In 1 Corinthians 10:6-10, Paul explains 5 wrong ways to use the freedom that God gives to his people. In each of these, people choose to follow their feelings and not to obey God. It is always wrong to do that.
The last wrong way to use our freedom is to complain. Of course, it is sometimes right to complain when we must deal with a problem. Paul does not mean that. His original word means to complain in a secret or quiet manner. People do that to express their feelings when they are bitter and angry about something. In 1 Corinthians 10:10, Paul refers to people who felt angry against God.
It is hard to be sure about the particular incident that Paul refers to here. The people whom Moses led complained against God in that manner on several occasions. When people allow their feelings to control their lives, they do such things constantly.
Perhaps we can identify the incident from the punishment that Paul mentions. ‘The destroyer’ killed many people. The Bible sometimes uses words like that when people die quickly from a sudden, serious illness (1 Chronicles 21:14-15). That happened in Numbers 11:33-34 and Numbers 16:41-49.
The mention of ‘the destroyer’ helps us to understand the reason for these terrible punishments. It is not that God has suddenly become the enemy of his people. God wants to do good things for his people, but they would not let God control their lives. Instead, they allowed their feelings to control their lives, and that gave an opportunity to the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.