He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.
Exodus 32:20 ESV
Have you ever had a negative consequence from your sin? I have. I often wonder at how much easier my life would be if I would just obey God’s word. When I read this passage recently it stuck with me. Every time I think of negative things in my life that are my own fault, I remember this passage and realize that thousands of years later I’m still tasting the ground up gold from my own sinful idols.
This was not one of the worst consequences that Israel faced, not by a long shot. Think about the Sons of Korah being swallowed alive by the earth. And what about the fiery serpents? I think I’d much rather drink some water with gold in it than die from the bite of a poisonous snake or be swallowed alive into the earth. But we are not always given the choice of which consequence we’d prefer.
The consequences of sin are out of control. It is more comfortable to think that the consequences of our sin are limited. We think we can predict the consequences, measure them, and balance them with the perceived benefits of our sin. If you think this way you’ll soon have that metallic taste in your mouth. If you’re fortunate.
What Moses did seems harsh. He made them drink the idol! “Here you want it so much – drink it!” But that isn’t what he was doing. He was utterly destroying the idol. What better way to ensure that it was completely obliterated than to grind it up and put it in the water they drank? It was completely dissolved and diluted into their bodies. But this wasn’t harsh; this was a merciful act to completely eradicate any remnant of the idol and to remove the immediate context for their temptation. And perhaps to remind them of their sin through the taste of the gold in their water.
This was a mercy to them. If Moses hadn’t made this radical decision they may have completely given themselves over to false worship. Where would this sin have taken them? Would they have needed God to really wipe them out as He said He would?
When you experience negative consequences of your sin and taste the golden calf in your mouth it is time to ask yourself, “where is this sin taking me?” Repentance is unpleasant and sometimes tastes bitter. But what is the alternative?
Below are three thoughts from Pastor/Missionary/Church Planter George Blood:
Sin takes us farther than we want to go.
Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay.
Sin will cost you more than you thought you would have to pay.