10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”
We all have desires. We all have things we crave. What I'm going to say next will not be popular but that does not make it less true. Cravings are generally evil. Healthy things do not cause cravings to a level where the craving controls us. Many foods are delicious but not all are healthy. However if we are honest it is the unhealthy foods that are addictive, not the healthy ones. When was the last time you heard of someone with an out of control addiction to strawberries or stir-fry? Any desire that controls you is evil yet the ability for a desire to control us must be granted. It can become an overpowering addiction only after we grant the permission.
1 Corinthians 10 is a series of brief references to incidents that happened during Israel's journey from Egypt to Canaan. The incident referenced today was when they thought Moses was dead and built a golden calf god/idol to replace him. When the idol was finished they proclaimed a feast and the description of that worship/feast is described by the singular verse that Paul quoted. "They sat down to eat and drink and they rose up to play."
Already they had to suppress their reason to even consider the golden blob shaped like a calf was anything more than a golden blob shaped like a calf. The reason they wanted it to be more is because idols are convenient. They create the illusion of following God while really being a servant to our own desires. Idols can't talk. They can't act or react. They are puppet gods. They tell us to do what we tell them to tell us to do. In other words we are god.
Another submission of their reason was the effect of the crowd. People will do things in a group they would never do on their own. That's how riots happen. A few bold ones start and the crowd gets swept up in the emotion of the moment. It was only a few that proposed the idea of the golden calf but once the ball got rolling everyone got on board.
First they ate and drank. Eating too much and drinking both contribute to a further dumbing down of our reasoning powers, especially the drinking part. As part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church we discourage any drinking of alcohol but I did not grow up in a bubble. I saw first hand what happens to people when the alcohol takes over. Inhibitions are lost. Reason is lost.
After they sat down to eat and drink they rose up to play. That word in the Hebrew can mean caressing. It has sexual connotations. Isaac and Rebekah were seen "playing" and in that context it was clearly sexual. I believe it was sexual here as well. One Bible commentator said they gave way to licentiousness which is old English for promiscuous and reckless/unprincipled sexual behaviour. Think about that. Thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people who have surrendered reason to their cravings. Where were the children?
Paul is asking us to consider the choices of those who have gone before us. They did suffer from a lack of knowledge. It wasn't that they weren't sure if God existed or cared about them. They just had strong desires and step by step they pushed aside their reason until they were behaving like animals.
The text says God was not pleased with them and so they were laid low in the wilderness. Sin is like cancer. Egypt was already rotten to the core even though they were at one time followers of the One True God. Because of the degradation God had to take those who would give Him a chance out of that place. Now that they were free many chose their desires over Him and longed to return.
I love that about God. We are always free to return. Sin becomes a slave master but God never enslaves anyone. He sets us free to choose Him or reject Him and if we reject Him we spiral back into the slavery of our self-destructive desires.
Look at our culture today. The right blames the left and the left blames the right. The religious blame those who are not and those who are not blame those who are. We all know something is wrong but are convinced it is someone else's fault. Every election we try and choose another hero hoping this one can bring us back to the good old days. Don't be a fool. Good days are never an accident. They are the result of hard work and a principled life. I know a woman in her 80's who is far more productive and happy than people half her age. She works. She helps others. She serves. She gets up everyday with plans to do things that will make the world a better place.
Meanwhile more and more of us are foolishly pursuing ever elusive happiness by giving in to our desires. It shows in the increasing number of broken homes and broken lives. God is not laying us low. We are doing it to ourselves.
The morning after the night before always comes. Choose God. Choose life. Choose true happiness. Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart like they did in the rebellion...