Why Those Who Cannot Remember Their Past Are Destined to Repeat It


1 Corinthians 10:1-12 (NIV)

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. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 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.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.


To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e., us):

This sentence explodes with implications. Let’s list them.

  1. History is not in the past. Sure, history is historical—as in it happened in the past—but when God intervenes in history it has implications for all eternity.
  2. When Paul says, “our ancestors” to the Corinthians, he is telling Gentiles that they now have Hebrew ancestors. He is also telling them that because of Jesus, the biblical story of Creation, Fall, Flood, Israel and Exile are now their living breathing story. In other words, the story of the Old Testament is their past even though it did not actually happen to them. He means that in order to be God’s holy people, we must increasingly understand and embrace God’s holy history. Why?
  3. Because “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”
  4. Paul is not moralizing with the rules here. He is telling them the story without which they will be lost in the midst of the world of the Corinth. In this case, it’s the story of Egypt, Slavery, Passover, Deliverance, Red Sea, Wilderness, Testing, and so on.
  5. It cannot be overstated. The Old Testament is not an elective in the catalog of Christian discipleship. It is a core required course. In fact, it’s really a pre-requisite course to the New Testament. Because most of us (i.e. Gentiles) come to the faith through a first exposure to the New Testament, the required, pre-requisite course in the Old Testament can be easily neglected. (It’s kind of like picking up your favorite television show in its final season and thinking you’ve pretty much gotten the story.)

So don’t tell me, “God will make a way when there seems to be no way.” Tell me the story where God made a way when there was no way. Tell me the against all odds story of Moses and the Red Sea. I need the textured grit of the whole true story in order to understand my own situation in twenty-first century Corinthian America. We aren’t the first generation to deal with insurmountable odds and overwhelming temptation. Without remembering our bigger story and those who have preceded us and the God who goes ahead of us and comes behind us and literally hems us in—we are destined to make the same predictable mistakes and repeat a past from which we have been gloriously delivered.

Go back now and re-read today’s text and examine all the assumptions Paul makes about his hearers knowing the story he is telling.


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for the treasure of your Word which tells us our story in exquisite detail. Increase my appetite to know this story, inside out and upside down. Though I have learned so much, my understanding remains far too thin. Come Holy Spirit, and help me become a person of one book. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. So where are you with your big story? How well are you remembering the first 3/4 of your Bible?
  2. What keeps you from digging into the Old Testament? Admittedly, it’s a challenge, but what in particular challenges you?
  3. What’s a next step you can take to turn away from your ignorance or indifference or whatever it is in order to go to the next place of biblical understanding and as a consequence, Holy Spirit-filled faith.