EXAMPLES NOT EXCUSES
In writing to the Corinth Church, Paul refers to the Old Testament experience of the Hebrew children as Moses was leading them to the promised land. They complained and murmured and tempted God. As a result they were judged unworthy of the land God was giving them. Some were punished immediately with death. Paul says, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition…” (1 Cor. 10:11)
The Bible reveals the failures as well as the triumphs of God’s people. Expanding on Paul’s words we can also see another way one can look at the failures of the people recorded in scripture. They may be seen not only as examples, but also as excuses. An improper conclusion would be to look at their failures and excuse our own sins and shortcomings. Paul warns that they were written for our admonition. In other words, those mistakes are preserved on the pages of our Bibles to keep us from suffering as they did. The record is not there to give us an occasion to say, “Well, I’m no worse than those Bible characters. Look what they did.” God never calls us to compare ourselves to others. In fact, He clearly calls comparisons a foolish way to live. So we do well to view these accounts as examples and not as excuses.
There is one more point we may derive from all this. While the emphasis is on example and not on excuses, we can and do find encouragement. Abraham had moments of weakness. Moses became angry. David failed morally and failed miserably. Peter denied his Lord. All these examples give us encouragement. While we do not look to excuse our failures, we do find encouragement in knowing that there is mercy, forgiveness, and fresh outpourings of grace for those whose failures bring them back to the Lord.
— Terry A. Morrison