For a satellite dish to work, it has to be aimed in the right direction. It has to be connected to the satellite. Otherwise, you don’t get all those great shows and sports events you want to watch. The majority of the instructions related to putting one of these things up on your roof contain details on how to aim it correctly.
In a similar manner, we have to aim our hearts toward God if we want to receive what he has for us. This is what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 10.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Paul gives us a very brief description of the Old Testament story of the people of Israel. God created, protected, guided, and restored this nation. He miraculously rescued them from the oppression of the Egyptians, brought them through the wilderness, and led into the Promised Land.
Paul draws a parallel with the people of Israel and the believers of Jesus Christ. He makes the point, “Just as they were baptized into Moses” who was a Christ-like deliverer, you have been baptized into Jesus Christ. They ate spiritual food and drink. They observed the Passover. We consume the bread and the wine as a remembrance of Communion with Christ. They had the same Spirit who sustained them and was with them all along in the wilderness. We have the Holy Spirit who sustains us.
Accordingly, he’s using these comparisons to make the point that we, as the people of God, are privileged people, just as the ancient Israelites were.
We have a God who cares for us, is with us, provides for us, and communes with us. He never leaves us. He sustains us.
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes forget God’s goodness. I could write hundreds of books about the wonderful things he’s done, but in the pace of everyday life, I forget about all of that. I find myself complaining or doubting. This aims my heart toward my own problems instead of God’s goodness and faithfulness. No doubt, it’s not hard to find myself aiming in the wrong direction.
Paul continues, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” 1 Corinthians 10:5-6
Most of us appreciate a recommendation to a good restaurant, a mechanic or a doctor. We regard the experiences of others as instructive to our decisions. We desire to know about the dangerous roads so we can avoid them. Indeed, we ought to learn from those that come before us. I think this is why Paul goes on to give us an example of where the people of Israel got it wrong, and where we also get it wrong:
“Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.” 1 Corinthians 10:7-10
The people of God in Israel made all kinds of mistakes. Millions of people came in to the wilderness, and only two of them entered the Promised Land along with the next generation. In that journey, the first generation forgot about God’s goodness. When they turned away from God, they forgot to trust him, made idols, and grumbled against him. Because of their sin and unbelief, an entire generation had to die in the wilderness before Israel could inherit the Promised Land. Through this true story, we’re given a clear picture of where our sin can lead us, and it’s nowhere good. It is best to avoid it.
Paul reminds us, my paraphrase, “Do you want to aim your heart in the direction of something other than God? It only leads to destruction. Don’t aim your heart that way.”
St Augustine said sin is disordered love, it’s a misaiming of our hearts. Something that we love that maybe does deserve to be loved, but we have loved it to the point where we have made it supreme. This is what idolatry is. The Israelites trusted something other than God, and made gods of metal and wood. We do that too; we disorder the love we’re supposed to have. We tend to love things that can’t serve us because they are powerless. The idols of success, beauty, heath, reason, just to name a few, demand much of us, maybe all from us, and give little in return.
In verse 14, Paul tells us, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”
Flee from putting anything other than God as number one. For this reason, run toward God and away from anything that competes for his throne including, perhaps, your own tendencies and your own temptations. Such good advice and warning. Of course, it encourages me ask myself, “Were is your spiritual aim right now? Are you connected to the Holy Spirit and seeking his guidance or are you distracted by something else?”
When we run away from idolatry and toward God, we are aiming our hearts toward his. When our hearts are aimed toward his, we can receive all that he has for us.
I invite you to pray this with me.
O Father, thank you for aiming our hearts toward you. You, who are faithful and good and loving, you, who are our hope, our joy, our peace, and our love, thank you for never changing. You are with us every day. Your mercy is new every morning, and you want from us but one thing: that we would trust you above anything else. Would you help us with that, Lord?