These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us. 1 Corinthians 10:11
To help avoid future financial mistakes, such as those in 1929 and 2008 that brought down the world’s economy, the Library of Mistakes was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland. It features a collection of more than two thousand books that can help educate the next generation of economists. And it serves as a perfect example of how, according to the library’s curators, “smart people keep doing stupid things.” The curators believe that the only way to build a strong economy is to learn from prior mistakes.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that one way to avoid yielding to temptation and to have a strong spiritual life is to learn from the mistakes of God’s people in the past. So to make sure they wouldn’t become overconfident with their spiritual privilege, the apostle used ancient Israel’s failures as an example from which to gain wisdom. The Israelites engaged in idolatry, chose to “commit sexual immorality,” grumbled about the plans and purposes of God, and rebelled against His leaders. Due to their sin, they experienced His discipline (1 Corinthians 10:7–10). Paul presented these historical “examples” from Scripture to help believers in Jesus avoid repeating Israel’s mistakes (v. 11).
As God helps us, let’s learn from our mistakes and those made by others so that we might gain a heart of obedience for Him.
What warning should we recall when tempted to sin? How can we learn from our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others?
Dear God, please help me learn from failures so that I might be more obedient to You.
It’s appropriate that in writing to the Corinthians Paul would talk about the mistakes of Israel’s past being recorded “as warnings for us” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Why? Because the first fourteen chapters of this letter are also corrective—addressing problems within the life of the church at Corinth. From personality cults to lawsuits to immoral relationships to problems in marriages to abuse of liberty in Christ—the problems in Corinth ran deep. Therefore, examples of spiritual failure from Israel’s past provided warnings to a church very much in need of correction. In this case, perhaps the key is 1 Corinthians 10:8: “We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.” Given the depths of the problems at Corinth, the call to learn from the mistakes of others is valuable wisdom.