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. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. – 1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Paul lays all his cards on the table in today’s passage making it clear to the confused Corinthian jews that the God of the old testament and Christ are One. Those following “the cloud” and “passing through the sea” were, in a time bending sense, following Christ.
Paul connects the new practice of water baptism with the old testament ideas of being enveloped by God in a cloud and passing through the sea: “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” These conceptual “canals” were intended to span the confluence of the old and new testaments for the Corinthians stuck in the twilight time between Moses and the Messiah.
Canals are an interesting human invention that have been around for thousands of years. They serve many purposes such as water conveyance, transportation, and passage around natural barriers like rapids and waterfalls. Following this metaphorical meaning, Paul’s use of these conceptual “canals” is to overcome the barrier or obstruction that Jesus represents for some of the Jewish people in Corinth.
for The “canal” of connection between the cloud and Jesus is pretty straightforward – God was in the cloud and God was incarnate in Jesus. Those following the cloud in the wilderness were in fact following Christ. Paul is trying to convince these “cloud followers” to become Christ followers. The “Cloud” led them and provided for them in the wilderness, but they have missed the Messiah and the Holy Spirit that can do the same thing for them now.
The second “canal” connects God providing an escape from Egypt for the Israelites via Moses’ red sea parting and Christ providing a way to cross a river that no one can cross from the land of oblivion and the undiscovered country. This conceptual canal was probably the more difficult of the two for the people to understand. They were used to trying to reach God through works rather than faith and certainly wading into a river that no one can cross would, and does, require a fecundity of faith.
Paul then moves from the metaphysical to the material: “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. It is interesting that Jesus equated himself with a Well of Living Water just like the water that emerged from the rock for Moses and Aaron.
Paul’s main point here for the Corinthians, and us, is that the same God who led, loved, and cared for the Israelites in the desert, helped them escape bondage in Egypt, and provided for their hunger and thirst is present in the person of Jesus Christ for all those who choose to follow Him.
Prayer: God you created a great canal between the spiritual realm and the earthly realm in the form of Jesus. Help us to accept this gracious gift.