I’m a terrible gift-giver. I don’t give bad gifts as much as I don’t give any gifts. I’m not anti-gifts; I’m just not good at picking them. So most of the time I don’t. But about once every five years, I experience a stroke of gift-giving brilliance. My father’s tendency to stand in front of the refrigerator, looking for something to drink, has become something of a running joke in my family. He would fling the double-doors wide open, staring expectantly at the contents, hoping something would stand out. This Christmas, my stroke of gift-giving brilliance kicked in. I decided to solve his problem. I went on a drink-buying binge and bought him twenty-five different kinds of non-alcoholic drinks, one for every day of December, leading up to Christmas.A vast majority produced indifference, while only a few stood out as true winners.
Then there were the few outright epic fails. I won’t name brand names in order to protect the guilty, but one involved a cold-pressed juice with cucumber, spinach, kale, lemon juice, romaine, and apple. My dad has a stomach of steel, mind you, but he took one swig of that drink and practically snorted it out his nose. “That’s like drinking a bale of hay,” he said. The rest of the bottle promptly made its way down the drain without so much as a second sip.
As I reflected back on my dad’s twenty-five days of drinks, picturing his distorted facial features, I leafed through the pages of Scripture and found a group of people with a similar experience. But their drink of choice carried far more significant reminders than a bale of hay.
SIN LEAVES A BAD TASTE IN YOUR MOUTH
When the Israelite people, led by Moses, left behind 400 years of slavery and escaped from Egypt, they experienced the miracle of parted waters at the Red Sea, the provision of manna and quail from heaven, the delivery of the Ten Commandments, the precise blueprints for the tabernacle—one move of God after another. Even after all that, their appetites weren’t satisfied and their thirsts weren’t satiated.
While Moses was taking his sweet time up on the mountain with God, the Israelites down below cried out to Aaron, his brother: “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him” (Ex. 32:1).
Aaron asked the people to give him all their gold, and “he took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool” (Ex. 32:4). And then the real fun began.
The next day, the people held a festival, rising early to sacrifice burnt offerings, present fellowship offerings, and indulge in basically every sort of sexual immorality imaginable. The people let loose, and the miracle of the parted Red Sea became a distant memory in light of the present pleasures.
Both Moses and God looked down from the mountaintop, witnessing the short-term memories and sin-filled sacrifices of the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and their anger burned. Moses eventually made his way down the mountain and "took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it” (Ex. 32:19-20).
Bottoms up, he told them. Cup your hands and start scooping. Drink long and slow and deep, and find out exactly what your sin tastes like. Feel that finely-ground gold wash across your lips, over your tongue, bumping into your taste buds along the way. Feel the grit between your teeth.
There’s nothing that burns your throat quite like the taste of your own sin. Moses knew it wouldn’t be enough for the people to simply tear down the calf and melt it into something else. They needed to ingest the very sin they were so determined to relish just hours before. They needed to know what idolatry tasted like so they never did it again. The fools were to drink the fools’ gold. So, drink up, he said. Drink down to the very last drop, let there not be a single speck of gold left in the waters.
I imagine their faces twisted and distorted with disgust much like my father. Sin always tastes disgusting when we are forced to drink it for ourselves.
ANOTHER CUP SET BEFORE US
That’s the way of sin, though, isn’t it? It seems enjoyable and harmless when we first set out. We rationalize it, justify it, defend it. A friend of mine used to preach sexual abstinence until she found herself giving her own purity away to a long-time boyfriend. After that, she repeatedly had sex outside of marriage with various different boyfriends and had a ready defense every time. She made no apologies, and after a while simply became desensitized to her own sin. Her rationale was that since she already crossed the line, she might as well keep going.
The Israelites did their own rationalizing. They exchanged the glory of God for a lie, and God gave them over to their sins in the same way we read about in Romans 1:21-24. He eventually gives us over to exactly what we want when we persist in our sins. A holy and righteous God can do no less. If sin is what we choose, then he will see to it that we freely drink of those sins.
But praise Jesus, there is another drink we can choose from, another source to satisfy our thirsts that does not involve finely ground gold.
“Then [Jesus] took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to [his disciples], saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ ” (Matt. 26:27-28).
Drink from it—all of you—he said. Drink of his blood and find the sweetness of salvation instead of the sickness of sin. Drink of his blood and find the forgiveness of foolishness instead of the finality of flaws.
Jesus raised a glass to all that could be different for sinners like you and me. He raised a glass to the blood of the covenant, his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. The beauty of the gospel is we no longer have to live like the Israelites, grinding up our sins and pouring them into the waters to scoop up with our hands. We no longer have to walk around with twisted and distorted faces, forcing ourselves to down our bitter-tasting sins. We no longer have to make the exchange, giving up the truth of God for lies.
You have a choice: drink from the cup of your sins and feel the burn all the way down, or drink from the cup from which the precious blood of Christ was poured out and feel the burn of redemption all the way down. His cup overflows and never runs dry. It’s the cup that always satisfies, always quenches, always fills, always redeems, always forgives.
May the fools drink no more of the fools’ gold, but of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Courtney Yantes spends her days coordinating initiatives aimed at creating access to medical care and interventions for young children with autism spectrum disorder. She graduated from William Woods University with a bachelor’s degree in history and a master in business administration. She enjoys blogging, traveling, serving as a Bible Study Fellowship leader, and generally organizing anything she can get her hands on. She is a lover of all things Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and relishes a life free of social media accounts.