through their disobedience to angels, we can expect worse to come our way if we turn from obeying Christ.
God’s holy standards for the Church are made more urgent by the many examples of what happened when Israel failed to appropriate the grace of God through faith. Let us learn from Israel’s history that God will undertake for those who trust Him.